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June 16, 2010

Dialogue is not a debate with winners and losers -
What view of the church is manifested to the young? -
Charitable giving in 2010 -
Migration economics

In this edition:
1. Notes on youths struggling to stay in the church.
2. The view of the church manifested to the young.
3. Shepherds whose people are not sheep.
4. HIV/AIDS in 2010: Prevention and care.
5. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Means of connecting with youth;
b) what dialogue is not;
c) complexity of church social teaching.
6. The economics of migration.
7. Back to the basics: the pope and the economy.
8. Charitable-giving increase forecast for 2010.

1. Notes on Youths Struggling to Remain in the Church

"There are many young people who are struggling to find a reason to remain in the church," Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, stated in a speech June 4 to the Oxford University Newman Society in Britain. In fact, he made that statement his speech's theme.

Archbishop Martin spoke against the backdrop of Ireland's clergy sexual abuse crisis. Though it was not his intention in this speech "to enter deeply into the question of the management and coverup of the problem of sexual abuse by priests," he acknowledged that "the Catholic Church in Ireland is coming out of one of the most difficult moments in its history" and that "the light at the end of the tunnel is still a long way off."

The church in Ireland "will have to live with the grief of its past, which cannot and should never be forgotten," he said. Keeping this in mind, he insisted that now "the work of evangelization must if anything take on a totally new vibrancy."

The archbishop said "there are many reasons why young people would not remain within the church," and "there are many reasons why they should remain, should feel a part of the church and should enrich the church with the charisms that they have received."

But will young people remain in the church if they fail to find in their experience of church the experience of a lived and living Gospel community"? Archbishop Martin expressed concern about that. He said:

"Experiencing the beauty of faith is not something that will happen to us every day. There is no way, however, we can expect young people to remain in the church if we do not at least attempt to open up that experience for them -- or at least glimpses of it which can enlighten and encourage them in the ups and downs of their life, within their culture and the characteristics of their generation."

2. How Will the Church Be Manifested to the Young?

While many young people "are struggling to find a reason to remain in the church," Archbishop Martin said in his Oxford speech that many more made the decision quite a long time ago "not to remain," and "there are those for whom the church is totally off their radar screen."

For many who already doubted their faith, the nation's sexual abuse scandal was the crowning blow, he indicated. He stressed that the effect of the scandal should not be understated, but said "the crisis of belief among young people has far deeper roots and roots which were there well before the abuse scandal."

Archbishop Martin said he visits parishes where he encounters no young people. "I inquire what is being done to attract young people to parish life, and the answers are vague," he said. While "everyone knows that there is a missing generation in our church attendance, and perhaps more than one," in the archbishop's judgment "there are very few strong pastoral initiatives to reach out to young people."

Little outreach to young people is offered by parishes, the archbishop commented. He feels "that an increasing number of young people find parishes a little like alien territory."

The archbishop thinks "the challenge of helping young people to remain active members of the church is not simply a structural one. It is much more about the quality of the faith of young people and the very manifestation of the church itself."

Though "young people today are as idealistic and generous as any generation of young people, if not even more so," Archbishop Martin said "the church in Ireland has failed to capture that generosity and idealism as the foundation for building up a renewed church."

Young people, he said, "need to be led into the fundamental question about God within a culture where there are many other very attractive gods that young people encounter day by day." However, Archbishop Martin added, "one can only be led into the question of God through a process of dialogue and reflection."

This involves more than the communication of doctrine, according to the archbishop. He said, "There is no way in which the process of engaging with the question about God can be developed on the basis of simple dogmatic imposition. The process is a much more difficult one where we are all called to be witnesses who attract others to the message of the risen Lord."

It is essential to encounter "the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ," the archbishop said. Young people, he explained, "have to be led to encounter Jesus Christ as a person with whom they can enter into a relationship and who will lead them to understand that God is not just an ultimate cause, but that God is love."

It is evangelization's task to challenge people "to stop and be curious about the small signs of God's presence which are all around us, but which so often we choose to ignore," Archbishop Martin said. Evangelization ought to stimulate people's curiosity, even though curiosity in and of itself "will not provide immediate results."

Instead, he continued, "through perseverance, and especially through the helping hand of other people of faith, we can be led to enter into 'the surprising' -- into a presence of God which brings us way beyond the sphere of normal human imagination."

3. Shepherds in a Church Whose People Are Not Sheep

"The church today needs leaders who can lead by example as well as by words, and who revere the spiritual and ministerial gifts of those they are sent to serve," Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas said in an April 27 homily for the ordination of two new auxiliary bishops in Dallas. His homily examined the manner in which today's bishops can serve as shepherds to people who are not at all like sheep.

"As you well know, one of the repeated and most compelling images used of episcopal ministry is that of the shepherd," said Bishop Farrell. He encouraged the new bishops "to be the best of shepherds, leading and guiding those entrusted to your care -- to the point of imitating Jesus, who gave his life for his flock."

But Bishop Farrell said, "In this shepherd-sheep imagery I urge you to place the burden on your ministry of leading and guiding rather than the behavior of the sheep." The reason for this emphasis, he explained, is that "all analogies are limited in their application, as is this one. Sheep themselves need the constant prodding and goading of shepherds because, quite frankly, they are less than gifted! But our people and the people you serve are far from that."

