VOS ESTIS LUX MUNDI

By | News, Vatican

YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

POPE PROMULGATES NEW LAW ON SAFEGUARDING FOR THE CHURCH

The Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis, promulgated new norms for the Church’s handling of abuse on May 9th through a motu proprio (‘on his own initiative), titled, Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”). He approved its promulgation on an experimental basis for a period of three years. It will enter in effect June 1, 2019.

The Pope wrote: “The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful”. The Bishop has the primary responsibility of ensuring that all issues concerning the Safeguarding of children and vulnerable persons, including the processing of any allegations, is handled efficiently with a ‘zero tolerance’ standard or practice.

Nevertheless, it is also the responsibility of everyone to ensure an environment of safeguarding is maintained and that there is vigilance to report abuses when they occur. It is clear through these norms, that there can be no ‘cover-up’. “Therefore, [the Pope wrote] it is good that procedures be universally adopted to prevent and combat these crimes that betray the trust of the faithful”.

The norms regard what are called, in canon law, “delicts against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue,” consisting of:

-sexual acts with a minor or vulnerable person;

-forcing someone to perform or submit to sexual acts through violence, threat, or abuse of authority;

-and the production or possession of child pornography.

The new law also sanctions any actions intended to cover-up a civil or canonical investigation into accusations of child pornography use, sexual abuse of minors, or sexual coercion through abuse of power. It also emphasizes that “the person under investigation enjoys the presumption of innocence”.

Furthermore, it requires that the Church authorities be committed to ensuring “that those who state that they have been harmed, together with their families, are to be treated with dignity and respect,” be welcomed, listened to, and supported, offered spiritual assistance, and medical and psychological assistance.

A crucial aspect of the new legislation for the entire Church is that it introduces obligatory reporting, requiring that every cleric or religious man or woman who has become aware of an accusation of abuse or cover-up report it “promptly” to the proper Church authority.

The motu proprio also states that every diocese in the world is required to create a stable mechanism or system through which people may submit reports of abuse or its cover-up. The exact form of the system, which could also be an entire office, will be left to the discretion of the individual diocese, but must be established by June 2020.

In Gibraltar, a Diocesan Safeguarding Commission was set up in 2018, on the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels.

A diocesan Policy was also established and appropriate Safeguarding training, beginning with our clergy, is being offered to all the groups and persons helping in any way in our parishes.

As Pope Francis wrote: “In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church…. This becomes possible only with the grace of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, as we must always keep in mind the words of Jesus: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn 15:5). Even if so much has already been accomplished, we must continue to learn from the bitter lessons of the past, looking with hope towards the future’”.

If you wish to learn more about Safeguarding in our Diocese, please visit the pages specifically dedicated to this on our website.

To contact our diocesan Safeguarding Officer or relevant agencies for any concerns you may have, please visit the contact details page.

If you believe that a child or vulnerable adult has suffered or is in immediate risk of suffering significant harm, for example, physical or sexual assault or theft of their property, then you should contact the Police / the Care Agency (Social Services) Department immediately.

DOING NOTHING IS NOT AN OPTION!

In all cases where such a situation arises within a church or church-related context, then the Diocesan Safeguarding Officer should be contacted too.

Humanae Vitae Summary

By | News, Teaching, Vatican

When the Encyclical was published on 25th July 1968, it caused an impressive -some would say possibly catastrophic- stir among Catholics throughout the world, which Cardinal Heenan, the then Archbishop of Westminster, described as “the greatest shock since the Reformation”. Today, it is also seen as prophetic. A cartoon circulating in the media this week, gives some food for thought!

The Encyclical aimed at reiterating the Church’s teaching in modern-day language and facing up to the recent developments especially in the area of artificial and medical contraceptives. The overwhelming conclusion of those consulted was that the Pope should slacken the traditional prohibitions. Despite this, Paul VI felt compelled by virtue of the Petrine ministry which he had received directly from Christ as successor of St. Peter, to enunciate with clarity “the mind of Christ” on this matter.

There can be no doubt that since the so-called ‘sexual revolution’ of the 60’s, there has been a seismic change in what society previously considered wrong, to becoming very much the universally accepted fashion. Lamentably, those who disparage Humanae Vitae often have not read the actual document themselves and conclude that if everyone is doing it, it cannot therefore be wrong. However, as the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said:

“Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote.

Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong.

Right is right even if nobody is right”.

In a nutshell, that was the dilemma facing Pope Paul VI.

The final text of the Encyclical shows an awareness that what was being taught would not be easy to accept within that burgeoning permissive social environment of the day. At the same time, it was not blind or deaf to the need for compassion and an awareness of weaknesses and sins in people’s lives. The tone of the Encyclical’s language showed that Paul VI had kept in mind many of the objections that had been raised in the stage of gathering opinions from around the world as he prepared to write the encyclical. Given the nature of an encyclical, understandably the Pope could not argue each and every one of those objections in detail. Instead, he focused on the perennial moral principles at stake. He readily acknowledged the difficult cultural and social conditions in which many married couples live and showed a realistic recognition of the impact of weakness and sin. The Pope was speaking not only to Catholics, but to all Christian consciences that strive daily to take seriously the gift of Grace and the call to conversion. This is what ultimately concerns the moral teaching of the Church: the salvation of all.

The choice of language therefore places at the centre a fundamental element of the moral life of every Christian: even if human freedom always adheres imperfectly to the salvation offered in the Gospel, the Church must always propose it with fidelity and completeness. She cannot fall into the temptation of the sort of popular ethical relativisms that can easily drive a mistaken sense of social progress, which drifts us ever further away from God’s perspective of what is good, authentic, true development for all.

The Encyclical’s pastoral concern is also very significant. Three fundamental elements are highlighted:

  • an indispensable, constant need to have recourse to the support of divine Grace in the daily struggles we face in our moral life and human action;
  • the call not to isolate the practice of regulating births from the broader context of a married life embraced in all its constitutive dimensions;
  • Christ’s Gospel call to a “mastery of oneself” and of “conjugal chastity” which no true disciple of Christ can ignore.

Do not be lost in a ‘virtual world’

By | News, Vatican

“Do not be lost in a 'virtual world', but live reality”

Pope Francis

At a recent General Audience, Pope Francis said he was worried that youth are too enmeshed in a virtual world of cell phones and other technology, separated, in particular, from the real human contact experienced by performing works of mercy.

Answering a question about youth during a visit with the people of the Diocese of Rome, the Pope said that the works of mercy “help young people so much,” because they them to be grounded in “concreteness” and to “enter into a social relationship.”

“It worries me that they communicate and live in the virtual world,” he said, noting that on a recent visit with youth, instead of extending their hands when they saw him, they “greeted” him with their phones held up, taking photos and selfies.

“Their reality is that… not human contact. This is serious,” he continued. “We have to make young people ‘land’ in the real world. Touch reality. Without destroying the good things the virtual world can have,” because some things are needed, he acknowledged.

The Pope said that young “had courage to speak” and “really wanted to speak seriously”. They need to find their voice in our society, not one that is virtual -an illusion-, but human, active and real.

May is the Month of Mary

By | News, Teaching, Vatican

On April 29, 1965, the second year of his pontificate, Blessed Paul VI wrote his encyclical (meaning, a letter the Pope sends throughout the world) “MENSE MAIO” (the Month of May), on prayers during May for the preservation of world peace.

The Second Vatican Council was meeting in Rome with the aim, as the Holy Father explained:
“to adapt herself, in a suitable way, to the needs of our day. On the success of this endeavour will depend, for a long time to come, the future of Christ’s spouse and the fate of many souls. It is indeed a great moment which God has injected into the life of the Church and the history of the world” (n. 4).

The Pope wrote:

“The month of May is … a month which the piety of the faithful has long dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. Our heart rejoices at the thought of the moving tribute of faith and love which will soon be paid to the Queen of Heaven in every corner of the earth. For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration; and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God’s merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother’s throne. We are delighted and consoled by this pious custom associated with the month of May, which pays honour to the Blessed Virgin and brings such rich benefits to the Christian people” (nn. 1-2).

