January 2012 Print

Church and World

Reflections on the Presence of Atheists in Assisi

DICI – In the October 31, 2011 issue of Correspondance européenne (European Correspondence) (No. 242), the Italian historian Roberto de Mattei, who, on January 11, 2011, had signed a petition asking Benedict XVI to “flee from the spirit of Assisi” (see DICI, No. 228, Jan. 22, 2011), expressed his anxiety about the presence of atheists at the interreligious meeting in Assisi on October 27: “There is, of course, the possibility that the non-believers are on a search for or a ‘pilgrimage’ to Truth. This is what can happen when respect for the Second Commandment (love of neighbor) grows progressively and seeks its foundation in the First Commandment (love of God). This is the position of the so-called devout atheists such as Marcello Pera and Giuliano Ferrara, who—as was rightly pointed out by Francesco Agnoli in his article: Io cattolico pacelliano, dico al card. Ravasi che ha ad Assisi sbagliato atei” (I, a Pacellian Catholic, say to Cardinal Ravasi that at Assisi he was wrong about the atheists) in Il Foglio, October 29, 2011)—have had their way with believers, and the way they continue to do so is by making their arguments work.” In regard to certain precepts of the Decalogue, these last today show themselves to be more confident and observant than many Catholics. But the atheists summoned to Assisi are anything but ‘devout’: they belong to that category of non-believers who despise not only the first three commandments, but the entire Decalogue.

“It is a position the philosopher and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva has taken up again in the daily paper Corriere della Sera of October 28, 2011—which published in extenso her remarks at Assisi, in a article titled “Un nuovo umanesimo dieci principi” (Ten Principles of a New Humanism). In contrast to other lay specialists, Kristeva asserted a line of thought which starts from the Renaissance and ends up at the Enlightenment of Diderot, Voltaire and Rousseau, including the Marquis de Sade, Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud, that is to say this itinerary, as demonstrated by leading atheist experts—Father Cornelio Fabro (Introduzione all’ateismo moderno, Rome: Studium, 1969), and the philosopher Augusto Del Noce (Il problema dell’ateismo, Bologna: Il Mulino, 2010)—carries precisely the nihilism that the French psychoanalyst, without denying her own atheistic vision and permissive society, would like to counter in the name of a collaborative ‘complicity’ between Christian humanism and secular humanism. The outcome of this peaceful coexistence between the atheist principle of immanence and a vague reminder of the Christian religiosity can only be pantheism, dear to all the modernists, past and present.

“The point upon which Assisi III risks standing is a dangerous furtherance of the confusion that currently grips the Church, that which all the media has largely emphasized, namely, the extension of the invitation to Assisi to atheists and agnostics selected among the most distant from Christian metaphysics, in addition to those addressed to representatives of different religions around the world. We wonder what dialogue can be possible with these ‘unbelievers’ who contradict the source of natural law.

“The distinction between atheist ‘combatants’ and atheist ‘partners’ risks ignoring the aggressive power contained in implicit atheism, which is not conveyed in a militant way, but which is actually more dangerous. Atheists of the UAAR (Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics) at least have something to teach Catholics: in defense of their truths they profess their errors with a militant spirit from which Catholics have totally abdicated…” (Source: CORRESPONDANCE EUROPÉENE/DICI, No. 244 of Nov. 11, 2011)

Brazil: The Supreme Court Has Authorized the First Civil Homosexual Marriage

DICI – The Catholic Church in Brazil expressed its concern at the decision of the Superior Tribunal of Justice (STJ)—the Supreme Court—that has, for the first time in the history of the country, authorized the civil marriage of two women.
Four of the five judges pronounced themselves in favor of the authorization of this “marriage” between two women of the State of Rio Grande, who have been living together for five years. The only judge who opposed it has pointed out that such a decision could be overturned by the Federal Supreme Court (STF), which treats fundamental judicial questions.
The case was handed over to the Superior Tribunal of Justice after an inferior court had forbidden the union. Such judgements made by the State tribunals are not rare, but the Church fears that this first authorization of the Supreme Appeals Court could set a legal precedent in Brazil, where, unlike Argentina, “homosexual marriage” is not legal.
This judgment is not unrelated to the Supreme Court’s decision on May 5, to recognize the civil union of stable homosexual couples. The decision was unanimously adopted by the ten judges, announced the Court’s President, Cezar Pelluzo, in spite of the Catholic Church’s fierce opposition. “In the absence of a law regulating the marriage of homosexuals, the recognition of civil union by the Supreme Court was the best we could hope for,” Judge Maria Berenice Dias had declared to the AFP. The request for recognition of civil union for homosexuals came from the governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Cabral, who wished to give the same rights to all his officers, and from the Prosecutor General of the Republic, Roberto Gurgel. 

(Sources: apic/kna/afp – DICI, No. 244, Nov. 11, 2011)

Issues U.S. Bishops Proposed

Baltimore, Md., Nov. 16, 2011 / 02:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News)– Religious liberty and evangelizing in the increasingly secular American culture topped the list of issues that the U.S. bishops proposed as new priorities for their 2013-2016 strategic planning cycle. A discussion on conference priorities took place on Nov. 15, the second day of the bishops’ three-day fall General Assembly in Baltimore. Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, who serves as the chairman of the conference’s Committee on Priorities and Plans, facilitated the discussion.

