Recently in Ireland, both North and South, a poll commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests revealed sadly familiar results.
On March 27, 2012, during the Pope’s journey to Cuba, Fr. Federico Lombardi had told the press that the Supreme Pontiff had asked President Raul Castro to allow Good Friday to be a holiday in that country (see DICI No. 253, April 20, 2012). On March 31, the spokesman for the Holy See was able to announce that this request had been promptly accepted by the Cuban authorities and that from now on Good Friday would be a holiday from work in that Communist country.
During the Mass that he celebrated on March 28, 2012, on Revolution Square in Cuba, Benedict XVI had stressed “the importance of the right to religious freedom, in both its individual and community dimensions, which manifests the unity of the human person as both ‘citizen and believer,’” (see DICI No. 253, April 20, 2012). One may ask, doesn’t this defense of religious liberty promoted by Vatican II directly contradict the traditional Catholic doctrine recalled by the Polish intellectuals, whose Petition for a more in-depth study of Vatican II was published in the last issue of DICI (No. 254, May 11, 2012)? In it, in fact, one can read this question, along the same lines as the teaching of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre: “How can we reconcile the right to restrict the public worship of other religious confessions, which the predecessors of Your Holiness granted to leaders of Catholic States in order to preserve the true religion, with the right to freedom from external coercion in public worship for any religion, a right that was raised by Dignitatis Humanae to the status of natural law, declaring that it had its foundation in the dignity of the human person? (DH, 2.9.)
“Is not the dignity of the human person, correctly understood, manifested when he or she adores God in the true religion?” And they added this very pertinent observation: “As Catholics who are actively engaged in the public life of Poland, we cannot refrain from remarking that the idea of the liberal State, which is essentially neutral in matters of religion, effectively stifles the legitimate aspirations of Poles and also contradicts the most deeply-rooted values in the history of the Polish nation.”
The question that arises is the following: Can religious liberty, which is an evil in Poland, now that it has become Catholic again after the fall of the Soviet regime, be a good in Cuba under a government that is still openly Communist? How can one accept the notion that the condemnation of religious liberty by traditional doctrine is valid in Warsaw but not in Cuba?
Still at the level of principles and without in any way prejudging the subjective intentions of those who are fighting or promoting religious liberty, here is the response given by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, Secretary of the Holy Office to this question: “In States where a majority of the citizens do not profess the Catholic faith or do not even know the fact of Revelation, the non-Catholic civil authority must, in matters of religion, conform at least to the precepts of the natural law. In those conditions, this non-Catholic authority must grant civil liberty to all forms of worship that are not opposed to natural religion. This liberty is not opposed then to Catholic principles, given that it is suited both to the good of the Church and to the good of the State. In States where the government does not profess the Catholic religion, the Catholic citizens have above all the duty to win for the Church, by their virtues and civic actions whereby, together with their fellow citizens, they promote the common good of the State, the full freedom to accomplish her divine mission. Indeed, a non-Catholic State, too, suffers no harm from the free action of the Church and even derives many distinguished benefits from it. Therefore, the Catholic citizens must strive so that the Church and the civil authority, although still separated juridically, might offer one another benevolent mutual assistance.”
This document by Cardinal Ottaviani, entitled “On Relations between Church and State and on Religious Tolerance,” had been rejected at the very first session of the Second Vatican Council in favor of the schema composed by Cardinal Augustin Bea, who was President of the Secretariat for the Unity of Christians.
Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, issued a statement in March of this year showing why pro-lifers must also oppose contraception. His argument is very easy to follow. He states, “There are two basic truths we have to admit in this life. Firstly, there is a God, and secondly, it isn’t me.” To understand this is also to realize why abortion is wrong. Only God has an absolute dominion over human life. “None of us lives as his own master, and none of us dies as his own Master” (Rom. 14:7). Pavone explains, in a clear and orthodox manner, that this is also the reason why contraception is wrong. We know that human life begins at conception. However, God’s dominion over human life does not only begin at conception, it begins in eternity. As St. Paul writes, “God chose us in Him before the world began” (Eph. 1:4) and much earlier the prophet Jeremiah wrote: “Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew you” (Jer. 1:5). We exist in time because God chose us from eternity. A human decision to prevent conception is to trespass on God’s sovereignty over human life.