The Encyclical was written in the aftermath of two horrible world wars —with all their macabre, insane loss of life— in the wake of so much instability and poverty left behind in many regions. The nuclear age was fast threatening to end humanity as we know it. The ‘cold war’ was freezing international relations. Although a man was about to step on the Moon, ushering in the digital age, this was also a period when science was claiming to have finally killed the need for God. Religion was often derided in Marxian terms, as das Opium des Volkes (often translated as: “Religion is the opium of the masses”). After the recent centuries of scientific and ideological revolution, religion was being pushed more and more into the private sphere, something only for the superstitious and unenlightened. Now humankind had come of age! There was no longer any need to invent and rely on those silly myths of the type propagated in the Bible and unscientifically expounded by blind devotees. And so, the age of indifference and scepticism, gave way to our current age of relativism and individualism.

Perhaps, as in every challenge humanity faces, paradoxically, the need for the spiritual seems to have become stronger than before. The promise of the irrelevance and absence of ‘religion’ in a ‘new age’, has been eclipsed by an almost explosion of a whole industry of self-awareness, self-help, mindfulness and alternative therapies to the historic old hat, supposedly opiate, institutional, collective varieties. Religion, in an intensely individualistic new age, has become rather à-la-carte; a supermarket experience of choice. For a Catholic with a sense of 2,000 years of history, we’ve seen similar eclectic trends become all the rage but only for a while, many times before! But why keep bringing Mary into the picture?

The simple answer, is that is precisely what God did! At the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel brought God’s personal invitation to Mary, to become mother of the incarnate Messiah, God-made-flesh, Mary was brought into the scene of the Mystery of God’s redemptive plan: to save us all from perdition, from being lost for ever.

As St. Paul taught, due to the Fall, when Original Sin came into the world through Adam and Eve, our first parents (for more on this, including evolution, read Pius XII’s Encyclical Humani generis , we became ‘dead in sin’, no longer able to walk freely in our relationship with God (see: Romans 5, 12 -21). We utterly ‘were lost’” (see: Ephesians 2:1-10), but Christ Jesus came to our rescue, bringing us back into the Father’s loving embrace.

Why do we Catholic honour Mary?

Because God did! The Angel Gabriel was sent with this message for the world and for her: “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you!”. Mary knew that her whole life was about to change from that moment onwards, and readily said “Yes!” to God, becoming forever “the handmaid of the Lord”, consecrated to doing His will in all things. For this reasons, as Mary herself prophesied: “all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). It is therefore not only Catholics who honour her in this way, calling her blessed, but every Christian who acknowledges the gift of God’s Word-made-flesh in His humble servant Mary.

So… in this Month of Mary, we are conscious of our need for Christ. “It is right and just, our duty and our salvation” (a phrase often heard at the prefaces to the Eucharistic Prayer at Holy Mass), to acknowledge Him as Lord and so, to open wide the doors of our hearts to Him. Mary continues to do as she did on that day of the Annunciation: she gives birth to Christ in our hearts. We pray, that during the month of May, our blessed Mother will gently bring us closer to her Son, Jesus, the Saviour. In not dissimilar circumstances to our current situation, on 19th  July 1830, our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Labouré (at her convent in Rue du Bac, Paris, France). She desired to bring spiritual consolation to her children, warning that “times are evil in France and in the world”, and left us the gift of the so-called ‘Miraculous Medal’ so beloved to many by Catholics everywhere. On it we can read —and during this month of Mary make our own— those words of prayer and childlike confidence: Ô Marie, conçue sans péché, priez pour nous qui avons recours à vous,

“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee”.

Apostolic Exhortation on Holiness

By | News, Vatican

The Holy Father has published an Apostolic Exhortation on holiness for all, not just saints, but for everyone who wishes to follow the Lord faithfully in their lives. Its goal is “to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time.”

Gaudete et Exsultate

The Holy Father is calling you to Holiness;

Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family

By | News, Vatican

On March 19th 2016, Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Holy Father, Pope Francis published Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). This is a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on love in the family. It brings together the results of the two Synods on the family convoked by Pope Francis in 2014 and 2015. It frequently cites their final Reports, documents and teachings of his predecessors, and his own numerous occasions of catechesis on the family, as well as contributions from various Episcopal Conferences around the world.

An apostolic exhortation is a type of communication from the Pope to the Catholic Church and beyond. It encourages a community of people to undertake a particular activity but does not define Church doctrine. It is considered lower in formal authority than a papal encyclical, but higher than other ecclesiastical letters, Apostolic Letters and other papal writings.

