Saturday, October 26, 2013

"The Gospel of the sanctity of marriage is to be proclaimed with prophetic candour"

In his quarter century of annual addresses to the Roman Rota, I believe that Pope John Paul II showed growing dis-ease about possible misuse of marriage tribunals, triggering the Vatican's 2005 Dignitas Connubii.

In his own addresses to the Roman Rota, I believe that Pope Benedict XVI continued in the same vane:
  • "pastoral sensitivity must be directed to avoiding matrimonial nullity when the couple seeks to marry and to striving to help the spouses solve their possible problems and find the path to reconciliation" [Emphasis added.] (1/28/06).
  • “the conviction that the pastoral good of the person in an irregular marital situation requires a sort of canonical regularization, independently of the validity or nullity of his/her marriage...has also spread in certain ecclesiastical milieus" (1/27/07).
  • "The value of interventions of the Ecclesiastical Magisterium on matrimonial and juridical issues, including the Roman Pontiff's Discourses to the Roman Rota....authoritatively teach the essential aspects of the reality of marriage" (1/26/08).
  • "a problem that continues to be very real is visible to everyone....that of preserving the ecclesial community 'from the scandal of seeing in practice the value of Christian marriage being destroyed by the exaggerated and almost automatic multiplication of declarations of nullity...on the pretext of some immaturity or psychic weakness.... real incapacity...is always an exception to the natural principle of the capacity necessary" [Emphasis added] (1/29/09)
  • "some maintain that pastoral charity could justify every step towards declaring the nullity of the marriage bond in order to assist people who find themselves in irregular matrimonial situations. Truth itself, even if lip service [sic] be paid to it, tends thus to be viewed through a manipulative lens that would seek to adapt it, case by case, to the different requirements that emerge....Charity without justice is not charity, but a counterfeit" [Emphasis added] (1/28/10).
  • "The good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded upon marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area" [Emphasis added.] (1/22/11).
  • "Christian maturity leads one to love the law ever more and want to understand it and to apply it faithfully....These reflections acquire a special relevance in the area of laws regarding the constitutive act of Matrimony and its consummation, and the reception of Holy Orders, and of those [laws] pertaining to the respective Processes" (1/21/12). 
  •  "although the spousal bond is a natural reality, it has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized....The indissoluble pact between a man and a woman does not, for the purposes of the sacrament, require of those engaged to be married, their personal faith; what it does require, as a necessary minimal condition, is the intention to do what the Church does [Emphasis added]....Yet, closure to God or the rejection of the sacred dimension of the conjugal union and of its value in the order of grace certainly makes arduous the practical embodiment of the most lofty model of marriage....
    the sacrifice offered by the abandoned spouse or the spouse who has suffered divorce, is still precious today, if — recognizing the indissolubility of the valid matrimonial bond — they refrain from 'becoming involved in a new union…. In such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church' [Emphasis added.] (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio [22 November 1981], n. 83)".

While the secular press would have us believe that Pope Francis would really like to dilute Church teaching, giving us a "Marriage Light" - NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!  This past week, Pope Francis' head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave us The Power of Grace:
    "Today even firm believers are seriously wondering: can the Church not admit the divorced and remarried to the sacraments under certain conditions?  Are her hands permanently tied on this matter?....
    "The comparison drawn by the prophets between God’s covenant with Israel and the marriage bond includes not only the ideal of monogamy, but also that of indissolubility.  The prophet Malachi expresses this clearly:  'Do not be faithless to the wife of your youth ... with whom you have made a covenant' (Mal 2:14-15).
    "Above all, it was his controversies with the Pharisees that gave Jesus occasion to address this theme.  He distanced himself explicitly from the Old Testament practice of divorce, which Moses had permitted because men were “so hard of heart”, and he pointed to God’s original will: 'from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and ... the two shall become one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together let not man put asunder' (Mk 10:5-9; cf. Mt 19:4-9; Lk 16:18).  The Catholic Church has always based its doctrine and practice upon these sayings of Jesus concerning the indissolubility of marriage.  The inner bond that joins the spouses to one another was forged by God himself.  It designates a reality that comes from God and is therefore no longer at man’s disposal....
    "Saint Paul presents the prohibition on divorce as the express will of Christ....
    "Christian marriage is an effective sign of the covenant between Christ and the Church.  Because it designates and communicates the grace of this covenant, marriage between the baptized is a sacrament....
    "In the Orthodox Churches today, there are a great many grounds for divorce, which are mostly justified in terms of oikonomia, or pastoral leniency in difficult individual cases, and they open the path to a second or third marriage marked by a penitential character.  This practice cannot be reconciled with God’s will, as expressed unambiguously in Jesus’ sayings about the indissolubility of marriage.  But it represents an ecumenical problem that is not to be underestimated.
    "In the West, the Gregorian reform countered these liberalizing tendencies and gave fresh impetus to the original understanding of Scripture and the Fathers.  The Catholic Church defended the absolute indissolubility of marriage even at the cost of great sacrifice and suffering.  The schism of a 'Church of England' detached from the Successor of Peter came about not because of doctrinal differences, but because the Pope, out of obedience to the sayings of Jesus, could not accommodate the demands of King Henry VIII for the dissolution of his marriage....
    "Through the sacrament the indissolubility of marriage acquires a new and deeper sense:  it becomes the image of God’s enduring love for his people and of Christ’s irrevocable fidelity to his Church.
    "Marriage can be understood and lived as a sacrament only in the context of the mystery of Christ.  If marriage is secularized or regarded as a purely natural reality, its sacramental character is obscured....
    "The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio – issued by John Paul II on 22 November 1981 in the wake of the Synod of Bishops on the Christian family in the modern world, and of fundamental importance ever since – emphatically confirms the Church’s dogmatic teaching on marriage....They too belong to the Church, they are entitled to pastoral care and they should take part in the Church’s life.  3. And yet they cannot be admitted to the Eucharist.  Two reasons are given for this:
      a) 'their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist'
      b) 'if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage'....
       
