Saturday, May 31, 2008

Special Interests in the Public Square, More

On the occasion of de Tocqueville’s 200th birthday in 2005 many articles speculated about what the country he so loved would look like then to his sophisticated eye.

Alexis de Tocqueville was a French aristocrat who came to this country to write a study of the American prison system, which he did, and he became so enamored of its social and political life that he also wrote one of the best books ever written about our country, Democracy in America, and I would highly recommend the 2000 translation by H. C. Mansfield and D. Winthrop.

One aspect of out country now that would trouble him, and it is one Michael Novak wrote about in 2005, is the change in the association or nonprofit organization, as a voluntary speaking out of the people for their particular interests, to the state sponsored organizations, properly called nongovernmental organizations or NGO’s.

These organizations work from the smallest local government to the largest international one and while appearing to be a voluntary association are often staffed, directed and funded by the particular government that wishes to see its interests represented; and at the very best represent an insidious perversion of the very purpose the voluntary association was originally envisioned, to provide the individual an organized platform to speak out and protect oneself against the organized power of the state.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Special Interests in the Public Square

One of the significant aspects of our democracy that gives virtually every organized group the ability to have impact on the public policy that can shape the life they live, is the freedom to assemble and organize and speak out for your particular interest; whether it be international policy or model airplanes.

Count Alexis De Tocqueville came to America in the early 1800’s, met with many of the founders and wrote one of the most perceptive books ever written about America. Here is but a small part of what he said about voluntary associations—those nonprofits which represent the largest group of special interests.

“Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fetes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools. Finally, if it is a question of bringing to light a truth or developing a sentiment with the support of a great example, they associate. Everywhere that, at the head of a new undertaking, you see the government in France and a great lord in England, count on it that you will perceive an association in the United States.

“I have since traveled through England, from which the Americans took some of their laws and many of their usages, and it appeared to me that there they were very far from making as constant and as skilled a use of association.

“It often happens that the English execute very great things in isolation, whereas there is scarcely an undertaking so small that Americans do not unite for it. It is evident that the former consider association as a powerful means of action; but the latter seem to see in it the sole means they have of acting.

“Thus the most democratic country on earth is found to be, above all, the one where men in our day have most perfected the art of pursuing the object of their common desires in common and have applied this new science to the most objects. Does this result from an accident or could it be that there in fact exists a necessary relation between associations and equality?”

(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 2000 translation by H. C. Mansfield and D. Winthrop. pp. 489-490)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Iraq, Vietnam & The Church

Many national public leaders, including John McCain, who speak about completing the job we’ve begun in Iraq to bring democracy to the Middle East, and freedom to its people; compare the horrible results of what happened in Vietnam because we didn’t finish the job we went there to do to what would happen in Iraq if we left early.

This post from Chiesa about the struggles of the Catholic faithful to be allowed to practice their religion in Vietnam, is one stark reminder (regarding religious freedom, a core principle of individual freedom) of what happened to that unfortunate country once we left in 1975.

One result was the confiscation of all Catholic Church property in South Vietnam—it had already been confiscated in North Vietnam during the 1950’s—which Vietnamese Catholics are now demonstrating, peacefully, in the streets to have returned to the Church.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Knowing God

In this time of commencement speeches, here is one from First Things that is truly beautiful and is certainly a reminder of one of the first things the newly minted graduates of a Catholic university need to remember; that Catholics are all, because of our baptism, called to the greatest calling of all; that of helping the world know—though often appearing unknowable—God, creator of all, and of our Church first.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Spinning the Pope

One thing that is very common with the institutional Catholic response to what the pope says—at least I have found it so from the US response—is to spin it as if the pope has supported your position and while this is clearly how politics operates and how much of the Church operates, it is not how it should operate.

Though the pope often speaks very compassionately about issues, he also speaks clearly and though careful attention ahs to be paid to the entirety of what he says, we Catholics are right to expect our institutional Church to expend that effort, but as George Weigel shows, some of them, in Catholic education circles, apparently will not.

This is an issue that also resonated around the first (1992) and second (1997) edition of the Catechism concerning capital punishment.

The first edition continued the clear traditional support of the Church for it while the second was quite a bit more subtle, though still continuing the traditional support.

The US institutional Church though, utilized this subtle change in words—which the Vatican official in charge, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, stated signaled no doctrinal change—to continue their attempt, still continuing, to change the doctrine.

Supreme Court Justice Scalia put this effort into very tidy context in First Things during the discussion.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Amy & Fr. Hardon

Here are a couple more Catholic blogs I visit regularly and sometimes post on.

Amy Welborn is a published author, mother, great student of the Church, and has one of the most widely read Catholic blogs out there; really well worth your interest. Amy is the ultimate Catholic blogger, keeping so many of us informed and in touch with the Catholic world through her work and global network of fellow Catholics.

Fr. Hardon—for those of you not familiar with him—was an incredible catechist, and Archbishop Raymond Burke, archbishop of St. Louis (the archdiocese that had one of the largest group of priestly ordinations this year, 112), has been appointed to take charge of the Cause for Canonization of Fr. Hardon.

The home for Fr. Hardon’s catechetical materials is Eternal Life, an apostolate for which Archbishop Burke, along with Father Roger Arnsparger of the diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, serve as spiritual directors.

The Real Presence is a website that has archived many of the writings of Fr. Hardon.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Benedict & the Press

It is heartening to see the good press that Pope Benedict has gotten, given the negativity that hovered around at the start of his papacy; but it is no surprise to those who have known him for some time or those who have been fortunate to have been reading his work, whether books, article or reports from the CDF.

He is a sweetly gentle soul, with steel inside, and I think he will become one of our greatest popes, and it is truly a wonder that we can have two such in one lifetime.

