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July 5, 1998

THE WORLD SEEN FROM ROME:

(selected reports from the Zenit Weekly Report)

RELATIVISM IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH DEMOCRACY: John Paul II to U.S. Bishops From Arkansas, Texas & Oklahoma

THE FUTURE OF CHRISTIANITY DEPENDS UPON FIDELITY TO ITS MESSAGE: New Papal Document Provides Judicial Support for Fidelity to Magisterium

FEATURES

CHRISTIANS ARRESTED IN SAUDI ARABIA FOR POSSESSING BIBLE. Previous "Offenders" Have Been Tortured And Decapitated

CHIAPAS: DIFFERENCE OF OPINIONS ON ROLE OF BISHOP RUIZ. Interview With Card. Sandoval of Guadalajara Sparks Heated Debate

INTERVIEW

YOU CAN'T PLAY AROUND OR EXPERIMENT WITH FAITH. Exclusive Interview With Rino Fisichella, Professor of the Gregorian University

VATICAN DOCUMENTS

HOLY FATHER TO BISHOPS FROM TEXAS, OKLAHOMA AND ARKANSAS. Ad limina visit, Vatican City, June 27, 1998

THE WEEK IN REVIEW. People, Events, and Comments.

Nuclear Testing: Pride or Threat?

Pope Announces Theme for 1998 World Peace Day

Summit On Aid To Ex-Soviet Republics

Corruption Is A Main Cause of Poverty

Fujimori's Government Violates Human Rights

"In Vietnam, We Only Live On Hope".



DOSSIER

RELATIVISM IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH DEMOCRACY TOP

John Paul II to U.S. Bishops From Arkansas, Texas & Oklahoma

VATICAN CITY, JUN 27(ZENIT) - During their final joint meeting with John Paul II today, Bishops from Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas were challenged by the Holy Father to make a "personal commitment to effective episcopal leadership in the new evangelization." In particular, the Pope chose to reflect on the Bishops' role as "teachers of moral truth and witnesses to the moral law."

The Pope's opening reflection centered on contemporary moral relativism, which often takes the form of "skepticism regarding the very existence of 'moral truth' and an objective moral law." Knowledgeable of America's past and present, John Paul ventured to affirm that different forms of relativism are "commonplace in many of your country's academic, political, and legal structures." He then went on to ask: "How should we define this crisis of moral culture?" And, formulating a reply, the Pope touched on the ideas of conscience, freedom, democracy and the intrinsic value of the human person.

Conscience: Capacity to Chose and Live Wisely

In discussing the role of conscience within the overall context of morality, the Pope sustained that often "culturally powerful forces insist that the rights of conscience are violated by the very idea that there exists a moral law inscribed in our humanity, which we can come to know by reflecting on our nature and our actions, and which lays certain obligations upon us because we recognize them as universally true and binding." But, on the other hand, John Paul also pointed out that, while the notion of freedom as personal autonomy is superficially attractive -endorsed by intellectuals, the media, legislatures, and the courts- at the same time, it must necessarily lead to the "breakdown of civil society, and a public life in which the only actors of consequence are the autonomous individual and the state. This, as the twentieth century ought to have taught us, is a sure prescription for tyranny."

Delving still deeper, the Holy Father recognized that "at its roots, the contemporary crisis of moral culture is a crisis of understanding of the nature of the human person." He charged the Bishops to "remind people that the greatness of human beings is founded precisely in their being creatures of a loving God," and further clarified that, "the nobility of men and women lies, not simply in the capacity to choose, but in the capacity to choose wisely and to live according to the choice of what is good." The Pope did not refrain from criticizing erroneous interpretations of freedom of conscience: "The dignity of conscience is demeaned when it is suggested -as the defenders of radical individual autonomy claim- that conscience is a wholly independent, exclusively personal capacity to determine what constitutes good and evil," and insisted that "consciences must be formed."

When this is not done, the Pope warned, "instead of being that holy place where God reveals to us our true good, [conscience] becomes a force which is destructive of our true humanity and of all our relationships."

Democracy: Incompatible With Moral Relativism

Afterwards, the Pope turned his attention to what constitutes democracy and Catholics' role in a democratic society. "Democracy," he explained, "depends not only on its institutions, but to an even greater extent on the spirit which inspires and permeates its procedures for legislating, administering, and judging." "The future of democracy," he continued, "depends on a culture capable of forming men and women who are prepared to defend certain truths and values. It is imperiled when politics and law are sundered from any connection to the moral law written on the human heart."

Drawing from his previous comments on a widespread cultural crisis, the Pope stated frankly that "a climate of moral relativism is incompatible with democracy," and concluded, " If moral truths cannot be publicly acknowledged as such, democracy is impossible." He rejected the view of "rights" as something independent of moral law or as a mere affirmation of personal, even arbitrary beliefs. "Our intrinsic dignity and inalienable fundamental rights," he asserted, "are not the result of social convention: they precede all social conventions and provide the norms that determine their validity." He also emphasized the need for moral and religious values in all democracies by adding: "A society or culture which wishes to survive cannot declare the spiritual

dimension of the human person to be irrelevant to public life." Moreover, he declared that "American Catholics, in common with other Christians and all believers, have a responsibility to ensure that the mystery of God and the truth about humanity that is revealed in the mystery of God are not banished from public life."