    "if for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, the new union cannot be dissolved, then the two partners must 'bind themselves to live in complete continence'....
    "the faithful concerned may not present themselves for holy communion on the basis of their own conscience....If doubts remain over the validity of a failed marriage, these must be examined by the competent marriage tribunals....
    "He [Pope Benedict XVI] confirms 'the Church's practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments', but he urges pastors at the same time, to devote 'special concern' to those affected: in the wish that they 'live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children'.  If there are doubts concerning the validity of the failed marriage, these are to be carefully examined by the competent marriage tribunals.  Today’s mentality is largely opposed to the Christian understanding of marriage, with regard to its indissolubility and its openness to children.  Because many Christians are influenced by this, marriages nowadays are probably invalid more often than they were previously, because there is a lack of desire for marriage in accordance with Catholic teaching, and there is too little socialization within an environment of faith [Emphasis added.].  Therefore assessment of the validity of marriage is important and can help to solve problems.  Where nullity of marriage cannot be demonstrated, the requirement for absolution and reception of communion, according to the Church’s established and approved practice, is that the couple live 'as friends, as brother and sister'.  Blessings of irregular unions are to be avoided, 'lest confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of marriage'.  A blessing (bene-dictio: divine sanctioning) of a relationship that contradicts the will of God is a contradiction in terms....
    "Where the fundamental insights of Christian faith have been lost, church affiliation of a purely conventional kind can no longer sustain major life decisions or provide a firm foothold in the midst of marital crises – as well as crises in priestly and religious life....
    "On the other hand, the ideal – built into the order of creation – of faithfulness between one man and one woman has lost none of its fascination....Moreover, one must not forget the anthropological value of indissoluble marriage:  it withdraws the partners from caprice and from the tyranny of feelings and moods.  It helps them to survive personal difficulties and to overcome painful experiences.  Above all it protects the children, who have most to suffer from marital breakdown [Emphasis added.]....
    "If anyone should doubt whether the marriage bond is ontological, let him learn from the word of God:  'He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said: for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  So they are no longer two but one flesh' (Mt 19:4-6)....
    "The Church cannot respond to the growing incomprehension of the sanctity of marriage by pragmatically accommodating the supposedly inevitable, but only by trusting in 'the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God' (1 Cor 2:12).  Sacramental marriage is a testimony to the power of grace, which changes man and prepares the whole Church for the holy city, the new Jerusalem, the Church, which is prepared 'as a bride adorned for her husband' (Rev 21:2).  The Gospel of the sanctity of marriage is to be proclaimed with prophetic candour [Emphasis added].  By adapting to the spirit of the age, a weary prophet seeks his own salvation but not the salvation of the world in Jesus Christ.....  
    "Admittedly there are situations – as every pastor knows – in which marital cohabitation becomes for all intents and purposes impossible for compelling reasons, such as physical or psychological violence.  In such hard cases, the Church has always permitted the spouses to separate and no longer live together.  It must be remembered, though, that the marriage bond of a valid union remains intact in the sight of God, and the individual parties are not free to contract a new marriage, as long as the spouse is alive.  Pastors and Christian communities must therefore take pains to promote paths of reconciliation in these cases too, or, should that not be possible, to help the people concerned to confront their difficult situation in faith....
    "It is frequently suggested that remarried divorcees should be allowed to decide for themselves, according to their conscience, whether or not to present themselves for holy communion.  This argument, based on a problematical concept of 'conscience', was rejected by a document of the CDF in 1994.  Naturally, the faithful must consider every time they attend Mass whether it is possible to receive communion, and a grave unconfessed sin would always be an impediment [Emphasis added.].  At the same time they have the duty to form their conscience and to align it with the truth.  In so doing they listen also to the Church’s Magisterium, which helps them 'not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather, especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with certainty and to abide in it' (Veritatis Splendor, 64).  If remarried divorcees are subjectively convinced in their conscience that a previous marriage was invalid, this must be proven objectively by the competent marriage tribunals [Emphasis added]....'If the prior marriage of two divorced and remarried members of the faithful was valid, under no circumstances can their new union be considered lawful, and therefore reception of the sacraments is intrinsically impossible.  The conscience of the individual is bound to this norm without exception' (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 'The Pastoral approach to marriage must be founded on truth' L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 7 December 2011, p. 4)....
    "Jesus encountered the adulteress with great compassion, but he said to her 'Go and do not sin again' (Jn 8:11).  God’s mercy does not dispense us from following his commandments or the rules of the Church.  Rather it supplies us with the grace and strength needed to fulfil them, to pick ourselves up after a fall, and to live life in its fullness according to the image of our heavenly Father....
    "Insofar as the parties make an effort to understand the Church’s practice and to abstain from communion, they provide their own testimony to the indissolubility of marriage."


