Archive for August, 2008

Interview With Chastity Speaker Jason Evert

SAN DIEGO, California, JULY 12, 2007 ( A recent study published by a public policy research firm that claims abstinence education programs aren’t effective, doesn’t tell the whole story, says an expert.

Jason Evert, an international chastity speaker, author and full-time apologist for Catholic Answers, disagrees with the methods and findings of the study by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc .

Evert shared with ZENIT what the study gets wrong, and what good abstinence education programs get right in helping teens save sex for marriage.

Q: A recent study found that abstinence-education programs “don’t work.” What, specifically, did the study find? What do you think of the study’s findings?

Evert: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., tracked 1,209 students in four elementary and middle school abstinence programs to determine if the education they received impacted their sexual behavior. What the researchers found was that the “programs had no effect on the sexual abstinence of youth” two to five years after the program ended.

This study, however, had serious flaws.

First, the students in the study were between the ages of nine and 11, which is hardly the age at which young people understand the relevance of an abstinence message.

Second, the study had no high school component, and the students had no follow-up to the program — especially when they would have needed it the most, during the teenage years.

In the words of the Mathematica researchers, “The findings provide no information on the effects programs might have if they were implemented for high school youth or began at earlier ages but served youth through high school.”

Third, the researchers did not evaluate a comparable sexual education program in order to compare the findings.

Fourth, the majority of the students were poor African American children from broken families. Such youth are considered high risk for early sexual activity. Therefore, their behaviors are not representative of most young people.

Fifth, the sample of four schools studied represents less than 1% of the more than 900 abstinence programs that receive federal funding.

Sixth, the abstinence programs that were studied have already been revised and updated. Therefore, any conclusions drawn from them are outdated.

The Mathematica study was released for one reason: to influence congressional leaders to restrict the amount of funding given to abstinence education.

Since the early 1990s, abstinence education has received millions of dollars in federal grants. Although the government provides $12 worth of sexual education for every $1 given to promote abstinence, any financial support for abstinence means less money available for its opponents.

The good news about this study is that it shows how desperate the opponents of abstinence education have become. If this research — which cost taxpayers $6 million — is the best case against the effectiveness of abstinence education, we’re in good shape.

The media’s frenzy over this study is another effort to distract the public from the fact that sexual education has been a complete failure.

After decades of “safe sex” education in the United States, nearly half of the 19 million new sexually transmitted disease infections each year are among people between the ages of 15 and 24.

In the words of Heritage Foundation researcher Robert Rector, “The number-one determinant of whether a person will catch a sexually transmitted disease is the number of lifetime sexual partners. We seem to go out of our way as a government and a nation to avoid telling people that, but we hand out a lot of free condoms.”

Q: Do all sexual education programs have the same goal? Are they simply various methods for approaching the public health issues of venereal disease and out-of-wedlock pregnancies?

Evert: There are hundreds of different sexual education programs, and their goals vary. Some focus on HIV or teen pregnancy prevention, while others peddle contraceptives or promote perverse ideologies.

For example, Allendale Pharmaceuticals — makers of a contraceptive sponge — gave grant money to Planned Parenthood to create a sexual education curriculum for teens. In this program, the curriculum discusses the sponge 28 times, and birth control is mentioned more than 10 times more than abstinence.

One lesson in the curriculum even tells the teens to create their own advertisement for birth control. Later in the program, the textbook argues that there would be fewer teen pregnancies in America if there wasn’t so much social and political pressure for teens to be abstinent until marriage.

While some sexual education programs have been used to stir up business for birth control companies, others expose children to graphic sexual content.

For example, The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States recommends in their “Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education” that 5- to 8-year-olds should learn about lesbians being in love.

Meanwhile, they propose that 15-year-olds should know that some people choose to watch pornography as a way to enhance sexual fantasies.

Lest you assume that the Centers for Disease Control would control such nonsense, even they funded a transgender beauty pageant in San Francisco.