Time Of Crisis Is Time Of Opportunity... And Danger

The Holy Father also made specific reference to the institutional contribution of the Catholic Church in society and the Bishops' role in guiding that social presence. "It is her duty to ... teach, ... to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origin in human nature itself," he said. John Paul exhorted the leaders of the Church in America "to teach that freedom of conscience is never freedom from the truth but always and only freedom in the truth." He went on to offer a very concrete example of this principle. "When the Church teaches, for example, that abortion, sterilization or euthanasia are always morally inadmissible," he explained, "she is giving expression to the universal moral law inscribed on the human heart, and is therefore teaching something which is binding on everyone's conscience. Her absolute prohibition that such procedures be carried out in Catholic health care facilities is simply an act of fidelity to God's law. As Bishops you must remind everyone involved - hospital administrations and medical personnel - that any failure to comply with this prohibition is both a grievous sin and a source of scandal." John Paul II concluded his encounter by reminding the Bishops that "a time of 'crisis' is a time of opportunity as well as a time of danger," and he recommended that they assist the faithful by focusing their attention "on the extremely serious moral choices before them," knowing that through their own episcopal leadership they will have made a personal contribution to the new evangelization, as well as helping " to bring about that renewal of moral goodness, solidarity and genuine freedom which the United States and the world urgently need."

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THE FUTURE OF CHRISTIANITY DEPENDS UPON FIDELITY TO ITS MESSAGE

New Papal Document Provides Judicial Support for Fidelity to Magisterium TOP

VATICAN CITY, JUN 25 (ZENIT) - How do you guarantee the right of seminarians and students of pontifical universities in Washington, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Jakarta, as well as other Catholic institutions of higher education, to learn the faith professed by the universal Church?

This is a crucial question for the future of Catholicism. If every Catholic seminary, college or university is allowed to manipulate or change what is part of the nucleus of Catholicism, then the identity of Christianity itself is at risk.

Currently, all professors of philosophy and theology in Catholic seminaries and ecclesiastical faculties are required to pronounce a profession of faith and an oath in which they promise to teach in accordance with the Magisterium of the Church. Canon Law also stipulates penalties for those who do not keep their promise, including removal from their teaching position.

A Juridical Loophole

Of course, while certain truths are declared solemnly by the Church as defined dogma and are to be defended and taught under all circumstances, other definitive teachings exist which are crucial to the Catholic creed and cannot be dismissed, ignored or denied without causing serious damage to the full "Deposit of Faith." This later group of teachings did not fall under the canonical scope of the original oath and profession of faith.

To protect present and future generations from receiving an altered or truncated faith that does not fully correspond to what is held by the universal Church, John Paul II has just published a new Apostolic Letter entitled "Ad Tuendam Fidem" [To Defend the Faith].

The title, as with all papal documents, is taken from the opening words in its original Latin form and the purpose of the letter is clear from the outset. "To defend the faith [Ad Tuendam Fidem] of the Catholic Church against errors that have arisen among certain parts of the faithful, especially those dedicated to the study of sacred theology...," it reads.

An attached explanatory note published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gives a few examples of what some of these truths might be. Without attempting to give an exhaustive list, it mentions, for example, the teaching that priestly ordination is reserved exclusively for men, defined by John Paul II in 1994 as a "doctrine that should be held as definitive."

Another example is the immorality of euthanasia, taught as definitive doctrine in the encyclical "Evangelium Vitae." Other teachings to be held as definitive teaching of the Church are the illicitness of prostitution and fornication, both condemned in #2,353 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

According to # 833 of the Code of Canon Law, those obliged to pronounce the Profession of Faith and Oath include: cardinals, bishops, vicar generals, episcopal vicars, pastors, deans and professors of philosophy and theology in seminaries, directors and teachers of subjects related with faith and morals in ecclesiastical universities, as well as superiors of religious institutes and clerical communities of apostolic life.

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FEATURES

CHRISTIANS ARRESTED IN SAUDI ARABIA FOR POSSESSING BIBLE

Previous "Offenders" Have Been Tortured And Decapitated TOP

RIAD, JUL 3 (ZENIT) - Four lay Filipinos and a Dutchman have been jailed in the Saudi Arabian capital accused of possessing Bibles and spreading the Gospel. A bleak future awaits them. For "Crimes" of this nature the Saudi penal code even contemplates the death penalty.

The notice was originally published by the Vatican news agency FIDES and has been confirmed by the Philippine Episcopal Conference. Another Philippine citizen, Pedro Aguilar, managed to escape arrest as he had returned to his native country and while there, his wife warned him not to return to Saudi Arabia.