"The Gospel of the sanctity of marriage is to be proclaimed with prophetic candour"

In his quarter century of annual addresses to the Roman Rota, I believe that Pope John Paul II showed growing dis-ease about possible misuse of marriage tribunals, triggering the Vatican's 2005 Dignitas Connubii.

In his own addresses to the Roman Rota, I believe that Pope Benedict XVI continued in the same vane:
  • "pastoral sensitivity must be directed to avoiding matrimonial nullity when the couple seeks to marry and to striving to help the spouses solve their possible problems and find the path to reconciliation" [Emphasis added.] (1/28/06).
  • “the conviction that the pastoral good of the person in an irregular marital situation requires a sort of canonical regularization, independently of the validity or nullity of his/her marriage...has also spread in certain ecclesiastical milieus" (1/27/07).
  • "The value of interventions of the Ecclesiastical Magisterium on matrimonial and juridical issues, including the Roman Pontiff's Discourses to the Roman Rota....authoritatively teach the essential aspects of the reality of marriage" (1/26/08).
  • "a problem that continues to be very real is visible to everyone....that of preserving the ecclesial community 'from the scandal of seeing in practice the value of Christian marriage being destroyed by the exaggerated and almost automatic multiplication of declarations of nullity...on the pretext of some immaturity or psychic weakness.... real incapacity...is always an exception to the natural principle of the capacity necessary" [Emphasis added] (1/29/09)
  • "some maintain that pastoral charity could justify every step towards declaring the nullity of the marriage bond in order to assist people who find themselves in irregular matrimonial situations. Truth itself, even if lip service [sic] be paid to it, tends thus to be viewed through a manipulative lens that would seek to adapt it, case by case, to the different requirements that emerge....Charity without justice is not charity, but a counterfeit" [Emphasis added] (1/28/10).
  • "The good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded upon marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area" [Emphasis added.] (1/22/11).
  • "Christian maturity leads one to love the law ever more and want to understand it and to apply it faithfully....These reflections acquire a special relevance in the area of laws regarding the constitutive act of Matrimony and its consummation, and the reception of Holy Orders, and of those [laws] pertaining to the respective Processes" (1/21/12). 
  •  "although the spousal bond is a natural reality, it has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized....The indissoluble pact between a man and a woman does not, for the purposes of the sacrament, require of those engaged to be married, their personal faith; what it does require, as a necessary minimal condition, is the intention to do what the Church does [Emphasis added]....Yet, closure to God or the rejection of the sacred dimension of the conjugal union and of its value in the order of grace certainly makes arduous the practical embodiment of the most lofty model of marriage....
    the sacrifice offered by the abandoned spouse or the spouse who has suffered divorce, is still precious today, if — recognizing the indissolubility of the valid matrimonial bond — they refrain from 'becoming involved in a new union…. In such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church' [Emphasis added.] (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio [22 November 1981], n. 83)".