He is also a great theologian, and his encyclicals and his many books are providing the type of catechesis sorely needed in a Church struggling with the burden of relativism, sexual scandals, and a confused bureacracy, particulalry in the United States.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Catholic Blogs

There are many blogs portraying the beauty and wisdom of the Catholic Church and faith, but two I am particularly fond of, for their apostolate of visualization with only enough words to bring the images some context if needed, are Hallowed Ground, which continually presents innumerable and wonderful images from the history and present of the Church, and Holy Cards, which gives us cards of art that are absolutely beautiful.

The visuals of these two sites are always sublime, often profound, and sometimes wondrous beyond words, which is what all great religious art is about, and I would think that these sites will be treasured by you, as they are by me.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Politics, Religion, & the Responsibility to Protect

I think it was very significant that Pope Benedict seemed to go out of his way to ensure that, in the eyes of the world, and Catholics, that his position regarding the role of the United States in Iraq, was much closer to that of President Bush than what many have speculated it was over the past few years.

In the Bush Doctrine, the National Security Strategy of the United States of America, the overwhelming focus is on the protection of human dignity, human freedom, religions freedom, powerful marks for a great power to assume and ones very congruent with those of another great power in the world, the Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict reinforced these principles in his speech to the United Nations, and reminds us of how important it is that we Catholics—who are voting in the United States for leaders of our city, county, and country—remember that being congruent with the basic principles of our faith and our nation, should be a major ingredient in the decision process that leads to our final vote.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Poor in Spirit

This teaching from the Beatitudes has always been difficult for me to understand, yet in this reflection from the wonderful book by Reverend Gerald Vann, O.P., The Divine Pity: A Study in the Social Implications of the Beatitudes, it is summed up nicely.

“You are only a steward of all that you have and all that you are; a steward for God and for His family. But you are meant to be more than stewards of God’s things: you are meant to be lovers as well. If you hurt anything of the things that God has made—by lust, or tyranny, or blindness, or by using things in any way as mere means to your pleasure or profit—you hurt yourself and all the world, because to that extant you continue to destroy the unity of the family. But if you love, and therefore can serve as well as use, can reverence as well as master; if you are a contemplative and have learnt to see and love instead of grabbing, and if your love is worship of God and not of yourself, if your love is as deep as the sea but as carefree as the wind, then you return to the integrity of God’s family, and, having nothing, you are at peace, because you have nothing to lose, and at the same time you possess all things, for yours is the kingdom.” (p. 41)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Undoing Roe vs Wade

While undoing the Iraq War because we later discover part of the reasoning we used to attack their country is not really possible—given the extreme disruption we have generated by the appropriate removal of a tyranny and the honorable work to build a democratic state—we are under no such restriction in undoing Roe vs Wade if we discover that the reasoning that was used to justify that judicial ruling was based on false premises.

A new book Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History, has discovered the flaw—the very serious flaw—in the reasoning and, hopefully, it will play a role in the eventual over-turning of Roe vs Wade.

This is an excellent review of the 2006 book.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Responsibility to Protect

Watching the tragedy unfold in the historic country of Burma, reminds us of the responsibility we have to protect those less fortunate than ourselves and how this extends, in this global age, to our neighbors around the world.

While the Pope was in America, during his talk to the United Nations, he spoke of the responsibility to protect.

“Recognition of the unity of the human family, and attention to the innate dignity of every man and woman, today find renewed emphasis in the principle of the responsibility to protect. This has only recently been defined, but it was already present implicitly at the origins of the United Nations, and is now increasingly characteristic of its activity. Every State has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises, whether natural or man-made. If States are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments. The action of the international community and its institutions, provided that it respects the principles undergirding the international order, should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty. On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage. What is needed is a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation.”

Monday, May 19, 2008

Human Dignity

Some of the public discussion around immigration reflects the depth and beauty of the social teaching of the Church, where respect for the dignity of the individual immigrant forms the foundation.

Respect for the law is crucial and also a central part of the teaching, but we can balance both, respect for law and for the individual.

A proud moment for many Catholics was when the Vatican complained about the public presentation of Saddam Hussein when he was captured, in the photos given to the media of his disheveled and troubled appearance; reminding us that even for captured tyrants, there was a fundamental responsibility to treat them with dignity and respect.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Smoke of Satan

In one of the most famous of papal utterances over the past half century, this one by Pope Paul VI has always been the cause of much speculation concerning what he was referring to, and here, from Catholic World Report, is perhaps the final word.

“Cardinal Virgilio Noe, the chief Vatican liturgist during the pontificate of Paul VI, spoke candidly about the late Pope's concerns in an interview with the Roman Petrus web site. The Italian prelate-- who was also the Vatican's top liturgist under Pope John Paul I and the early years of the pontificate of John Paul II-- is now retired, and at the age of 86 his health is failing. In his interview with Petrus he concentrated primarily on his years serving Pope Paul VI. “…

“Cardinal Noe said that he knew what Paul VI intended by that statement. In that denunciation, he said, the Pope "meant to include all those priests or bishops and cardinals who didn't render worship to the Lord by celebrating badly Holy Mass because of an errant interpretation of the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. He spoke of the smoke of Satan because he maintained that those priests who turned Holy Mass into dross in the name of creativity, in reality were possessed of the vainglory and the pride of the Evil One. So, the smoke of Satan was nothing other than the mentality which wanted to distort the traditional and liturgical canons of the Eucharistic ceremony.

