Debates

Australian couple talk at Synod

By Ron and Mavis Pirola (Sydney, Australia)

Fifty-seven years ago, I looked across a room and saw a beautiful young woman. We came to know each other over time and eventually took the huge step of committing ourselves to each other in marriage. We soon found that living our new life together was extraordinarily complex. Like all marriages, we have had wonderful times together and also times of anger, frustration and tears and the nagging fear of a failed marriage. Yet here we are, 55 years married and still in love. It certainly is a mystery.

That attraction that we first felt and the continued bonding force between us was basically sexual. The little things we did for each other, the telephone calls and love notes, the way we planned our day around each other and the things we shared were outward expressions of our longing to be intimate with each other.

As each of our four children arrived, it was an exhilarating joy for which we still thank the Lord daily. Of course, the complexities of parenting had great rewards and challenges. There were nights when we would lie awake wondering where we had gone wrong.

Our faith in Jesus was important to us. We went to Mass together and looked to the Church for guidance. Occasionally we looked at Church documents but they seemed to be from another planet with difficult language1 and not terribly relevant to our own experiences.

In our life’s journey together, we were primarily influenced through involvement with other married couples and some priests, mainly in lay spirituality movements, particularly Équipes Notre Dame and Worldwide Marriage Encounter.2 The process was one of prayerful listening to each others’ stories and of being accepted and affirmed in the context of Church teaching. There was not much discussion about natural law but for us they were examples of what Pope John Paul would later refer to as one of the Church’s major resources for evangelization.3

Gradually we came to see that the only feature that distinguishes our sacramental relationship from that of any other good Christ-centred relationship is sexual intimacy and that marriage is a sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse. We believe that until married couples come to reverence sexual union as an essential part of their spirituality it is extremely hard to appreciate the beauty of teachings such as those of Humanae Vitae. We need new ways and relatable language to touch peoples’ hearts.

As the Instrumentum laboris suggests, the domestic church has much to offer the wider Church in its evangelizing role.4 For example, the Church constantly faces the tension of upholding the truth while expressing compassion and mercy. Families face this tension all the time.

Take homosexuality as an example. Friends of ours were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home too. They fully believed in the Church’s teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family. Their response could be summed up in three words, ‘He is our son’.

What a model of evangelization for parishes as they respond to similar situations in their neghbourhood! It is a practical example of what the Instrumentum laboris says concerning the Church’s teaching role and its main mission to let the world know of God’s love.5

In our experience, families, the domestic churches, are often the natural models of the open doors for churches of which Gaudium Evangelii speaks.

A divorced friend of ours says that sometimes she doesn’t feel fully accepted in her parish. However, she turns up to Mass regularly and uncomplainingly with her children. For the rest of her parish she should be a model of courage and commitment in the face of adversity. From people like her we learn to recognize that we all carry an element of brokenness in our lives. Appreciating our own brokenness helps enormously to reduce our tendency to be judgemental of others which is such a block for evangelisation.

We know an elderly widow who lives with her only son. He is in his forties and has Down syndrome and schizophrenia. She cares for him inspiringly and her only expressed fear is who will care for him when she is no longer able.

Our lives are touched by many such families. These families have a basic understanding of what the Church teaches. They could always benefit from better teaching and programs. However, more than anything they need to be accompanied on their journey, welcomed, have their stories listened to, and, above all, affirmed.7

The Instrumentum laboris notes that the beauty of human love mirrors the divine love as recorded in biblical tradition in the prophets. But their family lives were chaotic and full of messy dramas. Yes, family life is ‘messy’. But so is parish, which is the ‘family of families’.

The Instrumentum laboris questions how ‘the clergy [could] be better prepared … in … presenting the documents of the Church on marriage and the family’.8 Again, one way could be by learning from the domestic church. As Pope Benedict XVI said, ‘This demands a change in mindset, particularly concerning lay people. They must no longer be viewed as “collaborators” of the clergy but truly recognized as “co-responsible”, for the Church’s being and action’.9 That would also require a major attitudinal change for laity.