While the secular press would have us believe that Pope Francis would really like to dilute Church teaching, giving us a "Marriage Light" - NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!  This past week, Pope Francis' head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave us The Power of Grace:
    "Today even firm believers are seriously wondering: can the Church not admit the divorced and remarried to the sacraments under certain conditions?  Are her hands permanently tied on this matter?....
    "The comparison drawn by the prophets between God’s covenant with Israel and the marriage bond includes not only the ideal of monogamy, but also that of indissolubility.  The prophet Malachi expresses this clearly:  'Do not be faithless to the wife of your youth ... with whom you have made a covenant' (Mal 2:14-15).
    "Above all, it was his controversies with the Pharisees that gave Jesus occasion to address this theme.  He distanced himself explicitly from the Old Testament practice of divorce, which Moses had permitted because men were “so hard of heart”, and he pointed to God’s original will: 'from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and ... the two shall become one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together let not man put asunder' (Mk 10:5-9; cf. Mt 19:4-9; Lk 16:18).  The Catholic Church has always based its doctrine and practice upon these sayings of Jesus concerning the indissolubility of marriage.  The inner bond that joins the spouses to one another was forged by God himself.  It designates a reality that comes from God and is therefore no longer at man’s disposal....
    "Saint Paul presents the prohibition on divorce as the express will of Christ....
    "Christian marriage is an effective sign of the covenant between Christ and the Church.  Because it designates and communicates the grace of this covenant, marriage between the baptized is a sacrament....
    "In the Orthodox Churches today, there are a great many grounds for divorce, which are mostly justified in terms of oikonomia, or pastoral leniency in difficult individual cases, and they open the path to a second or third marriage marked by a penitential character.  This practice cannot be reconciled with God’s will, as expressed unambiguously in Jesus’ sayings about the indissolubility of marriage.  But it represents an ecumenical problem that is not to be underestimated.
    "In the West, the Gregorian reform countered these liberalizing tendencies and gave fresh impetus to the original understanding of Scripture and the Fathers.  The Catholic Church defended the absolute indissolubility of marriage even at the cost of great sacrifice and suffering.  The schism of a 'Church of England' detached from the Successor of Peter came about not because of doctrinal differences, but because the Pope, out of obedience to the sayings of Jesus, could not accommodate the demands of King Henry VIII for the dissolution of his marriage....
    "Through the sacrament the indissolubility of marriage acquires a new and deeper sense:  it becomes the image of God’s enduring love for his people and of Christ’s irrevocable fidelity to his Church.
    "Marriage can be understood and lived as a sacrament only in the context of the mystery of Christ.  If marriage is secularized or regarded as a purely natural reality, its sacramental character is obscured....
    "The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio – issued by John Paul II on 22 November 1981 in the wake of the Synod of Bishops on the Christian family in the modern world, and of fundamental importance ever since – emphatically confirms the Church’s dogmatic teaching on marriage....They too belong to the Church, they are entitled to pastoral care and they should take part in the Church’s life.  3. And yet they cannot be admitted to the Eucharist.  Two reasons are given for this:
      a) 'their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist'
      b) 'if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage'....
       