On March 29, 2012, in Warsaw, the Polish bishops released a 70-page document entitled “Out of Concern for People and for the Common Good.” In this document they warn their countrymen against the loss of Christian values in society, stating that “the country is at a turning point in its evolution.”
The bishops discuss the negative demographic curve and the international economic crisis. They single out radical capitalism and maintain that the economy must be at the service of people and respect moral rules. They denounce the “serious problem” of emigration of Poles leaving to work abroad.
This report, produced by the Polish Episcopal Conference (KEP), concludes that “despite many commendable achievements, a grave crisis threatens: a crisis of values which have maintained national unity for centuries.” Without these values, “ultimately the existence of Poland itself is threatened.”
(May 25, 2012) Since October 2011 the printing house Ebner & Spiegel, in Ulm (Germany), delivered 300,000 Qur’ans ordered by the organization Die Wahre Religion (The True Religion) and earmarked for Operation “Read!”—a large-scale, free distribution launched by Salafist circles throughout the country. A German version of the Qur’an without commentary, the 500-page volume is offered free of charge on the streets of major German cities. The objective is to make all Germans acquainted with the Qur’an, in other words, to distribute 25 million Qur’ans, one for each family. On April 12, 2012, the printing house stopped producing Qur’ans, the German daily newspaper Die Welt confirmed, thus cancelling their contract for 50,000 additional copies. According to the organizers, more than 250,000 had been distributed as of that date.
For some time now this project has caused uneasiness among German government authorities and the press, who see in it a sign of religious fundamentalism. The distribution is vehemently criticized by many political and religious circles, including Muslims.
The head of the parliamentary party CDU-CSU, Volker Kauder, “strongly” condemned this initiative. In his view, it “exploits the Qur’an for extremist purposes.” One hears the same within the liberal party, the FDP, which deems these distributions “inexcusable.” Its spokesman, Serkan Tören, called for the extradition of “non-German Salafists who violate the fundamental law.” In the opposition party, the Social Democrats of the SPD asked that surveillance of the Salafists be conducted. “If the authorities notice that there is a violation of rights and of the law, it would then be time to think about an interdict,” declared the SPD spokesman, Michael Hartmann. “Religion must not be misappropriated for ideological purposes,” German Minister of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich emphasized, “or for a demonstration of force aimed at imposing a political point of view.”
The delegate from the Conference of German Bishops for dialogue with the Muslims, Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke, condemned this massive distribution of Qur’ans by the Salafists on April 13 in Hamburg. “Such campaigns disturb religious peace. They awaken aggressiveness and stir up distrust.” He called on Christians to remain calm and invited them to pursue the dialogue with the Muslims.
For its part, the Muslim Coordinating Council (KRM) of Germany warned, on April 13 in Cologne, against an exploitation of the book of Islam. It fears that the debate surrounding the Salafists and their campaign “are being conducted behind the backs of the local Muslims.”
Ibrahim Abou Nagie is the initiator of the project to distribute Qur’ans. This 47-year-old preacher and business leader, originally from Palestine, is established in Cologne. He intends “to bring the truth into the hearts of the people” by his campaign. German intelligence services estimate that there are 2,500 Salafists in the country, according to the AFP. “The distribution of copies of the Qur’an is covered by religious liberty, but the movement hiding behind it continues to be the object of surveillance,” one security source explained.
Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland, Ohio, has announced that he will re-open twelve parishes after the Vatican ruled he had acted improperly in closing them.
In February, opponents of the Parish Closing decisions announced that the Vatican had upheld their suit, ruling that the parishes should never have been closed. The Bishop said that he weighed an appeal of the Vatican ruling, but decided against it because “it’s time for peace and unity in the diocese of Cleveland.” The Bishop had closed 50 parishes altogether under a re-configuration plan that Bishop Lennon himself had approved.