We have eight wonderful, unique grandchildren. We pray for them by name daily because daily they are exposed to the distorted messages of modern society, even as they walk down the street to school such messages are on billboards or appear on their smartphones.

A high respect for authority, parental, religious or secular, has long gone. So their parents learn to enter into the lives of their children, to share their values and hopes for them and also to learn from them in turn. This process of entering into the lives of our other persons and learning from them as well as sharing with them is at the heart of evangelization. As Pope Paul VI wrote in Evangelii Nuntiandi, ‘The parents not only communicate the Gospel to their children, but from their children they can themselves receive the same Gospel as deeply lived by them.’10 That has certainly been our experience.

In fact, we resonate with the suggestion of one of our daughters regarding the development of what she calls a nuptial paradigm11 for Christian spirituality, one that applies to all people, whether single, celibate or married but which would make matrimony the starting point for understanding mission. It would have a solid biblical and anthropological basis and would highlight the vocational instinct for generativity and intimacy experienced by each person. It would remind us that each of us is created for relationship12 and that baptism in Christ means belonging to his Body, leading us towards an eternity with God who is a Trinitarian communion of love.

____________________

1 It amazes us that in any pharmacy we can buy tablets in a packet that contains a detailed pamphlet that explains complex scientific aspects of the medicine in simple lay language and which will withstand possible litigation in court. There is an urgent need for a comparable approach to the documents of the Magisterium. A practical example of how this might be done was given by Prof Jane Adolphe at the XXI Genreal Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family (PCF), Oct 23-25, 2013. The PCF’s Charter of the Rights of the Family is a beautiful Church document, complete with extensive Church references. Hence, it is generally viewed as a ‘Church document’ and rarely quoted in secular circles. Prof Adolph has re-drafted the document, making the same points with entirely secular references, thus making it a document likely to be quoted by secular organizations such as the UN and therefore much more likely to be read in the public domain.

2 We were deeply influenced also by contact with, or involvement in, other lay spirituality organizations and movements such as Charismatic Renewal, the Pastoral and Matrimonial Renewal Centre, the Antioch Youth Movement and Focolare.

3 Pope John Paul II, “the family is one of the Church’s most effective agents of evangelisation and not simply the object of the Church’s pastoral care’, 1999, Ecclesia in Asia, 46.

4 Instrumentum laboris, III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization, Vatican City, 2014. No.4. ‘… the Church, in order to fully understand her mystery, looks to the Christian family, which manifests her in a real way.’

5 Instrumentum laboris, III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization, Vatican City, 2014. Preface, para 2. ‘[The Synod] is called to reflect on the path to follow to communicate to everyone the truth about conjugal love and the family and respond to its many challenges (cf. EG, 66). The family is an inexhaustible resource and font of life in the Church’s pastoral activity. Therefore, the primary task of the Church is to proclaim the beauty of the vocation to love which holds great potential for society and the Church.’

6 Pope Francis, 2013, Evangelii Gaudium, 46.

7 When people are affirmed for the good they do, they do it better. Hence the value of St Pope John Paul II’s statement, ‘Family, become what you are!’ (FC, 17).

8 Instrumentum laboris, III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization, Vatican City, 2014. No.12. ‘that the clergy be better prepared and exercise a sense of responsibility in explaining the Word of God and presenting the documents of the Church on marriage and the family.

9 Pope Benedict XVI, 26 May 2009, Address at Rome Diocese pastoral convention on the theme “Church Membership and Pastoral Co-responsibility”, as reported in Zenit, Vatican City, 4 June 2009.