Bishop Murry explained that the conference’s long-term priorities are worked out through the 16 standing programmatic committees, which include the committees on Doctrine, International Justice and Peace, Pro-Life Activities and Catholic Education. In addition, the conference designates short-term priorities, specific conference-wide initiatives that the bishops choose to focus on during given periods of time. From 2009 to 2011, the five priorities chosen by the bishops were faith formation and sacramental practice, strengthening marriage, human life and dignity, priestly and religious vocations and cultural diversity in the Church. Bishop Murry highlighted achievements that the bishops have made in these areas, including catechetical preparation for the third edition of the Roman Missal, which is set to go into effect this Advent, as well as launching websites to promote marriage and religious vocations.

“The past three years have been a time of gestation and birth for many projects and resources that have now become mainstream bishop responsibilities,” he said. The bishops took time during their meeting to debate which issues were pressing enough to be considered priorities in the 2013-2016 strategic planning cycle. They gathered in regional groups to formulate and submit ideas for new priorities. After receiving the suggestions, Bishop Murry announced that the Committee on Priorities and Plans would need time to reflect on them and decide how to integrate them into the bishops’ strategic plan. The two issues that received “overwhelming support” from the regional groups were religious liberty and the New Evangelization, he said. The bishops had also shown a “clear desire” to continue their work on the current priorities, he added. Other suggestions for issues to add as new priorities included communication, leadership, the economy and immigration.

In the coming months, the Committee on Priorities and Plans will consider the bishops’ ideas and work to create a framework that will incorporate the two new priorities into the current initiatives. The committee will give a presentation on its progress to the Administrative Committee in March and then to the entire body of bishops in June

Egypt: Cardinal Naguib Denounces the Rise of the Islamists

DICI– The Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, born in Minya (Upper Egypt) on March 7, 1935, was invited to speak at the Fifth National Day of Awareness and Prayer for Christians victim to discrimination and persecutions, organized at Saint Nicolas Cathedral in Fribourg (Switzerland) by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on October 29 and 30, 2011. On this occasion, Canon Nicolas Betticher, Vicar General of the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, recalled that Sunday, October 30, was the 51st anniversary of the cardinal’s priestly ordination.

The Coptic Catholic patriarch declared that during the Bishops’ Synod for the Middle-East, in October 2010 at Rome, the synodal Fathers never once used the word “persecution” when speaking of the situation of Christians in this region of the world. “But that does not mean that all is well or that there are no problems…”

Out of the 88 million inhabitants of present-day Egypt, almost 9 million are Christian, mostly Orthodox Coptics. The country’s seven Catholic churches count about 250,000 faithful, essentially Coptic Catholics. The Christians of Egypt, if they are not persecuted properly speaking, have to face many interdictions imposed by the Koran and the Sharia, the Islamic jurisprudence. Cardinal Naguib also mentioned other painful problems for Christians: school and university manuals that offend or openly attack Christians and the Christian faith. The State media offers no Christian religious programs except Christmas and Easter Mass, while Muslim religious programs are broadcasted day and night.

During the first period of the revolution that deposed President Hosni Mubarak, “the marvelous phenomenon was that it did not touch religion…on the contrary, it reinforced the bonds between Muslims and Christians,” claimed the patriarch Antonios Naguib. “In the churches and in the mosques everyone was praying for the return of peace and order. Many Christians and Muslims lived together in a spirit of cooperation and friendship. We hoped for a new era of brotherhood. Unfortunately, this lovely dream did not last long!” Now, he regrets, Islamic fundamentalists have come out of the woods and attacks against the Christians are repeated, for example those against the Church of the Martyrs, in Sôl, in the south of Cairo, on March 8, or St. Menas Church in Embaba, Cairo, on May 7, and on September 30, St. George’s Church in Marinab. Then there were the Christian protests in Cairo which ended in the death of 30 persons and left 329 wounded, while “all the clues show that the attack was planned. Television reporters urged the attack against peacefully protesting Christians, while the authorities incriminated the Coptics!”

On being questioned by the press agency Apic, Cardinal Antonios Naguib answered that he nonetheless has confidence in the friendship between Muslims and Christians in Egyptian society. Christians have shown a new face “full of energy, of daring and of perseverance,” and Muslim writers ask in the press for the establishment of a State of democratic rights, guaranteeing equality for all. “This is a great chance for dialogue that we must grasp.” “Among the Muslim Brothers in Egypt we meet honest and moderate persons, but this is neither the majority nor is it a reflection of the official doctrine…”

The cardinal recalled that before the new Constitution that President Anwar Sadat drew up in 1971, Sharia was only one source of legislation. And if this President made peace with Israël, we have to admit that this peace was also beneficial for Egypt. But, he added in this interview, another aspect is forgotten: he freed the Muslim Brothers from prison, closed his eyes to their activities…

Fr. Henri Boulad, former superior of the Jesuits in Alexandria, now living in Cairo, also voiced his worries to the ACN, on October 19. “I think that the army is infiltrated by Islamists. We are at a worrisome turning point. The revolution has really been taken over by the fundamentalists,” he claimed. The Egyptian Jesuit denounced the media’s manipulation of opinion. “The rebels are unanimously presented as liberals who want democracy. But rather than democracies, it is Islamist regimes that are going to take over. I think that the intervention of the West in the scenarios of the Arab countries is dictated by economic and financial interests. There is a total lack of objectivity. Does the West realize that in establishing all these regimes in the Arab world, it is preparing for itself a bitter future? No one understands the true measure of the power, organization and determination of these Islamists.”

And he declares without beating around the bush: “I am surprised to see to what point the Church and the Western people have let themselves be taken in by the politically correct concerning Islam. Islam should be able to auto-criticize itself. In Egypt, all moderate voices are silenced under the pretext that they are not faithful to the right tradition: Wahhabism.” (Sources: apic/aed – DICI, No. 244, Nov. 11, 2011)