Apostolic exhortations are commonly issued in response to an assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in which case they are known as Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations.

Amoris Laetitia also addresses some important, very difficult, pastoral family and marriage situations we sometimes face. Obviously, it is impossible to cater for every single possible pastoral situation in a relatively short document as this: it cannot give template answers to every human situation. This is not its aim; nor the Church’s style. Human nature and morality cannot be summarily boxed into categories in this way. Nevertheless, we always have to remember that it is God’s holy will we are seeking, not ours. The light of the Gospel can always shed its light, even in the hardest of human dilemmas. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is always a reason to hope. In God’s Word, we find the means to turn away from our sin, convert at the deepest level and return to Him. As a loving Father, He is always ready to receive His repentant, prodigal children (Luke 15:11–32). We should never despair. Amoris Laetitia encourages us to think in this way.

But what happens when, despite a rediscovered desire to reach out and return to God, my previous situation in life prevents me now from fully returning home? This is the sort of moral question Amoris Laetitia grapples with. The Pope is encouraging us to develop our consciences. It is before God, true to our consciences, that we will face the inescapable Final Judgement (Matthew 13:40-43). No one can stand in our place. We have to form our conscience now, since it is not some infallible divine light. For this reason, the Document encourages discernment. Below, you can read a sample summary of Chapter 8 of the Document and how it helps us to grow into greater Christian maturity, where we acknowledge responsibility before God for our actions, hopefully always, out of love.

Chapter eight: “Guiding, discerning and integrating weakness” (291-312)

The eighth chapter is an invitation to mercy and pastoral discernment in situations that do not fully match what the Lord proposes. The Pope uses three very important verbs: guiding, discerning and integrating, which are fundamental in addressing fragile, complex or irregular situations. The chapter has sections on the need for gradualness in pastoral care; the importance of discernment; norms and mitigating circumstances in pastoral discernment; and finally what the Pope calls the “logic of pastoral mercy”.

Chapter eight is very sensitive. In reading it one must remember that “the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital”. Here the Holy Father grapples with the findings of the Synods on controversial issues. He reaffirms what Christian marriage is and adds that “some forms of union radically contradict this ideal, while others realise it in at least a partial and analogous way”. The Church therefore “does not disregard the constructive elements in those situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to her teaching on marriage”.

As far as discernment with regard to “irregular” situations is concerned, the Pope states: “There is a need ‘to avoid judgements which do not take into account the complexity of various situations’ and ‘to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience distress because of their condition’”. And he continues: “It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community, and thus to experience being touched by an ‘unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous’ mercy”. And further: “The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment”.

In this line, gathering the observations of many Synod Fathers, the Pope states that “the baptised who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal”. “Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services… Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church… This integration is also needed in the care and Christian upbringing of their children”.

In a more general vein, the Pope makes an extremely important statement for understanding the orientation and meaning of the Exhortation: “If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations, … it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases. What is needed is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since ‘the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases’, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same”. The Pope develops in depth the needs and characteristics of the journey of accompaniment and discernment necessary for profound dialogue between the faithful and their pastors.

For this purpose the Holy Father recalls the Church’s reflection on “mitigating factors and situations” regarding the attribution of responsibility and accountability for actions; and relying on St. Thomas Aquinas, he focuses on the relationship between rules and discernment by stating: “It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations. At the same time, it must be said that, precisely for that reason, what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule”.

The last section of the chapter treats “The logic of pastoral mercy”. To avoid misunderstandings, Pope Francis strongly reiterates: “To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being. Today, more important than the pastoral care of failures is the pastoral effort to strengthen marriages and thus to prevent their breakdown”.

The overall sense of the chapter and of the spirit that Pope Francis wishes to impart to the pastoral work of the Church is well summed up in the closing words: “I encourage the faithful who find themselves in complicated situations to speak confidently with their pastors or with other lay people whose lives are committed to the Lord. They may not always encounter in them a confirmation of their own ideas or desires, but they will surely receive some light to help them better understand their situation and discover a path to personal growth. I also encourage the Church’s pastors to listen to them with sensitivity and serenity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their proper place in the Church.”.

On the “logic of pastoral mercy”, Pope Francis emphasises: “At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity. We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance. That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel”.