‘Timely Issues’ Blog
Welcome to the inaugural post for “Timely Issues,” the Today’s Catholic blog. As the title implies, a major purpose of this blog will be to provide news and information in a bit of a more timely fashion than is possible through the every-other-week production cycle of the archdiocesan paper. Some breaking news, such as this week’s United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meeting in Baltimore Nov. 16-18, right, is generating quite a buzz in secular communications circles, and this format serves to provide a quick, truly Catholic channel for understanding this news through the eyes of faith. Three main areas from the gathering are examined below, with more to follow.
Despite the concern voiced by some bishops about the document’s pastoral tone and content, the USCCB approved a pastoral letter on marriage Nov. 17.
Nearly 100 changes in two rounds of amendments preceded the 180-45 vote in favor of “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.”
A key change made in the letter during the amendment process was the rewriting of language describing both cohabitation and contraception as “intrinsically evil.”
Instead, it calls contraceptive practices “objectively wrong” and “essentially opposed to God’s plan for marriage and proper human development.”
The document encourages the use of natural family planning, which the bishops say promotes “an attitude of respect and wonder … and fosters the true intimacy that only such respect can bring.”
In place of a section that said living together without marriage “is intrinsically evil and thus always diminishes the capacity for love,” the amended document quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church in saying, “Cohabitation ‘involves the serious sin of fornication. It does not conform to God’s plan for marriage and is always wrong and objectively sinful.’”
The pastoral letter also names divorce and same-sex unions as two other “fundamental challenges to the nature and purpose of marriage.”
The bishops say divorce conflicts with “God’s plan for marriage,” but the bishops added that in some cases, “divorce may be the only solution to a morally unacceptable situation, such as when the safety of a spouse or children is at risk.”
They also encourage those who have divorced and remarried civilly to “participate in parish life and attend the Sunday Eucharist, even though they cannot ordinarily receive holy Communion.”
The moves to legally recognize same-sex unions pose “a multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society, striking at the source from which society and culture come and which they are meant to serve,” the bishops say.
To oppose the legal recognition of same-sex unions is not discriminatory nor a matter of fairness, they say.
The bishops approved the English translation and U.S. adaptations of five final sections of the Roman Missal in voting on the second day of their assembly.
There was some debate on the floor about a separate piece of the translations — the antiphons — which has not come to the bishops for consideration, but instead has advanced through the Vatican’s approval procedures without the consultation of the English-language bishops’ conferences around the world.
But the final five sections of the missal before the bishops passed with minimal discussion and only a handful of proposed amendments to the texts.
During the bishops’ spring meeting in San Antonio, Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, this summer warned the bishops that if they failed to approve the texts by the end of November, they risked being shut out of the process by the Vatican.
The translations approved Nov. 17 will, like the previously approved sections, be compiled into a new missal for use in English-speaking countries. Bishop Serratelli said while the Vatican approval process moves along, dioceses will begin preparing to use the new missal translation when it is ready.
To help both priests and the laity prepare for the changes, the USCCB has posted catechetical materials at www.usccb.org/romanmissal.
Among the changes people will notice in the new translation is a rephrasing in the Nicene Creed. It will read, in part: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, … begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.”
That section of the Nicene Creed currently reads: “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, … begotten not made, one in being with the Father.”
In the “Ecce Agnus Dei,” (“Behold the Lamb of God”) the people will say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Currently, they say: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
The 15-page document, “Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology,” received overwhelming approval Nov. 17.
The bishops reject the use of eggs or sperm from “donors” — whom the document says are often paid and should instead be called “vendors” — as well as surrogate motherhood, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and human cloning.
The bishops express strong support for adoption, calling it “a wonderful way to build a family,” but do not endorse the concept of “embryo adoption,” in which a frozen embryo that would otherwise be discarded is implanted into a woman willing to give birth to and raise the child.
“Serious moral concerns have been raised about embryo adoption, particularly as it requires the wife in the adopting couple to receive into her womb an embryonic child who was not conceived through her bodily union with her husband,” the document says.
“The terrible plight of abandoned frozen embryos underscores the need for our society to end practices such as IVF that regularly produce so many ‘spare’ or unwanted human beings,” it adds.