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Pope Francis: The desire for ‘eternal youth’ and ‘unlimited well-being’ is delusional conceit

Pope Francis at the general audience on Aug. 10, 2022 / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Aug 10, 2022 / 04:48 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that it is “delusional” to try to stop the natural passage of time in pursuit of “eternal youth” and “unlimited well-being.”

Speaking at his live-streamed general audience on Aug. 10, the pope pointed out that from the Christian perspective, the passing of time “is not a threat, it is a promise.”

“The conceit of stopping time — of wanting eternal youth, unlimited well-being, absolute power — is not only impossible, it is delusional,” Pope Francis said in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall.

“Our existence on earth is the time of the initiation of life; it is life, but one that leads you toward a fuller life … a life which finds fulfillment only in God.”

The pope underlined that life on earth is best understood as a “novitiate,” a preparation for an eternal life in heaven that will be “superior to the time of our mortal life.”

“We are apprentices of life, who — amid a thousand difficulties — learn to appreciate God’s gift, honoring the responsibility of sharing it and making it bear fruit for everyone,” he said.

“We are imperfect from the very beginning, and we remain imperfect up to the end,” Francis added.

He explained that life is not meant to “be wrapped up in itself in an imaginary earthly perfection.” 

Life “is destined to go beyond, through the passage of death — because death is a passage. Indeed, … our destination is not here, it is beside the Lord, where he dwells forever,” the pope said.

With this reflection, Pope Francis concluded a cycle of catechesis on old age that he began in February. 

During this time, the 85-year-old pope has faced health problems that limited his mobility, particularly an injury to his right knee.

For his final catechesis on old age, the pope walked slowly using a cane as he made his way onto the stage of the audience hall. He later greeted the crowd from a wheelchair.

Pope Francis underscored that old age should be a time of “expectation” that brings one closer to life’s fulfillment in God. 

“In the fulfillment of God’s promise, the relationship is inverted: the space of God, which Jesus prepares for us with the utmost care, is superior to the time of our mortal life. Hence: old age brings closer the hope of this fulfillment,” Pope Francis said.

“Old age knows definitively, by now, the meaning of time and the limitations of the place in which we live our initiation. This is why old age is wise. God’s world is an infinite space, in which the passage of time no longer carries any weight,” he said.

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis prayed for Cuba, where a lightning strike at an oil facility set off multiple explosions of fuel storage tanks and caused a devastating fire. 

The pope also expressed his continued concern for Ukraine, where people are “still suffering from this cruel war,” and for migrants. 

In total, Pope Francis gave 16 reflections on the dignity of the elderly in his audiences this year. He has not yet said what will be the next topic for his weekly catecheses when he starts a new cycle next Wednesday morning.

“Old age is the phase in life most suited to spreading the joyful news that life is the initiation to a final fulfillment. The elderly are a promise, a witness of promise. And the best is yet to come,” Pope Francis said.

Is Latin more effective in driving out demons? An exorcist responds

null / Photo credit: David Clode / Unsplash

ACI Prensa Staff, Aug 10, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Is Latin more effective than vernacular languages in driving out demons? An exorcist answers this controversial question.

Interviewed by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, Father Francisco Torres Ruiz, a priest of the Diocese of Plasencia in Spain who is in charge of the ministry of exorcism, said that many people wonder “if it’s better to use the exorcism ritual of 1614, reformed by Pope Pius XII in 1952; [they wonder] if it’s better and more effective than the ritual promulgated by St. John Paul II in the year 2000.”

Exorcism: A sacramental of the Catholic Church

“In the first place,” said the priest, who is also a liturgy professor, it’s important “to establish a theological principle: exorcism is a sacramental celebration of the Church and, therefore, receives its efficacy from the prayer and faith of the Church.”

This, he stressed, “is one of the differences between sacraments and sacramentals.”

“The sacraments are outward signs that communicate grace, that are effective by themselves, because their effectiveness comes from Jesus Christ himself, who is the one who instituted them, and they are neither more nor less than seven, as the Council of Trent said,” the priest explained. 

“The sacramentals for their part are visible signs, structured in imitation, in a certain resemblance, to the sacraments, insofar as they are words and signs, but which have been instituted by the Church and their effectiveness is not ex opere operato, as for example a sacrament, rather it is ex opere operantis — that is, by the faith and prayer of the Church, which is pledged in them and engaged in these actions,” he said.

Torres said that “an exorcism is a simple thing; it’s a liturgical celebration of the Church in which the apotropaic action of Jesus Christ is invoked.”

“What does this somewhat strange word mean? Apotropaic means ‘battle,’ ‘defense,’ [or]’ combat,’” he noted.

“That is to say, it is Jesus Christ who confronts Satan, the rebellious spirits, in an exorcism while in that same ritual the victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death, over the devil, is proclaimed,” he said.

The devil ‘is commanded, he is ordered’

The Spanish priest also said that in an exorcism “there are two types of prayers that are done, facing the devil directly.”

