Thursday, April 29, 2010

Archbishop Schnurr of Cincinnati pulls support from women's conference



Reacting to complaints by antiabortion activists that a keynote speaker at a “violence against women” conference was pro-choice, Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr, formerly Bishop of Duluth, this month withdrew archdiocesan support for the gathering, planned in part by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.

His action forced organizers to rescind an invitation to Charlotte Bunch, founding director and senior scholar of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University in New Jersey and a consultant to the United Nations. She was replaced at the April 24 gathering by Charity Sr. Caroljean Willie, the order’s U.N. representative.

Charity Sr. Patricia A. Cruise, president of Cincinnati’s Seton High School, where the gathering was held, had also notified conference organizers that they would need to change venues were Bunch to be kept on the program.

After the invitation to Bunch was rescinded, the conference went on at the high school as planned. However, despite the speaker change, the archdiocese refused to renew its support.

The conference, more than two years in planning, had received support from more than two dozen organizations, including three archdiocesan offices. It was coordinated with the help of the Cincinnati Sisters of Charity’s Office of Peace, Justice & Integrity of Creation.

After hearing of the complaints, Schnurr expressed his objections in an April 19 communication to organizers, saying that “the keynote presenter … advocates for positions contrary to Catholic church teaching, including the right to abortion.”

“To avoid any perception that the archdiocese or any of its individual offices approve of Ms. Bunch’s positions, these offices withdrew all association with this conference,” his letter stated.

Bunch was to be a highlight of the daylong conference, which featured 12 seminars on topics such as human trafficking, women and homelessness, and violence against women.

Explaining her decision in an April 20 letter, Cruise wrote that Bunch “advocates and supports practices and positions that are contrary to teachings of the Catholic church.” She went on to say that she regretted that she “did not know this sooner, but in light of this information … the decision has been made that Ms. Charlotte Bunch will not be speaking at Seton High School.”

More than 150 people attended the conference, which went on without Bunch. In a statement she released April 26, Bunch, who is also a professor in the department of women’s and gender studies at Rutgers, tied her removal from the event to the conference theme: violence against women.

“It is ironic that a conference about violence against women is marred by violence against the women organizing it and against a female speaker,” wrote Bunch. “Let me be clear that threatening to close down this event if I spoke is an act of violence against women itself – an act of suppression and disrespect to the planning the organizers invested in preparation, as well as a denial of my fundamental freedom of speech.”

In the wake of the conference, the Sisters of Charity April 28 issued its own statement, explaining the sequence of events: “Five days before the conference, the archdiocese of Cincinnati, Seton High School and the co-chairs of the planning committee heard from ‘right to life’ individuals who were concerned that the key note speaker of the conference was pro-choice.”

“As a result of these concerns the archdiocese of Cincinnati withdrew the sponsorship of three of its offices. … Seton High School, the site of the conference, required the planning committee to contract with an alternative keynote speaker or the conference could not be held at Seton.

“The planning committee believed that this [Bunch’s abortion views] was extraneous to the focus of the conference.” But “in light of the short notice and the difficulty of negotiating a new venue, the planning committee reluctantly decided to withdraw the invitation to Ms. Bunch.”

With the withdrawal of Bunch’s invitation, organizers were able to host the event as planned with Willie as the new keynote speaker. However, they were not able to gain back the support of the archdiocese.

According to the archdiocesan statement, its offices did not renew their support “because of a lack of time to become adequately informed about other participants.” National Catholic Reporter

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Et Cum Spiritu Tuo

Edward Pentin, who reports for the National Catholic Register and for the Catholic Herald, reports this morning that the Congregation for Divine Worship will approve the new ICEL translation of the Missal later today.

Must check the Bollettino before going out for lunch today...

The texts of the Ordinary of the Mass have already received recognitio so this decision would relate to the proper texts of the Missal. Cardinal Pell told the Register yesterday that although formal approval would be given today, the newly translated Missal would not be available until 2011.

Now I am old enough to remember the last time we had a new translation. For several years, priests were using bits of paper with new texts until finally the printed Missals were published. Nowadays it would be easy enough to produce good quality, dignified pdfs which could be discreetly inserted into the altar Missal. Would it be too much to allow priests to use the texts of the Eucharistic Prayers and other prayers said by the priest alone? For one thing, it would help people to become gradually used to the new translation. For another, it would be a great relief to be able to pray the actual texts in a reasonably accurate translation rather than the defective and erroneous versions we have had to use for far too long.
Hermeneutic of Continuity

The Holy Father's Talk to the Vox Clara Committee that assembled and prepared the universal English language translation of the Holy Mass

Dear Cardinals,

Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

Members and Consultors of the Vox Clara Committee,

I thank you for the work that Vox Clara has done over the last eight years, assisting and advising the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in fulfilling its responsibilities with regard to the English translations of liturgical texts. This has been a truly collegial enterprise. Not only are all five continents represented in the membership of the Committee, but you have been assiduous in drawing together contributions from Bishops’ Conferences in English-speaking territories all over the world. I thank you for the great labour you have expended in your study of the translations and in processing the results of the many consultations that have been conducted. I thank the expert assistants for offering the fruits of their scholarship in order to render a service to the universal Church. And I thank the Superiors and Officials of the Congregation for their daily, painstaking work of overseeing the preparation and translation of texts that proclaim the truth of our redemption in Christ, the Incarnate Word of God.

Saint Augustine spoke beautifully of the relation between John the Baptist, the vox clara that resounded on the banks of the Jordan, and the Word that he spoke. A voice, he said, serves to share with the listener the message that is already in the speaker’s heart. Once the word has been spoken, it is present in the hearts of both, and so the voice, its task having been completed, can fade away (cf. Sermon 293). I welcome the news that the English translation of the Roman Missal will soon be ready for publication, so that the texts you have worked so hard to prepare may be proclaimed in the liturgy that is celebrated across the anglophone world. Through these sacred texts and the actions that accompany them, Christ will be made present and active in the midst of his people. The voice that helped bring these words to birth will have completed its task.

A new task will then present itself, one which falls outside the direct competence of Vox Clara, but which in one way or another will involve all of you – the task of preparing for the reception of the new translation by clergy and lay faithful. Many will find it hard to adjust to unfamiliar texts after nearly forty years of continuous use of the previous translation. The change will need to be introduced with due sensitivity, and the opportunity for catechesis that it presents will need to be firmly grasped. I pray that in this way any risk of confusion or bewilderment will be averted, and the change will serve instead as a springboard for a renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world.

Dear Brother Bishops, Reverend Fathers, Friends, I want you to know how much I appreciate the great collaborative endeavour to which you have contributed. Soon the fruits of your labours will be made available to English-speaking congregations everywhere. As the prayers of God’s people rise before him like incense (cf. Psalm 140:2), may the Lord’s blessing come down upon all who have contributed their time and expertise to crafting the texts in which those prayers are expressed. Thank you, and may you be abundantly rewarded for your generous service to God’s people.