“For Pope Paul VI, the cardinal continued, the worst outcome of the post-conciliar liturgical reform was the "craving to be in the limelight" that caused many priests to ignore liturgical guidelines. Cardinal Noe recalled that the Pope himself believed in careful adherence to the rubrics of the Mass, firmly believing that "no one is lord of the Mass."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Political Parties & Public Liberty

One of the great Supreme Court Justices of the United States was Joseph Story (also regarded as the founder of the Harvard Law School) and his 1840 book, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States is a magnificent portrait of the early American ideas that became the bedrock of our country.

The understanding of this aspect of the political party by many Americans may help explain the strong growth in the numbers of those who register independent or decline to state, making the independent vote virtually decisive in modern national—and many local—elections.

Here is Justice Story on political parties, a refreshing look in this political season, and a reminder “that the more things change, the more they remain the same.”

“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

“This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists, under different shapes, in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissensions, which in different ages and countries has perpetuated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate that his competitors, turns his disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.” (pp. 314-315)

Friday, May 16, 2008

To Talk or Not To Talk

The issue of whether the president of the United States should sit down to talk with the leaders of terrorist groups or terrorist supporting states is one requiring some thought to perceive a direction to take supported by Catholic teaching.

The ancient dictum that talking about problems is better than fighting about them can certainly guide us, as well as the more modern perception of the legitimacy a leader gives an opposing leader resulting from an open-ended meeting.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the section on Safeguarding Peace, under the precepts for observing the Fifth Commandment “You shall not kill.” is guidance.

III. Safeguarding Peace


2302 By recalling the commandment, "You shall not kill,"93 our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral.

Anger is a desire for revenge. "To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit," but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution "to correct vices and maintain justice."94 If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. the Lord says, "Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment."

2303 Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven."

2304 Respect for and development of human life require peace. Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity. Peace is "the tranquillity of order." Peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity.

2305 Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messianic "Prince of Peace." By the blood of his Cross, "in his own person he killed the hostility," he reconciled men with God and made his Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God. "He is our peace." He has declared: "Blessed are the peacemakers."

2306 Those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity, provided they do so without harming the rights and obligations of other men and societies. They bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It Begins With Theology

An extraordinary new book by George Weigel, "Faith, Reason and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action" is required reading for those who are concerned about the encounter of Catholicism with Islam, and wish to gain deeper knowledge about Islam’s role within the public policies that have grown from the essential theological roots of human affairs.

Weigel (December 2007) frames his book around three headings (Understanding the Enemy, Rethinking Realism, Deserving Victory) and fifteen lessons:

“Lesson 1: The great human questions, including the great questions of public life, are ultimately theological.

“How men and women think about God—or don’t think about God—has a great deal to do with how they envision the just society, and how they determine the appropriate means by which to build that society. This means taking theology seriously—which includes taking seriously others’ concepts of God’s nature and purposes, and their commitments to the beliefs arising from those concepts—as well as the theologies that have shaped the civilization of the West. If we have not learned this over the past five years, one wonders if we have learned anything.

“Yet that very question—what have we learned?—arises every time a commentator or politician or statesman uses “theology” as a synonym for “superstition” or “theological” as a contempt-riddled substitute for “mindless.” Such glib (and truly mindless) usages must stop; they are an impediment to clear thinking about our situation. And our situation is too urgent for muddleheadedness arising from prejudice.” (New York; Doubleday, p. 13)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Global Capitalism & Subsidiarity

One of the foundational principles of Catholic social teaching is subsidiarity—and the growth of state capitalism is a serious issue of concern as the growth has occurred largely in totalitarian regimes.

State capitalism is a serious issue, though hardly a new one. It has been around forever and the use of state power to develop, protect, and enforce commercial trading commodities and routes is a notorious history; look into the Opium Wars for one example, and remember that the initial state-financed voyages to the New World were trade inspired.

Subsidiarity is addressed in the Catechism:

1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. the teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."

1884 God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. the way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.

1885 The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order.”

What is the Future of State Capitalism?
May 2, 2008
Jim Heskett

Whether we think we are part of a free market or not, are we really living in an era of state capitalism? What are we to make of estimates that state-owned sovereign funds, led by Abu Dhabi and fueled mostly by oil revenues and trade surpluses, now total more than the value of the world's hedge funds and will grow by six times over just in the next seven years? Or that states like China and Russia now own the world's largest corporations? Or that, according to an estimate by the American Enterprise Institute, economies of countries with authoritarian regimes have grown faster over the past ten years than economies of the most politically free countries?

Whatever happened to the fears just a few short years ago that global corporations with allegiance to no government would constitute an important challenge to the world economic order, one that would be impossible to control with conventional laws and regulations? One doesn't hear much about that these days as state-owned corporations now dwarf even the largest privately-owned global organizations, with PetroChina currently leading the list with a market value of more than $1 trillion.

The impact of this phenomenon on competition is interesting. Just ask the manager of a privately-owned global corporation how easy it is to compete with a state-owned institution (and the state's sovereign fund investors) when his competitor is able to arrange to have state aid or investment provided or withheld in large quantities to a potential customer's country of origin depending on whether that customer favors a private or state-owned vendor.

The phenomenon has interesting implications for those in need of capital, particularly if the source of the capital is your strongest economic competitor. For example, the United States, European Union, and South Africa recently have seen several of their very large financial institutions seek help from sovereign funds or state-owned companies with ample money to invest. Among the largest investors have been Abu Dhabi's and Kuwait's Investment Authorities and the China Investment Corporation. There have been outcries for measures requiring investors to adhere to certain practices regarding disclosure and intent. But typically, unless majority investments are at stake, there is little other than moral suasion that can be used to persuade investors to avoid making investments for political reasons or adhere to certain standards for transparency in their investment practices. The stronger the need for capital, the fewer even the most modest requests placed on the investors. Only when investments in what is perceived as critical infrastructure, such as ports, is involved has the U.S. Congress, for example, drawn the line in prohibiting a transaction.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

We Hold These Truths

In 1960 a Catholic theologian wrote an insightful book about America, and as I was reading through it came across a very timely paragraph.

