Explaining Pope Francis, fighting the culture of death, and mourning the loss of a great Catholic writer.
When Pope Francisspoke out against the “trickle-down economy” last fall, people like Rush Limbaugh went ballistic. Now, a Vatican cardinal has explained that the Pope is not condemning capitalism but the problems of the market economy.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace spoke to Zenit news service at the conclusion of a Vatican seminar on “The Global Common Good: Towards a More Inclusive Economy,” July 12.
“Although economists will recognize or probably say that the market is the agent of capitalism, it is rather the market [Pope Francis] addresses, said Cardinal Turkson, who is from Ghana. “What the Pope is talking about is not that the market should add Christian values to its ideology; what he is talking about is in a basic anthropological sense, in the sense of a human person who in Creation, right from the book of Genesis, was created to be the center of Creation. Now when something else replaces, or displaces, or moves us from the center, then we are bound to become a servant or serve whatever has replaced it, in this center state. And if, in this case, it is the market or finance then something has gone awry.”
The cardinal said that other people agree with the Pope on this principle, including President Barack Obama. “Last fall whenEvangelii Gaudium came out President Obama was one of those who referred to it, in his speech to the Congress,” he said. “In 2009, in his inauguration speech, President Obama had made observations similar to this—about a market which needs to serve the person, and his last words to congress were (paraphrasing) that if the U.S. with all its endowments cannot help the poor get out of poverty, then it is failing a lot of people.”
Vietnammay be getting its first Catholic university, according to a report in La Stampa’s Vatican Insider. Archbishop Paul Bui Van Doc of Ho Chi Minh City says the building could be ready within a year.
The archbishop noted that more and more universities and private campuses run by Asian, Australian and European entities and universities have been popping up since 2001, so “why should the Catholic Church in Vietnam be deprived of this right? Particularly given the shortcomings in the national education system, which are evident from the figures on Vietnamese education.”
Archbishop Bui Van Doc said he expects the new university to receive pontifical status from the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education.
It’s been debated for some time whether homosexuals make up something like 10 percent of the U.S. population or much less. It seems that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have settled the issue.
About 2.3 percent of the U.S. population identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, the Centers reported Tuesday in the first large-scale government survey measuring Americans’ sexual orientation.
The Washington Post reported on the National Health Interview Survey, which is the government’s premier tool for annually assessing Americans’ health and behaviors. It found that an overwhelming majority of adults, 96.6 percent, labeled themselves as heterosexual in the 2013 survey, 1.6 percent of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent consider themselves bisexual.
An additional 1.1 percent declined to answer, responded “I don’t know the answer” or said they were “something else.”
Much of the rest of this column this week deals with news out of Great Britain. We reported this week that Anglicans around the world have been accepting of a number of important changes. Those in Australia have altered the age-old prohibition of clergymen speaking about what they heard during a private confession, and the General Synod of the Church of England has voted to allow
The former head of the Church of England, George Carey, is open to another change–this one in civil law: allowing patients who are terminally ill to obtain medications that will hasten their death.
But his successor as Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has joined with Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, and the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain and other spiritual leaders to oppose the “Assisted Dying Bill” that came before Parliament this week.
“While we may have come to the position of opposing this bill from different religious perspectives, we are agreed that the Assisted Dying Bill invites the prospect of an erosion of carefully tuned values and practices that are essential for the future development of a society that respects and cares for all," they said in a joint statement to Members of the House of Lords.
The Guardian reported this afternoon that the House of Lords is split down the middle on the bill.
More and more is being written about the anguish of people who find out that they might never know who their real parents are—not because they were adopted, but because they were conceived with “anonymous” gametes. Usually, it’s a case of IVF using anonymously donated sperm.
The British Daily Mail this week has given us an inside look at the plight of one young woman, who has grown up wondering whether she will ever meet her real parents.
“Knowing that the two people I love most don’t look like me and that I am not biologically related to them has been really tough,” said Gracie Crane, one of the first children in Britain conceived from a donor embryo. She was born in 1998 — seven years before amendments were made to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act allowing children born through donor conception to trace their genetic parents. So she has no right to find out who her biological parents are.
“I would like to be a mother one day so I can finally have someone I’m genetically related to, but if I can’t have children naturally I would never have one through donor conception,” she said. “I wouldn’t put anybody else through what I’ve been through."
Another British daily, The Express, said that some members of Parliament had expressed shock upon learning of several very late term abortions, under rules permitting the procedure when there is a “significant risk” the child will be disabled.
The paper quoted “shocked MPs” calling for a change to Britain’s ‘medieval and cruel’ abortion laws “after a termination was carried out on a baby only days before it was due to be born.”
Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-life Group, was quoted as saying, “I do not understand how we can have a law which allows the life of a baby with a disability to be ended at full term. It is a graphic illustration of society’s inconsistency on disability.” Labour MP Rob Flello added: “We have a Jekyll and Hyde approach to disability. One one hand the entire country can be united in praise of paralympians. On the other we can permit the abortion of children at nine months simply for the crime of having a disability.
But no one in the article suggests how the law should be changed and whether they would be more comfortable with a law permitting abortion when there is a significant risk of disability is detected much earlier in pregnancy.
The article noted that last year a parliamentary commission called for change in the law after hearing rules even allowed abortions at 40 weeks on grounds of disability. The commission learned that abortions can be carried out on babies with a cleft lip or club foot, conditions that can be rectified after birth. “One doctor reported that on some occasions a wrong diagnosis had been given and the dead foetus was found to have no disability,” the article concluded.
If you are Catholic and you are concerned about the increasing pressures of the “culture of death” on healthcare–the difficulty of finding an NFP-only ob-gyn, for example, or the inability to find an insurance plan where your premiums won’t be contributing to morally objectionable procedures–a service appeared that offers some help.
WellCatholic is a new website that tries to link Catholic patients with doctors who uphold Catholic values in their health practices across all medical disciplines. It was founded by Greg Bottaro, a psychologist in New York City, who said that with Catholic healthcare providers, "There’s an integration between our faith and our professional life as a health-care provider, where we treat the person differently from the start."
But it’s a work in progress. To check it out, I put in my zip code to see what doctors I as a Catholic might feel reasonably comfortable going to. Even choosing the “All Specialties” option, the closest doctor at this point is 373 miles from me.
So Bottaro is hoping that faithful Catholics will help him identify faithful Catholic practitioners and help him grow his list.
Finally, Catholic writers and intellectuals are mourning the death Thursday of Stratford Caldecott, the G.K. Chesterton Research Fellow at St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford.
Blogger Kathy Schiffer wrote about his contributions and an unusual tribute he received during his final months. Caldecott was an author, served on the editorial board of the International Theological Journal Communio, and was co-editor for Magnificat UK. He and his wife, Leonie, ran Second Spring Oxford, which among other things offers a Summer School in Oxford for overseas students in association with The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire, and through the same college publishes an illustrated Catholic journal of faith and culture called Second Spring, which is dedicated to the search for truth, goodness, and beauty.
When the English edition of Aleteia invited him to become a member of its board of experts in April 2013, Caldecott responded by email, “I would be honored to do so.” In a subsequent email, he wrote, “I hope all goes well with this important project.”
We offer our prayers for the repose of his soul and our condolences to his family.
John Burger is news editor for the English edition of Aleteia.org.