One thing that all sexual education programs seem to have in common is their relativistic approach to sexual values. Pervading the curricula is the idea that “only you can choose the right time for becoming sexually active.”

Because of this mentality, abstinence is looked at as a form of birth control, and is not given great emphasis. When abstinence is discussed, the arguments in favor of such a lifestyle are hardly convincing.

For example, Planned Parenthood’s Web site for teens states, “Some people may choose to be sexually abstinent in certain circumstances. A person who just broke up with someone might abstain from dating and sex play because being close to another person might not feel right, yet.”

Not surprisingly, sexual education programs spend an average of 4.7% of their content on the topic of abstinence.

Q: Let’s assume abstinence education programs in schools “don’t work.” What next?

Evert: Suppose a school offered an anti-drug and alcohol program to its students, and the curriculum failed to have a positive impact.

Imagine, as a result, that the school board concluded, “We need to take a more comprehensive approach. Let’s encourage the students to refuse drugs, and give clean syringes to those who are going to do it anyway. For those who choose to drink and drive, we should encourage the use of seat belts. After all, we need to be realistic.”

No one would take such an approach with drugs or drinking because there is unanimous consent that such behaviors are harmful for teens. This is where abstinence and sexual education programs diverge.

Those in the sexual education camp do not believe that unwed sexual activity is inherently harmful. Meanwhile, those in favor of abstinence know what’s at stake — and therefore prefer an approach focused on prevention instead of risk-reduction.

If certain abstinence programs are defective, the weaknesses must be identified and the deficiencies remedied.

For example, if a program failed to have a long-term impact, the educators should build into the curriculum such features as a longer follow-up or greater parental involvement. If the program is still defective, it should be dropped in favor of one that has already been evaluated with positive results.

Q: Would abolition of all sexual education programs in schools, including abstinence-based programs, foster more parental involvement?

Evert: No. The elimination of sexual education in schools will not prompt parents to become more involved in the lives of their children. This would be like thinking that parents would exercise more with their children if schools dropped physical education classes.

Indeed, parents are the primary sex educators of their children. The family is a school of all virtues, including chastity. When parents practice this virtue in their marriage, the children will see why Pope John Paul II called chastity “the sure way to happiness.”

In order for parents to learn the value of chastity, the Church must proclaim it with courage from the pulpits. Especially through promotion of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, children and adults can discover God’s plan for life and love.

Q: Are there any successful abstinence programs with which you are familiar?

Evert: Programs offered by Project Reality, Heritage Keepers, Sex Respect, Teen Aid, Friends First, PEERS, Pure Love Club, Project REACH and many others have been evaluated with very positive results.

More than 30 scientific evaluations have shown that abstinence education reduces sexual activity and has positive effects on teens.

For example, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health demonstrated that girls who take virginity pledges are 40% less likely to have a child out-of-wedlock than young women who do not make such pledges.

Contrary to what you may see in the media, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that teen sexual activity rates have been dropping since 1991, and now the majority of high school students are virgins.

In fact, between 1991 and 2005 the sexual activity rate of high school boys dropped twice as quickly as that of high school girls. The increase in abstinence education has played a major role in this new sexual revolution.

Q: What can Catholic schools learn from the failures of various programs in public schools? What should Catholic schools be doing about sexual education?

Evert: The first lesson to be learned is that one cannot simultaneously deliver a convincing abstinence message while explaining how to practice “safe sex.”

Second, Catholic schools should make sure that their materials are age-appropriate, medically accurate and in conformity with the wishes of the parents. When it comes to sexuality education, schools and churches exist to assist the parents, not replace them.

Teenagers are looking for love and searching for meaning in their lives. At a time when they are so vulnerable to the temptations of the world, they deserve to hear the convincing power of the beauty of God’s plan for human sexuality.