“The first is what we call the prayer of supplication, which invokes divine help, the one that asks God to free the person, to protect the person who is being harassed, who is being mistreated by the devil,” he pointed out.

The second, he continued, is “a prayer of command, which is the prayer that only the priest authorized by his bishop directs straight at Satan, or against the demons that are there, exhorting them, adjuring them, commanding them, ordering them, threatening them so that they depart from the person they have subjugated.”

In this way, the devil “is commanded, ordered, above all by proclaiming that victory of Jesus Christ, that battle of Jesus Christ against them, and also reminding them at times of the pain of hell, the punishments to which they are doomed from the creation of the world by their rebellion.”

Is one ritual better than the other?

The Spanish exorcist stressed that “the ritual of 1614 is neither better nor more effective, nor is the ritual of 2000 better or more effective.”

“It’s true that the one from 1614 brought together a tradition that dates back at least to the 12th century of the most effective or most widespread prayers among exorcists in the Middle Ages for the fight against the devil,” he noted.

In the exorcism ritual of 2000, “the threats to the devil, the insults to the devil, have been suppressed, for example, because there were ritual prayers from 1614 that were directly a torrent of insults against the devil.”

“That is, they wanted to remove that part, let’s say, more threatening to the devil, to accentuate the kerygmatic proclamation of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Torres explained that “if an exorcist uses the ritual of 1614, he is acting correctly and it is effective, and if an exorcist uses the one from the year 2000, he is acting efficaciously and correctly, because the Church has pledged her prayer and her faith in those rituals.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Will Biden's Inflation Reduction Act work? Here's what cash-strapped families need to know

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Washington D.C., Aug 10, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

President Joe Biden is poised to sign the $485 billion Inflation Reduction Act into law later this week, promising Americans relief from the rising cost of food and other necessities.

But the massive spending bill is drawing criticism from Republicans and even some Democrats who predict it will do little to stem record levels of inflation.

Soaring prices for everything from groceries to gasoline promise to be a major campaign issue for both parties heading into November’s midterm elections. Forty percent of Americans in a recent poll listed inflation as the No. 1 priority they want the government to address. The annual inflation rate jumped to 9.1% in June, a record 40-year high. 

Catholic families are among those feeling the squeeze. Nearly 90% of Catholics say they have had their finances significantly impacted by inflation, yet a majority (57%) say they do not have much or any confidence that Biden will be able to significantly curb inflation over the coming year, according to an EWTN/RealClear Opinion Research poll released in July.

Here’s a breakdown of what Catholic families worried about the rising cost of living need to know about the government’s plans to address the problem. 

Will the Inflation Reduction Act work?

From the Biden administration’s point of view, the bill would reduce inflation by investing about $485 billion into policy measures aimed at driving economic growth through tax breaks and spending on climate, energy, and healthcare.

The bill’s significant health policy changes include expanding Obamacare, providing free vaccines for seniors, and allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drug prices.

The act also designates $124 billion to the Internal Revenue Service for beefed up tax enforcement. Senate Democrats say the move will ensure that “wealthy millionaires and billionaires” pay their fair share. Republicans disagree, with the House Freedom Caucus saying in a statement that the proposal would create “an army of 87,000 new enforcement agents" targeting Americans.

In a statement Sunday, Biden said that the bill will “lower the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance, and everyday energy costs, and reduce the deficit while making the wealthiest corporations finally pay their fair share.”

Biden emphasized that “[the bill] pays for all this by establishing a minimum corporate tax so that our richest corporations start to pay their fair share,” adding, “It does not raise taxes on those making under $400,000 a year — not one cent.”

Biden’s economic strategy centers on large spending packages and “offers government investments and incentives for domestic output, along with social support to bring more people into the labor market — while reducing environmental damage,” Bloomberg reported.

President Joe Biden gestures as he delivers remarks on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 in the State Dining Room of the White House on July 28, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
President Joe Biden gestures as he delivers remarks on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 in the State Dining Room of the White House on July 28, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

But skeptics are speaking out about the bill’s projected flaws.

One of the bill’s more vocal critics is Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who referred to the legislation Saturday as “the so-called Inflation Reduction Act” in a speech on the Senate floor. Citing analyses by the Congressional Budget Office and other economic organizations, Sanders predicted that the bill “will, in fact, have a minimal impact on inflation.”

The Penn Wharton Budget Model — which Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia often relies on when assessing legislation — has predicted that the bill’s impact on inflation is “statistically indistinguishable from zero.” 

The analysis estimated that the bill would actually “slightly increase inflation until 2024 and decrease inflation thereafter … thereby indicating low confidence that the legislation will have any impact on inflation.”

However, Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, supports the bill, saying it will add a small amount of growth and “lean against inflation over the next decade.”

“It is more than paid for with tax hikes on large corporations and the well-to-do,” he added. 

