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July 1, 2013

Implications of high-court rulings in same-sex-marriage cases --
What ministry of service means, does not mean --
New website on children's cyberspace safety --
Sixtieth anniversary of Bishop Waters' instruction on segregation in churches

In this edition:
1. Raleigh Diocese recalls pastoral on segregation.
2. What "service" really implies for ministry.
3. Pope lists qualities for new bishops.
4. Current quotes to ponder:
a) The defibrillator pope.
b) Why is the resurrection good news?
5. New website: Children's cyberspace safety.
6. Supreme Court same-sex marriage rulings.

1. Raleigh Diocese Recalls Action on Segregation

A June 1953 pastoral letter published in the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., by Bishop Vincent Waters opposed any segregation or racial intolerance within Catholic churches. It was recalled this June, 60 years later, by Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh. In a June 7 letter to the diocese, Bishop Burbidge said:

"It is with gratitude to Our Lord that we remember the ways in which many of the wounds of segregation have been healed in the last 60 years. Yet, it is also with vigilance that we renew our commitment to attend to any situation where the dignity of the human person is threatened, whether through segregation or violence or even by omission."

The anniversary of Bishop Waters' pastoral letter was a reminder "that to form respect for the human person, from the moment of conception to natural death, is not just about tolerance, but rather about forming a fundamental disposition of love" for others, Bishop Burbidge wrote.

It seemed to me that a history lesson presented itself on this 60th anniversary - a lesson about interracial division and harmony within the church.

In his pastoral letter, Bishop Waters forbade segregation in churches. "There is no segregation of races to be tolerated in any Catholic church in the Diocese of Raleigh," he wrote. He instructed pastors to carry out this teaching and to "tolerate nothing to the contrary."

Bishop Waters insisted that "all special churches for Negroes" were to be "abolished immediately" because they lent "weight to the false notion that the Catholic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, is divided." The bishop added:

"Equal rights are accorded, therefore, to every race and every nationality as is proper in any Catholic church, and within the church building itself everyone is given the privilege to sit or kneel wherever he desires and to approach the sacraments without any regard to race or nationality."

The letter by Bishop Waters was to be read at all Masses in the diocese June 21, 1953. In it he said that in the one body of Christ "all the members, no matter of what race, what nation, what qualities of body or of mind or with how many or how few possessions, all are in one communion if they belong to that one church. Anything to the contrary is heresy."

He said, "The church does not propose tolerance which is negative, but love which is positive."

2. What Ministry as Service Implies

"All ministry in the church is service. It must reach out," Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said June 23 in a homily for the ordination of three permanent deacons for the archdiocese. "Whenever ministry loses the characteristic of service and reaching out, it degenerates into the opposite of ministry, to self-indulgence and self-promotion," he warned.

He told the new deacons that they are called "to renounce any temptation toward self-centeredness, toward using ministry and using others really for [one's] own needs." Sacred authority is betrayed, he said, when it "is exercised not as ecclesial service but in our own interest."

The Gospel makes unambiguously clear "that the call to self-renunciation is not a call for some, but for all, for everyone who wishes to follow Jesus," the Irish archbishop said. But he stressed that "the call to take up the cross is not a negative call to self-annihilation, to a masochistic hatred of self or a disregard for self."

Rather, "taking up the cross means that we fight continuously against that egoism and self-justification which constantly threaten us."

It means fighting against the "temptation to think of myself as the measure of reality and relationships, rather than allowing myself to be freed to serve others and to generate thoughts not of self-importance but thoughts, words and action which foster a spirit of genuine care and love for others."

Today, some five decades after Vatican Council II, "we are still rediscovering in our pastoral practice what the contribution of deacons to church life is," Archbishop Martin said.

"Witnessing to the Jesus who serves," he commented, is "part of the mission of every Christian, lay and ordained. It is part of the mission of the priest and the bishop." However, he said, the diaconate "is a special witness in the church reminding the entire community of this dimension of the mission to service and calling the entire community to serve."

Archbishop Martin recalled in his homily that Pope Francis recently encouraged the church to move outward and to avoid becoming self-referential, which, the archbishop explained, means "closed in within itself, thinking only of itself."

Archbishop Martin, more than anyone I know of, has taken up the new pope's exhortation against a faith that is "self-referential," repeatedly exploring its meaning.

3. Pope Lists Qualities for New Bishops

Pope Francis continues to make news. He made headlines again June 21 when he listed qualities he hopes to find in new candidates for the episcopacy.

Speaking to the nuncios and apostolic delegates representing the Vatican in the various nations of the world and in international organizations, the pope said that a prospective bishop should be someone who is "gentle, patient and merciful," and who lacks the "mind-set of a prince."

One of the tasks of the Vatican ambassadors to the nations of the world is to recommend candidates for the episcopacy. Pope Francis spoke to nuncios and apostolic delegates during a meeting they had in Rome.

He urged them to look for candidates "who are close to the people." He said: "Pastors! We need them! May they be fathers and brothers." The candidates, he said, should "love poverty, interior poverty, as freedom for the Lord, and exterior poverty, as simplicity and a modest lifestyle."

"Be careful" that candidates "are not ambitious, that they are not in quest of the episcopate," the pope urged. "And may they be bridegrooms of one church, without being constantly on the lookout for another."

Prospective bishops, the pope suggested, will need to "be able to 'watch over' the flock that will be entrusted to them, in other words to care for all that keeps it united; to 'monitor' it, to be on the alert for dangers that threaten it, to nurture hope, so that hearts may be filled with sunshine and light to sustain lovingly and patiently the plans God brings about among his people."