    "if for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, the new union cannot be dissolved, then the two partners must 'bind themselves to live in complete continence'....
    "the faithful concerned may not present themselves for holy communion on the basis of their own conscience....If doubts remain over the validity of a failed marriage, these must be examined by the competent marriage tribunals....
    "He [Pope Benedict XVI] confirms 'the Church's practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments', but he urges pastors at the same time, to devote 'special concern' to those affected: in the wish that they 'live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children'.  If there are doubts concerning the validity of the failed marriage, these are to be carefully examined by the competent marriage tribunals.  Today’s mentality is largely opposed to the Christian understanding of marriage, with regard to its indissolubility and its openness to children.  Because many Christians are influenced by this, marriages nowadays are probably invalid more often than they were previously, because there is a lack of desire for marriage in accordance with Catholic teaching, and there is too little socialization within an environment of faith [Emphasis added.].  Therefore assessment of the validity of marriage is important and can help to solve problems.  Where nullity of marriage cannot be demonstrated, the requirement for absolution and reception of communion, according to the Church’s established and approved practice, is that the couple live 'as friends, as brother and sister'.  Blessings of irregular unions are to be avoided, 'lest confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of marriage'.  A blessing (bene-dictio: divine sanctioning) of a relationship that contradicts the will of God is a contradiction in terms....
    "Where the fundamental insights of Christian faith have been lost, church affiliation of a purely conventional kind can no longer sustain major life decisions or provide a firm foothold in the midst of marital crises – as well as crises in priestly and religious life....
    "On the other hand, the ideal – built into the order of creation – of faithfulness between one man and one woman has lost none of its fascination....Moreover, one must not forget the anthropological value of indissoluble marriage:  it withdraws the partners from caprice and from the tyranny of feelings and moods.  It helps them to survive personal difficulties and to overcome painful experiences.  Above all it protects the children, who have most to suffer from marital breakdown [Emphasis added.]....
    "If anyone should doubt whether the marriage bond is ontological, let him learn from the word of God:  'He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said: for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  So they are no longer two but one flesh' (Mt 19:4-6)....
    "The Church cannot respond to the growing incomprehension of the sanctity of marriage by pragmatically accommodating the supposedly inevitable, but only by trusting in 'the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God' (1 Cor 2:12).  Sacramental marriage is a testimony to the power of grace, which changes man and prepares the whole Church for the holy city, the new Jerusalem, the Church, which is prepared 'as a bride adorned for her husband' (Rev 21:2).  The Gospel of the sanctity of marriage is to be proclaimed with prophetic candour [Emphasis added].  By adapting to the spirit of the age, a weary prophet seeks his own salvation but not the salvation of the world in Jesus Christ.....  
    "Admittedly there are situations – as every pastor knows – in which marital cohabitation becomes for all intents and purposes impossible for compelling reasons, such as physical or psychological violence.  In such hard cases, the Church has always permitted the spouses to separate and no longer live together.  It must be remembered, though, that the marriage bond of a valid union remains intact in the sight of God, and the individual parties are not free to contract a new marriage, as long as the spouse is alive.  Pastors and Christian communities must therefore take pains to promote paths of reconciliation in these cases too, or, should that not be possible, to help the people concerned to confront their difficult situation in faith....
    "It is frequently suggested that remarried divorcees should be allowed to decide for themselves, according to their conscience, whether or not to present themselves for holy communion.  This argument, based on a problematical concept of 'conscience', was rejected by a document of the CDF in 1994.  Naturally, the faithful must consider every time they attend Mass whether it is possible to receive communion, and a grave unconfessed sin would always be an impediment [Emphasis added.].  At the same time they have the duty to form their conscience and to align it with the truth.  In so doing they listen also to the Church’s Magisterium, which helps them 'not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather, especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with certainty and to abide in it' (Veritatis Splendor, 64).  If remarried divorcees are subjectively convinced in their conscience that a previous marriage was invalid, this must be proven objectively by the competent marriage tribunals [Emphasis added]....'If the prior marriage of two divorced and remarried members of the faithful was valid, under no circumstances can their new union be considered lawful, and therefore reception of the sacraments is intrinsically impossible.  The conscience of the individual is bound to this norm without exception' (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 'The Pastoral approach to marriage must be founded on truth' L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 7 December 2011, p. 4)....
    "Jesus encountered the adulteress with great compassion, but he said to her 'Go and do not sin again' (Jn 8:11).  God’s mercy does not dispense us from following his commandments or the rules of the Church.  Rather it supplies us with the grace and strength needed to fulfil them, to pick ourselves up after a fall, and to live life in its fullness according to the image of our heavenly Father....
    "Insofar as the parties make an effort to understand the Church’s practice and to abstain from communion, they provide their own testimony to the indissolubility of marriage."



Sunday, October 20, 2013

With their paucity of NFP only physicians, IVF specialists with privileges, and privileges to associates of at least one practice involved with abortion - as well as dissemination of end-of-life material seemingly inconsistent with Catholic teaching - calling any Philly area hospital "Catholic" strikes me as deceptive advertising.  I believe that Pope Benedict XVI's last Motu Proprio speaks directly to this situation:

    "Art. 11. – The diocesan Bishop is obliged, if necessary, to make known to the faithful the fact that the activity of a particular charitable agency is no longer being carried out in conformity with the Church’s teaching, and then to prohibit that agency from using the name 'Catholic' and to take the necessary measures should personal responsibilities emerge."
     