Abp. Nienstedt in the Strib on "The Case for a Marriage Constitutional Amendment in Minnesota"


Marriage matters to every Minnesotan, whether or not we choose to marry personally, because it is the natural way we bring together men and women to conceive and raise the next generation. The intended reality of marriage as a lifelong, committed, life-giving union between one man and one woman, a reality long accepted as established fact, is severely challenged today. High rates of fatherlessness and family fragmentation impoverish children and leave women with the unfair burden of solo parenting. Children suffer, but so does the whole society, when marriage fails in its irreplaceable task of bringing together mothers and fathers with their children.

Into this confusing mix, so-called same-sex "marriage" throws a whole new level of challenge and uncertainty. Defining marriage as simply a union of consenting parties will change the core meaning of marriage in the public square for every Minnesotan.

We might learn caution from experience. Back in the early 1970s, the experts told us that no-fault divorce would liberate women from bad marriages without affecting anyone else. We now know that as many as one-third of women fall into poverty with their children as a result of divorce. Social science caught up late with the common-sense wisdom that children need a mom and a dad working together to protect them.

In other words, changing the law of marriage to enshrine no-fault divorce had unintended consequences that few predicted. Same-sex marriage represents an even greater challenge.

Throughout history, human beings in virtually every society have recognized that, to make a marriage, one needs a man and a woman. What is more, it has long been acknowledged that marriage is not just about the happiness of adults but concerns the well-being of society -- that is, the common good. Marriage exists in civil law primarily in order to provide communal support for bringing mothers and fathers together to care for their children. Same-sex unions cannot serve this public purpose.

What will happen to children growing up in a world where the law teaches them that moms and dads are interchangeable and therefore unnecessary, and that marriage has nothing intrinsically to do with the bearing and raising of children? Do we really want first-graders to be taught that gay marriage is OK, or that the influence of a mother and a father on the development of a child somehow doesn't matter?

We all know that not all children live in the ideal situation. Many parents are doing a magnificent job working hard to raise children in less than ideal circumstances. Every son or daughter is a child of God who deserves our concern. But gay marriage would certainly be a declaration by the government that we have officially abandoned the ideal that children need both a mom and dad.

The only way to secure the definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman is to follow the lead of other states and put a simple definition of marriage in our state Constitution, beyond the reach of activist courts.

In years past, our elected officials told us that we did not need a marriage amendment, because there was no realistic threat from the courts. But the Iowa court decision, on the heels of rulings in Connecticut, California and Massachusetts, clearly demonstrates that an amendment is needed.

Thirty-one states have passed marriage amendments, from Oregon to Wisconsin, from Michigan to California. There is nothing radical about the ideal of making sure marriage is defined as a union of one man and one woman.

Marriage is the way a man and woman bind their love into a lifelong commitment that is mutual, exclusive, and open to new life -- where they promise not only to love each other, but to love any children whom they create together. With that vow, the die is cast and the adventure of receiving and raising the next generation has begun.

A question as important as the future of this great, social institution called marriage should not be decided by a few, narrow elites, but by the people of Minnesota themselves. A marriage amendment is the only just and respectful resolution. Star Tribune

An excellent Star Tribune comment and analysis of the Archbishop's article by local Catholic, "The Blissmeister."

"Thank you, Your Excellency, for your courageous, well-reasoned defense of marriage and the family. Your reasoning is precisely correct. There is a deeper ontological reality to what marriage is above and beyond what the legal reality of marriage is. This is why, throughout all of human history, marriage has universally been the union of one man and one woman. The legal reality merely grants state recognition to this ontological reality, and does so because of the procreative nature of marriage. The state has a compelling interest in the welfare of its future leaders, and so it makes sense to recognize marriages and provide tax incentives to help the union of husband and wife raise their children. Whatever weakens the institution of marriage, therefore, such as divorce and same-sex marriage, must be proscribed by the state.
Otherwise society as a whole suffers greatly. No-fault divorce has severely weakened modern society. Let's not make things worse by granting societal endorsement to same-sex marriage."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fr. George Welzbacher comments on the current assault on the Pope and the Church by its enemies

A report last Sunday in the New York Times filed by Vatican-watcher Rachel Donadio revealed to the world that on Friday evening of Easter week Pope Benedict watched a movie. That's right. Imagine! But wait! There's more! Guess which movie! A film entitled "Under the Roman Sky"! It's a film that portrays Pope Pius XII as a protector of Italy's Jews! Oh, the horror, the horror! But wait, wait, wait! It gets worse! Benedict praised the movie! Yes, he did! He actually called it "useful and stimulating". Well, after that, what need have we of witnesses?

But just in case you might feel the need, the Times will do its best to oblige. As a matter of fact, Johnny-on-the-spot, it does so , right there in that same report! Under an eye-catching caption (spelled out in extra-large, bold black type): "FROM POPE, PRAISE FOR A PREDECESSOR ALSO UNDER SCRUTINY", Ms. Donadio's report weighs in: "The screening ... comes as the Vatican continues to respond to criticism that it did not act SWIFTLY to REMOVE priests who were pedophiles from its ranks."

May I offer a comment . Ms. Donadio seems to be laboring under the assumption that the INITIAL responsibility for "removing" priests accused of pedophiliac acts (or serious sins of any kind) rests with the Vatican. Given that assumption, a false assumption, it would follow that any delay in removing from access to potential victims a priest accused credibly of sexual abuse would constitute dereliction of duty on the part of the Vatican, and in particular on the part of Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, who, as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, possessed ultimate jurisdiction prior to 2001 over cases involving profanation of the Sacrament of Confession, and from 2001 forward, at the command of Pope John Paul, ultimate jurisdiction over cases involving clerical sexual abuse of any kind.

Ms. Donadio, there's a problem here. Under canon law the responsibility for suspending predatory priests
from the public exercise of ministry, or at the very least for removing them from assignments providing access to victims, rests in the FIRST instance NOT with "the Vatican " but WITH THE LOCAL BISHOP.

What the Times is doing here-and has consistently been doing- is to assign to the higher authority the guilt for negligence on the part of the lower. Thus guilt for the negligence shown by LOCAL bishops as in the Milwaukee case is imputed to the Vatican. Such a transfer of guilt is helpful to those who are eager to impair the credibility of the Church by damaging or even destroying the credibility of Pope Benedict.

Standing in the way of such transfer of guilt from a lower authority to one that is higher is the fact that under the norms that govern the Catholic Church, a.ka. canon law, in addressing the evil of "criminous clerks"
(to use a once famous phrase from the history of England), the proper modus agenda unfolds in a sequence of TWO quite distinct and contrasting procedures.

Procedure number one callsfor judgment by the LOCAL bishop, issuing IDEALLY in SWIFT remedial action, that is to say in IMMEDIATE
separation of the credibly accused from his putative victims, pending further investigation. This separation can be of indeterminate length.