10 Pope Paul VI, 1975, EN 71.

11 Teresa Pirola, ‘Family life in a post-conciliar pastoral agenda’, Aust eJournal of Theology, 2012, 19:2.

12 St Pope John Paul II, Wednesday General Audience, ‘The nuptial meaning of the body’, 8 Jan 1980.

[03008-02.01] [Original text: English]

[B0716-XX.01]

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Debates

Mary in the Catholic Tradition

A response to Pastor Goodfrey Wippon (Sunday Chronicle, 3 Aug 2014, p. 13)

By Fr Giorgio Licini – PNG & SI Catholic Bishops Conference

The New Testament (NT) reflects the life and faith of the early Church. It is a final word about direct revelation, though not the full understanding and/or implementation of it. Direct revelation concluded with the death of the last Apostle, presumably the Apostle John. The books of the New Testament themselves (Gospels, Acts, Letters, Revelation) have different immediate purposes. Each book was written for a different audience, though not written in the order we know of them today. Other books on similar topics were also written at that time, but these books either got lost or were never accepted by the Church as genuinely reflecting the life and message of Jesus. The twenty-seven (27) books, now common to all Christians and accepted as such by the end of the 4thcentury, are indeed recognized as a genuine profession of faith. These books, however, are not to be seen as books of history or as texts providing a definite and comprehensive Christian theology. Rather, they are like a nut or a seed from which the faith and life of the Church grew like a tree over the course of the centuries. The books have to be taken as a whole without necessarily attributing a final and exclusive word of meaning to the individual verses.

SCRIPTURE AND TRADITION

It is necessary to keep all these things in mind in order to properly understand further developments in the Church, for example, the Lord’s Day (Sunday), or the hierarchical organization of the Church, or the role and personality of Mary. In the New Testament we do not find all the details of our Christian practice today. On the other hand, limiting our practice and faith to the New Testament would deprive us of all the goodness and further understanding that flows from it. The New Testament was first of all a living faith and oral teaching before it was set to writing some forty, fifty, or seventy years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Scripture and Tradition are intertwined and impossible to separate.

Concerning Mary some of the books of the New Testament say nothing. Other books, however, teach basic truths and facts: she gave birth to Jesus, she ushered in his ministry at Cana, she accompanied her son in his mission, she was at the foot of the cross with the Apostle John, a pillar of the early Church; and finally she was in the cenacle at the moment the Church was born through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Are all these both historical facts and theological truths? Certainly they are theological truths supported by basic historical facts which we can’t, however, verify with certainty in their details. In other words, we have no other written sources, for example, that talk about Jesus and his mother at Nazareth or Cana or Jerusalem, except some of the books of the New Testament, which bring in the facts for the theological purpose of their narrative and give origin to the uninterrupted Tradition of the Church.

For those who reject Tradition, and following Martin Luther (1483-1586), base their faith on Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) it will be hard to accept the devotion and the understanding that the Catholic Church has achieved and preserved about Mary. It is not, in fact, a matter of religiously checking to see if any declaration about Mary is clearly and openly included in the New Testament, but rather to see how it faithfully developed from it.

THE TRUTHS ABOUT MARY

What is basic, is the relationship between Jesus and his mother. As soon as the Christian Tradition that Jesus of Nazareth is both man and God was clarified in the times of Athanasius (296-373), after heated debate, it was then that Mary, a human creature, emerged more clearly associated with the divine. Jesus is God, so she is the Mother of God. Jesus cannot be separated from the Church, since He is the head of the Church and the Church is his body, so Mary is also mother of the Church, mother of the whole body and not only of its head.

The Catholic Church believes that Mary deserves to be held in high esteem because of her role in God’s plan of salvation for mankind. It is clear in the New Testament that it was because of her faith and servant spirit that the Son of God became man in her (Lk 1:26-38). It is also clear that she was with Jesus, and later with the Apostles, as a mother to them and mother to the ‘new people’ brought forth by Jesus’ death and resurrection (Acts 1:14).