Yet the question lingers in my mind, as to why these institutions themselves even wish to call themselves, "Catholic."  The presence of exorbitant-salaried CEOs - some of whom give money to pro abortion candidates - makes the whole situation all the more confusing.  I've been assuming that CEOs believe that "Catholic" is an excellent marketing label, even if they don't embrace "Catholic" medical ethics.  Apparently, there are other legal benefits involved.  For example,

    "Cohen Milstein is conducting an investigation of companies claiming an exemption from federal law by declaring that their pension or other retirement plans qualify as 'church plans.'  Pension plans that are church plans are not subject to many of the requirements of ERISA, the federal law that protects pension plan participants....  

    "Many employers who claim that the pension plans they sponsor are “church plans” seek a determination from the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) that the plan meets the IRS definition of a church plan....

    "A church plan is exempt from many of the provisions under ERISA which protect the promised benefits of a plan participant."

Cohen Milstein is presently handling a case against Catholic Health East, which oversees five of the six hospitals in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.


If you share my concerns about what's happening in our hospitals, please email Archbishop Chaput.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Catholic Hospitals and Emergency So-Called Contraception

Despite the Vatican's 2000 ''Statement on the so-called 'Morning After Pill''' and the 2008 ''Dignitas Personae'' (i.e., Section 23), so-called emergency contraception is used in Catholic hospitals for individuals who identify themselves as victims of sexual assault.  Fr. Juan VĂ©lez is an Opus Dei priest with a doctorate in dogmatic theology and an M.D.  Along with Rebecca Peck, M.D., Fr. Juan writes:
  • "All physicians who value life, and especially Catholic healthcare institutions, have a duty to re-examine the available scientific information on Plan B. We think the data shows a small anovulatory effect and suggests a significant post-fertilization or abortifacient effect. Given this information, the Peoria Protocol, and other rape-based protocols should be abandoned, as use of Plan B during the critical fertile period, would not be expected to prevent ovulations in a majority of cases, and in fact, would lead to a significant possibility of post-fertilization effect.
  • "Moreover, as newer emergency contraceptives with better efficacies emerge, the precedent has been set for allowing agents with abortifacient mechanisms of action" ("Plan B’s Main Mechanism of Action: The Case for a Post-Fertilization Effect," Human Life International).
In the words of Human Life International, let us pray that our
  • "Catholic bishops and those who advise them in these issues will see the urgency of revisiting the approval of Plan B for treatment of women who have been raped. These women deserve the absolute best life-affirming care possible, and this care should not include drugs that only compound the violence already suffered by causing abortions."  
Click here, to email Archbishop Chaput and the National Catholic Bioethics Center on this matter.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Catholic" Hospitals Operating (No pun intended) in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

"Catholic" Hospitals Operating (No pun intended) in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia


In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, six "Catholic" hospitals operate:

  1. Holy Redeemer


    (Five hospitals in the Archdiocese fall under Catholic Health East, which merged with Trinity Health as of 5/1/13, for a joint national presence of 82 hospitals: "The new system will have annual operating revenues of about $13.3 billion and assets of about $19.3 billion.Catholic Health East itself is headquartered in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as is the Catholic Medical Association, the Institute for Catholic Bioethics at Saint Joseph's Universityand the National Catholic Bioethics Center.)

 

"Privileges"



With the Catholic Medical Association, the Institute for Catholic Bioethics, and the National Catholic Bioethics Center all headquartered in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,  it is curious that so little is said  about certain shocking situations with hospital privileges in our Archdiocese:

    1) among OBGYNs with privileges, there is a paucity of NFP-only physicians (i.e., Only one OBGYN can be identified who is on One More Soul's list of NFP only OBGYNs);


Perhaps, federal funding is largely responsible for placing Catholic hospitals in positions of untenable ethical compromise.  Yet rather than allow "privileges" to inappropriate physicians, couldn't hospitals simply push themselves away from the federal funding trough? (cf., In Admitting Privileges Fight, Wisconsin Churches Discover the Flip Side of Federal Funding, Live Action News, 8/15/13) 

"End of Life" Care and Information

Just to our East, New Jersey dioceses seem comfortable with something called, "POLST":
    “A new form intended to guide end-of-life healthcare decisions is forcing Catholic hospitals and nursing homes to take a position on a contentious ethical issue, but New Jersey church leaders appear to be having an easier time supporting …. the Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form….

    “It is similar to an advance directive, but unlike those documents it has the force of a doctor’s order and must be followed by other healthcare providers
     

    “The forms used in other states were criticized in a paper recently published by Linacre Quarterly, the bioethics journal of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA), a national doctors’ group.
     