Procedure number TWO is a SLOWER and much more PAINSTAKING procedure, involving careful investigation of the charges with an eye to fairness and the pursuit of the truth and frequently requiring an ecclesiastical trial conducted under strict rules, a trial that can result in laicization if the accused is found guilty. Laicization is the reduction of a priest to the status of a layman inasmuch as, without prejudice to the character indelibly imprinted on his soul at the moment of ordination, he is solemnly forbidden for the rest of his life to discharge priestly functions in public or even in private, except for that rare emergency when the salvation of an immortal soul is at stake.

For procedure number ONE "the ball is in the court" of the LOCAL BISHOP. He has the initial responsibility to investigate and to act. For procedure number TWO the VATICAN takes over the command---and the responsibility. Speed is the desirable characteristic of procedure number one. But in procedure number two, so that justice may be served, careful concern for the rights of all (including the accused) trumps the need for speed.

Thus to criticize THE VATICAN for failing "to act SWIFTLY to REMOVE priests who were pedophiles from its ranks" is to ignore the contrasting characteristics of procedure number one and the subsequent procedure. In his presiding over procedure number two Cardinal Ratzinger followed the dictates of a sound conscience in refusing to endorse a "rush to judgment." At that stage of the proceedings a cautious and careful concern for justice even to the prejudice of speed was what his duty required.

But even a columnist for the New York Times can give evidence of possessing a conscience. Such a colunniist is Ron Douthat, together with David Brooks one of the two professedly conservative columnists allowed space in that paper. Mr. Douthat has come on the editorial page of the Times to Pope Benedict's defense.

May I offer for your reading, in defense of a viciously maligned Pope Benedict, no less than three recent and very important articles that appeared in the secular press: First Ross Douthat's column from the Times; then an essay from Newsweek by George Weigel; and finally a report from Stacy Meichtry in the Wall Street Journal.

* * * * *
Why Benedict Deserves Sympathy
By: Ross Douthat from New York Times, April 12, 2010

The world didn't always agree with Pope John Paul II, but it always seemed to love him. Handsome and charismatic, with an actor's flair and a statesman's confidence, he transformed the papacy ftom an Italian anachronism into a globetrotting phenomenon. His authority stabilized a reeling Church; his personal holiness inspired a generation of young Catholics. "Santo subito!" the Roman crowds chanted as he lay dying. Sainthood now!

They will not chant for Benedict XVI. The former Joseph Ratzinger was always going to be a harder pontiff for the world to love: more introverted than his predecessor, less political and peripatetic.... While the last pope held court with presidents and rock stars, Cardinal Ratzinger was minding the store in Rome, jousting with liberal theologians. and being caricatured as "God's Rottweiler." His reward was supposed to be retirement, and a return to scholarly pursuits. Instead he was summoned to Peter's chair....

The drip, drip, drip of sex abuse cases from Benedict's past started a month ago with a serious incident: a pedophile priest who was returned to ministry in Munich by then-Archbishop Ratzinger's subordinates, and perhaps with his knowledge. [This is the incident upon which I offered my own opinion last week, namely that] [Faulty communication between bureaucrats is the likeliest explanation].

The more recent smoking guns, though, offer more smoke than fire. The pope is now being criticized not for enabling crimes or covering them up, but because in the 1980s and 1990s the Vatican's bureaucracy moved SLOWLY on requests to formally LAICIZE abusive priests....

But there's another story to be told about John Paul II and his besieged successor. The last pope was a great man, but he was also a weak administrator, a poor delegator, and sometimes a dreadful judge of character.

The Church's dilatory response to the sex abuse scandals was a testament to these weaknesses. So was John Paul's friendship with the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degoliado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. The last pope loved him and defended him. But we know now that Father Maciel was a sexually voracious sociopath. And thanks to a recent exposé by The National Catholic Reporter's Jason Berry, we know the secret of Maciel's Vatican success : He was an extraordinary fund-raiser, and those funds often flowed to members of John Paul's inner circle.

Only one churchman comes out of Berry's story looking good.- Joseph Ratzinger. Berry recounts how Ratzinger lectured to a group of Legionary priests, and was subsequently handed an envelope of money "for his charitable use." The cardinal "was tough as nails in a very cordial way" a witness said, and turned the money down.

This isn't an isolated case. In the 1990s, it was Ratzinger who pushed for a full investigation of Hans Hermann Groer, the Vienna cardinal accused of pedophilia....It was Ratzinger who persuaded John Paul, in 2001, to CENTRALIZE the Church's HAPHAZARD system for handling sex abuse allegations in his office. It was Ratzinger who re-opened the long-dormant investigation into Maciel's conduct in 2004, just days after John Paul II had honored the Legionaires in a Vatican ceremony. It was Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict who banished Maciel to a monastery and ordered a comprehensive inquiry into his order.

So the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic Ratzinger was left to clean them up. This pattern extends to other fraught issues that the last pope tended to avoid-the debasement of the Catholic liturgy, [which had been underway since the late 1960's, years before John Paul's election in 1978], or the rise of Islam in once-Christian Europe. And it extends to the caliber of the Church's bishops, where Benedict's appointments are widely viewed as an improvement over the choices John Paul made. It isn't a coincidence that some of the most forthright ecclesiastical responses to the abuse scandal have come from friends and protégés of the CURRENT pope....
* * * * *
What Went Wrong?
By: George Weigel
From: Newsweek, April 12, 2009

Throughout what U.S. Catholics called the "Long Lent" of 2002, when every week seemed to bring revelations of clerical sexual abuse and its mishandling by the Church's bishops, some observers suggested that this crisis was the byproduct of some distinctive features of Catholic life: a celibate priesthood, a Church governed by male bishops, a demanding sexual ethic. "MODERNIZE" the church by CHANGING all that, they argued, and these horrible problems would abate, even disappear.

Sexual abuse is indeed horrible, but there is no empirical evidence that it is a uniquely, predominantly, or even strikingly Catholic problem. The sexual abuse of the young is a global plague. In the United States, some 40 to 60 percent of such abuse takes place with in families--often at the hands of live-in boyfriends or the second (or third, or fourth) husband of a child's mother; those cases have nothing to do with celibacy. The case of a married Wilmington, Delaware, pediatrician charged with 471 counts of sexual abuse in February has nothing to do with celibacy. Neither did the 290,000 cases of sexual abuse in American public schools between 1991 and 2000, estimated by Charol Shakeshaft of Virginia Commonwealth University. And given the significant denominations with married clergy, it's hard to accept the notion that marriage is somehow a barrier against sexually abusive clergy. [Instances of such abuse perpetrated by non-Catholic clergy are largely ignored by the media]. (Indeed, the idea of reducing marriage to an abuse-prevention program ought to be repulsive.) Sexual abusers throughout the world are overwhelmingly noncelibates.