As you read it, keep in mind what many Catholics have called the protestanization of Catholicism since Vatican II, and liberal reaction to the Iraq War

“The third source of Protestant moral anxiety is the problem of power. The practical problem, as put to policy, is enormously complicated in the nuclear age, in the midst of a profound historical crisis of civilization, and over against an ideology of force that is also a spreading political imperialism. This, however, is surely no reason for distorting the problem by thrusting into it a set of theoretically false dilemmas—by saying, for instance, that to use power is prideful and therefore bad, and not to use it is irresponsible and therefore worse. The tradition of reason declines all such reckless simplism. It rejects the cynical dictum of Lenin that “the state is a club.” On the other hand, it does not attempt to fashion the state in the image of an Eastern-seaboard “liberal” who at once abhors power and adores it (since by him, emergent from the matrix of American Protestant culture, power is unconsciously regarded as satanic). The traditional ethic starts with the assumption that, as there is no law without force to vindicate it, so there is no politics without power to promote it. All politics is power politics—up to a point.” (John Courtenay Murray, S.J. (1960) We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition. New York: Sheed and Ward. p. 288)

The American proposition is that all are created equal, a situation existing nowhere else on earth, certainly not within the monarchies that governed virtually everywhere else where no one was equal to royalty.

The Ameerican proposition became a global phenomena—the beckoning of the new world—most strongly felt and lived during the California Gold Rush, when The World Rushed In.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Communion Denied Pro Abortion Governor

It is heartening to see American Bishops begin to assert their traditional role as defenders of the faith to their flocks, and stand for the ancient Catholic social teaching that protects life.

They also need to consider revisiting their call for abolition of capital punishment as the historic Catholic support for capital punishment—part of the tradition protecting the innocent—is vital to the social teaching of the Church, as that teaching needs to remain true to itself to retain its potency in the conversion of sinners and retention of the flock.

To overturn a principle as ancient as the judicial use of capital punishment—as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops proposes with its Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty—could bring all of the Church's enduring principles into question as noted by Avery Cardinal Dulles
"The reversal of a doctrine as well established as the legitimacy of capital punishment would raise serious problems regarding the credibility of the magisterium." (2004, Catholic Teaching on the Death Penalty, in Religion and the Death Penalty, Owens, Carlson, & Elshtain (Eds.) p. 26)

Kansas: archbishop bars governor from Communion

Kansas, May. 9, 2008 ( - Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City has announced that Governor Kathleen Sebelius should not receive Communion because of her support for legal abortion.

In a column appearing on May 9 in the archdiocesan newspaper, The Leaven, the archbishop said that Governor Sebelius has sent a "spiritually lethal message" by implying that she could remain a Catholic in good standing while supporting abortion on demand.

The archbishop's column cited in particular the governor's veto of the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act, which would have required abortionists to inform women about the effects of the procedure and alternatives to abortion.

The governor's stand in favor of abortion is particularly painful, Archbishop Naumann wrote, because Sebelius is a Catholic. He reported that he had met with her "several times over many months to discuss with her the grave spiritual and moral consequences of her public actions." Because the governor has now rejected his pleas and her public stand constitutes a scandal to the faithful, the archbishop said that he has now directed her to refrain from receiving Communion. Archbishop Naumann reported that he has asked Governor Sebelius to accept this directive, so that she will "not require from me any additional pastoral actions."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Papal Visit

His trip to America caused a significant shift in public attitudes towards him and the Church, which is good news and a testament to the power of communication, a backstory to the great new book by Russell Shaw Nothing to Hide: Secrecy, Communication and Communion in the Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict's Image Improves Following U.S. Visit
May 6, 2008

Following his first visit to the United States as spiritual leader of the world's Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI is viewed more favorably than he was a few weeks before his trip. Currently, 61% of Americans say they have a favorable impression of the pope, up from 52% in late March.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, was conducted April 23-30 among 1,000 Americans; it was conducted shortly after the pope's April 15-20 visit to Washington D.C. and New York City. The survey finds a dramatic increase in the proportion of Catholics expressing highly favorable views of the pontiff. Nearly half (49%) of Catholics say they have a very favorable opinion of the pope, up from 36% in the late March survey, conducted March 24-29. Overall, positive opinions of Pope Benedict among Catholics have risen from 74% to 83%.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Islam & the Vatican

The most important religious and public policy related discussion in our time continues.

When the Turbans of Persia Pay Homage to the Pastor of Rome
Two days of talks, at the Vatican, between the scholars of Christianity and those of Shiite Islam. As in the medieval disputes. On the topic dearest to Joseph Ratzinger: faith and reason. The strange openness of Iranian president Ahmadinejad
by Sandro Magister
ROMA, May 7, 2008 –

The letter of the 138, with its developments, is neither the only nor the main track of dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam. On the Vatican side, it operates on a variety of terrains and with different counterparts.

The latest talks with Muslim representatives took place in the Vatican, with eight representatives of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization of Tehran, and therefore with representatives of Shiite Islam, which has its center of gravity in Iran but is present in many other countries, with a following that accounts for about 12-15 percent of the Muslim community worldwide.

The colloquium began on Monday, April 28, and concluded on Wednesday, April 30, with a meeting with Benedict XVI in a room adjacent to the general audience hall. The Holy See, in a statement, reported that "the pope said he was particularly satisfied with the topic chosen."

And in effect, the topic was one of those most dear to Joseph Ratzinger: "Faith and Reason in Christianity and Islam".