According to another information agency, the "Ecumenical Press News Service," the number of people arrested has risen to seven. June 6 saw the arrest of two Filipinos who formed part of a Gospel awareness project in Riyadh. On June 13 the police arrested the Dutchman Wilm Den Hartog and another two Filipinos. Two days later, another Filipino, Yolai Aguilar, Pedro's wife who was nine months pregnant, suffered the same fate.

According to Christian leaders quoted by the "Evangelical Press," the five most recent detentions were prompted by the first two, seeming to suggest that the first Christians arrested had undergone torture to force them to reveal the names of others associated with the evangelization project. "The homes of the detained have all been searched and their computer data bases confiscated," the agency explained.

All religions except Islam are forbidden in Saudi Arabia, where their practice is considered a sacrilege on holy ground. No one may possess Bibles or other "religious articles", nor hold religious services, not even within the confines of foreign embassies. Christians found practicing within the country are subject to two to six months imprisonment, whereas conversion from Islam to Christianity is punished with the death penalty.

The Catholics arrested in June are not the first. The FIDES bulletin also recalls the case of Donnie Lama, arrested in October of 1995 for being considered a disseminator of the Catholic faith and freed two years later. Lama, jailed in the Al Malaz prison in Riyadh, suffered physical and psychological abuse and constant pressure to convert to Islam. Two of her colleagues were beheaded. Only after a strong international pressure campaign against the ruling government, was she eventually released.

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CHIAPAS: DIFFERENCE OF OPINIONS ON ROLE OF BISHOP RUIZ TOP

Interview With Card. Sandoval of Guadalajara Sparks Heated Debate

SAN CRISTOBAL [MEXICO], JUN 30 (ZENIT) - "What were the main factors that have provoked the dramatic situation in Chiapas and which have enveloped the local church there?" This was the question that the Italian magazine "30 Giorni" put to Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, Archbishop of Guadalajara. He enumerated several factors until arriving to, in his opinion, the main one: "the role of Bishop Samuel Ruiz."

Few would disagree that Bishop Ruiz has long been one of the central figures in the Chiapas conflict from the outset but, agreement on exactly what his role has been is not as easily ascertained. This difference of opinion about the methodology and timeliness of his involvement has only increased after his recent resignation from the National Mediation Commission (CONAI), which was created to head negotiations between the Mexican government and representatives of the rebel Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). His resignation came shortly after seven foreign priests working in the diocese were accused of instigating peasants to armed revolt and providing them with weapons, and expelled from the country.

In recent declarations to the Mexican press, the Archbishops of Guadalajara, Yucatán, Puebla and the Bishop of Ecatepec pointed out that the CONAI "was never an official ecclesial organism, but a political institution created by Bishop Ruiz himself." With his own characteristic frankness, Card. Sandoval affirmed in the magazine interview that "the Bishop of San Cristobal [Ruiz] has an orientation that upholds Liberation Theology with a dialectical vision of oppressor-oppressed, rich-poor, abuser-abused, which determines the creation of two parts in opposition, division." According to the Cardinal it's enough to take a look at the results that this pastoral orientation has brought about: "The churches are closed because of the presence of sects. In the diocese in conflict, between 35 and 40 percent of the population is no longer Catholic; they belong to the sects. To use the dichotomy of Bishop Ruiz, the oppressors (landowners) favor the sects; the Catholic Church is on the side of the oppressed, the poor, the natives."

The Archbishop of Guadalajara makes it clear that, in spite of differences of opinion regarding pastoral responses to the pressing needs of their dioceses, the prevailing spirit among the Bishops of Mexico is one of unity and solidarity. "On occasions," he explained, "we might not be in agreement with all the options and pastoral and social orientations of the Bishop of San Cristobal, but unity always remains, it is never broken. We have often supported Chiapas, even in our prayers." At the same time, Card. Sandoval never displaces the preferential option for the poor, declared by the Catholic Church on several occasions. He simply distances himself from any Marxist interpretation of the Gospel.

"Here among us, and in general in Latin America, the church is with the poor. The elite of Latin America, ever since independence from Spain, have always embraced liberalism and have inherited the mentality of the French Revolution; that liberal mentality that has always been systematically opposed to the church. In this context, the church has necessarily become the church of the poor. While Card. Sandoval's remarks were made within the overall context of unity and collaboration, others' reactions to Bishop Ruiz's resignation were much more aggressive and direct, setting off a heated debate pro and contra of his person and actions on the front pages of all the major Mexican newspapers and magazines.

On a recent trip to the state of Chiapas, current Mexican president, Ernesto Zedillo, even made a reference in public to what he called "theologians of violence" who sow fear and rebellion among the population, which many interpreted as a vaguely veiled reference to Bishop Ruiz and the priests and religious in his diocese.

For his own part and, many would argue, in an effort to calm the nerves of both sides of the debate, the papal Nuncio to Mexico, Bishop Justo Mullor, acknowledged that "Like anyone else, [Bishop Ruiz] can make mistakes by using forceful language to denounce extreme situations. If, on certain occasions, he may have lacked the gift of tongues, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit; others have lacked the gift of intelligence, which is also a gift of the Holy Spirit, upon commenting or interpreting his words."