From this starting point Tradition developed, professed and accepted other important theological truths about Mary; for example, her Virginity, her Immaculate Conception, her Assumption into heaven, etc. These truths were first debated, accepted, believed, celebrated, and finally officially declared articles of faith by the Church at different times. The Assumption is the most recent, 1950. The Immaculate Conception was declared in 1854. The Virginity of Mary was already widely supported by the Church Fathers as early as the 4th Century. Several Ecumenical Councils also supported it as early as the 7th Century.   These articles of faith are to be held as divine realities, which transcend and expand their historical and physical dimensions; like the Resurrection of Christ, which is indeed something more and different from simply a corpse coming back to life.

TO JESUS THROUGH MARY

These truths may be more or less relevant to the faith and Christian practice of different peoples in different times and places. Individuals may personally feel more or less inclined to develop a strong devotion to Mary. What is basic, however, is that as Jesus came to us through Mary, so too we can more easily go to him through her.

Mary is not God; her Son is. Mary is not the Redeemer; her Son is. Mary is not to be worshipped and glorified; her Son is. Mary is just the object of infinite gratitude, devotion and intercession for partnering with God, though at her human but privileged level, in giving us the Saviour of the world and helping us have better access to him. The truths about Mary and the Tradition in general do not diminish or betray Scripture, but instead shed on it a light that is brighter and more meaningful. (giorgiolicini@yahoo.com)

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Debates

Rebuilding parishes

The music, the message, the ministers

By Fr. Giorgio Licini

“If you lose your WHY, you also lose your WAY!” That was the starting point of the address given by Fr. Michael White and Mr. Tom Corcoran at the Proclaim 2014 Conference in Sydney on 21-23 August 2014. The theme of the biennial Catholic Australian Church gathering was Living the Joy of the Gospel in Parishes, and the organizers could not have found better key speakers than the two American men from Nativity Parish in Timoniu, Maryland, USA.

The men said, “We began to question ourselves and ask “why” when we realized that we were organizing many activities for our parishioners, but the parishioners were not leaving the parish premises better people than they were when they came in. But it was something specific that happened that really convinced us that things had to change. One night a lady, who attended our Friday family parish dinners together with hundreds of others, came to us complaining about the quality of the ‘free’ food we were providing them just to get them out of their homes and bring them together! That was the moment we realized that we were breeding customers/consumers, always demanding improved services, and not children of God. We asked ourselves “Why are we doing this?”  And so Fr. Michael and Tom, a layman, father of seven, with a passion for parish work, decided to leave their “comfort-zone” and go in search of the un-Churched of their neighbourhood, which actually included the majority of the residents of the area for which Fr. Michael was pastorally responsible in Timoniu.

“TIM” OF TIMONIU

The average resident of Timoniu was given a name; they called him “Tim.” Fr Michael and Tom described him as follows. “Tim” is a family man who lives well beyond his means. He is drowning in debts and hence his marriage is shaky. He does have a job, but this does not mean he likes it. He is very busy and stressed out. His kids study in different schools and he has to drop them off in haste every morning. The little free time that he has he spends at the golf course when the weather is good. When the weather is not good he finds some indoor activity as an alternative. The last thing that occurs to “Tim” on Sunday morning is to go to Church, though he was baptized, confirmed and went for Sunday school when he was young. But of course, according to him, he has reasons not to go back to the parish: the liturgy is boring, nobody really cares, the kids are hard to control and they threaten to deprive him of any possibility of listening and praying. Nevertheless, according to Fr. Michael and Tom, the weekend is the only chance for them to get hold of “Tim.” “People are not available during the week nowadays. You have to get “Tim” on Sunday”, they say.

And so by focusing on the Sunday Eucharist and the three key elements of music, message and ministers, these two Catholic leaders, Fr. Michael and Tom, were able to almost triple Sunday Mass attendance at the Parish of the Nativity. They went from 1400 to 4000 people in the pews!