It was developed in three subtopics, each introduced by one Catholic representative and one Muslim:

1. "Faith and reason: Which relation?", with the speaker for the Catholic side Vittorio Possenti, a professor of political philosophy at the University of Venice and a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences;

2. "Theology/Kalam as inquiry into the rationality of faith," with the speaker for the Catholic side Piero Coda, a professor of theology at the Pontifical Lateran University and the president of the Italian Theological Association;

3. "Faith and reason confronted with the phenomenon of violence," with the speaker for the Catholic side Jesuit Fr. Michel Fédou, a theologian and Church historian of the Centre Sèvres in Paris.

In addition to these three speakers, the Catholic delegation was composed of Ramzi Garmou, the Chaldean archbishop of Tehran; archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, secretary of the pontifical council for interreligious dialogue; Khaled Akasheh, the office head for Islam at the same council; and Ilaria Morali, a professor of dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a specialist in non-Christian religions.

Jointly presiding over the colloquium were cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the pontifical council for interreligious dialogue, and Mahdi Mostafavi, president of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization of Tehran.

Mostafavi is a "Seyyed," or one of the direct descendants of the prophet Muhammad, and until two years ago he was deputy foreign minister of Iran. Before returning to Iran, he told the Rome newspaper "il Riformista":

"I see president Ahmadinejad at least two times a week. Spiritual and moral values are fundamental in our government decisions, and I am his spiritual adviser".

This is enough to demonstrate how high the profile of the Iranian designation is, and how closely connected it is to the leadership of Ahamadinejad, an exponent of the most hardline wing of the Khomeinist regime, the one most hostile to the West and most explicit in denying the state of Israel's right to exist.

It should nonetheless be noted that the Tehran regime, during the explosion of violence that followed Benedict XVI's lecture in Regensburg, distinguished itself by its moderation. Iranian Shiite Islam is quite a few years ahead of Sunni Islam in cultivating relations with the Church of Rome, on the religious, cultural, and even political terrain. After meeting the new apostolic nuncio in Iran, archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel, last April 6, president Ahmadinejad called the Vatican a positive force for justice and peace in the world. Or rather, according to Iranian interests, a potential ally against the pressure of the United States and European countries.

The colloquium of recent days was the sixth in a series. The next will be held in Tehran within two years, and will be preceded by a preparatory meeting.

This does not mean that the Church of Rome is taking a conciliatory stance in these talks. Professor Possenti, one of the speakers at the latest round of talks, signed an appeal against Iranian president Ahmadinejad on November 3, 2005, because of his anti-Israel statements. The appeal was followed by a sit-in protest in front of Iran's embassy in Rome.

Another member of the Catholic delegation at the recent colloquium, Ilaria Morali, is also anything but submissive. Her thesis is that the dialogue between the Catholic Church and non-Christian religions must be guided by the two documents from 1964 that were the first to lay down the guidelines: the encyclical of Paul VI "Ecclesiam Suam" and the conciliar constitution "Lumen Gentium." Neither of these refers to non-Christian religions as ways of salvation. The only savior of all is Jesus Christ, as restated in 2000 in the declaration "Dominus Iesus." Thus dialogue is primarily missionary, its aim is to extend the "colloquium salutis" established by God, in Christ, with humanity. It is only on a lower level that it seeks common ground of ethical and cultural understanding, for more peaceful coexistence.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Hard Work Pays Off

This is a wonderful story of the opportunity that still exists in our great country, the preferred destination for much of the world.

Actions Speak Louder than Words: A Case Study
Contrarian By: Sally C. Pipes 5.6.2008

A Contrarian column, as readers have come to know, is a relatively simple matter of refuting the latest foolishness from militant feminists and socialists, who are often the same people. In that cause, however, I have never attempted anything on the scale of Adam Shepard, author of Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream. So let me bring his story to your attention.

As a student at Merrimack College in Andover, Massachusetts, Mr. Shepard was force-fed books by pop-socialist author Barbara Ehrenreich. As he explains:

My story is a rebuttal to Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch, the books that spoke on the death of the American dream. With investigative projects of her own, Ehrenreich attempted to establish that working stiffs are doomed to live in the same disgraceful conditions forever. I reject that theory and my story is a search to evaluate if hard work and discipline provide any payoff whatsoever, or if they are, as Ehrenreich suggests, futile pursuits.”

To prove his point, Mr. Shepard started out literally from scratch, with a tarp, a sleeping bag, an empty gym bag, the clothes on his back, and a grand total of $25, which one could quickly spend at Starbucks. He set aside his previous contacts, his college education, and his credit history. For all practical purposes, his previous life did not exist, and he would not permit himself to beg. A train dropped him at a random place outside of his home state, where his goal was to become a regular member of society in 365 days.

That meant he would have a functioning automobile, live in a furnished apartment, save $2,500 in cash, and be in a position to improve his circumstances in school or business. In Charleston, South Carolina, where he first landed, the quest proved educational.

Mr. Shepard learned that, in addition to food and lodging, the homeless shelter run by Crisis Ministries deployed doctors, nurses, a legal team, social workers, and two psychiatrists. He also learned that “any work is better than no work,” and unlike many others accepted what he could find. For a time he worked hanging up baby clothes. One day he earned $24, only to find it whittled down to $14 from the various fees of the employment agency.

While others languished, Mr. Shepard learned how to pitch himself, and got hired by FastCompany, a moving outfit, doing brute physical work in which he had no experience, and for which he was not exactly suited. As a mover he endured injury, sickness, ridicule, and conflicts with colleagues. He also kept working and learned, as he put it, “to delay gratification” rather than reward himself with goodies. After only six months, Mr. Shepard was driving an automobile and had saved $2,514.36.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Responsibility to Protect, The Slavers

Refer back to the post on the responsibility to protect as you read about the horror of modern slavery, and consider how quickly you would vote to send troops in.