Too many of the Church's bishops failed to grasp the drastic measures required to address the sexual abuse of the young-that's obvious, and has been admitted by the bishops of the United States and two popes. Yet it is hard to see what these failures had to do with gender. Like others, many bishops had a misplaced faith in the power of psychiatrists and psychologists to "fix" sexual predators, thinking these men could be "cured" and quietly returned to ministry without damaging the Church's reputation. In his recent scathing letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland, Pope Benedict XVI denounced bishops who were more concerned with protecting the Church's image than with protecting vulnerable young people. It's a critique that was applicable decades ago in the United States-but the same criticism can be made of teachers-union leaders and state legislators of today who ignore or try to bury reports of sexual abuse in America's public schools.

So, yes, aspects of clerical culture in the U.S. and elsewhere contributed to the problem, but that same deplorable circle-the-wagons instinct has warped the response to this plague in other sectors of society. The difference is that the Catholic Church in America has taken more rigorous action since 2002 to protect the young people in its care than any other similarly situated institution, to the point where the Church is likely America's safest environment for young people....

It should also be noted that the U.S. Church's handling of abuse and misgovernance since 2002 has been immensely strengthened by the insight and professional expertise of many women-just as we also ought to recognize that laywomen, single and married, are usually the teachers who make today's Catholic schools safe and successful. Moreover, women are the great majority of the volunteers and paid staff who make Catholic parishes both safe and vital. The notion that women don't have anything to do with how the Catholic Church operates confuses the Catholic Church with the higher altitudes of "the Vatican," and ignores how Catholic life is actually lived in America and Europe.

As for doctrine: what ought to be obvious about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is that these grave sins and crimes were acts of infidelity, DENIALS of the truths the church leaches. A priest who takes SERIOUSLY the vows of his ordination is NOT a sexual abuser or predator. And if a bishop takes seriously his ordination oath to shepherd the Lord's flock, he will always put the safety of the Master's little ones AHEAD of concerns about public scandal. Catholic LITE is not the answer to what has essentially been a crisis of FIDELITY

Since 2002, with strong support from then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (and from him still as Benedict XVI), the Catholic Church in America has developed and enforced policies and procedures to ensure the safety of the young that offer an important model for the world church. There were only six credible reports of sexual abuse of the young in the U.S. Church last year. And while that is six too many in a Church that ought to hold itself to the highest standards, it is nonetheless remarkable in a community of 68 million people.

What is essential throughout the world, however, is that the Church become MORE Catholic, NOT less. John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" proposed an understanding of faithful and fruitful human love as an icon of God's inner life. That vision is far nobler, far more compelling, and far more humane than the sex-as-contact-sport teching of the sexual revolution, the principal victims of which seem to be vulnerable young people. Those who are genuinely committed to the protection of the young might ponder whether Catholicism really needs to become Catholic Lite-or whether the Augean stables of present-day CULTURE need a radical cleansing.
[Emphasis added].

* * * * *
Church Faces Hurdles to Imposing Abuse Law
By: Stacy Melchtry
From: The Wall Street Journal, Saturday/Sunday, April 10, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI is under pressure to find a quick and effective way to impose church law concerning sexual abuse across Roman Catholic dioceses around the world, where he will have to face LOCAL bishops who hold sway over how abusive priests are reported, investigated, and prosecuted.

Some canon lawyers say the pope has all of the formal power he needs, partly thanks to tougher laws HE helped to create in 2001 when he was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Still, the Vatican faces numerous challenges in ADMINISTERING canon law. In addition to the semiautonomous dioceses, there are also debates over jurisdiction inside the Church, confusing divisions of authority, and widely varying civil codes dealing with requirements for reporting suspected abuse.

On Friday, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi in an address over Vatican Radio, also told church officials to cooperate with civil authorities "keeping in mind the specific norms and situations of different countries." Canon law, he said, had to be applied with "decisiveness and veracity."

The Vatican is expected to publish STREAMLINED church guidelines for handling sexual-abuse cases on its Web site Monday, [April 12] said Jeffrey Lena, a lawyerfor the Holy See. [This has now been done.] One problem the Catholic Church has had in responding to abuse cases is the determination of who has jurisdiction: the Holy See in Rome OR local bishops. As hundreds of sexual-abuse allegations have emerged across Europe this year, critics have noted the glacial pace of Church trials and INTERPRETED it as a SIGN of the Vatican's UNWILLINGNESS to crack down on sexual abuse.

Further confusion [stems from] the church hierarchy of authority. The pope has the power to hand down directives on church law, but bishops from Idaho to India have a lot of say in whether Vatican orders are carried out.

"People see the pope as a monolith; he gives an order and everyone falls in line. But practically, that doesn't happen," said Nicholas Cafardi, a professor of canon law at Duquesne University, who advised U. S. bishops on implementing national norms on sexual abuse following the explosion of U. S. cases in 2002. "There are tons of examples of bishops ignoring the Holy See."

Those examples include administrative matters, such as selling property or managing personnel. Although bishops continue to have "enormous power,"the NEW LAW has CLARIFIED the Holy See's authority to reach down into a diocese in cases of sexual abuse, said Monica-Elena Herghelegiu, a canon lawyer and senior lecturer at Germany's University of Tuebingen, where Pope Benedict once taught theology. "The supreme pontiff and his representatives have the power to intervene in the dioceses whenever necessary."

BEFORE the current law, ANY NUMBER of departments in the Holy See could stake claims to sexual-abuse cases. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for example, had clearcut jurisdiction only over priests who used their roles as confessors to solicit sexual acts from their victims. Other forms of sexual abuse by priests were often handled by other Vatican bodies, such as the Congregation for the Clergy. That also caused months of delay, as local bishops reported the cases to the wrong office, according to internal church documents disclosed by lawyers of alleged victims.

Controversy over who is ultimately responsible for disciplining priests bubbled up again on Friday when the Associated Press reported that a 1985 letter by then-Cardinal Ratzinger to the Oakland, California diocese showed the future pope resisting defrocking [i.e., laicising] an Oakland priest who had a record of sexually molesting children. In the letter, written in Latin, the cardinal cites concerns over "the good of the universal church," the AP quotes. the letter as stating.

Mr. Lena, the attorney for the Holy See, couldn't confirm directly the authenticity of the 1985 letter, but said it appeared to be a form letter typically sent out in cases involving "laicization," or defrocking. He denied the letter reflected then-Cardinal Ratzinger resisting pleas from the bishop to defrock the priest. "There may be some overstep and rush to judgment going on here," he said.

In the late 1990s, Cardinal Ratzinger began to push for an OVERIHAUL OF RULES on sexual abuse said Father Lombardi. The effort actually led to further delays in disciplining abusive priests. Cases that were pending before the Congregation were SUSPENDED for years WHILE Cardinal Ratzinger RETOOLED THE NORMS, the spokesman said.