Moody’s says the bill “will modestly reduce inflation over the 10-year budget horizon,” becoming “more meaningful later in the decade.” 

Many American families, however, want inflation relief now, not incremental decreases over time.  

Controversial climate change costs

The 755-page bill also includes a proposed $369 billion in climate change provisions designed to shift Americans to green energy and propel the U.S. to being a global leader on climate change.

In a statement Sunday, Biden championed the bill as “the largest investment ever in combating the existential crisis of climate change.” 

Among the climate provisions are $3 billion for “environmental and climate justice” programs, $250 million for making federal buildings green, incentives for Americans to buy electric vehicles, and a methane emissions tax.

Yet some economists and other groups warn these measures could hurt those already facing pressure on their pocketbooks.

A recent report by CatholicVote, a non-profit advocacy group run by Catholic laity, says the poor will be negatively impacted the most.

Green energy measures have large up-front costs, which could lead to “increased utility bills for the lower-middle and lower-income families who still rely on these sources for heating, cooling, lighting, and refrigeration,” the report explained. 

Michael Stojsavljevich, a managing partner at the economic advisory firm Geostratix and former Department of Labor official, told CNA that the bill is “inefficient” and will lead to more burdens on families.

“It does not do anything to address the underlying causes of inflation, which are supply-chain based and spending-based. We’re spending more money and chasing fewer goods,” he said.

Stojsavljevich says that the bill instead “shifts the focus to pursuing green energy policies" and goods that the average American can't afford or is unlikely to buy.

In a letter to Congress, the American Gas Association estimated that the bill’s methane tax would increase energy prices up to 17% for the average family and would impose “major new costs” in the form of higher bills for families and small businesses who use natural gas. 

“These outcomes are inconsistent with President Biden’s commitment to pay for reconciliation without imposing new taxes on lower-income Americans,” the industry group wrote in the letter, emphasizing that the bill would harm lower-income Americans the most. 

Young Catholics in Ireland say their voices have not been heard during synodal process

Celtic Cross on the hill at Cashel, Tipperary, Ireland. / Tom Haymes (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

CNA Newsroom, Aug 10, 2022 / 01:54 am (CNA).

A group of 500 young Catholics in Ireland have signed a letter saying they love the Church’s teaching, but that their voices had not been heard in the process leading up to the Synod on Synodality in Rome.

They express concern that the synodal process underway might falsely give the impression that all Catholics in Ireland would like to see changes made.

The letter is addressed to the Synod Steering Committee, responsible for gathering and summarizing responses to the questions posed in recent questionnaires for the Irish Synodal Pathway.

A copy was also sent to the bishops of Ireland.

Speaking to the Irish Catholic, Peadar Hand, one of the letter’s organizers, said, “among people who are actually practicing and trying their best to live their faith, there’s no desire for [a change in Church teaching].”

“The duty of the Church is not to change with the world, but to change the world,” he continued.
The letter reads: “As young practicing Catholics, we would like you to hear our voices regarding developments with the Synodal Synthesis.”

“We have concerns that following the presentations at the Pre-Synodal National Gathering in June, the emerging synthesis risks presenting a false conclusion, namely that the Sensus Fidei is in conflict with current church teaching and practice. This relates in particular to human sexuality, marriage and ordained ministry.”

The sensus fidei, or sensus fidelium, is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as "the supernatural appreciation of faith on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals."

CNA has reached out to the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference for comment.

Pope Francis announced a Synod on Synodality in March 2020 in order “to provide an opportunity for the entire People of God to discern together how to move forward on the path towards being a more synodal Church in the long-term.”

The synodal process to prepare the synod started with consultations at the diocesan level in October 2021. A continental phase is scheduled to commence in March 2023, according to the Synod on Synodality’s website. The final and universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.



Vatican enlists influencers to get young, disenchanted Catholics to answer Synod survey

null / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Aug 9, 2022 / 16:34 pm (CNA).

Last fall, Catholics around the world began gathering in church basements and school gyms to, in the words of Pope Francis, “look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say.” These listening sessions were the first phase of the two-year-long Synod on Synodality that will end in 2023 when the bishops meet to chew over what they’ve learned.

Now that parishes have recorded testimony from the faithful and compiled it in official reports, the Vatican is sending the message that they want to hear from those they may have missed – young or inactive Catholics who failed to show up at the parish meetings.

Jimmy Akin, a Catholic apologist and a host of the popular radio call-in show Catholic Answers Live, is one of several lay Catholic “influencers” the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications asked to reach out to those unaccounted-for Catholics. 

Akin’s radio audience includes many non-Catholics, agnostics and atheists who try to trip him up with challenges to the faith. He answers respectfully, using logical arguments to defend the teachings of the Church, reminding his listeners that as a convert, he too faced similar obstacles before deciding to become a Catholic.

On Twitter Monday, Akin invited his 21,800-plus followers to participate in the Synod by filling out a survey. 