Interview With Father Augustine Di Noia

VATICAN CITY, JULY 10, 2007 ( Some 30 years after the Second Vatican Council, the Holy See is reminding the faithful of an “essential” conciliar teaching.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released today the document titled “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church.” The brief text clarifies what Vatican II meant when it said that the Church founded by Christ “subsists in the Catholic Church.”

In this interview with Vatican Radio, Dominican Father Augustine Di Noia, undersecretary of the doctrinal congregation, discusses the major issues concerning this document.

Q: Could you outline the major points that the document addresses?

Father Di Noia: There really are two main points, and then some minor points.

The main point is to address the question of whether the Second Vatican Council changed the Church’s teaching on the nature of the Church herself, and this document tries to clarify this point to say no — it was a development, a deepening, but definitely not a kind of change in the sense of altering the way in which we think of the Church.

And the point is — the fundamental point — and this is the second thing, is how to interpret the expression of the Second Vatican Council, “Lumen Gentium,” paragraph 8: “The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church.” It’s this “subsists” that has caused a tremendous amount of questioning, and we’re trying to address this.

Briefly, the point is, that instead of saying that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church, the “subsists” is used to say the same thing […] in order to make it clear that across the whole of history, and in the present, we are not in the state of having an imperfect Church that has yet to become the Church of Christ, but that the fullness of what Christ wanted the Church to be, he has established in the Catholic Church.

Then, of course, the other points, in order to explain how other Churches and ecclesial communities relate to this; the Vatican council did not want to exclude the possibility that there were in fact elements of ecclesial life — valid sacraments or the means of grace. I mean, all of the Church/ecclesial communities that read the Scriptures, in that sense with faith, have a certain element of what Christ intended the Church to be.

Q: Why was it decided to have this document come out at this time?

Father Di Noia: That’s an important question.

I suppose it has to do with the reaction to an earlier document, the famous ” Dominus Iesus” that came out, if you recall, in 2000.

I remember that when I was working for the bishops’ conference in the United States, and we had received advanced copies of this document, and I was asked to prepare the bishops for ” Dominus Iesus,” I said well, there is absolutely nothing new here, so the bishops will be fine with it. But as you know, the reaction to ” Dominus Iesus” was extremely, let’s say, contestative. I mean, it was a very difficult document.

What we saw was the people […] didn’t understand that not simply we had to speak of Christ as being the universal savior, but that the Church was the principle means by which the grace of Christ would be communicated to the world, and that, if you recall, created most of the controversy, certainly ecumenically.

So this was kind of a wake-up call. I’d say that “Dominus Iesus” was a wake-up call, that 30 years after Vatican II, people seemed to have forgotten something very essential that Vatican II taught. And so it was out of that moment that the cardinal members of the congregation — and also other people, bishops and so on, raising questions about this — the congregation decided to proceed with a clarification.

The document is called “Responses to [Some] Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church.” It is a very narrow point, it’s a relatively short document, as you know, and the commentary attached, so it’s a very precise set of responses to questions that have arisen.

Q: How does this new document relate to previous documents speaking about the nature of the Church and ecumenism that have been released?

Father Di Noia: The response, the responses really, because there are a couple, do not add anything to the preceding teaching of the magisterium, but really are meant to recall and make more precise the authentic significance of the various doctrinal expressions used to speak about the Church in past magisterium.

See it’s a very important point that — experientially — that when you go into a Catholic Church, essentially this document is reaffirming this point, this very fundamental point, that when you go into a Catholic Church and become a participant in the community there, with the round of Mass, and the sacrament of penance, and baptism, and confirmation, and everything else that goes on there, you will find everything that Christ intended the Church to be.

And even though there are divisions in Christianity, that does not mean that the Church does not exist perfectly. You see it’s not that we have to repair or heal the divisions, we do have to seek the unity among all the different Christian communities that Christ willed, but the fact that not all Churches are in communion with the Sea of Peter does not mean that the Church is wounded to the effect that it no longer exists in its integrity.

Q: How can this document help in ecumenical dialogue?