Cardinal Ratzinger issued a letter to bishops, giving them instructions on how to apply the NEW rules. Those rules dictate that bishops are required to report SWIFTLY any allegations of sexual abuse that have "a semblance of truth" to the Congregation. The office can then instruct a local diocese to conduct a canonical trial against the cleric. Under 'particular circumstances" the Congregation can take over a case and conduct its own trial.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also was given FULL jurisdiction over appeals [in 2001]. If a diocese appears to fumble a canonical trial, the Congregation's so-called Promoter of Justice can appeal the local tribunal's ruling. The Congregation can dispense with the canonical trial and refer cases directly to the pope, when abuse cases are deemed "grave and clear."

Despite the overhaul, however, the Vatican stills struggles to impose its authority.
[Emphasis added].

Fr. George Welzbecher, Church of St. John of St. Paul, Pastor's Page, April 18, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No 'seamless garment' for late Father Paul Marx


The following is an impressive letter recently sent to Abbot John Klassen of St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn. — do you realize that if I were to be the head of a monastery, I would be the Abbot Abbott? ... but I digress — by Andrew Scholberg, veteran pro-life activist and convert who has appeared on EWTN. Mr. Scholberg, who gave me permission to print his letter in this column, worked for the late Father Paul Marx, founder of Human Life International, an organization now headed by Father Tom Euteneuer.

March 31, 2010
Rt. Rev. John Klassen, O.S.B.
Office of the Abbot
St. John's Abbey
Collegeville, MN 56321

Dear Abbot Klassen,

Thank you for your hospitality at the St. John's guesthouse. My wife and I stayed there after the visitation for my former boss, Fr. Paul Marx, O.S.B.

In the late 1970s I was Fr. Marx's right-hand man at the Human Life Center at St. John's. I didn't follow Fr. Marx out East. But in the late 1990s I did some writing for Human Life International as a fundraising consultant. And in 2004 I did a one-day on-site fundraising consultation at Human Life International for Fr. Tom Euteneuer. It was good to see Fr. Tom and Brian Clowes at the visitation and funeral and also some other colleagues from years ago.

I enjoyed meeting Brother Neil and some of the other monks. These are good men. I miss Fr. Michael Blecker and other monks I knew who've passed on to the next life.

On the day of Fr. Marx's funeral I enjoyed a brisk morning walk out to the chapel on the other side of the lake. When I worked at St. John's, I regularly went on that walk during my lunch hour, eating my sandwich as I walked. I hadn't walked to the chapel for several years. I believe the stained glass windows are new. What a wonderful, idyllic place!

It's always good to be back at St. John's — to see how some things have changed and others haven't.

I thank you and the other monks for taking good care of Fr. Marx during his declining years. My wife and I found the visitation and funeral Mass deeply meaningful. I just want to react to something you said at the funeral Mass.

You mentioned Cardinal Bernardin's Fordham University speech about the Seamless Garment. You implied or suggested this is what Fr. Marx stood for and fought for. Actually, Fr. Marx totally opposed Cardinal Bernardin's Seamless Garment rationale. He considered it a disaster for the anti-abortion movement for at least two reasons:

  1. The Seamless Garment gives Catholics an excuse to vote for pro-abortion politicians on the specious theory that these politicians are, on balance, more pro-life than their anti-abortion opponents because they have good positions on some other issues that impact life. For example, I recall one Seamless Garment evaluation of politicians that rated Senator Ted Kennedy as much more "pro-life" than Senator Jesse Helms! (Kennedy consistently voted for abortion and for public funding of abortion, and Helms was probably the Senate's most stalwart opponent of abortion.)

  2. The Seamless Garment dilutes the anti-abortion movement by melding it with marginally related issues, some of which are debatable. For example, one debatable issue is whether a particular war meets the Church's criteria for a just war. Another is whether capital punishment is justified in a particular case. Melding abortion with a basketful of debatable issues takes the focus away from the monstrous injustice of abortion.

It's o.k. with me if you oppose capital punishment. I have mixed feelings about it myself, though I tend to support it. The Church, of course, has always taught that the government has a "well-founded right and duty," in the words of JPII's Catechism of the Catholic Church, "to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty" (CCC 2266).

I'm well aware that the Catechism also says, "If [note the word if] bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means [should, not must]" (CCC 2267). Obviously John Paul II didn't like capital punishment. But he knew full well that he lacked the authority to change what the Church has always taught on this subject. That's because the Church teaches the fullness of truth about faith and morals, and the truth doesn't change. (See my P.P.S. for an amusing anecdote about this.)

The documents of Vatican II call abortion an "unspeakable crime."

A Catholic who executes a criminal at a government-sanctioned execution commits no sin — not even a venial sin. A capital punishment statute was on the books in Vatican City until 1969. But a Catholic who participates in abortion commits a mortal sin and incurs automatic excommunication. Vatican City has never authorized abortion.

At any rate, reasonable Catholics may disagree with each other about debatable issues such as capital punishment and whether or not a particular war meets the Church's criteria for a just war. But all Catholics should agree that abortion is an unspeakable crime. At least the condemned criminal has received a jury trial, due process of law, and the benefits of a lengthy appeals process. Not so with the baby who is killed on the mother's whim by a paid assassin in a white coat.

About three dozen convicted criminals are executed every year in America. By contrast, over a million innocent babies are executed every year in America. Fr. Marx focused his attention on the abortion disaster and the closely related anti-life evils of contraception, voluntary sterilization, and euthanasia. That makes perfect sense.

It's disgraceful that the states with the highest percentage of Catholics are the states that consistently elect two pro-abortion senators (New York, Massachusetts, and so on)! Catholics have an obligation to do something to oppose abortion — at minimum by voting against pro-abortion political candidates. Sadly, many Catholics don't even measure up to that minimum standard because they consider abortion no big deal.

In a private audience at the Vatican, Benedict XVI patiently tried to educate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about her obligation as a Catholic to defend innocent life. But what the Pope told her apparently went in one ear and out the other.

It's good to be a Catholic. I was Protestant for most of my life, but on September 8, 1996, I was received into the Catholic Church. Fr. Marx influenced my conversion. I became Catholic because of Apostolic Succession and because I wanted to get rid of my sins in the sacrament of Confession.

I look forward to my next visit to St. John's, whenever that will be.

All good wishes,

Andrew Scholberg

P.S. Congratulations on the St. John's Bible. It's a masterpiece!

P.P.S. Regarding my point that the truth exists and doesn't change, let me tell you about my encounter with a confused young man at St. John's. When I was working at St. John's, a student came to see me in my office. He was boiling with rage over something I had written against abortion. I invited him to sit down. With steam coming out of his ears, he said, "In your opinion, abortion kills a baby, but others feel it isn't a baby. Who are you to say that abortion is wrong?" I kept my cool, pulled out a blank sheet of paper, and drew a circle. Pointing to the circle, I said, "What would you say if I were to tell you that I feel this is a square?" He replied, "Then for you it would be a square." Upon his reply, I politely told him that further dialogue was impossible, and he left. I was genuinely shocked to encounter such an extreme form of relativism and subjectivism and such a blatant denial of plain truth. I still shake my head when I think about that.