According to Mullor, "in Chiapas, the strength of reason and the dignity of the human person must ultimately triumph," and he concluded, "never the mere strength of armed conflict."

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INTERVIEW

YOU CAN'T PLAY AROUND OR EXPERIMENT WITH FAITH TOP

Exclusive Interview With Rino Fisichella, Professor of the Gregorian University

ROME, JUL 3 (ZENIT) - The recent publication of the Apostolic Letter "Ad Tuendam Fidem" [To Defend the Faith] has provoked a lively debate among intellectuals in the Catholic Church. These new norms that Pope John Paul II has added to the Code of Canon Law brings to the fore the already heated discussion about the role of faith in the midst of a society where relativism rules. A confrontation that takes on even greater importance in the light of the future publication of a new encyclical, now in preparation and, according to Vatican sources, could be made public as early as next October, that will deal precisely with the relationship between reason and faith.

In an effort to better understand the elements of this debate, ZENIT has interviewed Rino Fisichella, professor of Fundamental Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome and vice-president of the Theological Commission for the Jubilee.

ZENIT - What is the significance of the publication of this Apostolic Letter and what difference will it make to the faithful?

FISICHELLA - This document of the Holy Father is intended to keep others from manipulating the faith of the people of God with teachings that are not in accordance with the doctrine of the faith. For this reason, the document is directed, first of all to those in charge of communicating and teaching the contents of the faith, that is, bishops, those in positions of responsibility within the Church and to theologians, called to teach the science of God.

Even before, these people already declared a profession of faith upon accepting their position. Nevertheless, with this document the declaration is made even more explicit with three specific formulas. The first affirms the truths of revealed faith and what the faithful's attitude should be

toward them. The second formula contains truths that have been expressed in a definitive manner by the Church and the third deals with the contents that make up those truths which the Church is still reflecting upon.

ZENIT - Could you give us an example?

FISICHELLA - First, it refers to all those contents that are explicitly present in Sacred Scripture and in the Tradition of the Church. For example, that Christ instituted the Eucharist, that there are seven sacraments, that Jesus is the Son of God, that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the second part, the novelty consists in pointing out that there are truths that have always been taught by the Church, contained in the word of God and in Tradition, and that in a given moment the Church feels the need to clarify them for the faithful. These are truths that should be held as definitive. These truths are not subject to the circumstances of certain epochs or the interpretation of theologians, but are truths recognized definitively by the Church and belong to the content of revelation. From this follows the perpetual condemnation of euthanasia, ordinations reserved only to men, etc. The third point refers to the common and ordinary teaching of the Pope and effects all that is taught by the Church.

ZENIT - So, what changes are there for teachers and professors of theology?

FISICHELLA - From now on, professors and theologians must consider two reflections. Above all, they should realize that the faith of the people of God cannot be subjected to the personal interpretations of each individual, since it's necessary to conserve the content of the faith. You can't run the risk of inducing the faithful who read our textbooks into error with the simple justification of personal investigation.

The second reflection affects the ecclesial nature of theology. As the document states in the conclusion, theology is by nature ecclesial. The theologian has to investigate in harmony with the faith of the people and of the Church. Theology becomes science in the moment it assumes its ecclesial character.

ZENIT - Some critics claim that the document reduces the possibility of theological investigation.

FISICHELLA - On the contrary. This document in no way limits the theologian's liberty. It simply demands that he be faithful to his science, it invites him to be scientifically rigorous, to be authentic in the content of doctrine. In a few words, it demands from the theologian that he avoid treating the content of faith as if it were his own possession that he can interpret, based on his own personal idea of theology. The theologian is called, above all, to be faithful, knowing that one of the sources of his investigation is found in the Magisterium of the Church.

ZENIT - Some talk about an enormous change for professors and pastors.

FISICHELLA - Whoever talks about enormous change is mistaken, given that this profession of faith has existed since 1989. The moral norms that it refers to have always been taught by the Church. The fact that the Church condemns forms or structures of sin such as euthanasia is nothing new.

The Code [of Canon Law] explains the canonical sanctions that are incurred by those who do not accept these three kinds of truths of the Church. The first is the profession of theological faith, and whoever does not share it is heretical. The second affects those who don't accept truths taught by the Church as definitive. It's necessary to point out that a definitive truth is contained in Sacred Scripture and in Tradition, even though it hasn't been solemnly proclaimed by the Magisterium. I'm aware of the objections by those who think that what hasn't been proclaimed infallibly isn't definitive. Some theologians believe that, when the Pope doesn't make an infallible proclamation, that doctrine could change in the future. But this is really a wrong interpretation of the action of the Magisterium and, therefore, of the content of faith.

ZENIT - Some have said that this decision of the Pope could cause problems in the dialogue with other Christian churches.

FISICHELLA - Personally, I feel that the more we know about the contents of faith, there will be less ambiguities and dialogue can advance more easily, since we can better take into consideration the contents of which we must dialogue.