“The Vatican is doing an online survey to be submitted to the Synod of Bishops. They are interested in hearing from a wide range of people who may or may not be active Catholics. You can share your views here. The deadline is August 15,” he posted.

The survey, which he links to his website, asks respondents questions about their faith, how often they go to Mass, and whether they have had a personal encounter with God. 

Other questions, concerning attitudes towards the Church, provoked a negative reaction from some who took issue with the phrasing of the multiple choice answers.

One survey question, for example, asks, “Which of these attributes best define the Church?”

Survey takers are asked to select three adjectives from the following list: “supportive,” “selfish,” “authoritarian”, “participative,” “innovative,” “outdated,” “close,” and “distant.”

Another question, asking why people leave the Church, didn’t include enough options, some Twitter users suggested:

One Twitter user wrote, in response to Akin’s post, “I’m sorry Jimmy but this survey is rubbish, it is very clear that the one who made it is out of touch with the real challenges facing the Church nowadays (lack of reverence, suppression of tradition, relativism, religious indifferentism, going with the Zeitgeist etc. etc.).”

 

While the overwhelming majority of comments to Akin’s post were negative, there was some praise for the Vatican’s efforts:

Akin told CNA he wasn’t surprised at the reaction to the survey.

“Many people are suspicious of the upcoming Synod on Synodality, and that itself would generate concerns. Also, from filling out the questionnaire myself, it was clear that whoever composed the questions and answers was not thinking from the perspective of many active, engaged, orthodox Catholics,” he said.

“I expected that there would be individuals who saw the questionnaire as slanted towards a particular set of viewpoints and answers,” Akin added.

On the whole, he thinks it is worth completing the questionnaire.

“My view is that if the Vatican asks for your opinions, it is better to cooperate and give them, even if the instrument is imperfect. Having your voice heard is better than not having it heard at all,” Akin said.

Akin added that he was glad to help when asked.

"I recognize that the Holy See is a place with people who have many different views, and nobody except the pope has the final say on a thing. But I believe in being helpful and constructive when asked, so I was happy to help the Dicastery for Communications," he said.

The Vatican, he said, was also aware that Akin’s audience and that of the other influencers is not representative of active Catholics.

“Someone at the Vatican clearly understood that they would not be getting the views of people who don't go to Mass from the diocesan surveys. They made a point to us that participants do not need to be active Catholics to share their views. They want to hear from people of goodwill who are willing to engage with the Church in some form, even if some do not presently practice the Faith,” he said.

The Vatican’s communications office conducted a similar campaign in France and in Spain, employing “priest influencers” to reach out to young people who failed to attend the parish Synod meetings.

"Following the synod, from which young people were largely absent, the dicastery met with a group of Spanish influencers," Father Gaspard Craplet told the French Catholic website La Croix.

"They said that the digital world should be consulted and submitted the question to the pope, who replied that we should go for it," he said.

Craplet told La Croix that the dicastery contacted him and other priests who have a following on social media and asked them to pass along the survey. 

"Unlike a parish, influencers reach people who follow them freely, like sheep choosing their shepherd," he said.

The survey distributed in Spain sparked backlash because a possible gender identification was reportedly listed as “I do not know.”

That part of the survey was said to have been amended to read, “Don’t want to respond,” the answer that was subsequently adopted by the American version of the survey distributed by Akin.

The Synod on Synodality was announced in March 2020. It is focused on discernment with the whole people of God, journeying together, and listening to one another.

It began with a diocesan phase, in which each bishop has been asked to undertake a consultation process with his local Church. The results of these consultations are to be sent to the Vatican by Aug. 15.

This will be followed by a continental phase, from September until March 2023. It will conclude with a Synod of Bishops held at the Vatican in October 2023.

Lightning strike causes major fire damage to historic Illinois Catholic church

Firefighters work to put out a roof fire at historic St. James Catholic Church, in Rockford, Illinois, on Aug. 8, 2022. The Diocese of Rockford said a lightning strike was a possible cause. / Screenshot of Rockford Diocese video

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 9, 2022 / 15:10 pm (CNA).

A lightning strike caused a roof fire Monday that severely damaged a historic Catholic church in Rockford, Illinois, and left three firefighters injured, authorities said.

The Rockford Fire Department determined that lightning set the roof on fire at Saint James Catholic Church, Mike Rotolo, the department's fire prevention coordinator, told CNA Tuesday. The damage to the church may exceed $3 million, he said.

The city's building department posted a yellow sign with the message “Condemned: Do Not Enter” outside the church Monday, Rotolo said. This means that the building is not safe to use in its current condition, he said.

The church is located outside the Chicago metropolitan area in the far northern part of the state. The church was first blessed in 1853, according to the parish’s website.

In a statement, the Diocese of Rockford said the fire broke out before 7 a.m. on Aug. 8. The diocese posted a video on its Facebook page showing firefighters responding to the blaze.