Back in the late 1970s, that confused young man was probably the exception rather than the rule. But things have gotten worse since then — much worse. Today, that young man's relativist confusion is the rule rather than the exception!

The Knights of Columbus commissioned a poll of young Catholics between the ages of 18 and 29. The poll found that 82 percent agree that morals are relative and that there's no definite right or wrong for everybody. In other words, eight out of 10 students entering St. John's reject the Ten Commandments and instead embrace moral relativism! No wonder so many Catholics are having abortions. Moral relativism is in the very air we breathe. It's part of the zeitgeist. I hope and pray that the faculty and community of St. John's can do something to influence the students to reject this specious, seductive, and deadly error and to embrace the fullness of truth about faith and morals. This is a big task and a tough challenge. Matt Abbott in Renew America

Friday, April 16, 2010

La Crosse Guadalupe Shrine to Install St. Gianna Molla relic

Gianna Beretta Molla(CNA).- The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin announced the upcoming installation of a first-class relic of St. Gianna Molla that will take place following a Mass which will honor the saint.

On April 25, the shrine will hold Mass along with a prayer service, veneration and installation of the relic. A blessing for mothers and married couples will also be given.

The local La Crosse Tribune reported that the relic consists of three hair strands from the Italian saint.

“We’re very, very honored to have that here. It’s through the graciousness of the family,” said Sister Christa Marie, executive director of the shrine. Sister Christa Marie told the La Crosse Tribune on March 27 that she had asked the saint’s son, Pierluigi, if the family would provide the relic after he spoke at the shrine last July.

St. Gianna died in 1962 shortly after giving birth to her fourth child. The pediatric surgeon developed uterine tumors while pregnant and was advised by doctors to terminate the pregnancy. She refused, and chose to give birth, dying a few days later at the age of 39.

“One person’s life and one person’s death has had such an impact on so many lives,” Sister Christa Marie said. “She lived a beautiful, Christian life. She did live ordinary in an extraordinary way.”

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which opened in 2008 under the direction of Archbishop Raymond Burke, recently installed a first-class relic of St. Faustina Kowalska on Divine Mercy Sunday. The relic of the Polish saint who died in 1938 consists of bone fragments which were brought to the La Crosse diocese from Rome by Archbishop Burke.

Sister Christa Marie spoke to the La Crosse Tribune on the importance of relics, saying, “It’s an ability to connect. It just reminds us that we are one big family.” From Fr. Z

More on St. Gianna!

Cardinal Hummes supports priests

From Father Tim Finegan at The Hermeneutic of Continuity in the UK

Cardinal Hummes, the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Clergy, has written a letter to priests in anticipation of the closing of the Year for Priests in June. In writing to priests at this time, he quite rightly addresses the scandals that have been the focus of the world's media. His concise summary is a model of how to address the matter in a balanced and just way:

It is true that, albeit proportionately small in number, some priests have committed horrible and most serious crimes of sexual abuse upon minors, deeds that we must condemn and rebuke in an absolute and uncompromising manner. Those individuals must answer for their actions before God and before tribunals, including the civil courts. Nevertheless, we also pray that they might achieve spiritual conversion and receive pardon from God. The Church, for her part, is determined neither to hide nor to minimize such crimes. Above all we are on the side of the victims and want to support their recovery and their offended rights.

On the other hand, it is absolutely unacceptable to use the crimes of the few in order to sully the entire ecclesial body of priests. Those who do so commit a profound injustice. In the course the Year for Priests, the Church seeks to say this to human society. Anyone possessed of common sense and good will knows it to be the truth.
Having said this, he [Claudio Cardinal Hummes, from Brazil, Perfect for the Congregation of the Liturgy] addresses the priests of the world with warmth and affection. He is particularly enthusiastic in his invitation to priests to travel to Rome for the gathering of priests from 9-11 June. He says that the Holy Father wishes to confirm the priests in their vocation and that it will be an opportunity for the priests to support the Holy Father:
There is yet another particular motivation for the presence in Rome of numerous priests for the conclusion of the Year for Priests, which is found at the heart of the Church today. One speaks of offering to our beloved Pope Benedict XVI our solidarity, our support, our confidence, and our unconditional communion, in the face of the frequent attacks direct towards Him, at this moment of time, in the field of his decisions with regard to clerics involved in crimes of the sexual abuse of minors. The accusations directed towards Him are obviously unjust, and it has been shown that no one has done as much as Benedict XVI to condemn and to combat properly such crimes. Therefore, the large presence of priests in the Square with Him will be a determined rejection of the unjust attacks of which he is a victim. So then, come as well to publicly support the Holy Father.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Archbishop Nienstedt on the Pope's Fifth Anniversary as Pontiff

CNS photo

My first interaction with Pope Benedict XVI occurred at the residence where I was living in Rome while working at the Vatican (office of the Secretariat of State).

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger came for lunch as a guest of one of my brother priests. I remembered how reserved he was, almost shy, as he answered questions put to him by those assembled.

Towards the end of the meal, there was a pause and then someone asked, “Your Eminence, did you ever play any sports?” The cardinal nodded and replied, “When I was in Munich, I used to downhill ski. But since coming to Rome, I have no one to go skiing with me.”

Every head at the table turned toward me. “Well, Father Nienstedt skis,” said a voice. The cardinal looked expectantly at me, so I offered, “Anytime you want to go, Eminence, I’d be happy to go with you.” But, you see, he never called, and I doubt he will now.

The influence that Pope Benedict XVI has had on my life as a priest and bishop is felt mainly through his writings. You can tell from his preaching and speaking that he is a natural-born teacher. He makes his points in a way that is clear and lucid. He has a firm grasp of the importance of one’s understanding of the faith as well as the challenges offered by our contemporary society that attempts to undermine that faith.

His first encyclical, God Is Love, should not have surprised anyone, but it did. His point, I believe, is this: Since God is love (rather than merely saying God loves), then everything we do involves love. Love then governs all relationships and, as such, cannot be measured or calculated. This then becomes both the motivation for and the challenge behind every baptized disciple’s call to love in Christ’s name.

The other point to make here is the fact that Pope Benedict gives priority in his ministry to his preaching and teaching. For bishops who can get caught up in the administration of their pastoral obligations, this is an important point to keep in mind.

The strength of episcopal ministry lies in the power of the Word i nfused as it is with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Pope Benedict believes in that power and he makes time to devote his energies to it.

For the Church at large, Pope Benedict has been very much a father figure in faith. Granted, he does not have the easy charisma of his predecessor, but he is still a solid reference point for Catholics and non-Catholics alike who are seeking for a moral compass. He does so with that same kind of reserve and serenity that I saw in him at our first meeting. National Catholic Register

Sunday, April 11, 2010

“In God We Trust” Chesterton vs. Atheism! Tuesday April 13th


Come one come all to the hottest AOTM debate so far this year!