"Human beings are not sheep. Our people are intelligent, educated, energetic workers and committed parents, and indeed are 'co-workers in the vineyard,'" said Bishop Farrell. He urged the new bishops to revere their people and their many gifts.

Bishop Farrell's homily viewed the church as a place of "collegiality, not coercion, of intelligent argument, not edicts issued from on high, of ideas and values, not of legal documents and processes only." He told the new bishops that their ministry would be "to lead, not goad, inspire, not shame, encourage, not rebuke the sheep that comprise the pilgrim church on earth."

Love the people, Bishop Farrell urged the bishops. And he observed that "love has many faces, names, images and likenesses." Among these, he said, "is showing mercy and compassion." This means "trying never to judge others or their motives. It means to revere the Christ who comes to us in the obviously poor and the spiritually poor, in the obviously infirm and the spiritually infirm, in those with special physical needs and those with special spiritual needs."

Drawing upon a passage in the Rule of St. Benedict for an insight into the meaning of leadership, Bishop Farrell asked everyone present "to revere Christ, who comes to us in the other and to develop the habit of showing mercy first and, where necessary, to make judgments after that." Bishop Farrell pointed out how "St. Benedict exhorted the abbot 'to arrange everything in such a way that the strong have something to strive for and the weak have nothing to fear.'" Then the bishop offered this counsel:

"Where it will be in your purview as bishops to exercise such authority and responsibility, I encourage you to remember and to put into practice this wise admonition: to arrange everything in such a way that the strong have something to strive for and the weak have nothing to fear." (Bishop Farrell's speech appears in the June 6 edition of Origins, CNS Documentary Service.)

4. HIV/AIDS in 2010: Prevention and Care

Every day some 7,400 of the world's people become infected with the AIDS virus, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Vatican ambassador to the United Nations, told a U.N. General Assembly session June 14. "For every two people who commence treatment, five more become infected" with HIV, he said.

Statistics cited by the archbishop show that nearly 4 million people currently are receiving treatment, while 9.7 million people still are in need of "life-saving and life-prolonging interventions."

However, "the global community continues to be confronted by many obstacles in its efforts to respond adequately to this problem," the Vatican ambassador told the U.N. session, devoted to international action to combat HIV/AIDS and care for those who contract it. A matter of deep concern for the Vatican, he said, is "the gap in available funds for antiretroviral treatment among poor and marginalized populations."

Children who have HIV or HIV/TB are "particularly vulnerable," given the present treatment gap, he observed. However, "access to early diagnosis and treatment is far less accessible to HIV-positive children than adults," though lacking this access, "at least one-third of such children die before their first birthday, and at least one-half die before their second birthday," Archbishop Migliore said.

He called attention to reports by church-related care providers in Uganda, South Africa, Haiti and Papua New Guinea saying "international donors have instructed them not to enroll new patients into [treatment] programs"; the reports express "concern about further cutbacks," even for those already receiving treatment.

"The global community carries a serious responsibility to offer equitable and continuous access" to these medications, and failure to do so not only will result in untold suffering to individuals and families directly affected by HIV and AIDS, "but also will have grave public health, social and economic consequences for the entire human family," the Vatican ambassador said.

He noted that the church's approach to AIDS prevention involves promoting "respect for the dignity of human nature and for its inherent moral law." People need "more than knowledge, ability, technical competence and tools," he commented.

This, he explained, is the reason the Vatican delegation strongly recommends "that more attention and resources be dedicated to support a value-based approach grounded in the human dimension of sexuality, that is to say, a spiritual and human renewal that leads to a new way of behaving toward others."

Catholic News Service reported June 15 that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during the General Assembly session that the number of people in low-income and middle-income countries receiving antiretroviral treatment had jumped tenfold in five years to 4 million and that HIV infections decreased 17 percent from 2001 to 2008. But he said the epidemic continued to outpace the response

5. Current Quotes to Ponder

Youth Connections: "Jesus was comfortable in his own skin. He had a message that he wanted to share. ... And so I say absolutely that Jesus would tweet. He'd be on TV. He'd be talking on the telephone. He'd be walking the streets. The Internet is not a future reality. It's a present reality and (is) how people communicate spontaneously and constantly." (Father James W. Longe, 35, of the Diocese of Springfield, Mass., quoted in a June 7 Catholic News Service story by Peggy Weber; Father Longe said he recognizes the hazards and difficulties with the new media of communication, but has coined a phrase about church representatives "sanctifying the Web one page and one click at a time.")