Father Di Noia: The commitment of the Catholic Church to ecumenical dialogue is as Benedict XVI himself has said, and certainly Pope John Paul II said frequently as well, “irrenunciable.”

That is to say, the Church is not backtracking on its ecumenical commitment. As you know, it is fundamental to any kind of dialogue that the participants are clear about their own identity, that is, dialogue cannot be an occasion to accommodate or soften what you actually understand yourself to be in order to achieve a sort of false sense of consensus.

It is a fundamental condition of dialogue really, that the participants are clear about what their self-identity is so that in a sense they are being truthful; they are coming to the table with a clear expression of what they understand themselves to be.

So in that sense it is never a backtracking of dialogue to be clear about what you are, but it’s an essential condition for it, otherwise the results that you achieve, they’re easily undermined by the truth about it.

Annual Report Reveals Big Increase in Trade

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JULY 9, 2007 ( World military expenditure grew 3.5% in 2006, reaching $1,204 billion. On June 11 the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute published the latest edition of its annual yearbook that provides an ample panorama of armaments and global security issues.

Last year’s increase means that between 1997-2006 world military expenditure rose by 37%. Moreover, almost 50% more conventional weapons were transferred internationally in 2006 than in 2002.

Elisabeth Sköns, one of those involved in writing the report, commented: “It is worth asking how cost-effective military expenditure is as a way of increasing the security of human lives, if we talk about avoiding premature deaths and disability due to current dangers.”

“For example, we know that millions of lives could be saved through basic health interventions that would cost a fraction of what the world spends on military forces every year,” she said in a press release accompanying the report’s publication.

The report pointed out that world military expenditure is unevenly distributed to an extreme degree. In 2006, the 15 countries with the highest spending accounted for 83% of the global total. The United States spent $528.7 billion. Military spending by the U.S. has increased sharply due to the cost of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The report noted that in 2006 China’s military expenditure continued to increase rapidly, reaching $49.5 billion. For the first time it surpassed that of Japan ($43.7 billion), thus making China the biggest military spender in Asia and the fourth biggest in the world. In fact, Japan decreased its military spending last year, for the fifth consecutive year. India was the third biggest spender in Asia, at $23.9 billion.

Sales up

The arms sales of the 100 largest arms-producing companies in the world (figures for 2005) increased by 3% in real terms compared to 2004, and by 18% for 2002. American companies dominate the top 100 with 40 U.S. firms accounting for 63% of the groups’ arms sales of $290 billion in 2005.

Some 32 Western European companies accounted for another 29% and 9 Russian companies for 2%. Companies based in Japan, Israel and India, in descending order, accounted for most of the remaining 6% of world arms sales.

The report explained that an important factor behind changes in the arms industry is the high and rising costs of advanced weapon systems. In fact, most governments cannot afford to maintain their current levels of arms procurement due to the increasing costs.

In terms of the international trade in conventional arms, the United States and Russia were the largest suppliers in the five-year period of 2002-2006, each accounting for around 30% of global deliveries. Exports from European Union members to non-European Union countries accounted for just over 20% arms delivered. The list of the top-10 arms importers is headed by China and India, but there were also five Middle Eastern countries in the top 10.

The report added that 2006 saw new attention given to the problem of state supplies of weapons to rebel groups, due to the arsenal acquired by Hezbollah from Iran and used in its war with Israel. There is little transparency regarding arms transfers, the report lamented. Although there were improvements in this area in the 1990s, with more and better national reports by countries on their exports no further progress has been made in recent years.

Nuclear worries

The situation regarding nuclear weapons is worrying, the report commented. In October 2006 North Korea carried out a nuclear test explosion. The explosion followed a series of ballistic missile flight-tests. In addition, Iran has ended the voluntary suspension of its uranium enrichment program.

When it comes to chemical weapons there is concern that the deadline of April 2012 for the destruction of all these arms, established by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, will not be met by all states.

