The 223-page document, issued by the Pontifical Council for the Family, has been published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Entitled "Conjugal Morality and the Sacrament of Penance," and currently available only at the Vatican, it is designed as a deeper analysis of the guidelines first published in 1997, and intended to help priests be more effective as confessors-- specifically in relation to difficult questions involving chastity within marriage.
The question of contraception is one of several issues treated in depth in the 13-chapter book. The Pontifical Council stresses the importance of providing proper formation for the consciences of penitents, making sure that they understand the "hard truth" of the Church's teaching that the use of contraceptives is a serious sin. This is particularly important today, the Council notes, because in a society "marked by a profound crisis" in morality, "the truths concerning marriage and the family-- and especially the role of procreation-- are very often obscured."
Particularly in the Western world, the Council observes, the general acceptance of contraception is so widespread that it is difficult to convince married couples of the "objective gravity" of the sin. That gravity cannot be ignored, the document says, but at the same time confessors should recognize that-- because of the widespread ignorance on this question-- penitents may not bear the guilt of having freely and knowingly chosen this evil. Priests are therefore encouraged to help the penitents understand the truth of the matter, and to deepen their spiritual understanding so that they may come to a recognition of the sin and embark on "the path to sincere repentance."
The Pontifical Council draws a distinction, however, between two different types of penitents who have used contraceptives: on one hand those who show a sincere desire to amend their behavior, and on the other hand those who show neither repentance nor any inclination to change. In the latter case, the document suggests, it might be proper for the priest to refuse absolution.
The new Vatican document provides a detailed analysis of the means of contraception, written by a priest who is also a physician. It deals in some detail with the compound moral problems involved in the use of contraceptives which act as abortifacients.
The document also includes a chapter on concrete means of promoting family life in a manner consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church, such as the use of natural methods of family planning.
In an interview published last May in the magazine "30 Days," Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation of Bishops and Dean of the College of Cardinals, emphasized the need to return to the old practice of avoiding episcopal transfers from diocese to diocese to eliminate "social climbing and 'careerism.' "
Cardinal Gantin's words sparked a debate on a very delicate issue. Questioned directly on this matter, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Holy Father's Vicar for the diocese of Rome, and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), said that "transfer of diocese does not spell careerism."
In a televised debate on the CEI's channel Sat 2000, Cardinal Ruini explained that "the issue is very simple: a diocese becomes vacant when a Bishop dies, or reaches 75 years of age, or is transferred to another diocese. The vacant diocese can be filled in two ways: either a priest is named a Bishop, or an existing Bishop is transferred . The current practice is predominantly, but not always, the latter. I do not know if this would be classified as careerism."
Cardinal Ruini continued: "I can say that to have been a professor for many years, and the Auxiliary Bishop of Reggio Emilia for three years, helped me a lot when I became the CEI's secretary, it also helped me when I became Cardinal Vicar of the Pope and CEI's president. This seems quite normal to me, quite logical."
In an interview published in June in the magazine "30 Days," Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said: "I totally agree with Cardinal Gantin. In the Church, above all, there should be no sense of careerism. To be a Bishop should not be considered a career with a number of steps, moving from one seat to another, but a very humble service. I think that the discussion on access to the ministry would also be much more serene if the Episcopate saw it as a service, and not as a career. Even a poor see, with only a few faithful, is an important service in God's Church."
"Of course there can be exceptional cases," the Cardinal admitted, citing "a very large See where experience of episcopal ministry is necessary, could be an exception ... But it should not be common practice; it should happen only in most exceptional cases. The view of the Bishop-diocese relation as matrimony, implying fidelity, is still valid. The Christian community also feels this way: if a Bishop is appointed to a diocese, this is seen, precisely, as a promise of fidelity. Sadly I myself have not remained faithful in this regard."
On the suggestion expressed by Cardinal Gantin of a possible change in the Code of Canon Law to prohibit moving from a diocese, Cardinal Ratzinger replied that "it could be given some thought. It would be hard to change the Code, which was published only 16 years ago. In future, I think it would be good to add a phrase on this oneness and fidelity to a diocesan commitment." ZE99071907
At the beginning of June, Viking Press published a book entitled, "Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII." In the release announcing the book, Viking described it as "The untold story of the most dangerous man of the Church in modern history." The author is John Cornwell, brother of novelist David Cornwell, who writes under the pen name John Le Carre.
According to the Viking release, the book contains serious accusations against Pius XII, who not only is made responsible for "silence" in regard to Nazi atrocities but, in addition, is accused of contributing to Hitler's arrival in power. In Cornwell's judgment, "Hitler could never have carried out the holocaust without Paccelli's assistance."
The release also states that Pius XII was anti-Semitic and narcissistic, and that his pontificate was characterized by political and spiritual ambitions, that are similar to those "influencing John Paul II's pontificate."
These accusations remain, for the time being, only threats, as John Cornwell's book will only reach the bookstores in October. Many experts who know the history of the period are waiting to examine the historical documentation of the book before giving their opinion. It appears that Viking is concerned about eventual critical reviews that could damage the sale of the book and has denied any preview of it. Moreover, it seems that a number of U.S. Catholic organizations have told Viking that they are prepared to launch a campaign to boycott not only this book, but all other Viking publications.