A Crime So Monstrous
By Logan Paul Gage
Monday, May 5, 2008, 6:37 AM

If when you think of slavery, you imagine a distant, bygone era, ponder this conversation:

Florin: That’s not a lot. For one night, I make two hundred Euros off her. . . . She’s very clean. A very nice girl—you won’t have any problems with her. Whatever you say, she will do.”

Skinner: Two thousand seems like a lot.

Florin: No, for two months that’s very inexpensive! The girl is very nice, she is not doing drugs. She is good at what she is doing.

Skinner: How about something else? A trade. A motorcycle—I can see that being about the value.

Florin: A car, maybe. Not a motorcycle. A good car.

Skinner: A Dacia? But only if I’m buying the girl for three months. And the car will come with 50,000 kilometers.

Florin: OK.

Skinner: Could I leave the country with her?

Florin: What if you leave me with my eyes in the sun? [a Gypsy expression for being stood up] I don’t know if you’d be back with her. I need a deposit. But I can get a Romanian passport for her.

Investigative reporter E. Benjamin Skinner recorded this conversation with Florin, a pimp in Bucharest. You can listen online, if you have the stomach. In his new book, A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery, Florin represents the worst of the worst: selling not only a sex slave but an abused, scared, suicidal girl with Down syndrome out of a sewage-infested store, caring little how much she is beaten and raped. All for less than $2,400.

Skinner’s eyes, though only thirty-two, have seen much. According to former assistant secretary of state Richard Holbrooke, Skinner is the first person to observe the sale of human beings on four continents. Skinner’s interest in slavery goes far back. As a boy in Wisconsin, he attended Quaker meetings where he reports learning as much about Harriet Tubman and William Lloyd Garrison as he did about Jesus.

A conversation with Walter Russell Mead prompted Skinner’s five-year exploration culminating in this book—at once a portrait of slavery today, a history of recent U.S. abolition efforts, and a critique of the antislavery lobby.

According to the State Department, more than 800,000 people (two-thirds are women and children) are trafficked across national borders, and millions within national borders, annually. But what does slavery mean today? Skinner insists upon the following tripartite definition: “A slave is a human being who is forced to work through fraud or threat of violence for no pay beyond subsistence.” Skinner first paints a portrait of modern slave experience, and along the way we hear some gruesome tales.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Social Teaching

A brief report on the papal address reflecting on the four pillars of the social teaching, and the full address from Pope Benedict.

3 MAY 2008 (VIS)

Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, who are meeting to study the theme: "Pursuing the common good: how solidarity and subsidiarity can work together".

Addressing them in English, the Holy Father told the participants that the "heart of the matter" facing them was "how can solidarity and subsidiarity work together in the pursuit of the common good in a way that not only respects human dignity, but allows it to flourish?"

"Solidarity", he said, "refers to the virtue enabling the human family to share fully the treasure of material and spiritual goods, and subsidiarity is the co-ordination of society's activities in a way that supports the internal life of the local communities".

The Holy Father highlighted the relationship between the four main principles of Catholic social doctrine (human dignity, the common good, subsidiarity and solidarity), explaining that "we can initially sketch the interconnections between these four principles by placing the dignity of the person at the intersection of two axes: one horizontal, representing 'solidarity' and 'subsidiarity', and one vertical, representing the 'common good'. This creates a field upon which we can plot the various points of Catholic social teaching that give shape to the common good".

Solidarity and subsidiarity, he went on, "have the potential to place men and women on the path to discovering their definitive, supernatural destiny. ... The responsibility of Christians to work for peace and justice, their irrevocable commitment to build up the common good, is inseparable from their mission to proclaim the gift of eternal life to which God has called every man and woman".

The Pope assured participants in the plenary assembly that their discussions "will be of service to all people of good will, while simultaneously inspiring Christians to embrace more readily their obligation to enhance solidarity with and among their fellow citizens, and to act upon the principle of subsidiarity by promoting family life, voluntary associations, private initiative, and a public order that facilitates the healthy functioning of society's most basic communities".

"When those responsible for the public good attune themselves to the natural human desire for self-governance based on subsidiarity, they leave space for individual responsibility and initiative, but most importantly, they leave space for love, which always remains 'the most excellent way'".

The Holy Father concluded his remarks with words of encouragement to members of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences "to survey both the 'vertical' and 'horizontal' dimensions of solidarity and subsidiarity. In this way, you will be able to propose more effective ways of resolving the manifold problems besetting mankind at the threshold of the third millennium, while also bearing witness to the primacy of love, which transcends and fulfils justice as it draws mankind into the very life of God".

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Liberal Catholicism Over?

One certainly hopes so as the last time it arrived on the scene in such a major way it led to Luther and all he wrought.

Though it is important to show this type of article, the provenance of it is clearly shown by referring to the sexual abuse crisis as a “reprieve” for the movement of liberal Catholicism, rather than the horrible tragedy it is.

The current president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis George, gave a talk in 1997 in which he described liberal Catholicism as “a betrayal of the Lord”.

This entry at Catholic World News analyzes the article.

Saturday, May. 03, 2008
Is Liberal Catholicism Dead?
By David Van Biema

He may not have been thinking about it at the time, but Pope Benedict, in the course of his recent U.S. visit may have dealt a knockout blow to the liberal American Catholicism that has challenged Rome since the early 1960s. He did so by speaking frankly and forcefully of his "deep shame" during his meeting with victims of the Church's sex-abuse scandal. By demonstrating that he "gets" this most visceral of issues, the pontiff may have successfully mollified a good many alienated believers — and in the process, neutralized the last great rallying point for what was once a feisty and optimistic style of progressivism.