Preface to the Debate“In God We Trust”: God in American Public Policy

By: Mike Olson, AOTM Senior Moderator

Mr. Dale Ahlquist (G.K. Chesterton Scholar, Professed Catholic) and Mr. George Kane (Chair, MN ATHIESTS) will debate the merits of the 9th Circuit’s recent ruling against Mr. Newdow’s suit regarding the removal of “In God We Trust” from US currency and “under God” from the pledge– the court ruled that the motto “In God We Trust” and the phrase “under God” do not violate the Constitution’s 1st Amendment “Establishment Clause”.Mr. Ahlquist and Mr. Kane will bring to the debate their own philosophies and approaches, and not simply prescribed recitals of legal cases underpinning the closed suit. A debate over this ruling frames numerous and serious implications that extend far beyond the 9thCircuit. Is it time to enforce a doctrine where Americans must separate their faithfrom public life or exercises of faith from government settings? Does it stand to reason that government can only support religious freedom if it recognizes no religion at all? In effort to be true to its founding principles of religious freedom, should the US government surgically remove all traces of its Christian heritage, identity, and references to God? What is more, could the US government survive such a surgery?To keep our debate focused, each debater will use the above ruling as his locus, and are welcome from there to expand his ideas regarding “God in American Public Policy.”

The 9th Circuit’s recent ruling strikes a hard blow against advocates who seek the removal of religion and God from government. Advocates such as the group MINNESOTA ATHIESTS, for one. No doubt, the ruling stands at odds and with their understanding of the Constitution and the role of government.

With eloquence and respectable detail, MINNESOTA ATHIESTS openly publishes its public policy positions (see website The group writes: “The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is the foundation of the political policies of Minnesota Atheists: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”’ The group continues, “We recognize that a significant, organized and consistent threat to secular government in the United States is posed by politically intrusive religious groups, exemplified by the conservative Christian movement. Minnesota Atheists addresses particular effort to opposing the political agenda of these religious groups.”

Perhaps Judge Carlos Bea, writing for the 2-1 majority 9th Circuit decision, sees something different: not the “political agenda” of the “conservative Christian movement” but the destructive stripping of “God” from government by those who wish to re-write American History so to divorce the very beliefs the founders wove into the Constitution from the Constitution itself.

Judge Bea writes, “The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded and for which we continue to strive: one Nation under God - the Founding Fathers’ belief that the people of this nation are endowed by their Creator withcertain inalienable rights.” Well, according the Judge Bea, there is a clear distinction between “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” and legal rulings that serve to eradicate any reference to God in the public arena. MN ATHIESTS perhaps side with the dissenting judge (Judge Stephen Reinhardt), who argues about the pledge: “carrying out such an indoctrination in a public school classroom unconstitutionally forces many young children either to profess a religious belief antithetical to their personal views or to declare themselves through their silence or nonparticipation to be protesting nonbelievers, thereby subjecting themselves to hostility and ridicule.”

So, what insights and arguments will Mr. Dale Ahlquist and Mr.George Kane offer the AOTM when they debate: “In God We Trust: God in American Public Policy”? Well, those who miss this will miss out!

george_head.jpgGeorge Kane graduated with a degree in philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1970. He joined Minnesota Atheists in 1997, and has served on the Board of Directors for ten years.During that time he has been President, Chair and Editor of the organization’s newsletter. He is currently the Secretary, and an interviewer on Minnesota Atheists’ radio and cable TV programs.In addition to his work with Minnesota Atheists, he has earned three Distinguished Toastmaster Awards. Dale AhlquistDale Ahlquist is the president and co-founder of the American Chesterton Society. He is the creator and host of the Eternal Word Television Network series, “G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense” on EWTN. Dale is the author of G.K. Chesterton: Apostle of Common Sense and the recently published Common Sense 101: Lessons From G.K. Chesterton.He is also the publisher of Gilbert Magazine, author of The Chesterton University Student Handbook, editor of The Gift of Wonder: The Many Sides of G.K. Chesterton, and associate editor of the Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton(Ignatius). He has been called “one of the most respected Chesterton scholars in the world” and has delighted audiences around the country with his variety of talks on the great English writer.He is a graduate of Carleton College (B.A.) in Northfield, Minnesota, and HamlineUniversity (M.A.) in St. Paul, Minnesota. He lives near Minneapolis with his wife and five children.

The AOTM Coronary Kitchen will be serving up a little taste of summer! We will be having our yearly BBQ. All AOTM Forums are served buffet style, all you can eat.

  • Appetizer: Salsa, Chips, Nacho Cheese and peppers
  • Dinner: We will be serving our AOTM traditional BBQ and pulled pork sandwiches and slow smoked Jamaican Jerk Pork! In addition to the pork we will be serving the kind of beans your wife and your doctor do not want you to eat! These baked beans are packed with bacon and onions! Now, no BBQ is complete with out coleslaw so there will be plenty of that and of course corn bread with a kick. We like to put jalapeno honey glaze on our corn bread!
  • Dessert: Fresh baked brownies covered in a chocolate sauce served with ice cream! YUM, YUM!

General Schedule

  • 6:00pm Social Hour / Appetizers
  • 7:00pm Dinner
  • 7:30pm Main Presentation
  • 8:30pm Dessert
  • 8:45pm Q&A
  • 9:30pm Dismissal

$12 at the Door
(The total cost for the night.)

This cost includes:

“Manly Meal”

What »

Photo: Faith, Food, and Fellowship
Faith, Food, and Fellowship

The “Argument Of The Month” brings men together for the purpose of teaching and defending the catholic faith, through debate and discussion on current issues of faith, politics and culture while enjoying great food in the fellowship of other men.

When »

Photo: Every Second Tuesday
Every Second Tuesday

The Catholic Men’s Argument of the Month meets every second Tuesday of the month from October through May.

Where »

Photo: St. Augustine’s Catholic Church
St. Augustine’s Catholic Church

In the basement of St. Augustine's Catholic Church.

408 3rd St N.
South St Paul, MN 55075

Click for a Map and Directions

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Latest Research Bolsters Holy Shroud Authenticity [2002]

The Shroud of Turin

Latest Research Bolsters Authenticity

by Shafer Parker

No single Christian artifact is more challenging to skeptics than the Shroud of Turin: Once dismissed as a particularly adept medieval forgery, in recent years it has been gaining even more scientific support that it is precisely what tradition has always claimed it is – the burial cloth that for 30 hours was wound about the recumbent body of the crucified Jesus.

In 1988, the shroud’s credibility suffered a setback after three separate carbon-dating tests placed the origin of its linen fibers no earlier than the 13^th century AD, about the time it received what has long been assumed to be its first documented references in western Europe. But at a congress in May in Vienna, scientific researchers detailed solid scientific reasons why carbon dating might never work with the shroud.

And a new thesis, advanced this summer by Italian journalist Orazio Petrosillo and based on research by American, English and Swiss scientists, argues the shrouds carbon dating was compromised by a failure to recognize that new material had been added during a unique mending process undertaken in the Middle Ages.

