The Pope's reference to Hitler was a stroke of genius in pointing out the Austrians' past follies in judgment and gently prodding them that they are again making a big mistake by trying to force the issue of challenging Holy Mother Church. Just like in America, there have been widespread cracks in the Church's armor throughout western Europe because of prosperity and because many bishops have kowtowed to political and financial pressure, forsaking their role as true shepherds for the sake of compromise and harmony. But there is no harmony when dissent festers beneath the surface and comes to a boil, erupting in open rebellion. Such was the case a few months ago in Germany when the abortion issue of counseling divided the bishops there and the Holy Father again stood his ground. In fact, one of the great characteristics of this 264th successor of Peter is that he will not compromise when it comes to the teaching of the Church. He has remained almost the lone voice crying in the wilderness against great odds - the crusader for the unborn, the aged, the poor, the downtrodden. He has exhibited over his priestly life the courage of Christ. In fact, a fellow brother Fourth Degree Knight has just e-mailed us a poem on courage which fits John Paul the Great to a tee. We present it here:
Speaking of history, because it is summer we are bringing you "reruns" of our megaseries on THE HISTORY OF THE MASS AND HOLY MOTHER CHURCH begun over two years ago and which are no longer available in archives. Therefore, we wanted to bring all readers up to date on this series which has been hailed by so many via e-mail. To trump it we are bringing you a marathon starting today through next Tuesday with the first six installments on the early years of the Church from the time of Christ and The Establishment of the Blessed Sacrament through Saint Peter leading up to his first successor - Pope Saint Linus. After the one week marathon we will pick up each succeeding installment on its regular Tuesday issue. The marathon concept will be repeated next week with our series on THE AGE OF MARIAN APPARITIONS extending from Wednesday July 1 through July 8th on a daily issue basis, and the following week with our other mega series WHERE IS HOLY MOTHER CHURCH HEADING AS WE NEAR THE MILLENNIUM? from Thursday July 9 through July 16 - Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
It was Our Lady of Carmel who bestowed the scapular to Saint Simon Stock for protection in 1251 and the Pope is reminding all that we need to return to that concept of protection in 1998. In fact, more than ever, we need the protective graces of God's Mercy and Love and that will only be forthcoming through obedience. No matter our own personal agendas, no matter the scars the Church may reveal as an institution governed by humans, we must be obedient to what God has deigned from Peter through John Paul II when Jesus said, recorded in Matthew 16: 19, And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven." Our advice to the Austrians, and to all others: heed Our Lord's words by heeding the Holy Father's. If not, this could be the liberals' last stand!
The Holy Father pointed to the example of three Catholic heroes-- Fathers Jacob Kern and Anton Marie Schwartz, and Sister Restituta Kafka-- whose beatification he celebrated during the trip. These three newly beatified Austrians, he said, dramatically illustrate how true Christian witness differs from the example of those who are "Christians of pure convention."
The credibility of the Christian message depends on the credibility of witnesses, the Pope said. "The new evangelization begins with us, and with our way of life," he said. "Despite the failings and shadows, there are always within the Church men and women whose lives shed new light on the credibility of the Gospel." He pointed in particular to Blessed Restituta Kafka, who was imprisoned and finally executed by the Nazi regime because she replace the crucifix mounted in each room of her hospital with pictures of Adolph Hitler; she explained that Jesus was her only "Fuhrer."
After the public ceremony, the Pope had lunch with the Austrian bishops, and left them a message calling for unity. Saying that "episcopal authority may weigh heavily on your shoulders" during the present crisis, the Holy Father encouraged the bishops to remember that "you are not alone." Solidarity among the Austrian bishops, he said, should feed that sense that every bishop has the support of the universal Church.
The Pope encouraged his brother bishops to enter into dialogue with dissident Catholics, but cautioned that "dialogue in the Church is never a matter simply of opening toward the world, nor superficial adaptation..." The process of dialogue cannot be pursued along "a horizontal dimension," he said; it must also involve the "vertical dimension, which leads to the Savior of the world."
The Pope also issued a call for the European Union to admit the nations of Eastern Europe. That move would involve some sacrifices, the Holy Father conceded, but it might allay some of the skepticism and frustration that now inhibits the true unity of Europe.
Any European Union, the Pope added, must be built on respect for human life in all of its forms. He said that "on of the goals of my pontificate" is the creation of a "culture of life" in opposition to "the culture of death" which is gaining influence around the world. He cited the legalization of abortion as the primary evidence that the "culture of death" is advancing.
Despite predictions of a major confrontation, the Pope did not encounter many protesters when he traveled to Sankt Polten on Sunday. Only a few dozen protesters were on hand to express their dissatisfaction with the local Bishop Kurt Krenn, who has been one of the last public supporters of Cardinal Groer.