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VATICAN DOCUMENTS

HOLY FATHER TO BISHOPS FROM TEXAS, OKLAHOMA AND ARKANSAS

Vatican City, June 27, 1998 TOP

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. I warmly welcome you, the Pastors of the Church in the States of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, on the occasion of your ad Limina visit. In my meetings so far this year with the United States Bishops, we have considered some principal aspects of the new evangelization called for by the Second Vatican Council, the great event of grace by which the Holy Spirit has prepared the Church to enter the Third Christian Millennium. One essential part of this task is the proclamation of moral truth and its application to the personal lives of Christians and to their involvement in the world. Therefore, I wish to reflect with you today on your episcopal ministry as teachers of moral truth and witnesses to the moral law.

In every age, men and women need to hear Christ the Good Shepherd calling them to faith and conversion of life (cf. Mk 1:15). As shepherds of souls, you must be Christ's voice today, encouraging your people to rediscover "the beauty of truth, the liberating force of God's love, and the value of unconditional fidelity to all the demands of the Lord's law, even in the most difficult situations" (Veritatis Splendor, 107). The question posed by the rich young man in the Gospel - "Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?" (Mt. 19:16) - is a perennial human question. It is asked in one form or another, explicitly or implicitly, by every human being in every culture and at every moment in the drama of history. Christ's answer to that question - to follow him in doing the will of his Father - is the key to the fullness of life which he promises. Obedience to God's commandments, far from alienating us from our humanity, is the pathway to genuine liberation and the source of true happiness.

In this year of preparation for the Great Jubilee dedicated to the Holy Spirit, let us remember that our efforts to preach the Good News and teach the moral truth about the human person are sustained by the Spirit, who is the principal agent in the Church's mission (cf. Evangelium Nuntiandi, 64).

It is the Holy Spirit who "brings about the flourishing of Christian moral life and the witness of holiness amid the great variety of vocations, gifts, responsibilities, conditions and life situations" (Veritatis Splendor, 108). In your Dioceses and parishes, I urge you to make a special effort this year to increase awareness of the powerful activity of the Spirit in the world, for it is through his grace that we experience a "radical personal and social renewal capable of ensuring justice, solidarity, honesty and openness" (Veritatis Splendor, 98).

2. Given the circumstances of contemporary culture, your episcopal ministry is especially challenging, and the situation which you face as teachers of moral truth is complex. Your parishes are filled with Catholics eager to lead responsible lives as spouses, parents, citizens, workers, and professionals. These men and women, whom you meet daily in the course of your pastoral mission, know that they should live morally upright lives, but often they find it difficult to explain exactly what this implies. This difficulty reflects another side of contemporary culture: the skepticism regarding the very existence of "moral truth" and an objective moral law.

This attitude is quite prevalent in the cultural institutions that influence public opinion, and, it must be said, is commonplace in many of your country's academic, political and legal structures. In this situation, those who try to live according to the moral law often feel pressured by forces which contradict the things they know in their hearts to be true. And those responsible for teaching moral truth may feel as if their task is virtually impossible, given the power of those external cultural pressures.

There have been similar moments in the course of the Church's two- thousand-year history. Yet today's cultural crisis has distinctive characteristics that give your task as moral teachers a real urgency. This urgency touches both the transmission of the moral truth contained in the Gospel and the Magisterium of the Church, and the future of society as a free and democratic way of life.

How should we define this crisis of moral culture? We can glimpse its first phase in what Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk: "In this century [conscience] has been superseded by a counterfeit, which the eighteen centuries prior to it never heard of, and could not have mistaken for it, if they had. It is the right of self- will". What was true in Newman's 19th century is even truer today.

Culturally powerful forces insist that the rights of conscience are violated by the very idea that there exists a moral law inscribed in our humanity, which we can come to know by reflecting on our nature and our actions, and which lays certain obligations upon us because we recognize them as universally true and binding. This, it is frequently said, is an abrogation of freedom. But what is the concept of "freedom" at work here?

Is freedom merely an assertion of my will - "I should be permitted to do this because I choose to do it"? Or is freedom the right to do what I ought to do, to adhere freely to what is good and true (cf. Homily at Baltimore, October 8, 1995)?

The notion of freedom as personal autonomy is superficially attractive; endorsed by intellectuals, the media, legislatures, and the courts, it becomes a powerful cultural force. Yet it ultimately destroys the personal good of individuals and the common good of society. Freedom-as-autonomy, by its single-minded focus on the autonomous will of the individual as the sole organizing principle of public life, dissolves the bonds of obligation between men and women, parents and children, the strong and the weak, majorities and minorities. The result is the breakdown of civil society, and a public life in which the only actors of consequence are the autonomous individual and the state. This, as the twentieth century ought to have taught us, is a sure prescription for tyranny.

3. At its roots, the contemporary crisis of moral culture is a crisis of understanding of the nature of the human person. As pastors and teachers of the Church of Christ, you remind people that the greatness of human beings is founded precisely in their being creatures of a loving God, who gave them the capacity to know the good and to choose it, and who sent his Son to be the final and unsurpassable witness to the truth about the human condition: "In Christ and through Christ, God has revealed himself fully to mankind and has definitively drawn close to it; at the same time, in Christ and through Christ man has acquired full awareness of his dignity, of the heights to which he is raised, of the surpassing worth of his own humanity, and of the meaning of his existence" (Redemptor Hominis, 11). In Christ, we know that "the good of the person lies in being in the Truth and doing the Truth" (Address to the International Congress of Moral Theology, April 10, 1986, No. 1).