No one was inside the church during the time of the fire and the pastor safely removed the Holy Eucharist from the building, the diocese said.

Three firefighters responding to the scene suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the fire department said in a tweet.

“Bishop David Malloy extends his profound gratitude to all the first responders, the vigilant neighbors, and all those around the diocese who have offered prayers during this extremely sad and unfortunate event,” the diocese’s statement said.

“Prayers are also being offered for those three courageous firefighters reported to have sustained injuries while fighting this fire,” the statement added.

Pro-lifers react with dismay to news that Irish government plans to fine for praying near abortion clinic

The flag of the Republic of Ireland. / Michael Care Anderson (CC BY-NC 2.0).

CNA Newsroom, Aug 9, 2022 / 09:51 am (CNA).

Pro-life campaigners and advocates for religious freedom in Ireland have expressed dismay following the news that the Irish Government intends to introduce fines and prison sentences for people who pray, hold signs, or try to persuade women not to have abortions while they are within the vicinity of an abortion clinic.

The proposed legislation would mean that individuals would not be allowed to express pro-life views within 100m of abortion clinics while also prohibiting silent prayer, the holding of placards, and any peaceful offers of alternatives to abortion.

Pro-life activists have reacted by highlighting that there is no evidence that pro-life vigils near abortion clinics in Ireland are dangerous or unlawful.

In an August 4 statement, Megan Ní Scealláin of the Life Institute said: “Garda Commissioner Drew Harris wrote to the Minister for Health [Stephen Donnelly] to clearly state that there was ‘no evidence’ to suggest that pro-life protests at any centers were abusive or threatening. He confirmed that the vigils were, in fact, peaceful and lawful”.

“Of course, Stephen Donnelly knows this, and he is choosing to ignore the advice of Gardai to do the bidding of campaign groups and to punch down at pro-life activists who he knows are breaking no laws”, she said.

“In fact, the Garda Commissioner also stated that if any laws were to be broken existing laws were sufficient to deal with that”.

The Irish Government’s position differs to that of the UK Government’s which maintains that there are sufficient laws already in place to protect women seeking an abortion from harassment and intimidation.

Following the unveiling of the Irish Government’s proposals, David Quinn, Director of the Iona Institute, a Christian advocacy group, questioned the constitutionality of the Government’s controversial plans. 

He told Catholic News Agency on August 9: “Assuming the law goes through, it will be one of the most restrictive in the whole of Europe because other countries have more respect for the right to protest and consider laws like this to be disproportionate. We already have laws in Ireland against intimidation or harassment and our Garda Commissioner has said so in the context of calls for these buffer zones. But the Government is pressing on anyway, egged on by most opposition parties and pro-abortion lobby groups.

“Ireland has gone from being an extremely pro-life country to the opposite end of the spectrum in just a few short years. Banning even pro-life prayer vigils within 100m of places that conduct or facilitate abortion shows how badly we have changed. If the law is as restrictive as promised, it may actually be unconstitutional. The president has the power to refer it to the Supreme Court when it is ready for him to sign in the months to come and he ought do so'.”

Meanwhile, solicitor and prominent pro-life campaigner, Cora Sherlock said that the proposal should concern everyone, whatever their views on abortion. She said: “This proposal sets a very worrying precedent, and it should be of concern regardless of your view on abortion. The right to freedom of expression, movement and peaceful assembly and freedom to protest have always been held very highly in Ireland and given high priority in the Irish Constitution. Proposed legislation that would infringe on this should ring alarm bells for everyone.

An August 4 statement from the pro-life group, Right to Life, said that although the Irish Government has yet to decide on the extent of prison time or penalties for those peacefully offering alternatives to abortion, a pro-abortion campaign group, Together for Safety, had drafted a previous version of the bill that demanded a a jail sentence of six months or a €3,000 fine ($3,070).

Why did the floor of a Spanish monastery turn blood red once a year for almost 500 years?

The community of Trappist monks of the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña in Burgos, Spain. / Photo credit: Archdiocese of Burgos

Denver Newsroom, Aug 9, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

On Aug. 6 in the year 953, 200 monks living at the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña in Burgos, Spain, were put to death, martyred by Muslim troops. From that time until the end of the 15th century, the flooring at their place of martyrdom turned red with blood once a year.

The prodigious event was repeated until a few years before the Reconquista (Reconquest) in 1492 with the final surrender of the Muslims holding out in Granada and the consolidation of Spanish territory under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, known as the Catholic Monarchs. 

According to some experts, the history of the monastery dates back to the fifth century, although the current residents of the convent today state that there is no historical evidence of it until the end of the ninth century.

In any case, San Pedro de Cardeña was an important Christian center for centuries and relics of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John the Evangelist — among others — were venerated there.

Like the entire area of Burgos, for decades the surroundings of the monastery were contested borderlands, where the struggles between the Christian and Muslim kingdoms took place. To mount their attacks, the Saracens also took advantage of the fighting between monarchs and Christian feudal lords.