The liberal rebellion in American Catholicism has dogged Benedict and his predecessors since the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. "Vatican II," which overhauled much of Catholic teaching and ritual, had a revolutionary impact on the Church as a whole. It enabled people to hear the Mass in their own languages; embraced the principle of religious freedom; rejected anti-semitism; and permitted Catholic scholars to grapple with modernity.

But Vatican II meant even more to a generation of devout but restless young people in the U.S. rather than a course correction, Terrence Tilley, now head of the Fordham University's theology department, wrote recently, his generation perceived "an interruption of history, a divine typhoon that left only the keel and structure of the church unchanged." They discerned in the Council a call to greater church democracy, and an assertion of individual conscience that could stand up to the authority of even the Pope. So, they battled the Vatican�s birth-control ban, its rejection of female priests and insistence on celibacy, and its authoritarianism.

Rome pushed back, and the ensuing struggle defined a movement, whose icons included peace activist Fr. Daniel Berrigan, feminist Sister Joan Chittister, and sociologist/author Fr. Andrew Greeley. Its perspectives were covered in The National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal and America. Martin Sheen held down Hollywood, and the movement even boasted its own cheesy singing act: the St. Louis Jesuits. The reformers' premier membership organization was Call to Action, but their influence was felt at the highest reaches of the American Church, as sympathetic American bishops passed left-leaning statements on nuclear weapons and economic justice. Remarks Tilley, "For a couple of generations, progressivism was an [important] way to be Catholic."

Then he adds, "But I think the end of an era is here."

To some extent, liberal Catholicism has been a victim of its own success. Its positions on sex and gender issues have become commonplace in the American Church, diminishing the distinctiveness of the progressives. More importantly, they failed to transform the main body of the Church: John Paul II, a charismatic conservative, enjoyed the third-longest papacy in church history, and refused to budge on the left's demands; instead, he eventually swept away liberal bishops. The heads at Call to Action grayed, and by the late 1990s, Vatican II progressivism began to look like a self-limited Boomer moment.

Then, the movement received a monstrous reprieve. The priest sex abuse scandal implicated not only the predators, but the superiors who shielded them. John Paul remained mostly silent. A new reform group, Voice of the Faithful, arose; the old anger returned, crystallizing around the battle-cry "They just don't get it."

Monday, May 5, 2008

Pope Benedict & The Public Square

His visit touched on the importance of Catholics remaining vitally involved with the public square and the centrality of Christ in all life, done with his solid intellectual background and pastoral sensitivity.

A New Pentecost
The Holy Father’s inspiring visit to the United States.
by George Neumayr | May 2008

Speaking to the US bishops on April 16, Pope Benedict XVI made the arresting comment that an “almost complete eclipse of an eschatological sense” marks “many of our traditionally Christian societies.” America, he didn’t need to add, is one of them, but the very warmth of the welcome the Holy Father received in the US and the intensity of attention during his visit suggested a growing exhaustion with the eclipse of religion under secularism and a hunger for God’s revelation of man’s ultimate purpose.

Burdened by the yoke of an ideology that treats God as irrelevant to the ordering of society—an ideology which has at once destabilized public life, eroded the foundations of culture, and corrupted US Catholicism—Americans were ready for the Holy Father’s theme of “Christ Our Hope,” open to his arguments about the harmony of reason and revelation, and moved by his humility and piety.

Media pundits, stunned by this reaction, speculated on the papacy’s enduring significance. They offered various superficial reasons for it without arriving at the real one: it remains Christ’s way of staying present throughout history.

Into the darkness of godless voids—whether comforting the victims of priestly abuse near the beginning of the trip or kneeling in prayer at the pit of Ground Zero near the end of it—Christ’s vicar brought forth his light. In a false age, Pope Benedict offers truth; to the weary and enslaved, he represents grace. As the eye naturally turns to light, so people of good will turn toward holiness.

Often dismissed as a mere academic, the Holy Father showed characteristic honesty and courage in confronting pastorally the concrete effects of the crises he addressed intellectually. He delivered a talk one day to the bishops on the importance of fidelity to the doctrines and discipline of the Church, then the next day comforted those victims who suffered at the hands of a dissenting and lax clerical culture. He gave a speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations on the dangers of amoral power ideology, then two days later visited the “Ground Zero” site of its most extreme manifestation.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

We Have A Responsibility to Protect

The responsibility to protect the innocent from the aggressor is a Catholic principle woven into its traditional support for babies in the womb, just war, capital punishment, and is reflected in the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and the 2001 United Nations report, The Responsibility to Protect, which stated as two basic principles:

“A. State sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itself.
“B. Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.” (p. xi)

Pope Benedict XVI (2008) addressed this in his talk to the United Nations:

“Recognition of the unity of the human family, and attention to the innate dignity of every man and woman, today find renewed emphasis in the principle of the responsibility to protect. This has only recently been defined, but it was already present implicitly at the origins of the United Nations, and is now increasingly characteristic of its activity. Every State has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises, whether natural or man-made. If States are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments.” (n.p.)

This ancient principle is on the line in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and we need to remember the stakes, which are huge.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Catholic Leadership

Echoing a public role deemed crucial for the laity in the Church to assume at a much higher level than traditionally thought, Bishop Chaput reminds us of first principles that should impact our thinking around the political sphere.

The Role of the Priest in Public Affairs
By Charles J. Chaput
Wednesday, April 30, 2008, 6:28 AM

Catholic leadership in the secular world belongs to laypeople, not to clergy or religious. The visible role of the priest in public affairs—if by public affairs we mean political affairs—should normally be pretty small.

It’s very dangerous for the Church to identify with one political party. It’s not my business to tell people to vote for John McCain or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. And while I worked for Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign as a volunteer when I was a young, I don’t think any Catholic should feel comfortable today in either major political party—Democrat or Republican.