Regarding biological weapons the report noted that efforts continue in terms of improving surveillance and response, and talks continue regarding non-proliferation and disarmament measures. Nevertheless, there is little reliable public information on the attempts to acquire, develop or use such weapons.

Talks also continued last year to control or reduce conventional weapons, but they continued to remain stalled according to the report. On the positive side, however, the number of states adhering to the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mines Convention is rising. The report also noted that interest in humanitarian efforts to contain the scourge of what it termed “inhumane weapons” is steadily growing.

Maintain efforts

During the last year, Vatican representatives have intervened on a number of occasions during meetings of the United Nations to put forward the Church’s position regarding armaments.

Last October 6 Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, spoke before the General Assembly’s first commission during a session devoted to disarmament and international security.

He commented that some of the efforts to control arms have failed. For example, last summer’s meetings on the issue on small arms did not produce any concrete results. Moreover, arms expenditures continue to be high.

“Too often, the debates over small arms and nuclear weapons are carried on in abstract terms from preconceived positions and there is little sign of willingness to learn,” said Archbishop Migliore.

He did, however, observe that on the positive side the number of conflicts between states is declining. As well, peacekeeping missions are controlling wars in many places. The Vatican representative urged the United Nations to continue efforts at dialogue on arms issues, noting in particular the urgency of taking steps to control the proliferation of nuclear arms.

Just a few days later, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace published a statement supporting a U.N. resolution on the international control of the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons.

In the statement, dated Oct. 10, 2006, the council noted that over the past decades many millions of deaths have resulted from conflicts in which conventional weapons were used. There are, in fact, the document stated, few controls over the sale of such weapons and no effective monitoring system for conventional arms trading.

“Weapons cannot be considered as any other good exchanged on the global, regional or national market,” the statement declared. “Their possession, production and trade have deep ethical and social implications and they must be regulated by paying due attention to specific principles of the moral and legal order,” the council exhorted.

On the matter of nuclear arms, Monsignor Michael W. Banach addressed a meeting May 1 of the United Nations held in Vienna to review the treaty on the non-proliferation of these weapons.

He commented on the importance of both nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, not only in order to defeat nuclear terrorism, but also as an important step in realizing “a culture of life and of peace capable of promoting in an effective way the integral development of peoples.”

“The truth of peace requires that all — whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them — agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament,” Monsignor Banach stated. As the latest data on arms sales reveals, achieving this truth of peace remains an elusive, but urgent, goal.

Father John Zuhlsdorf Analyzes

ROME, JULY 8, 2007 ( Benedict XVI’s letter on the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope John XXIII is an opportunity for Church members to widen their hearts, according to liturgy expert Father John Zuhlsdorf.

On Saturday, the Vatican released the apostolic letter issued “motu proprio,” on one’s own initiative,” titled “Summorum Pontificum,” along with an accompanying letter to bishops.

For an analysis of the documents, ZENIT turned to Father John Zuhlsdorf, author of the column on liturgical translation titled “What Does the Prayer Really Say,” published in the national Catholic weekly journal The Wanderer.

The column turned into a popular blog of the same name.

Q: What is a “motu proprio?”

Father Zuhlsdorf: A “motu proprio” is a document issued by a Pope “by his own motion,” that is, on his own initiative and signed by him. It very often is a rescript, or a written response sent back about a question put to him, or on some burning issue.

Famous “motu proprio” letters are “Tra le Sollecitudini” of Pope St. Pius X in 1903 on Sacred Music and, of course, John Paul II’s “Ecclesia Dei Adflicta” in 1988 after Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre consecrated bishops without pontifical mandate.

Q: Can you summarize the main points of the document?

Father Zuhlsdorf: There are not many new things in “Summorum Pontificum.” Many of its provisions were already in place after “Ecclesia Dei Adflicta,” which broadened, but in a vague way, the restrictive legislation in the 1986 document “Quattuor Abhinc Annos.” This 2007 “motu proprio” removes ambiguities and resolves disputes. It levels the playing field in a way the previous documents did not.