    “John Brehany, an author of the paper and the CMA president and ethicist, said medical decisions are best made based on the specific circumstances that a patient faces, which a form signed months ahead of time cannot take into account
     

    “Some of the ethicists’ concerns focus on how nutrition and water are provided to seriously ill patients…. Some church officials are concerned that the POLST would prevent doctors from providing a form of nutrition -- such as a feeding tube -- that the church would normally considered necessary.

    “Patrick R. Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, said the POLST could be considered an extension of advance directive, a version of which the conference encourages to be used.

    “‘To the best of my knowledge there appears to be no conflicts between the New Jersey POLST law and Catholic teaching on end-of-life issues,’ Brannigan wrote in an email”
    (Andrew Kitchenman, NJ Spotlight, 9/16/13).
As per the Catholic Medical Association,
    "There are reasons to believe that the process of dying, already difficult in our contemporary, complex healthcare institutions, may only get harder given the increasing challenges in our culture ranging from rising healthcare costs to ongoing secularization. To respect human life and dignity, we must bring moral commitment, ethical principles, and the highest clinical standards to end-of-life care. We need policies to guide this care and tools to help us implement it. The POLST paradigm and form are too flawed to contribute to these goals, even though they were created with the stated goal of improving end-of-life care."
We must absolutely be concerned about what is happening with POLST, but Catholic hospitals in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are already providing information on "advance directives," which fails to clearly specify that Catholic teaching must be honored - particularly with regard to the provision of nutrition and hydration.  Neither Saint Mary's Advanced Directives and Living Wills, nor Holy Redeemer's Advance Directive form, nor Mercy Health System's Vendor Compliance Program properly specify:

    • Catholic teaching with regard to nutrition and hydration, and
    • that health care services cannot honor advance directives (e.g., non-specific directives to forego nutrition and hydration) opposed to Catholic teaching.).


Why do these six hospitals in our Archdiocese even bother to call themselves "Catholic"?

Perhaps, the "Catholic" label is viewed as an asset to marketing, while a genuine embrace of Catholic medical ethics may be feared to be an impediment to the bottom line (and that's making a B-I-G assumption that there is philosophical agreement with Catholic medical ethics).


$$$ ca-ching $$$ and "where your treasure lies" 

Our Catholic hospital administrators are doing very nicely financially with the status quo (cf., www.philly.com/philly/business/175896851.html?c=r); there are also some indications that some do NOT share our pro life values: 

  1. Holy Redeemer President Michael B. Laign received total compensation of $732,494 in 2010 (In 2010, Laign contributed to the campaign of pro abortion Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz.).

    Catholic Health East President/CEO Judith M. Persichilli received total compensation of $2,458,985 in 2010 (In 2013, Persichilli's husband contributed to the campaign of pro abortion Congressman Rush Holt.).

    • St. Mary President/CEO Gregory T. Wozniak received total compensation of $743,547 for 2010.

      Mercy Health System President/CEO H. Ray Welch Jr. received total compensation of $1,000,036 for 2010.
      • Mercy Fitzgerald CEO Brian Finestein received total compensation of $322,461 for 2010.
      • Mercy Suburban CFO Peter Kenniff received total compensation of $217,720 for 2010.
      • Nazareth CEO Christina Fitz-Patrick received total compensation of $361,729 for 2010.
Catholic hospital administrators would appear to have minimal financial incentive in upsetting the status quo.  Speculating by where some put their money, some would also appear to have minimal philosophical incentive in upsetting the status quo.


"prohibit that agency from using the name 'Catholic'"

Shortly before his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI provided guidance which appears to have direct bearing on Catholic hospitals:



Email Archbishop Chaput: If a hospital does not act Catholic, it should NOT be called "Catholic."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pharmacy ad updates

As per lists maintained by One More Soul and Pharmacists for Life International, all but a handful of pharmacies - across the country - sell abortifacients and contraceptives.  Bucks County and nearby metropolitan Trenton are fortunate to be home to the St Clare Pharmacy, which is self-reported to NOT sell abortifacients or contraceptives.  St. Clare Pharmacy is the only pharmacy in this part of the country which could be safely advertised by a parish.  Why on earth is any Bucks County or metropolitan Trenton parish instead allowing ads for providers of abortifacients and contraceptives?