In this Christian anthropology, the nobility of men and women lies, not simply in the capacity to choose, but in the capacity to choose wisely and to live according to that choice of what is good. In all of visible creation, only the human person chooses reflectively. Only the human person can discern between good and evil, and give reasons justifying that discernment. Only human beings can make sacrifices for what is good and true. That is why, throughout Christian history, the martyr remains the paradigm of discipleship: for the martyr lives out the relationship between truth, freedom, and goodness in the most radical way.

By teaching the moral truth about the human person and witnessing to the moral law inscribed on the human heart, the Bishops of the Church are defending and promoting not arbitrary claims made by the Church but essential truths, and therefore the good of individuals and the common good of society.

4. If the dignity of the human person as a moral agent rests on the capacity to know and choose what is truly good, then the question of conscience comes into clearer focus. Respect for the rights of conscience is deeply ingrained in your national culture, which was formed in part by emigrants who came to the New World to vindicate their religious and moral convictions in the face of persecution. American society's historic admiration for men and women of conscience is the ground on which you can teach the truth about conscience today.

The Church honors conscience as the "sanctuary" of the human person: here, men and women are "alone with God," whose voice echoes in the depths of their hearts, summoning them to love good and avoid evil (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 16). Conscience is that inner place where "man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience" (ibid.). This being the case, the dignity of conscience is demeaned when it is suggested, as the defenders of radical individual autonomy claim, that conscience is a wholly independent, exclusively personal capacity to determine what constitutes good and evil (cf. Dominum et Vivificantem, 43).

Everyone must act in accordance with conscience. But conscience is neither absolutely independent nor infallible in its judgments; if it were, conscience would be reduced to the mere assertion of personal will. Thus it is precisely a defense of the dignity of conscience and of the human person to teach that consciences must be formed, so that they can discern what actually does or does not correspond to the "eternal, objective and universal divine law" which human intelligence is capable of discovering in the order of being (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, 3; Veritatis Splendor, 60).

Because of the nature of conscience, the admonition always to follow it must immediately be followed by the question of whether what our conscience is telling us is true or not. If we fail to make this necessary clarification, conscience - instead of being that holy place where God reveals to us our true good - becomes a force which is destructive of our true humanity and of all our relationships (cf. General Audience, August 17, 1983, No. 3).

As Bishops you have to teach that freedom of conscience is never freedom from the truth but always and only freedom in the truth. This understanding of conscience and its relationship to freedom should clarify certain aspects of the question of dissent from Church teaching. By the will of Christ himself and the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, the Church is preserved in the truth and "it is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that truth which is Christ himself, and to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origin in human nature itself" (Dignitatis Humanae, 14).

When the Church teaches, for example, that abortion, sterilization or euthanasia are always morally inadmissible, she is giving expression to the universal moral law inscribed on the human heart, and is therefore teaching something which is binding on everyone's conscience. Her absolute prohibition that such procedures be carried out in Catholic health care facilities is simply an act of fidelity to God's law.

As Bishops you must remind everyone involved - hospital administrations and medical personnel - that any failure to comply with this prohibition is both a grevious sin and a source of scandal (For sterilizations cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Quaecumque sterilizatio, March 13, 1975, AAS [1976] 738-740). This and other such instances are not, it must be emphasized, the imposition of an external set of criteria in violation of human freedom. Rather, the Church's teaching of moral truth "brings to light the truths which [conscience] ought already to possess" (Veritatis Splendor, 64), and it is these truths which make us free in the deepest meaning of human freedom and give our humanity its genuine nobility.

Almost two thousand years ago, Saint Paul urged us "not be conformed to this world" but to live the true freedom that is obedience to the will of God (Rom 12:2). In teaching the truth about conscience and its intrinsic relationship to moral truth, you will be challenging one of the great forces in the modern world. But at the same time, you will be doing the modern world a great service, for you will be reminding it of the only foundation capable of sustaining a culture of freedom: what the Founders of your nation called "self- evident" truths.

5. From this perspective, it should be clear that the Church addresses issues of public life not for political reasons but as a servant of the truth about the human person, a defender of human dignity and a promoter of human freedom. A society or culture which wishes to survive cannot declare the spiritual dimension of the human person to be irrelevant to public life. Cultures develop as ways of dealing with the most profound experiences of human existence: love, birth, friendship, work, death. Each of these experiences raises, in its unique way, the question of God: "at the heart of every culture lies the attitude man takes to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God" (Centesimus Annus, 24). American Catholics, in common with other Christians and all believers, have a responsibility to ensure that the mystery of God and the truth about humanity that is revealed in the mystery of God are not banished from public life.

