August 16, 2013
What "respect" for others actually means -
Understandings, misunderstandings of reason to oppose abortion -
Longer life in a rapidly aging society
In this edition:
1. Gospel of life's rationale.
2. What "respect" actually means.
3. Respecting work, workers, wages.
4. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Our rapidly aging society.
b) Srebrenica and human evil.
5. Permanent deacons today.
6. Immigration: human, moral issue.
1. Why Abortion Is Opposed
"We must love all people, even those who advocate abortion," Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley said Aug. 6. He commented, "It is only if we love them that we will be able to help them discover the sacredness of the life of an unborn child. Only love and mercy will open hearts that have been hardened by the individualism of our age."
There are some, Cardinal O'Malley observed, who "think that the Holy Father should talk more about abortion." But the cardinal said he thought the new pope "speaks of love and mercy to give people the context for the church's teaching on abortion. We oppose abortion, not because we are mean or old-fashioned, but because we love people. And that is what we must show the world."
Speaking to the Knights of Columbus convention, held in San Antonio, Texas, Cardinal O'Malley said, "Our efforts to heal the wounds of society will depend on our capacity to love and to be faithful to our mission."
Pope Francis, he commented, "is showing us very clearly that our struggle is not just a political battle or a legal problem, but that we must evangelize and humanize the culture; then the world will be safe for the unborn, the elderly and the unproductive."
Cardinal O'Malley told the Knights that the Gospel of life is a Gospel of mercy and that "if we are going to get a hearing in today's world, it will be because people recognize [the] authenticity of our lives and our dedication to building a civilization of love."
In today's world Catholic "concern about unborn children or the sacredness of marriage makes us appear quaint and even nettlesome," said the cardinal. Thus, "we need mentors -- parents, grandparents, Godparents, teachers, youth ministers, neighbors, who are ready to pass on the faith."
Cardinal O'Malley noted that "Pope Francis is calling on all of us to be missionaries in our own communities." Commenting that "in this new millennium business as usual is not enough," the cardinal said:
"We must be a team of missionaries, moving from a maintenance mode to a missionary one. We must ask ourselves, 'What does it mean to live in a culture of unbelief, a culture which does not even know it does not believe because it still lives on the residue of Christian civilization?'"
2. "Respect" Defined: Muslims, Catholics
What does the term "respect" imply in human relations, particularly those of Catholics and Muslims? Pope Francis outlined the demands and parameters of "respect" in his message to the world's Muslims for the end of Ramadan, which occurred for most Muslims Aug. 7 or 8.
The pope decided to sign the Vatican's annual message himself "as an expression of esteem and friendship for all Muslims, especially those who are religious leaders," he said. The message accented "the importance of education in the way we understand each other, built upon the foundation of mutual respect."
It is well known, the message said, "that mutual respect is fundamental in any human relationship, especially among people who profess religious belief. In this way, sincere and lasting friendship can grow."
The term "respect" refers to "an attitude of kindness toward people for whom we have consideration and esteem. The term "mutual" means "this is not a one-way process, but something shared by both sides," the papal message stated.
We are called first of all to respect each person's "life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices," said Pope Francis. "Therefore," he added, we are "called to think, speak and write respectfully of the other, not only in his presence, but always and everywhere, avoiding unfair criticism or defamation."
Among those with "a role to play in achieving this goal," the message cited "families, schools, religious teaching and all forms of media."
Then, turning attention specifically to "mutual respect in interreligious relations, especially between Christians and Muslims," the papal message insisted that "we are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values." The message said: "Particular respect is due to religious leaders and to places of worship. How painful are attacks on one or other of these!"
The message explained that "when we show respect for the religion of our neighbors or when we offer them our good wishes on the occasion of a religious celebration, we simply seek to share their joy, without making reference to the content of their religious convictions."
It urged that Muslim and Christian youths be brought up "to think and speak respectfully of other religions and their followers, and to avoid ridiculing or denigrating their convictions and practices."
3. Respect for Workers, Work, Wages
"Every human being enjoys a basic right to be respected." However, "today's competitive culture challenges us to strive for victory and advantage," though the challenge as St. Paul saw it "is to build each other up and honor one another's innate dignity," Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said in his annual Labor Day message, posted online Aug. 6 by the national bishops' conference.