The first Umayyad caliph of Córdoba, Abderramán III, took advantage of the disagreements between Ordoño III, the king of León, and Fernán González, the count of Castile, and launched the incursion that led to the martyrdom of the 200 Benedictine monks of San Pedro de Cardeña.

The looting of the monastery and killing of the monks out of hatred for the faith was recorded in the General Chronicle of Alfonso X the Wise, the first large-format history of Spain written directly in Castilian Spanish at the end of the 13th century.

García Fernández, the son of Fernán González, restored the monastery after it was looted. It was in the cloister where the monks were beheaded, known since then as the cloister of the martyrs, where the blood of the martyrs flowed every year until the reign of Henry IV, who died at the end of the 15th century.

His sister, Queen Isabella of Castile, was one of the most renowned pilgrims who came to San Pedro de Cardeña to honor the memory of the martyrs, as did the monarchs Felipe II, Felipe III, and Carlos II.

Popular devotion was such that in 1603, Pope Clement VIII authorized the cult through a pontifical brief, dated 1603.

El Cid and the monastery

The connection between the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña and one of the most prominent figures of the Spanish Reconquista also gives the place a special aura.

According to the Cantar de Mio Cid, (The Song of My Lord), an epic poem about the famed warrior Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (El Cid), it was the San Pedro de Cardeña monastery where El Cid left his wife Doña Jimena and his daughters when he had to go into exile in the second half of the 11th century. The abbot at the time was St. Sisebuto.

El Cid died in Valencia in 1099. His wife remained in command of the city, but the onslaught of the Muslims made it necessary for her to flee in 1102. She therefore decided to have the corpse of the mythical warrior moved from the Valencia cathedral to San Pedro de Cardeña.

El Cid’s tomb was desecrated in 1808 by Napoleon’s troops, but General Thiébault decided to place the remains of the knight in a mausoleum located on a main avenue in the city of Burgos. The remains were brought back to the monastery in 1826.

After the Spanish confiscation, in which the government nationalized the properties of the religious orders, including the convents, the remains of El Cid were transferred to the Burgos Town Hall chapel in 1842.

It was not until 1921 that the remains of El Cid  were laid to rest next to his wife in the Burgos cathedral.

At the monastery, however, there is a monolith memorializing Babieca, the faithful horse of El Cid, where tradition says the animal was buried.

Attempts to restore monastic life

Due to the confiscation, the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña was deprived of monks for 106 years. The Benedictine Order tried to restore monastic life there at the end of the 19th century without success, as they were unable to get the use of land to support the community.

Briefly, the Piarist Fathers occupied the monastery between 1888 and 1901. Four years later, some French Capuchin friars expelled from Toulouse arrived and remained there until 1921.

In 1933, a Cistercian community arrived at the place from San Isidro de Dueñas, in Palencia. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War prevented their definitive settlement there until 1942, since the site was converted into a prison camp during the conflict. In 1948, the abbey obtained the title to the property.

At present, a community of Trappist monks lives in the monastery, and each August they commemorate the martyrdom of their predecessors.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Reacting to pontifical academy, theologian says teaching of Humanae vitae can't change

St. Paul VI / public domain

Denver, Colo., Aug 8, 2022 / 19:01 pm (CNA).

The teaching of Humanae vitae on contraception is an instance of the ordinary and universal magisterium, and as such is irreformable, a moral theologian has said in response to a statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Father Thomas Petri, O.P., president of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., noted that even critics of the teaching on contraception have “acknowledged that this was always the Church’s teaching” and that nowhere in the Church’s teaching has there been permissiveness, of any form, of contraception.

“This suggests that this has always been the teaching of the Church, so it's part of the ordinary, universal magisterium,” Petri said. “So even if it's the case that any particular encyclical” such as Humanae vitae “is not infallible, the teaching that it presents is in fact irreformable, because it's part of the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church.”

In Humanae vitae, his 1968 encyclical on the regulation of birth, St. Paul VI wrote that “any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation — whether as an end or as a means” is “excluded,” as an unlawful means of birth control.

The Pontifical Academy

The Pontifical Academy for Life, an institution associated with the Holy See but which is not itself a magisterial body, hosted a 2021 seminar on ethics in which a participant discussed “the possible legitimacy of contraception in certain cases.”

A synthesis of the seminar was recently published by the Vatican Publishing House, which has given rise to questions about whether the Church’s teaching on birth control is reformable.

The Pontifical Academy for Life has defended the discussion it hosted of the permissibility of contraception, tweeting Aug. 5 that “History records by Abp. [Ferdinando] Lambruschini confirmed that Paul VI said him directly that HV were not under infallibility.”

Then in an Aug. 8 statement, the academy wrote that “many people on Twitter seem to believe that Humanae Vitae is an infallible and irreformable pronouncement against contraception.”