Meanwhile, an increasing amount of research unrelated to carbon dating continues to point to a first-century Palestinian origin for the shroud’s material. For example, Dr. Mechthild Flury-Lemburg, former curator of the Abegg Foundation textile museum in Berne, Switzerland, and a world authority on ancient textiles, told the Vienna conference the weave and style of the material were from the Dead Sea area and could only have been woven in the period from 40 years before the birth of Christ up to 70 years afterward.

The material, a rare 3-to-1 herringbone twill weave of hand spun linen, is so unique that "there is no way it could have been a forgery from the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries," Flury-Lemberg said. Turin University pathologist Dr. Pieluigi Baima Bollone added that close examination of the cloth revealed images of two coins from the time of Pontius Pilate on the shroud, a further indication the image predated the Middle Ages.

But perhaps the most significant material presented in Vienna came from Piero Savarino, professor of industrial organic chemistry at the University of Turin. In an interview with the Register, Savarino pointed out that the human image on the shroud rests on the outer fibers of the linen weave, in a layer thinner than a human hair. Furthermore, it presents an X-ray like picture of the skeletal system, particularly displaying the bones of both hands, the left wrist, the skull and front teeth and some of the vertebrae.

"We know the image could not have been a painting because it resulted from rapid dehydration of the cellulose in the fabric" similar to what happens in a fire, Savarino said, "but we also know that this process

was done without heat. And how that could happen is a mystery." Savarino explained that when the chemical decomposition of material is accompanied by heat, substances called pyrols are left behind. And while

those pyrols can be found in abundance in the parts of the shroud scorched by the various cathedral fires it has suffered through the centuries, none are connected to the image itself.

"That’s why some scientists have suggested that the image resulted from a controlled nuclear event that occurred at the moment of the Lord’s Resurrection," said Dr. Alan Whanger, professor emeritus of Duke

University Medical Center in Durham, NC, and Director of the Council for study of the Shroud of Turin. "His body would have given off massive amounts of radiation as it dematerialized and passed through the Shroud, leaving a kind of negative photograph with an X-ray component relating to the bones resting near the material."

Whanger noted that Canadian physicist Thaddeus Trenn, director of the science and religion program at the University of Toronto, has hypothesized that an influx of energy overcame the strong force that bound together the protons and neutrons in the body of the man lying in the Shroud. Such an instantaneous event would have released massive amounts of X-rays. Moreover, Trenn has pointed out, the dematerialization theory is supported by distortions in the Shroud image that indicate that it was collapsing in upon itself at the precise moment the image was being produced. And only dematerialization explains how the body could have been lifted away from the blood that had soaked into the fabric while leaving no trace of pulled fibrils on the Shrouds surface.

Whanger said an event like that would have created a massive amount of neutron irradiation, which would lay down levels of carbon-14 all out of proportion to anything that would occur naturally. That could explain

why attempts at carbon-14 dating have failed to support the Shroud’s authenticity. "I don’t think they’ll ever get the carbon dating to line up with the rest of what we know about the shroud," Whanger said.

Petrosillo reaches the same conclusion in an article published this past summer in the Roman newspaper /IL Messaggero. /Researchers, he wrote, have discovered different weaves in some of the threads analyzed in the 1988 carbon-14 dating attempt.

The different weaves are the result of an invisible mend, in which new threads were woven directly into older, original material sometime during the Middle Ages. Where the invisible mend occurred, the new fibers are coated with a dark yellow starchy substance common for medieval fabrics. The older fibers lack the substance. A thread from the older side was dated at the California Institute of Technology back to the third century. On the other hand, the newer, coated material dated back to the 13^th century. Petrosillo reports that according to Beta Analytic, a radiocarbon dating service, a mixture of 60% of 16^th century material with 40% of first century material could lead to a dating of the 13^th century.

Apart from carbon dating, an extensive amount of evidence indicates the shroud is genuine and from the period in which Christ lived. The nail holes, for instance, are placed not in the palms but in the wrists, a

position necessary to support the crucified mans full body weight, but also a bit of knowledge unknown to medieval artists. Also persuasive are images on the cloth of the titulus, the board nailed to Jesus cross upon which Pilate wrote the words, "The King of the Jews"; the 24 flower images identified on the shroud, all from plants with geographical ranges known to overlap only within the vicinity of Jerusalem; the crown of thorns revealed on the cloth to be lying next to the body, an appearance unique to Christ because no one else is known to have been so crowned prior to their crucifixion. Moreover, discoveries of ancient records in European libraries and museums, including drawings and written descriptions of the shroud, have pushed knowledge of its existence back several hundred years before it was first known to have begun its Turin residency.

Leading shroud skeptic Walter McCrone, a forensic scientist who has studied the cloth since 1974, did not respond to Register requests for interviews. But in an earlier interview with this writer, he insisted the shroud is a pious fraud designed to compete with similar products in the Middle Ages’ burgeoning relics market. His analysis of fibers lifted from the shroud onto sticky tape led him to conclude that the image is a clever painting, done with a red ochre tint in a very dilute gelatin solution.

"Of course he found evidence of paint," Whanger replied. "The shroud was known to have been the basis for some 55 ‘true copies,’ handmade reproductions of the shroud's image produced by medieval artists who would then lay their work on top of the original for added sanctity. Such an action would inevitably leave threads behind and provide the source of the iron oxide that has been found."

* *

*Faith and Science*

But even the shroud’s scientific supporters argue against using it as central proof of the Christian faith. "That’s dangerous," Savarino said. "Faith must be found on the Word of God and Christ, not science." Speaking during a May 1988 visit to the shroud in Turin, Pope John Paul II stressed the Church does not regard the shroud’s authenticity as a matter of Christian faith. "As it is not a matter of faith, the Church has no specific competence to pronounce itself on these questions. It entrusts the task of research to scientists; to arrive at appropriate answers for questions related to this cloth.

What really counts for believers is that the holy shroud is a mirror of the Gospel," the Holy Father explained, emphasizing that there is a convergence between the gospel narrative and the image of the man on the cloth. Nevertheless, a number of former skeptics have found that their shroud studies surprised them with an unexpected spiritual component. "When I really came to accept the shroud’s authenticity several years ago," said Phillip Wiebe, professor of philosophy at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, "I really began to believe in the resurrection. Then I found that for the first time in my adult life I was also comfortable with the other miracles in the New Testament, including the virgin birth of Christ. I asked myself, ‘If this man had such an extraordinary end, then what was his beginning?’"

Added Wiebe: "I suddenly realized that if Jesus was the God-man, there must have been some purpose behind his death. I was then able to accept Christianity’s other fundamental teachings. My faith was restored in a cascading series of insights in what I can only describe as a wonderful act of grace."

Copyright © 2002 Circle Media, Inc., National Catholic Register

Shafer Parker is a Correspondent for the National Catholic Register

and writes from Edmonton, Alberta