On the heels of the announcement of the Cornwell book, news arrived that Greek film director Constantin Costa Gravas will produce a film based on the play "The Deputy," written by Rolf Hochhuth in 1963. It seems that it was Hochhuth's play that sparked the "black legend" against Pope Pacelli, portraying him as a pusillanimous Nazi sympathizer whose sole interest was business with the Germans, since before the publication of this work, public opinion was united in favor of Pius XII.
After the first showings of the play "The Deputy," it was Jewish speakers themselves who protested against Hochhuth -- among them, Dr. Marcus Melchior, Chief Rabbi in Denmark; Emilio Pinchas Lapide, former Israeli consul in Milan; and Robert Kempner, an attorney in the Nuremberg trials. Cardinal Montini (later Pope Paul VI), at the time Archbishop of Milan, also protested strongly. A letter of his, severely criticizing Hochhuth's work, was published in "The Tablet," after his election to the papacy. Although details of the film are still unknown, it will undoubtedly be unflattering to Pius XII.
Finally, the Italian newspaper, "Corriere della Sera," has added its voice to the chorus of criticisms. In a recently published article, it highlighted what it called an "important revelation": a letter of Pius XII to Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which the Pope expresses his concern over the establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine. That the Church should be opposed to a Jewish State in Palestine is neither news nor original, as other nations also expressed the same concern. Moreover, historians are already familiar with this letter. The article stretches the facts to attribute this stance solely to Pius XII who, in fact, himself worked to save as many Jews as possible from extermination, hence enabling them to go to Palestine.
It is interesting to note what Archbishop Angelo Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII), at the time Papal Nuncio in Istanbul, wrote to Vatican Secretary of State Maglione on September 4, 1943, in response to a Holy See request in favor of Jews. "I must admit that the Holy See's sending of the Jews to Palestine, for what amounts to the reconstruction of the Jewish kingdom, beginning by having them leave Italy, causes me uncertainty of spirit. If this was being encouraged by fellow Jews and political friends, it would be comprehensible. But I do not think it is in good taste that the very simple and high exercise of charity of the Holy See should offer the occasion or the appearance of what will be regarded as cooperation -- at least initial and direct, in the implementation of the Messianic dream."
Even Roncalli who, following instructions from the Holy See, exerted himself to save Jews from persecution, had reservations about the establishment of the State of Israel. But no one doubts the goodness of Roncalli's actions as Nuncio and Pope. The question remains, therefore, as to why Pius XII continues to be suspect, when he is the single Pope in history who has received the most praise and gratitude from the Jewish people themselves. ZE99071904
Adding to this CWN reports out of Tel Aviv that a Catholic-Jewish conference in Israel on relations between the religions was rocked on Monday when a Vatican representative said the problem was not just perceived Catholic anti-Semitism, but also Jewish anti-Catholicism.
Father David Yager said the Catholic Church is not anti-Semitic and that all traces of the ideology have been purged from the Church's institutions, but Israel continued to hold an anti-Catholic attitude that is harming prospects for better relations. Father Yager cited continuing accusations by some Jewish leaders that Pope Pius XII did not forcefully enough condemn the Nazism and the Holocaust.
"The Catholic Church and the Jewish people are now allies, friends, and lovers," Father Yager said, but added that Israel's continuing coolness toward overtures from the Vatican is harming relations as millions of Catholics prepare to visit the Holy Land during the Jubilee Year next year. He said that continuing criticism of Pope Pius is essentially a "blood libel."
"Our questions, our desires to search the truth are not blood libelous," said Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League. Foxman praised efforts by Pope John Paul II to emphasize the incompatibility of anti-Semitism with Catholic teaching, but said the message was not filtering down to churches at the grass-roots level. "We both have responsibilities that we haven't fulfilled," he said, suggesting that levels of anti-Semitism were still higher-than-average among Catholics.
The springs of Wadi Kharrar are about 1.3 miles to the east of the Jordan River. Archeologists now believe that Jesus was baptized in these waters, rather than the fast flowing and dirty waters of the Jordan proper. Jordan's Tourism Minister Akel Beltaji and his team of archeologists have issued an open challenge to theological archeologists to disprove their theory.
The theory is bolstered by the discovery of an early Christian settlement on a nearby hill, which would be identified with "Bethany beyond the Jordan" of Biblical fame. The ruins of a Byzantine monastery and three churches were also found at the site. The Holy See has concurred that the theory is probable, supporting the location as a possible pilgrimage site for the year 2000.
The Holy See's representative in Amman, Dominique Rezeau, told the AFP agency that Vatican theologians believe Jesus was "most probably" baptized on the Jordanian side of the river, despite rival claims of Israel.
At present, however, the site is rather difficult to find, nestled in a sea of banana plantations. There are not even signs marking the road to the site, which until 1994 was on the front line of the Israel-Jordan war.
Nonetheless, Jubilee preparations are beginning. Beltaji stressed that he would not want "millions of tourists" to swarm the site during the year 2000, but stated the the basics would be in place to welcome visitors and pilgrims.
"It won't be a Disney World," he told AFP, "but the place will be accessible." In the long term, Beltaji hopes to develop a site along the River Jordan without jeopardizing the fragile archeological remains at Wadi Kharrar. ZE99071920