DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     October 5, 1998     vol. 9, no. 194

THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO
    INTRODUCTION
          The following is the full text of an address delivered on Friday, October 1 by Pope John Paul II to the bishops of California, Nevada, and Hawaii including Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The American bishops were in Rome for their ad limina visit. The text is provided by Catholic World News Service.
    CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday. Below is the first of two parts.

    Pope's Ad Limina Address to the Western United States Bishops part one

          1. With joy and affection I welcome you, the bishops of the Church in California, Nevada, and Hawaii, on the occasion of your visit ad limina apostolorum. Your pilgrimage to the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul is a celebration of the ecclesial bonds linking your particular churches to the See of Peter. Mindful that the Church throughout the world is preparing to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I have chosen to devote this series of reflections for you and your brother bishops to the renewal of the Church's life envisaged by the Second Vatican Council. The Council was a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, and its full implementation is the best means of ensuring that the Catholic community in the United States enters the new millennium strengthened in faith and holiness, effectively contributing to a better society through its witness to the truth about man that is revealed in Jesus Christ (cf Gaudium et Spes, 24). Indeed, the marvelous responsibility of the Church in your country is to spread this truth, which "enlightens man's intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord." (Veritatis Splendor, Proem)

          We are coming to the end of a century which began with confidence in humanity's prospects of almost unlimited progress, but which is now ending in widespread fear and moral confusion. If we want a springtime of the human spirit, we must rediscover the foundations of hope (cf Address to the 50th General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, October 5, 1995, 16-18). Above all, society must learn to embrace one more the great gift of life, to cherish it, to protect it, and to defend it against the culture of death, itself an expression of the great fear that stalks our times. One of your most noble tasks as bishops is to stand firmly on the side of life, encouraging those who defend it and building with them a genuine culture of life.

          2. The Second Vatican Council was quite aware of the forces shaping contemporary society when it spoke out clearly in defense of human life against the many threats facing it (cf Gaudium et Spes, 27). The Council also made a priceless contribution to the culture of life by its eloquent presentation of the full meaning of married love (cf ibid, 48-51). Following the lead of the Council and expounding its teaching, Pope Paul VI wrote the prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae, the thirtieth anniversary of which we are celebrating this year, in which he addressed the moral implications of the power to cooperate with the Creator in bringing new life into the world. The Creator has made man and woman to complement one another in love, and their union is no less than a sharing in the creative power of God himself. Conjugal love serves life not only insofar as it generates new life but also because, rightly understood as the total gift of spouses to one another, it shapes the loving and caring context in which new life is wholeheartedly welcomed as a gift of incomparable value.

          Thirty years after Humanae Vitae, we see that mistaken ideas about the individual's moral autonomy continue to inflict wounds on the consciences of many people and on the life of society. Paul VI pointed out some of the consequences of separating the unitive aspect of conjugal love from its procreative dimension: a gradual weakening of moral discipline; a trivialization of human sexuality; the demeaning of women; marital infidelity, often leading to broken families; state-sponsored programs of population control based on imposed contraception and sterilization (cf Humanae Vitae, 17). The introduction of legalized abortion and euthanasia, ever increasing recourse to in vitro fertilization, and certain forms of genetic manipulation and embryo experimentation are also closely related in law and public policy, as well as in contemporary culture, to the idea of unlimited dominion over one's body and life.

          The teaching of Humanae Vitae honors married love, promotes the dignity of women, and helps couples grow in understanding the truth of their particular path to holiness. It is also a response to contemporary culture's temptation to reduce life to a commodity. As bishops, together with your priests, deacons, seminarians, and other pastoral personnel, you must find the right language and imagery to present this teaching in a comprehensible and compelling way. Marriage-preparation programs should include an honest and complete presentation of the Church's teachings on responsible procreation, and should explain the natural methods of regulating fertility, the legitimacy of which is based on respect for the human meaning of sexual intimacy. Couples who have embraced the teaching of Pope Paul VI have discovered that it is truly a source of profound unity and joy, nourished by their increased mutual understanding and respect; they should be invited to share their experience with engaged couples taking part in marriage-preparation programs.

          3. Reflection on a very different anniversary serves to heighten the sense of the urgency of the pro-life task. In the 25 years which have passed since the judicial decision legalizing abortion in your country there has been a widespread mobilization of consciences in support of life. The pro-life movement is one of the most positive aspects of American public life, and the support given it by the bishops is a tribute to your pastoral leadership. Despite the generous efforts of so many, however, the idea that elective abortion is a "right" continues to be asserted. Moreover, there are signs of an almost unimaginable insensitivity to the reality of what actually happens during an abortion, as evidenced in recent events surrounding so-called "partial-birth" abortion. This is a cause for deep concern. A society with a diminished sense of the value of human life at its earliest stages has already opened the door to a culture of death. As pastors, you must make every effort to ensure that there is no dulling of consciences regarding the seriousness of the crime of abortion, a crime which cannot be morally justified by any circumstance, purpose, or law (cf Evangelium Vitae, 62).

          Those who would defend life must make alternatives to abortion increasingly visible and available. Your recent pastoral statement, Lights and Shadows, draws attention to the need to support women in crisis pregnancies and to provide counseling services for those who have had an abortion and must cope with its psychological and spiritual effects. Likewise, the unconditional defense of life must always include the message that true healing is possible, through reconciliation with the Body of Christ. In the spirit of the coming Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, American Catholics should be more than ever willing to open their hearts and their homes to "unwanted" and abandoned children, to young people in difficulty, to the handicapped, and to those who have no one to care for them.

    Next week: part two.


October 5, 1998       volume 9, no. 194
THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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