4. Current Quotes to Ponder:

The Defibrillator Pope: "A French journalist recently referred to [Pope] Francis as a 'defibrillator' pope. We need defibrillators when we have serious heart problems. Defibrillation is a common treatment for life-threatening heart rhythms, blocked arteries and problems with pulses. Defibrillation consists of delivering a therapeutic dose of electrical energy to the affected heart. This depolarizes a critical mass of the heart muscle, terminates the dysrhythmia and allows rhythm to be re-established by the body's natural pacemaker. Francesco is a badly needed ecclesial defibrillator for our times!" (From a June 21 speech to the Catholic Media Convention in Denver by Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, a leading church communicator who is CEO of the Toronto-based Salt and Light Catholic media network)

Why Is the Resurrection Good News? "The resurrection is good news for all, but some might wonder why it is such good news. . . . There is a need for every person to personalize the resurrection, that is, to see how it relates to his or her life. What is dead within you that needs to be raised to new life? What weighs your spirit down so that you hope to cast it off?" (From a letter by Benedictine Abbot Austin G. Murphy of St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle, Ill., in The Clerestory, a publication of the abbey)

5. New Website on Child Cyberspace Safety

Youth ministers, directors of religious education, family-life ministers and other parish and diocesan educators may want to call attention to a new website whose goal, ultimately, is to help children and youths navigate cyberspace safely.

The website, www.faithandsafety.org, is directed to parents and other adults. An ecumenical endeavor, it is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Communications Department and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

"Being a parent isn't easy. It can often feel overwhelming. Throw in the Internet, social networks, computers, mobile and gaming devices, and things can often seem impossible," the website says to parents. It explains:

"This site is an attempt to give you some simple, straightforward advice and tools on how to navigate this digital world with your family."

But the site is not an attempt to teach parents how to spy on their children in order to find out everything "they have been doing online." It tells parents that while some oversight of their children's "digital habits is part of responsible parenting, teaching you how to spy on your kids is not the intent of this guide at all. Rather, the intent is to promote healthy dialogue within your family on how to use technology appropriately."

With that goal in mind, the website concludes its website entries with "Family Discussion Starters" to help parents "identify topics to talk about" with their children. It says, "Real safety in the digital world is all about active, involved, loving parenting."

So the website provides valuable information that many parents will welcome on topics like cyberbullying, cell phones, apps, games or strangers posing as friends. However, the website also assists parents by serving as a guide to communicating directly with youths about the purposes and risks of the digital universe that consumes so much of their time and attention.

Interestingly enough, the website also speaks with parents and other adults about modeling the sort of behavior online that they want to see in children. It asks parents:

"Do you use your phone at the dinner table? Do you text while talking with others? Do you instantly pull out your phone when a new message arrives? Do you text while driving? Do you use computers in public areas of the house or do you habitually bring them into your bedroom behind a closed door?"

The just-launched Faith and Safety website already is worth exploring, offering enough at this initial stage to keep interested adults occupied for a good while. But the website promises to continue to expand its offerings and to grow. After all, it notes, the digital world itself keeps growing and expanding all the time.

6. Supreme Court Rulings: Same-sex Marriage Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, usually called DOMA, on June 26. In addition, the court - on technical grounds - declined to rule on California's Proposition 8, a 2008 voter-approved initiative in the state that barred same-sex marriage.

Under DOMA, same-sex couples married legally in states that allow these marriages could not take advantage of federal benefits available to married, opposite-sex couples in matters related to health, taxes or Social Security, for example. That now is expected to change.

DOMA defined the term "marriage" to mean "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." The federal law defined a "spouse" as someone "of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

As a result of the court's ruling in the Proposition 8 case, that initiative is expected to return to the lower courts in California, and same-sex weddings, at least for the time being, are expected to resume in the state within about 30 days.

In returning the Proposition 8 case to the California courts, the Supreme Court ruled that proponents of the law who defended it before the court did not have standing to do so. It long was thought that the court might rule that way.

In neither of its July 26 marriage decisions did the court rule for or against the constitutionality of same-sex marriage as such. That issue remains to be decided at some future date in some other case. Nor did the court do anything to overturn the great many state laws that ban same-sex marriage.

The implications of the two 5-4 marriage rulings by the high court July 26 are sure to be closely examined in the months and even years ahead. Some think at this time that in finding the federal DOMA unconstitutional and discriminatory, the high court was indicating that the nation's future course of action for or against same-sex marriage should take shape on the state level.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the court's majority opinion in the DOMA case. He insisted repeatedly that the law disparaged the dignity that states with legalized same-sex marriage had chosen to accord to same-sex couples. "DOMA writes inequality into the entire United States code," Kennedy wrote.

Catholic Church leaders in the U.S. were saddened by the court's decisions. "Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation," Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who chairs the U.S. bishops Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said in a joint statement June 26.

The common good "depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage," they insisted. They urged a redoubling of efforts to uphold marriage as the union only of a man and a woman.

In striking down a key part of DOMA, "the court got it wrong," Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Cordileone said. The federal government, they explained, "ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so."

The two church leaders requested prayers "as the court's decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified."

The Archdiocese of Washington called attention to hints in the court's action that the issue of same-sex marriage should return to the individual states.

In a statement June 26, the archdiocese called the court's decisions "very troubling." It observed at the same time that "the apparent outcome of these decisions is that the federal government may not set parameters for the definition of marriage, but instead must leave that power to the states."