"How can it be said," he asked, "that persons honor one another" when extravagance and wretchedness so often exist virtually side by side in the nation?
"Ethical and moral business leaders" were described in Bishop Blaire's statement as those who "know that it is wrong to chase profits and success at the expense of workers' dignity." These business leaders "know that they have a vocation to build the kind of solidarity that honors the worker and the least among us. They remember that the economy is 'for people.' They know that great harm results when they separate their faith or human values from their work as business leaders."
Labor Day is "an opportunity to take stock of the ways workers are honored and respected," the bishop wrote. The reality is, he said, that half the jobs in the U.S. "pay less than $27,000 per year," and "more than 46 million people live in poverty, including 16 million children."
Today, "the economy is not creating an adequate number of jobs that allow workers to provide for themselves and their families," Bishop Blaire wrote. He said:
"The only way to reduce the widening gap between the affluent and the poorest people in our nation is by creating quality jobs that provide a just compensation that enables workers to live in the dignity appropriate for themselves and their families."
Often in the U.S. "wealth and basic needs are separated by only a few blocks or subway stops," Bishop Blaire observed, stating that "we only have to look under bridges and in alleyways."
Such imbalances "are not inevitable," but they do "demand boldness in promoting a just economy that reduces inequality by creating jobs that pay a living wage and share with workers some profits of the company," the Labor Day statement insisted. It also is necessary, the statement said, to ensure "a strong safety net for jobless workers and their families, and those who are incapable of work."
In accord with its "principles on the life and dignity of the human person," the church "wishes to collaborate with unions in securing the rights and dignity of workers," Bishop Blaire said.
He urged support whenever possible for "businesses and enterprises that protect human life and dignity, pay just wages, and protect workers' rights." In addition, "immigration policies that bring immigrant workers out of the shadows to a legal status and offer them a just and fair path to citizenship" ought to be supported "so that their human rights are protected and the wages for all workers rise," he said.
4. Current Quotes to Ponder
A Rapidly Aging Society: "With falling birth rates and rising life expectancies, the U.S. population is rapidly aging. By 2050, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections, one in five Americans will be 65 or older, and at least 400,000 will be 100 or older. Some futurists think even more radical changes are coming. . . . Older adults account for a growing share of the U.S. population. Roughly 41 million Americans are 65 and older, and they make up about 13 percent of the total U.S. population, up from 4 percent in 1900. . . . The public views this trend in American society as more positive than negative. About four in ten (41 percent) adults consider 'having more elderly people in the population' a good thing for society. Just 10 percent say this is a bad thing, and 47 percent say it doesn't make much difference. The overall average life expectancy in the U.S. at present is 78.7 years, although women tend to live longer (81 years) than men (76.2 years). Given the option, most Americans would choose to live longer than the current average. Fully 69 percent of American adults would like to live to be 79 to 100 years old. About 14 percent say they would want a lifespan of 78 years or less, while just 9 percent would choose to live more than 100 years. The median ideal life span is 90 years." (From a report released Aug. 6 by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center titled "Living to 120 and Beyond: Americans' Views on Aging, Medical Advances and Radical Life Extension")
Srebrenica: The Evil That People Do "It is so important that we are reminded, over and over again, of the evil that we human beings effect. So this evening I salute and thank the many people who have made sure, by their efforts and their courage, that the events of Srebrenica are not forgotten. . . . I also want to say, with utter conviction, that faith in God is not a problem to be solved, but a vitally important resource, a gift, which we have to discover afresh and use correctly. Religious faith casts a light on the common humanity of us all. That light deepens our understanding of ourselves, our origins and our ultimate destiny. Religious faith, understood correctly, constantly proposes to us the way of reconciliation and makes that way a real possibility. Religious faith, properly understood and lived, tells us that we must learn humility, repentance, sorrow. It insists that we must speak of our failure and that we must listen to, heed, the confession of fault that is made by those who have offended. Yet this speaking and hearing must be a speaking and hearing that is founded in love, love for one another. Without that love the pathway of reconciliation remains closed." (From remarks July 11 by British Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster for Srebrenica Memorial Day, remembering the July 1995 massacre by Serb forces near the end of the 1992-95 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. The massacre, viewed as a so-called "ethnic-cleansing" act, took place in and around Srebrenica, a Bosnia-Herzegovina town.)