This is especially important for democratic societies, since one of the truths contained in the mystery of our creation by God is that the human person must be "the origin, the subject and the purpose of all social institutions" (Gaudium et Spes, 25). Our intrinsic dignity and inalienable fundamental rights are not the result of social convention: they precede all social conventions and provide the norms that determine their validity.

The history of the twentieth century is a grim warning of the evils that result when human beings are reduced to the status of objects to be manipulated by the powerful for selfish gain or for ideological reasons. In proclaiming the truth that God has given men and women an inestimable dignity and inalienable rights from the moment of conception, you are helping to rebuild the moral foundations of a genuine culture of freedom, capable of sustaining institutions of self-governance that serve the common good.

6. It is a tribute to the Church and to the openness of American society that so many Catholics in the United States are involved in political life. As pastors and teachers, your responsibility to Catholic public officials is to remind them of the heritage of reflection on the moral law, on society, on democracy, which they ought to bring to their office.

Your country prides itself on being a realized democracy, but democracy is itself a moral adventure, a continuing test of a people's capacity to govern themselves in ways that serve the common good and the good of individual citizens. The survival of a particular democracy depends not only on its institutions, but to an even greater extent on the spirit which inspires and permeates its procedures for legislating, administering, and judging. The future of democracy in fact depends on a culture capable of forming men and women who are prepared to defend certain truths and values. It is imperiled when politics and law are sundered from any connection to the moral law written on the human heart.

If there is no objective standard to help adjudicate between different conceptions of the personal and common good, then democratic politics is reduced to a raw contest for power. If constitutional and statutory law are not held accountable to the objective moral law, the first casualties are justice and equity, for they become matters of personal opinion. Catholics in public life render a particularly important service to society when they defend objective moral norms as "the unshakable foundation and solid guarantee of a just and peaceful human coexistence, and hence of genuine democracy", for it is through our common obligation to these moral norms that we come to know, and can defend, the equality of all citizens, "who possess common rights and duties" (Veritatis Splendor, 96).

A climate of moral relativism is incompatible with democracy. That kind of culture cannot answer questions fundamental to a democratic political community: "Why should I regard my fellow citizen as my equal?"; "Why should I defend someone else's rights?"; "Why should I work for the common good?" If moral truths cannot be publicly acknowledged as such, democracy is impossible (cf. Veritatis Splendor, 101). Thus I wish to encourage you to continue to speak out clearly and effectively about the fundamental moral questions facing people today. The interest with which many of your documents have been received throughout society is an indication that you are providing much needed guidance when you remind everyone, and especially Catholic citizens and Catholic political leaders, of the essential bond between freedom and truth.

7. Dear Brother Bishops, a time of "crisis" is a time of opportunity as well as a time of danger. That is certainly true of the crisis of moral culture in the developed world today. The call of the Second Vatican Council to the People of God to witness to the truth about the human person amidst the joy and hope, grief and pain of the contemporary world is a call to all of us for a personal commitment to effective episcopal leadership in the new evangelization. By focusing the attention of the faithful and all your fellow citizens on the extremely serious moral choices before them, you will help to bring about that renewal of moral goodness, solidarity and genuine freedom which the United States and the world urgently need. Entrusting your ministry, and the priests, religious, and laity of your Dioceses to the protection of Mary, Patroness of the United States under the great title of her Immaculate Conception, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

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THE WEEK IN REVIEW

People, Events, and Comments

NUCLEAR TESTING: PRIDE OR THREAT? TOP

NEW DELHI, JUL 1 (ZENIT) - The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) has centered its attention on the danger the nuclear arms race represents, and has asked for immediate and total disarmament which should come about through international democratic debate, in spite of the Government's excitement and optimism: "Now that the Nuclear Arms race in Southeast Asia is a reality, it is necessary to urgently restore reciprocal trust between the countries of the region, especially between India and Pakistan in order to dissipate the atmosphere of tension and confrontation. With the presence of weapons capable of massive destruction, and the danger of long range missiles with nuclear warheads, it is necessary to dissolve the tension by means of mutual discussions." The Conference considers that peace and security are inseparable. Nuclear energy should be used for ameliorating the quality of life, not for destroying it.

POPE ANNOUNCES THEME FOR 1999 WORLD PEACE DAY TOP

VATICAN CITY, JUL 2 (ZENIT) - The Holy See Press Office has announced that "Human Rights" will be the theme for the 31st World Day of Peace to be held on January 1, 1999. The official title assigned by John Paul II is: "The secret to true peace lies in respect for human rights." As the world prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Vatican wants to underscore that respect for human rights is a prerequisite for peace. "Peace is not imposed, but rather issues from the heart of every person, of every human community, and tends towards what is good for all," the Press Office stated.

Last year Amnesty International reported atrocities and violations of rights by governments and armed groups in 141 countries around the world. Many victims were tortured, kidnapped, held as political prisoners, or executed without a trial. The report also stated that 35,000 persons perish daily on account of malnutrition; 1.3 billion struggle to survive on a dollar-a-day wage; and 1.5 billion adults are unable to read or write.