THE MUSIC, THE MESSAGE AND THE MINISTERS

Music, said Fr. Michael and Tom, is a tool which connects with a higher sphere and eventually the divine.   “Tim” needs it because his life is lost in petty material and routine concerns and activities. The same is true for his wife and children. The music ministry in parishes is sometimes in the hands of people who have fewer skills than they realize they don’t have. The parish priest, said Fr Michael, needs to have the courage to take it out of their hands and appoint people who are better gifted by God.

“Tim” will continue coming back to the parish if he also receives a word of encouragement and direction. True, the Word of God proclaimed in the Scripture is indeed the primary source of inspiration at Mass, but “Tim” needs a good homily in order to grasp and apply the message to his personal life as well as to that of his family. The sermon, therefore, has to be focused, clear, concrete, well prepared and wonderfully delivered. With this in mind, “Tim” and “Jake” and “Philip” and “George” with their families will not skip Church the following Sunday unless their car breaks down at the last minute. Slowly they will also start joining other activities, groups and ministries in their new found Church community.

SENSE OF BELONGINGNESS

“Times when we opened the doors of the church and waited for people to come forth are long gone,” said Fr. Michael White. “You need to invite the people. You also need to make them feel warmly welcome”. The “welcome” begins in the car park where there must be parish volunteers when the families arrive. And at the doors of the church, where volunteers usher people in and help them find proper space for themselves and their kids. Then, too, the consecrated ministers, the priests, need indeed to be dignified and capable of warm relationships.

“Not only did attendance in our parish almost triple,” said Tom Corcoran at the Sydney Conference, “but likewise participation in volunteer work, works of charity and other ministries.” At the end of day it means helping members move from a status of consumers to that of contributors, from a passive to an active presence in the parish community. You want people who not only avail themselves of services, but also rejuvenate their lives in the faith.”  

Do any of these observations made by Fr. Michael White apply to PNG parishes – car park aside – as they are for “Tim” and the USA parishes?   Our PNG music and dances are among the best in the world, but what about our homilies and the welcoming attitude of our servants: church lay leaders and priests? What about our concern (or lack of it!) for those who never show up at the door steps of our churches? Let’s not fail to get our own “Michael” and “Kevin” and “Peter” and “John” to Church on Sunday with their families!

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Debates

Compulsory education now!

By Fr John Glynn – WeCare! Foundation

Dear Catholic Reporter,

Thanks for the August issue, which I received in PDF format. Thanks also for publishing my article on the front page and several other articles regarding the protection of children in Papua New Guinea. I’d like to make a few comments.

First: The cartoon from the Post Courier is supposedly of me, but in fact is more like Franciscan Fr Jude Ronayne-Ford who is now down in Australia after years of dedicated service especially to HIV/AIDS sufferers and their children. Since he left us I have accepted responsibility for helping a few of the kids he was looking after.

POLICE TO MONITOR FAMILIES

Second: The problem of children’s rights. We have good laws, and there is plenty of awareness of the problem around, but sadly the protocols, or the machinery, for making the laws work is just not there.
For example, one Fr Jude’s AIDS orphans that I have been helping is a young girl called G. She has been living with her extended family and they allowed her to continue her schooling after Fr Jude left. I have been paying her school fees, buying her uniforms, shoes, etc. This year she was in Grade 8 at Eki Vaki Primary school and I promised to get her into my school, Jubilee Secondary, next year if she did well in her exams. When I returned from overseas recently I found that G was no longer in school. She has been taken out and is being kept at home to care for a sick relative. Her education is finished. The family is no longer in Hohola – I don’t know where they have moved to.
When a child stops coming to school like this there is no follow-up from the school. There may be a half-hearted attempt to contact the family, but if there is no success then the child is forgotten. There should be a report made to Social Services, and if necessary to the Police. The family should be found and made to answer for the child’s removal from school. But this simply does not happen. It is as if nobody cares! As if it is thought that talking about the problem is enough – publishing pamphlets, articles in the paper, workshops, ‘awareness’ programs, and so on.
I am supporting four other children like G in three different schools. The one boy has a corner in a hut in a settlement where he sleeps. There is no running water, no electricity, no toilet, he has no family and must find a few kina every fortnight to pay for his bed. Fortunately, he is in Grade 12 and has the promise of a job as soon as his exams are finished. Two of the girls have no families either and I am supporting them in a hostel for young women run by Sisters. The third girl is in a private school and lives with her mother who is a very sick woman and desperately poor with no other family support.