5. Permanent Deacons Today
What do permanent deacons who work in parishes, dioceses and other institutions of the church in the United States actually do? The just-released results of a new survey conducted for the U.S. Catholic bishops by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University in Washington, responds to questions about the state of the permanent diaconate.
"It can be estimated that there are as many as 18,497 permanent deacons in the United States today," CARA reports. Of these, it says, it "can be estimated that there are 14,779 deacons active in ministry in the United States today, or about 80 percent of all permanent deacons."
The number of permanent deacons continues to grow. At the same time, some 3,000 permanent deacons now are retired. CARA points out that 13 percent of dioceses have a mandatory retirement age of 70, while 80 percent of dioceses mandate retirement at age 75.
Ninety-five percent of permanent deacons who remain active today are at least 50 years old. About one-fourth are in their 50s, 43 percent are in their 60s, and 25 percent are 70 or older.
In the U.S. the minimum age for ordination to the permanent diaconate is 35, and the average minimum age for acceptance into a diaconate program is 33.
Overall, the statistics on the permanent diaconate in the United States today "are encouraging," Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, suggested. However, he added, the statistics "also alert us to the fact many of the deacons will soon reach retirement age. This suggests a need for bishops to recruit a greater number of men to join the ranks of the permanent diaconate."
Most permanent deacons earn a living at their job or profession, while just 21 percent derive income from ministry, CARA said. Some 8 percent of permanent deacons are entrusted with the full-time pastoral care of a parish.
In addition, among deacons paid for full-time ministry, 22 percent serve in another parish ministerial position (that is, a position "in addition to their diaconal responsibilities"), and 12 percent serve in a parish nonministerial position. About 15 percent serve in a diocesan position.
Fourteen percent of permanent deacons are paid for hospital ministry; 15 percent are paid for full-time prison ministry, and one in 20 deacons is employed by a social services agency.
Here are a few other findings reported by CARA:
Ninety-three percent of active deacons currently are married, while 4 percent are widowers. Two percent never married.
Seventy-eight percent of active deacons are non-Hispanic whites, 15 percent are Hispanic or Latino, 3 percent are African American, and 3 percent are Asian.
Sixty percent of the permanent deacons have at least a college degree, while about 10 percent have a graduate degree in a field related to religion or ministry. Nearly 30 percent of permanent deacons hold a graduate degree, about two-thirds of them in a field not related to the diaconate.
Eighty-five percent of deacons are required to undergo post-ordination formation.
6. Immigration Reform: Human and Moral Issue
Immigration reform "is not a liberal or a conservative issue, a Democratic or a Republican issue, it is an issue for every patriot, every citizen and every man or woman of faith," Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio said in a Mass homily Aug. 6, during the Knights of Columbus convention, held in his city.
The issue of immigration reform "is a human issue, a moral issue. We cannot be indifferent to it," he told the convention.
In daily life the church's people always encounter a mix of lights and shadows, he commented. Today, he said, "one of the most difficult issues" in south Texas and everywhere involves "the constant migration of peoples, often because of violence in their homelands, lack of employment, deep poverty and, indeed, great misery."
In 2012, according to the Vatican, "there were some 16 million officially recognized refugees in the world and 28.8 million internally displaced persons," the archbishop noted. "In addition," he said, "an estimated 21 million people have been trafficked, including 4.5 million for sexual exploitation and 14.2 million for what amounts to slave labor!"
The U.S. now is "engaged in a very controversial debate about a painful and difficult issue: reforming our current immigration system that is clearly broken -- putting 11 million or more of our sisters and brothers in jeopardy, fearful of being detained and deported, separated from their families," the archbishop noted. This, he said, "is happening today on an unprecedented scale in our U.S. history."
In south Texas "we are very concerned about our undocumented brothers and sisters, especially those who have been separated from their families or are threatened daily with such separation," the archbishop said. He urged that "the light of the Gospel" be brought "into the hidden places -- the desolate places -- the neighborhoods and the detention centers."