The press release reminds us: "In today's world, how many people, prisoners of conflicts and oppression, aspire to have their dignity and cultural identity recognized; how many individuals just want to be able to fully participate in the life of the society to which they belong; how many abused children don't even know that they have rights!" "Unfortunately," the document continues, "we witness renewed forms of discrimination based on religion, a phenomenon that deeply jeopardizes the possibility for peoples to peacefully live together."

SUMMIT ON AID TO EX-SOVIET REPUBLICS TOP

VATICAN CITY, JUL 2 (ZENIT) - From July 2 to 5, a summit on aid to ex-Soviet republics was held at the Vatican to discuss the activities of Catholic charities in the region. Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, President of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," a Vatican committee for the coordination and encouragement for aid to the Church throughout the world, pointed out the grave social situation in those areas, and said that Catholics ought to respond with "a coordinated commitment to the assistance of the elderly, the formation of the youth, attention for drug-addicts, and counseling for abandoned children." Attending the meeting are bishops and Church leaders from recently created ecclesiastical provinces of Eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet Republics, Church representatives from Western countries, and members of Catholic charities organizations who have contributed to the efforts of the local communities to get back on their feet after decades of persecution and marginalization. Delegates from several Vatican departments and charities are also present at the meeting.

Archbishop Cordes is convinced that "the charitable activity in countries in which the Church's presence is relatively limited constitutes one of the greatest possibilities to show a concrete sign of God's love for those who suffer. Moreover, these activities tend to stimulate in persons the capacity to assume direct responsibility for their own material, moral, individual, and community development."



CORRUPTION IS A MAIN CAUSE OF POVERTY TOP

TEGUCIGALPA, JUL 2 (ZENIT) - "Corruption is a cancer that is hurting our people, and we Latin Americans have to eradicate this plague in order to recover from the underdevelopment that is overwhelming us," said Archbishop Oscar Andrés Rodríguez, President of the Latin American Bishops' Conference (CELAM), during a three-day meeting for examining the causes at the basis of poverty on the continent. Archbishop Rodríguez affirmed that "only by rooting out corruption will Latin Americans prosper and enjoy better living conditions."

Fifteen bishops and representatives from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the InterAmerican Development Bank, among others, attended the encounter entitled "The Development of Latin America: An Agenda For The Third Millennium." The President of the Economic Committee for CELAM, Emilio Carlos Berlié, Archbishop of Yucatan (Mexico), affirmed during the meeting that if the Berlin wall fell, so could poverty in Latin America. He considered that "improving the economy is Latin America's great challenge, to reach development, not for development sake, but for solidarity."

Archbishop Rodríguez expressed hope that "this forum will be useful to the Catholic Church in the hemisphere to get industrialized countries to reactivate growth in Latin America... and to ask Latin American countries to evaluate the internal causes which have contributed to increasing the external debt, estimated around $600 billion.

FUJIMORI'S GOVERNMENT VIOLATES HUMAN RIGHTS TOP

ROME, JUL 3 (ZENIT) - In an interview published by the monthly Italian journal "Jesus" both Cardinal Augusto Vargas, Archbishop of Lima and Gustavo Gutiérrez, known as the Father of Liberation Theology, denounced the sterilization programs imposed by the Fujimori Government. The main point which separates the Church and the Government is the type of family planning the majority of the poor and helpless part of the population has to undergo. A program which mainly consists in permanent sterilization. "I have known of 51 cases of sterilization in which 12 women have died because of the operation," the Cardinal said. He also stated that "people can't be put under pressure and obliged to be sterilized. Natural family planning should be used to control the birth rate, not the brutal form of family planning being used today. By the way, there is no problem of overpopulation in Peru." In fact, Peru only has 10 percent of the demographical density registered in European countries. Gustavo Gutiérrez , on his part, declared that justice also means right to life and that forced sterilization goes against the fundamental rights of the human person.

"IN VIETNAM, WE ONLY LIVE ON HOPE" TOP

ROME, JUL 3 (ZENIT).- Bishop Jean-Baptiste Pham Min Man, 64, the new Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh (once called Saigon) comments on the previous difficult five years in which the See was vacant due to the communist regime. His main worry is the fact that the faithful have closed themselves in. "I want our Christians to think more about others, especially about those who are not Catholic. It is the mission of love and service to which Christians are called." Even though the Diocese is very active helping those in need, they have carried out this service in a hidden form, for fear of the government. There has been a ray of light. The Prime Minister, Phan Van Khai has acknowledged the importance of religion for solving some of Vietnam's social problems such as drugs and prostitution. The President of the Popular Commission, Vo Viet Thanh has also asked the Catholic Church's cooperation. Nevertheless, General Le Kha Phieu, Secretary General of the Communist Party has stated that "religions should not suffer bias, but they must still be controlled." The possibility of establishing diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the Vatican are being considered. Archishop Pham concluded commenting the fact that "in the West you live the faith among wealth, working, writing, publishing. We don't have any of that. We only live on hope. Help us by giving us more information and books, especially on the social doctrine of the Church."

ZW980705-9

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