The Holy Father did not dodge the protest, however. In his homily he encouraged the Catholics of Austria to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Rather than lament the shortage of priestly and religious vocations, he told them, they should pray that God would open the hearts of more young people to receive such vocations-- since the call to priestly or religious life can only come from God, not from any human programs.
Too many Catholics have lost a clear sense of God the Father, the Pope said. He urged the Austrians to "teach the alphabet of the faith." In a press conference held on the day of the Pope's arrival, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna cautioned reporters against the belief that the current crisis exhausts all news about the Church in Austria. "The church is a community of sinners, which invites us to conversion, and in the Church our faith allows us to overcome our problems," he said. Acknowledging that the Groer affair had opened serious wounds, he nevertheless said that those wounds would eventually heal.
Cardinal Schoenborn also elaborated on his relationship with Dialogue for Austria, a dissident Catholic group. He said that he planned to engage in dialogue with the group, which has collected thousands of signatures on petitions calling for changes in Church policy. But he also observed that the Church does not function on the basis of majority vote.
In Austria, the cardinal said, the crisis has given the Church "the advantage of honesty"-- that is, disagreements are not being ignored or papered over. He added that the continuing devotion of many Austrians is evident in the fact that 17 percent of all Catholics attend Mass every Sunday, while 80 percent come to the Church for baptism, marriage, and burial.
While saying that the Pope was "very happy" with the results of his trip, and that he had advanced the discussion among Austrian Catholics, spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls recognized that attendance at the papal ceremonies was somewhat disappointing. Church officials estimated the crowd for Sunday's beatifications at 30,000; police estimates gave a figure of only 15,000.
The papal visit did not meet with the same clear success that John Paul has enjoyed on some other recent visits, such as his trip to Cuba early this year. On the other hand, Navarro-Valls noted that the protests which the Pope had encountered were relatively mild. They did not surprise the Holy Father, he said, since "he knows the situation in this country quite well." In fact the protesters represented only 2 or 3 percent of the population, he said.
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the entertainment industry to reduce the amount of violence and sex depicted in their offerings, but added that the industry does provide a contribution to society. "The media's dark side continues to obscure the value of their contributions," the statement said.
The prelates also called on the news media not to sensationalize or trivialize news events, called on parents to reduce the amount of television viewing for their families, and addressed the problem of pornography. The document also rejected government censorship because of possibility of censorship of religious programming, and suggested that provisions for excessive violence be added to anti-obscenity laws in place in some communities.
The bishops called on parents to discuss the use of the various entertainment media in their families. "Sharing the reasons why a video game is too violent or a particular show lacks good values about sex can contribute to a youngster's moral growth," the document said. "There ought to be occasions when the almost continuous sound of voices that come from television, radio, and through the telephone ... gives way to more silent times for family discussion, prayer, and homework."
Justice Rory O'Hanlon, a member of Opus Dei was appointed to the Irish High Court bench in 1981 after a distinguished legal career. In 1992, the government appointed him president of the Law Reform Commission, which considers changes to Irish law. Four weeks later he was removed from the position after asserting that he would not support ratification of the European Union's Maastricht Treaty if it made abortion available in Ireland.
The government summoned the judge to a meeting to explain his position, but he refused to attend on the basis that the government had no power to "summon" a High Court judge to a meeting. The following day, the judge was "invited" to attend a meeting with the prime minister, following which he was fired as president of the Law Reform Commission.
Justice O'Hanlon also became embroiled in further controversy when he spoke out publicly against proposed legislation which would have allowed Irish women to be referred to abortion clinics abroad. At the time he explained, "I feel that if I remained silent at a time when the Abortion Information Bill is about to come before the Houses of the Oireachtas [the Irish Parliament], I would be betraying a trust God has imposed on me, just as if I had been a judge in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s and had remained silent when the Jewish Holocaust was being planned and put into effect." Despite the judge's intervention, the legislation was eventually passed.
Two years later, as he faced mandatory retirement at the age of 71, Justice O'Hanlon instituted legal proceedings against the government, looking for a declaration that his removal as president of the Law Reform Commission had been unconstitutional. But following lengthy discussions between lawyers, the matter was settled before coming to court. The judge was paid damages estimated to be around $200,000 and a statement was read out in open court, in which the government recognized Justice O'Hanlon's distinguished public service.
The cardinal served as archbishop of Turin from 1977 to 1991, and was thus the custodian of the Shroud of Turin during that time. He made the public announcement in 1988 that scientific testing had determined that the cloth, believed to be the burial shroud of Christ, was really a medieval artifact. That conclusion has been cast into doubt by other scientists who claim the original tests were flawed.
Cardinal Ballestrero was ordained in 1936, was president of the Italian bishops' conference from 1979 to 1985, and had been elevated to the cardinalate by Pope John Paul II in 1979.