SCHOOLS CRUEL WITH POOR STUDENTS

Two of the girls have suffered from very poor eyesight – and one also is partially deaf – for years! They never complained as they knew there was no help for them, and their teachers in the schools they attended never discovered their disabilities because our schools do not concern themselves with such matters.
The schools these young people attend make no allowances for them. They are compelled to pay ‘project fees’ and to take part in fund-raising for the school, and to somehow acquire textbooks and other school materials, sports clothes, etc. And they are sometimes threatened with punishment – even suspension – if they don’t comply.
I feel very cynical about all the talk about children’s rights. Children who do not belong to a strong, supportive, loving family are severely penalised by our schools and by everybody else too. The awareness programs we run should be aimed, not at families, but at our schools, Government Departments, Church Communities, and at anybody who has to deal with children. These are the areas in which the worst discrimination against vulnerable children takes place.

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Debates

On mass contraception

7 August 2014. Today’s Catholic Reporter PNG print (an insert of the Wantok niuspepa) carries an article of bishop Rolando Santos CM of Alotau in response to Prof. Mola’s remarks on The National of 4 June 2014, p. 44. Here is the full text:

By Bishop Rolando Santos CM – Alotau

The article of PNG gynecologist Prof. Glen Mola in The National a couple of months ago (Doctor responds to bishops – June 4, p. 44) and other similar approaches contain a series of considerations which are only partially substantiated. However, it affords us the opportunity to clarify further the Catholic position and teaching on contraceptives, particularly the use of the hormone implant. We certainly share Prof. Mola’s concern for providing the best possible health conditions for mother and child. We are all aware of the hardships poor people face in remote areas and burgeoning cities. We know that Papua New Guinea is too wide a terrain and too rough to ensure quality of services to a population whose number is insignificant compared to other countries, but which poses a real concern in our particular situation.

NOT ONLY FOR DOCTORS

We differ, however, in the way we understand and address the problems. We believe that medical discipline itself does not hold all the solutions. It needs the support of education and economics, politics and ethics, sociology and the wisdom which comes from religious beliefs, particularly the Christian tradition. The recent “Ensuring human rights in the provision of contraceptive information and services”, by the World Health Organization (March 2014) seems to rely only on the medical field of expertise and is a questionable approach. It misses the broader horizon and prevents one from reaching a fair and lasting solution to the problem. The opinion of some “pro-choice” Catholics cannot either be the basis for argumentation against the position of the Catholic Church. These so-called Catholics subvert what the Catholic Church teaches and should not call their position Catholic. There are many more Catholics who uphold the Church’s position, like Human Life International, which is the largest Pro-Life organization in the world.

THE ORDER OF NATURE

Let me first clearly reiterate that based on stringent ethical considerations we consider human life a gift of God, and therefore, sacred and inviolable. Human life is not to be unnecessarily manipulated or exploited by man or science to satisfy one’s utopian or self-serving ends irrespective of God’s plan. This is not to under-estimate the value of medicine or science. We believe that these serve the good of man and the good of humanity whenever they respect and serve the plan of the Creator. Whatever is done by medicine or science to heal, promote and save life is always considered a good because it is consistent with the plan of God who wants us to care for the whole of creation. On the other hand, whatever is done by science that goes against life and unnecessarily tampers and arbitrarily changes the physical and biological laws of nature is always immoral. It is for this reason that the Church considers the use of artificial contraception and abortion as objectively immoral. Contraceptives prevent the natural and beautiful process of conception from happening and treat it as though it were an aberration or a disease. Every act of sexual intercourse should be open to life because this is its natural purpose as ordained by God. To do otherwise is to go against the plan of God and to play God to satisfy one’s selfish ends.