  • The bulletin for one Trenton-area parish carries an ad for Vizzoni Pharmacy, LLC.  In June 2009, James Vizzoni told me that Vizzoni's did NOT deal in the notorious Plan B poison. However, Vizzoni's was dispensing contraceptives, including oral contraceptives which can act as abortifacients.
  • The bulletin for at least one other Trenton-area parish carries the ad for Vizzoni's, as well as for Episcopo's Pharmacy.  The Episcopo ad outrageously notes, "Also available FRANCISCAN MISSION ASSOCIATION Mass Cards."  When phoned on 6/24/13, owner John Berkenkopt would not acknowledge whether he sold contraceptives and other abortifacients including Plan B.  
  • In addition to Vizzoni's and Episcopo's, the bulletin for the same parish carries an ad for Olden Pharmacy.  In the bulletin for a 3rd Trenton area parish (not fully available on line), I have noticed that the owner, Carlo Benedetti, is indicated to be a parishioner. When phoned on 6/24/13 and asked whether he indeed sold contraceptives and other abortifacients including Plan B, Mr. Benedetti would not answer and instead ended the conversation.
  • The bulletin for one Trenton-area parish carries an ad for McGrath's (with the note: "Member of the Diocese").  In June 2009, this pharmacy acknowledged providing the notorious Plan B poison.  On 6/24/13, I left an extended message for owner Steve Zagoreos, in an effort to get updated information, but my message went unreturned.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"Holy Father, if you werea balloon, what color would you be? (sent on 9/22/13 to th BC Courier Times)

In early August, Nicole Winfield of the AP ignited a stir in her "reporting" on Pope Francis' in-air press conference (cf., Analysis: Pope's revolution; not all are pleased, Bucks County Courier Times, 8/2/13).
Looking at the actual transcript of that press conference (cf., www.zenit.org/en/articles/francis-press-conference-on-return-flight-from-brazil-part-1, www.zenit.org/en/articles/francis-press-conference-on-return-flight-from-brazil-part-2), Pope Francis made absolutely clear that he is "a child of the Church" who embraces doctrine on the sanctity of human life and human sexuality, and that lack of specific comments on any topic absolutely did NOT signal change.  The Holy Father also offered spontaneous and beautiful words about the Orthodox liturgy.  While he did indeed make "headlines with his call for the church to develop a new theology of women's role," he was adamant that this would not include ordination.
Given the opportunity to pose her own questions in that same in-air press conference, Ms. Winfield's showed far less sophistication than those of other reporters: "Can you tell us what was the best thing of being Pope, an anecdote, and what was the worst thing, and what was the thing that surprised you most in this period?"  Questions worthy of People Magazine or E Entertainment News.  I could easily envision Ms. Winfield having followed-up with: "Holy Father, if you were a balloon, what color would you be?  Do you prefer Coke or Pepsi?  With this infallibility thing you've got going on, who will win this year's World Series?"
Without a genuine understanding of what the Church proclaims and what Pope Francis has reiterated, it is almost understandable that there would be poor reporting.  Shame on the AP and the Courier Times for their poor publishing standards!  Pope Francis is absolutely not deviating from what the Church proclaimed in Pius XI's Casti Connubii, Vatican II's Gaudium et Spes, Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae, Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or his own encyclical Lumen Fidei.
From the first sentence of Papal Interview Strikes Inclusive Note (Bucks County Courier Times, 9/20/12), Ms Winfield is again poorly representing an interview with Pope Francis.  The Courier Times should consider obtaining America magazine's OK and publish the actual interview - accompanied with competent commentary.
If you really want to understand Pope Francis, you only need to look to Jesus Himself.  In response to those about to stone a woman caught in adultery, Jesus said "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."  After the accusers walked away, Jesus told the woman that He did not condemn her.  Jesus did NOT go on to say, "Your accusers were a bunch of fuddy duddies.  What you do with your old man or your old men is cool with me."  Jesus told the woman, "Go and sin no more" (cf., John 8).  Only with that perspective can any of Pope Francis' comments be correctly understood.  All of us are sinners who need to "Go and sin no more."

The Beatitudes from "Jesus of Nazareth"

 

Use of Emergency So-Called Contraceptives in Catholic Hospitals for Those Reporting Rape

Book & Film Reviews, pt 1

Book & Film Reviews, pt 2

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About Me

I am an enormously blessed husband and dad. In regard to my Catholic theological background, I have a certificate in social ministry & a master's degree (moral theology concentration), as well as a catechetical diploma from the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Clergy (Nope, I am not now - nor have I have ever been - a seminarian, deacon, or priest.). I feel particularly proud to have a mandatum. I also have a doctorate in Christian counseling psychology.

And yup, that's me!

And yup, that's me!
(from page 1 of the NY Sun, 3/22/04)

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12/12/08 Interview with Rev. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D. of the National Catholic Bioethics Center

March for Life 2010

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