It noted that “when the moral theologian of the Pontifical Lateran University Msgr. Ferdinando Lambruschini presented Humanae Vitae in a press conference … he stated under the mandate of Paul VI — that the encylical Humanae Vitae is not to be considered part of the infallible pronouncements. Lambruschini stressed that Humanae Vitae did not express a definitive truth of faith granted by ‘infallibilitas in docendo.’”

The statement added that as Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyła asked Paul VI to define Humanae vitae’s teaching as infallible. “Pope Paul VI did not do it and neither did Pope John Paul II during 26 years of his pontificate," the academy's statement said.

Father Petri’s response

Petri noted that St. John Paul II had confirmed Humanae vitae’s teaching as part of the ordinary and universal magisterium. 

“In Veritatis splendor — which the Pontifical Academy does not note — in Veritatis splendor John Paul II does say that contraception is an intrinsically evil act, so there can be no reason or purpose for contraception. Benedict XVI gave several speeches in which he spoke about contraception, and it can't be changed. What was true yesterday is true today.”

While there can be “legitimate discussions of how to present it or how to help people understand it, or how to help people who are in difficult situations, whether medically or even because of moral pressure,” the teaching itself is not a topic for debate, explained Petri, author of "Aquinas and the Theology of the Body" (Catholic University of America Press, 2016).

“There could be a real discussion about how to do that, but there can't be any sort of rollback of the teaching, because it's what’s always been taught, and that's how Catholic theology, and Catholic doctrine, works.”

“These things aren't really meant to be argued over Twitter,” he reflected. “It's not the forum to sort of put these things out there.”

Petri added that “It's not helpful to simply focus on infallibility and what is named infallible in an extraordinary way. The First Vatican Council, when it spoke about papal infallibility, was very clear that it was supposed to be an extraordinary act.”

Petri compared an infallible statement to an ecumenical council. He described it as “a very extraordinary act, and which usually only happens when the matter at issue, whether it's a doctrinal matter or a moral matter, has become so entirely embroiled in conflict … that it requires such an extraordinary act as a pope or a council declaring something infallibly.”

“That's not normally how Church teaching works — that's why the ordinary magisterium is important.”

When a pope does not intend to teach infallibly, “that doesn't mean we're supposed to ignore what he's teaching, or to act like his opinion is just one opinion among many," Petri said.

“Even if he's not intending to proclaim something infallible, especially when he's teaching things that popes have been teaching for centuries, it has a certain weight to it.” 

While one might disagree with how things are expressed, “that doesn't mean that what he's teaching is up for grabs," Petri said.

“All the more so when you're talking about a teaching which multiple popes have repeated over multiple decades. And in the case of contraception we could say centuries," he said.

"You simply can't say, ‘Well, Humanae vitae wasn’t declared infallible, Paul VI didn’t declare it infallible, therefore because it’s not infallible, it’s up for grabs.' This is not a binary.” 

A similar point was made in a 2019 article by Augusto Sarmiento.

Sarmiento wrote about the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1990 instruction on the ecclesial vocation of the theologian, which discusses various levels of magisterial statements. The article appeared in “Dizionario su Sesso, Amore e Fecondità,” edited by Father José Noriega and René and Isabelle Ecochard.

A professor at the Univerisity of Pamplona, Sarmiento noted that “the pope, with Humanae vitae, did not will to propose an extraordinary teaching of the Magisterium ex cathedra.”

To support this, he quoted from Lambruschini’s comments at the press conference presenting the encyclical: “However, it is always an authentic pronouncement, especially since it is part of the continuity of the ecclesiastical magisterium.” 

Sarmiento wrote: “On the nature of the authority with which the norm of Humanae vitae is proclaimed, there is no doubt that it is part of the ordinary, universal magisterium,” and that the encyclical “is a teaching of the ordinary universal Magisterium of the Pope and of the bishops that must be considered definitive.”

Humanae vitae and its precedents

In Humanae vitae St. Paul VI taught that “sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive” is thereby “intrinsically wrong.”

The pope discussed artificial birth control in the context of defining and analyzing marital love and responsible parenthood.

“The Church … in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life,” St. Paul VI wrote, adding that this doctrine has been “often expounded by the magisterium of the Church.”

He presented his statements as a reply, given “by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ,” to questions on the moral doctrine of marriage.

St. Paul VI referred especially to the teaching of Gaudium et spes, the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world. 

Gaudium et spes stated that spouses “must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel … Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice, married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when with a generous human and Christian sense of responsibility they acquit themselves of the duty to procreate.”

This statement, in turn, referred in a footnote to Casti connubii, Pius XI’s 1930 encyclical on Christian marriage, which proclaimed “any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.”

In that encyclical Pius XI referred to “frustrating the marriage act” as a “criminal abuse," and said that “those who in exercising [the conjugal act] deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.”

Casti connubii also states that “Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime,” and cites St. Augustine’s interpretation of Scripture as such.