But that doesn’t really get us off the hook, does it? The problem is that the Church teaches moral truth, and truth has obligations for human behavior—including the social, economic, and political kind. The Church is never mainly a political organism, but her witness for justice always has political consequences. For example, killing unborn children is a form of homicide. It’s a profound attack on human dignity, because all other rights depend on the right to life. It’s not the only important issue facing our country. But it is the foundational one at this moment in our nation’s history. We can’t ignore it. Cooperating in abortion or quietly tolerating it is a grave evil. We can incrementally seek to restrict and eliminate abortion, but we can never accept it as a so-called right. And if that truth inconveniences one or another political candidate, well, that’s their problem. It’s not the fault of the Church.

It is the job of Catholic laypeople to change the thinking of their political party and their political leaders with the tools of their Catholic faith. But it is the job of priests to give people those tools—to form Catholic laypeople to think and act as disciples of Jesus Christ, in a manner guided by the teaching of the Church. Just as Catholic laypeople should be the leaven of Jesus Christ in the public square, so we priests need to be the leaven of Jesus Christ in lives of our people.

As priests we know that, during the Easter season, the Church invites us to reflect on the Acts of the Apostles in a special way. It’s important to remember that the title of the book is the Acts of the Apostles—not the Good Intentions, or the Excellent Plans, or the Plausible Alibis of the Apostles, but their Acts. Words are important. Actions are more important. Christ said he loved us. Then he died to prove it. He said he would rise from the dead and give us new life. Then he really did it. And when the first Apostles said they believed in Jesus Christ, they acted like they meant it, because they did—and then they proved it by turning the world upside down with the gospel.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Free Catholic Schooling

The Archdiocese of Wichita shows how it is done and it is a model for the Church to emulate.

Philanthropic funding is a powerful source of public involvement and should be encouraged in all areas of public funding where it might be able to work fulfilling the common good.

April 23, 2008, 6:00 a.m.
Go Wichita
Save the Catholic schools.

By William J. Bennett

One of the notable events of Pope Benedict’s recent visit to the United States was his address to Catholic educators. While he focused most of his comments on the role of the Catholic University, he did not forget to remind us of the need to recommit to our Catholic elementary and secondary schools, “especially those in poorer areas.” And as President Bush is set to convene a summit on inner-city children and faith-based schools this week, it is worth reflecting on the decimation of America’s urban Catholic primary and secondary schools and what can be done about it.

A new study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute — a smart, highly regarded education think tank — estimates that 300,000 students have been displaced due to Catholic-school closings since 1990, and that taxpayers have spent upwards of $20 billion to pay for public schooling for these students whose Catholic schools have vanished. Most of those kids are poor and needy, the very youngsters whose futures are most precarious and whose educational attainment is the focus of most school-reform efforts of the past quarter century. (“A Nation At Risk” appeared 25 years ago this month.) Far too many of them were forced to move from good Catholic schools to mediocre (or worse) public schools. If the trend continues, hundreds of thousands more will soon follow in their unhappy wake.

That’s bad for them and bad for America. I take it personally, too. As the product of a Catholic education and the father of two boys who attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school, this situation is particularly painful.

Today’s urban Catholic schools are a legacy of a time when immigrant Catholics lived in our cities and wanted their children to get a parochial education. Most of these families left for the suburbs in the 1960s and 70s. This posed a massive threat to many urban parishes — and their schools, which have been losing enrollment ever since. Yet time and again the Church renewed its commitment and strived to keep these schools open to serve the poor children who still lived nearby. And study after study shows that the schools have served these children well.

Now new immigrants fill our cities — including many Catholic Hispanics. But rising tuitions are putting parochial schools out of their reach. With almost no nuns or brothers left to work in these schools for free, Catholic schools must pay lay teachers and administrators decent salaries, making the schools dramatically more expensive.

Yet those expenses don’t have to be passed along in the form of higher tuition. Consider Wichita. There the archdiocese promulgated a simple principle: Catholic schooling would be free to all parishioners. To make the economics work, the bishop asked all Church members to tithe from their salaries, money that went largely into school operations. Parishioners responded willingly. Today, all Wichita Catholics can send their children to parochial school; tuition is no barrier.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Pope & Islam

An update on one of the most important religious meetings impacting global public policy that was instituted by Pope Benedict’s Regensburg speech and the response from Islamic scholars.


VATICAN CITY, 30 APR 2008 (VIS) - Following today's general audience, Benedict XVI received participants in the sixth meeting of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation of Tehran, Iran. They have been meeting to study the theme of: "Faith and Reason in Christianity and Islam".

The participants in the meeting, led by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, and by Mahdi Mostafavi, president of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation, agreed upon the following points:

"Faith and reason are both gifts of God to mankind.

"Faith and reason do not contradict each other, but faith might in some cases be above reason, but never against it.

"Faith and reason are intrinsically non-violent. Neither reason nor faith should be used for violence; unfortunately, both of them have been sometimes misused to perpetrate violence. In any case, these events cannot question either reason or faith.

"Both sides agreed to further co-operate in order to promote genuine religiosity, in particular spirituality, to encourage respect for symbols considered to be sacred and to promote moral values.

"Christians and Muslims should go beyond tolerance, accepting differences, while remaining aware of commonalties and thanking God for them. They are called to mutual respect, thereby condemning derision of religious beliefs.

"Generalisation should be avoided when speaking of religions. Differences of confessions with Christianity and Islam, diversity of historical contexts are important factors to be considered.

"Religious traditions cannot be judged on the basis of a single verse or a passage present in their respective holy Books. A holistic vision as well as an adequate hermeneutical method is necessary for a fair understanding of them".