What Dialogue Is Not: "A dialogue is not the same as a debate in which there is a winner and a loser. The objective of dialogue is win-win. To enter a dialogue with an intent to beat up an opponent with a 'club of belief' is counterproductive and contrary to the spirit of dialogue, even though what we believe may be true." (From a June 4 speech by Bishop Michael Warfel of Great Falls-Billings, Mont., to the Catholic Common Ground Initiative)

Complexity in Catholic Social Teaching: "Catholic social thought so often includes a both/and designation. It relies on the private sector but also on government as agents of development. It encourages freedom of enterprise and private initiative, and yet calls for safeguards to protect the interests of workers, consumers and the earth. It praises both market and nonmarket mechanisms for allocating resources within the economy." (June 12 comments by professor of economics and theology Daniel Finn of St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., during the Catholic Theological Society Convention in Cleveland)

6. The Economics of Migration

"Economic tools must be used in a way that increases the ability of the poor to escape poverty and not be forced to migrate to other countries," said the 16 bishops from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean who participated in a regional consultation on migration in Washington. Their June 4 statement said, "The factors which compel people to migrate in search of work are primarily, but not solely, economic."

Families in the poorer countries "struggle to meet their most basic needs, and living-wage jobs remain scarce," the bishops said. This means that the "root economic causes of migration must be addressed so that migrants can remain in their home countries and support their families."

The bishops called for a review "of current and proposed trade agreements and agricultural policy in the region," urging an assessment of such factors "in terms of the displacement of small farmers and workers, and subsequent migration." CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, was "touted initially as the key to economic development in the region," but it "has failed to reach those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder," the bishops said.

In addition, international institutions (for example, international lending institutions) "have not adequately addressed the needs of the poor in the region," the bishops stated. Climate change now is "adding another element to the migration phenomenon," they said.

Economic insecurity also provides "fertile breeding grounds" for violence, the bishops pointed out. A "lack of economic opportunity," along with a "lack of a sense of social meaning, especially among younger adults, fuels the resort to underground and illicit activities in many of the countries of the hemisphere." Here, the bishops encouraged efforts to combat "the increasing power of drug smuggling networks."

Human trafficking is yet another factor in the economics of migration, the bishops noted. They said, "Governments and nongovernmental actors must work together to address the economic and social factors that make people vulnerable to trafficking."

Addressing the overall challenges of human migration, the bishops said that "persons on the move should be protected from harm while in transit and welcomed with hospitality, service and justice." The bishops termed it a hemispheric "reality" that "the human dignity of persons on the move continues to be violated by governmental and nongovernmental actors alike."

As migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers "flee poverty, natural disaster, violence or persecution," they "are mistreated and exploited both by government officials and law enforcement officials," said the bishops.

They supported "the right of our governments to ensure the integrity of their borders and the common good of their citizenry." But the bishops said they strongly believe "these goals can be achieved and the rule of law preserved without violating human rights."

7. Back to the Basics: The Pope and the Economy

Hardly a week passes these days that Pope Benedict XVI doesn't speak on the challenges presented to the worlds of finance and government by the global recession. It is safe to conclude he is a major spokesman on the ethics of the economy. The challenge, he suggests repeatedly, is for people working in these fields to reassess and re-understand their most basic goals and guidelines.

"Economy and finance are not ends unto themselves," the pope said June 12 when he addressed members of the Council of Europe Development Bank. Rather, he said, economy and finance are tools whose "exclusive goal is the human being and the complete realization of his dignity." This is "the only capital worth saving," said the pope.

Concern for the development of a greater sense of human "fraternity" ought to motivate the economy and the world of finance, Pope Benedict indicated. But when "efficiency and profit" are envisioned as the "only criteria" to guide the world of finance, it is difficult to incorporate fraternity as a goal, he said.

Pope Benedict asked whether the focus on economic reintegration in Europe after the fall of the communist regimes "left people better off." He said, "The economic and financial exchanges between Eastern and Western Europe have undoubtedly been developed," but he asked, "Has there been real human progress?" He issued this challenge:

"Hasn't the liberation from totalitarian ideologies been used unilaterally for economic development alone, to the detriment of a more human development that respects the dignity and nobility of the human being?"

8. Forecast: Increased Charitable Giving in 2010

Though 2009 and 2008 registered large decreases in charitable giving by individuals and households in the U.S., "2010 may just turn out to be the beginning of good news for fund raisers and charities," according to Paul Schervish, director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Jesuit-run Boston College. Schervish said in late May, however, that "it may not be until 2011 that we see the amount of individual giving returning to its pre-recession 2007 purchasing power."

Senior research associate John Havens said the center's research shows that "individual giving declined in real purchasing power an additional 5 percent in 2009 over and above the 6 percent loss in 2008." Havens indicated that it may be some time before such declines can be reversed. However, "charitable giving in the first two quarters of 2010 seems to be on an uptick," he said.

The Boston College center studies the relationship of spirituality, wealth, philanthropy and other aspects of cultural life at a time of affluence for many. The center holds that a key cultural and spiritual question in the current era is how people "make wise decisions in an age of affluence."

The center reported a total decline of individual giving -- in inflation-adjusted dollars -- of $25.3 billion between 2007 and 2009.

Charitable giving by individuals in 2009 amounted to $217.3 billion, a decline of $11.2 billion or 4.9 percent from the estimated $228.5 billion total in 2008, according to the center's recent report. For 2010, the researchers project that the totals for household giving will range between approximately $222 billion and $227 billion, an increase between 3 and 4.5 percent over the estimated total for 2009, based on patterns seen in the first part of this year.