The present day

Pope Francis was asked about a re-evaluation of the Church’s doctrine on contraception, or whether the use of contraceptives may be considered, on his July 29 flight from Canada to Rome.

The pope responded that “dogma, morality, is always on a path of development, but always developing in the same direction.” He cited St. Vincent of Lerins as saying “that true doctrine, in order to move forward, to develop, must not be still, it develops … it is consolidated over time, it expands and consolidates, and becomes always more solid, but always progressing. That is why the duty of theologians is research, theological reflection. You cannot do theology with a ‘no’ in front. Then it is up to the Magisterium to say, ‘No, you’ve gone too far, come back.' But theological development must be open, that’s what theologians are for. And the Magisterium must help to understand the limits.”

He referred to the acts of the Pontifical Academy for Life’s seminar, saying, “those who participated in this congress did their duty, because they have sought to move forward in doctrine, but in an ecclesial sense, not outside of it, as I said with that rule of Saint Vincent of Lérins. Then the Magisterium will say, ‘yes, it is good’ or ‘it is not good.'”

Mónica López Barahona, a board member of the academy, told ACI Prensa last month that “It’s not true that the Church or the Magisterium have changed their moral criteria regarding some questions of bioethics; not even that the Vatican has begun a process of reviewing these issues.”

López stressed that "the book is not an official declaration of the Pontifical Academy for Life on these issues" and that it does not represent "the moral criteria of all its members,” adding that “some were disconcerted when they saw the news about the publication of the book and the seminar, about which they knew nothing until that moment."

Drive-by gunshots target Denver-area Catholic church

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Adams County, Colorado, sustained thousands of dollars in estimated damage from a pair of drive-by shootings Aug. 6 and Aug. 8, 2022. / Courtesy of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church

Denver, Colo., Aug 8, 2022 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

A gunman shot at a Denver-area Catholic church in separate early morning incidents Saturday and Monday. No one was hurt, but one estimate suggests the gunshots caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Parish staff stressed the need to pray for the perpetrator and emphasized that they are taking the utmost security precautions.

“We are praying for the conversion of whoever did this,” Deacon Derrick Johnson of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church told CNA Aug 8. “If there’s any opportunity to speak to that person, we’d be happy to speak with them and have a dialogue.”

Johnson spoke after two separate rounds of gunshots hit the parish church in unincorporated Adams County just north of Denver. The Adams County Sheriff's Office is handling the investigation.

“In the early morning of Aug. 6 and 8 there were two separate incidents of shootings that hit the front doors at Assumption Parish,” Johnson recounted.

Security footage of the first incident, the deacon said, appears to show “a single motorcyclist shooting what we believe to be a pistol as he drove by.”

“These incidents happened after hours,” Johnson said. “We don’t believe they are targeting people. Just targeting the church for whatever reason.”

Photos of the church sent to CNA show damage to the church exterior, including a bullet hole in a window. Doors and doorframes also were damaged. Photos show a broken outer window above a set of double doors, with shattered glass beneath.

“The first morning we discovered three shots, two into the door and one through the stained glass in the door,” Johnson said. “Two of the bullets were recovered and given to the Adams County sheriff.”

“On Monday morning, another bullet impact was discovered, this time above the doors, impacting the protective layer of the stained glass. The projectile was also given to the sheriff’s office,” the deacon added.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Adams County, Colorado, sustained thousands of dollars in estimated damage from a pair of drive-by shootings Aug. 6 and Aug. 8, 2022. Courtesy Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Adams County, Colorado, sustained thousands of dollars in estimated damage from a pair of drive-by shootings Aug. 6 and Aug. 8, 2022. Courtesy Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church

News of the shooting has not yet become widespread among parishioners, Johnson said, though the first incident took place hours before a wedding.

Johnson wanted parishioners to know that parish staff is committed to their safety.

“We are absolutely conscious of security, between our security team and ensuring that we have adequate camera coverage and lighting in front of the parish. We’ll do our best to make sure that whoever did this is prosecuted,” he told CNA.

Though the bullet fractured one outer window, it did not break through a stained-glass window behind it.

The church’s custom-fit doors were recently completed at a cost of $75,000. The deacon described Assumption as a “very, very old parish.” The parish church was first dedicated in 1912, though the structure has gone through several renovations and expansions incorporating the original building.

Johnson estimated the damage at about $75,000.

The parish church is on the same property as Assumption School, which serves about 130 students in pre-K through eighth grade. The shooting has not affected the school, as the school year has not yet begun.

“Hopefully it’s limited to a late-night incident,” Johnson said. “We will be taking the highest security precautions for the school like we always do.”

Though the parish wants the perpetrator brought to justice, the parish is praying for its attacker.

“We’re praying for whatever is going on in the life of the person who did this,” the deacon said. “The parish is here for them.”

CNA contacted the Adams County Sheriff for comment but did not receive a response by publication time Monday.