Intentional abortion is always an evil and a more serious one because it violates and kills human life itself which is the summit of creation, and an ultimate value which science and medicine are called to serve. The use of contraceptives, such as the implant, is equally objectively wrong. Contraceptives are different from heart surgeries. Heart surgeries are done to facilitate and promote the health which God intends for man. Contraceptives, on the other hand, are done to contravene and frustrate what God intends for the human body. Contraception and abortion regard a biological process that is beautiful and sacred as though it were a cancer that harms the human person. The opposite is true. We should be careful with tampering and changing the laws which God has placed in the human body. Unnecessarily tampering with the laws of nature can have its own undesirable side effects and can prove detrimental to the over-all health of the recipient, especially that of the woman and society in general.

RESPONSIBLE PARENTHOOD

While the Church maintains that every act of sexual intercourse should be open to life and done only within the context of married love, the Church is not impervious to the fact that it can be a burden for couples and society to have too many children which they are incapable of raising. In this situation, the Church calls for responsible parenthood. This demands first of all that husband and wife understand and respect the biological laws of their bodies. This calls for self-mastery which is the ability to dominate one’s sexual instincts and passions with the use of one’s reason and will. For this reason moral education is a must for responsible parenthood to happen. If for a serious reason and with due respect for the moral law, a couple deems it appropriate to avoid for the time being, or even for an indeterminate period, a new birth, then, as Paul VI said in Humanae Vitae: “they must conform their activity to the creative intention of God, expressed in the very nature of marriage and of its acts.” In this case, the only moral way to proceed is through sexual abstinence, or the use of the natural method of family planning which respects the laws of God and nature.

RESPONSIBLE GOVERNANCE

In many or all of our Catholic Agency Health Centres in the Diocese of Alotau, there have been few, if any, maternal and/or child mortalities. Our observation is that if pregnant mothers are given the proper education and care prior to childbirth, and if we have sufficient health care centres, then childbearing can be a safe and dignified process that promotes the plan of the Creator and the good of humanity. We also believe that aside from responsible parenthood, there is also need for responsible governance. It is the task of government to serve its people and not to attack its own people. Government should do its best to provide the people with proper livelihood, education and health care. This is not always that easy and there is always the temptation to do a short cut which may be practical, but injures the dignity of the human person. Government cannot just use whatever means to achieve its ends. The end does not justify the means. Both the end and the means should also be morally good and right in the eyes of God. They should be consistent with the laws of the Creator and the law of Christ who came that “we may have life and have it more abundantly.” (30 June, 2014)

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Debates

Sabbath or Sunday?

By Fr Giorgio Licini

“Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (John 20,1). This sentence and other similar ones (“the first day after the Sabbath”) in the New Testament explain the origin of Sunday. It was, in fact, on the first day after the Sabbath that the tomb of Jesus was found empty and that He was seen alive first by a few women and then by a number of his disciples on different occasions.

There is evidence in the New Testament that Peter, the leader of the Apostles, and the other Christians of Jewish origin, continued to go to the Temple and observed many of the traditions they had been brought up in. They probably also kept the Sabbath. In the Letters of Saint Paul, however, and elsewhere, we have mention of the communities gathering for prayer and the breaking of bread late at night that same day up to daybreak at the hour of the Resurrection of the Lord.

As soon as the new Christian converts came less and less from the Jewish people and more from the Romans, the Greeks and other smaller ethnic groups around the Mediterranean coast, the Jewish traditions lost their appeal and significance.

Gradually, the Sabbath was abandoned as a day of worship in favor of “the first day after the Sabbath” which came to be called in Latin “dies dominica”, literally “The Lord’s Day”, because of his Resurrection. In the modern languages of Southern Europe such as Italian, French and Spanish the name is still the same (domenica, dimanche, domingo). German and English instead have adopted the ancient Egyptian style of naming the days after the planets. But actually it is not surprising that the “Lord’s Day” has been attributed the name of the largest and most luminous of the planets, the sun.

“Some religious organizations (e.g. Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-Day Baptists, and certain others) claim that Christians must not worship on Sunday, but rather on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. They claim that at some unnamed time after the apostolic age, the Church “changed” the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. However, passages of Scripture such as Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2, Colossians 2:16-17, and Revelation 1:10 indicate that, even during New Testament times, the Sabbath was no longer binding and that Christians were to worship instead on the Lord’s day, on Sunday.” (catholic.com/tracts/sabbath-or-sunday)

The Christian Sunday, therefore, is rooted in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which took place on “the first day of the week.” The early communities made it a habit to gather on that day for the sharing of the Word of God, the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the collection for the poor as we see in the passages mentioned above. Down the centuries the Sunday has completely replaced the Sabbath, becoming also the day of rest, community service and works of charity. The Sabbath faded among Christians like other Jewish religious traditions such as the circumcision and their traditional festivities; while the Passover was given a completely new meaning with the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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Debates

Religious respect and sincerity

Dear Catholic Reporter,

Today on Kundu TV we had 60 minutes of sustained Seventh Day Adventists (SDA) attack on the Catholic Church over the Sabbath, including gross misrepresentations, distortion of facts, quotations of obscure people as if they were spokesmen for the Church and all taken out of context. The upshot was that our national broadcaster depicted the Catholic Church explicitly as the Antichrist!
I think we should complain to Kundu TV and ask for some sort of right to present our own view, which would of course be much more charitable than theirs.

Abp. Douglas Young – Mt. Hagen – 22 June 2014

This may be the first time it happens on media, but not in the schools or in the streets. Some of the other Christian denominations attack the way we honor Our Lady, the way we pray the Our Father and the Rosary, and the way we go to Church on Sunday.

In the past as a student at De La Salle Secondary School I heard them say strange things like, ”the Pope is the leader of the so called 666 gang;” or “gladiators are hiding under the Vatican in Rome to be let out in the last days to force people to have the mark of the beast on their heads.” I really can’t understand where they get all this false and absurd information.

I think it’s about time someone tells them to just preach the truth of the Gospel and not vilify other Churches that never talk against them.

Nigel Uaiz – Port Moresby – 6 July 2014

I am not surprised to hear of this, especially from the Seventh Day Adventists (SDA) as well as from some new “apostolic churches’ which question important components of the Catholic faith such as the Virgin Mary, the Holy Eucharist and so forth.

Our Church leaders tell us to forgive and pray for such people, but they don’t refrain from spoiling the Catholic Church and the Pope. I am doing my final year university research titled, “Is social media a tool for evangelization in PNG?”. As part of my study I joined several Facebook evangelical groups. I find all of them correct in their relationship with other churches, except for the SDAs. In one post and following comments, for example, they strongly attacked Pope Francis for underlining the importance of Sunday for Catholics in one of his visits to Southern Italy.

Why did Kundu 2, the so-called Nation’s voice, allow such a show to be televised? We are a Christian nation. Are we all forgetting about our Christian values and putting money first? I pray that all these people come to their senses, stop wasting time talking against other churches and start praying for forgiveness for their own souls, as all Christians should be doing.

Immaculate Foimae – Alotau – 8 July 2014

I am not against any Church or their doctrines, but we should not consider our Church traditions and doctrines as more important than Jesus Christ and drive people away from God’s truth. Jesus preached only one message that is the Kingdom of God and not an organized religion. Christ is not a president or a prime minister. He is a king. Time for religious politics is over.

Edwuard Mase – Madang – 10 July 2014

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