For example, it makes clear that use of older liturgical books was never totally forbidden. The old form wasn’t “abrogated.” Some thought it was. All priests will be able to say Mass with the older “use” in private. That had been a disputed point.

In the matter of public Masses, where there are stable groups of people who desire them, pastors can schedule a regular Mass in parishes. There are some reasonable restrictions for Good Friday, Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil.

Parishes or oratories can be erected where only the older liturgical books are used. Bishops could do that before, of course.

As the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” clarified years ago, it is possible, not obligatory, to use the lectionary of the Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI, the new readings, in the Missal of John XXIII. It was never spelled how that would be done. “Summorum Pontificum” doesn’t either. The Pontifical Commission will have to figure that out.

The older books may be used for other sacraments as well: baptism, penance, extreme unction. Only bishops will be able to confer confirmation and holy orders, of course. Priests will be able to use the pre-conciliar Roman Breviary instead of the usual Liturgy of the Hours.

A new point is that the older form of Mass is regarded by the Pope as an extraordinary “use” of the one Latin Rite, while the Missal of Paul VI, or “Novus Ordo,” remains the ordinary “use.” Benedict stresses there are not two rites, but one rite in two expressions or “uses.” This has been a matter of deep debate.

Many say the “Novus Ordo” is so different from the Missal of John XXIII, or Tridentine form, that it constitutes a different rite — the rupture with tradition was supposedly that profound. There are good arguments for that claim, but the Holy Father is leading us in the other direction on this question.

Another new point, though we will see how this works, is that the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” will have to be reinvigorated, and given its due role.

The document aims to promote unity and people’s rights. Critics of the Pope’s move, not a few bishops included, have warned that this derestriction will cause disunity in parishes and dioceses, chaos will reign, the council will be undermined, and the clock will start whirling backward.

Frankly, I think most of the opposition from bishops was really motivated by concern that this document would restrict the bishops’ own authority. Benedict XVI built in safeguards for the bishops to exercise oversight in their dioceses. That is good and prudent. It must be so.

But he makes it clear that there is a new model to be followed by everyone, bishops included. This cannot be emphasized too much. By this “motu proprio,” Benedict XVI asserts that traditionally minded Catholics are not to be seen as the nutty aunt to be locked up in the diocese’s attic. They have valuable contributions to make. They have rights.

One of the most important aspects of this “motu proprio” is that it underscores the rights of priests and laypeople. It does not cut the legs from under the bishops. But it is a shot in the arm for lay people. The Pope is showing confidence in lay people with a concrete act, but also to priests and bishops. This is a beautiful continuation of John Paul II’s call for mutual respect and generosity.

Benedict XVI is asking everyone to open their hearts. In his explanatory letter he even quotes 2 Corinthians 6:13: “Widen your hearts!” When you read “Summorum Pontificum” with a wide heart, no one need fear that rights will be trampled or due authority undermined.

Q: Why is the “liberalization” of the1962 Roman Missal necessary after the world’s bishops were granted permission to allow this rite to be celebrated over 20 years ago?

Father Zuhlsdorf: At first there was a very strict permission granted by John Paul II in 1986 to use the 1962 “Missale Romanum.” After Archbishop Lefebvre illicitly consecrated bishops in June of 1988, Pope John Paul issued his “motu proprio” “Ecclesia Dei Adflicta” which effectively relaxed the restrictive permission of 1986, but in a vague way.

In that document John Paul II called, actually decreed by his apostolic authority, for bishops and priests to be generous and to show respect to those who wanted older expressions of the liturgy. Some did. More didn’t.

Meanwhile, the gap between the late Archbishop Lefebvre’s group, the Society of St. Pius X, has in some respects grown wider, in some respects less. The dispute over the use of the Missal of Paul VI, or “ordinary” use, has not settled down, in spite of numerous disciplinary documents issued by the Holy See. It is as if we have lost sight of where our liturgy comes from and what it is supposed to be.

Long before his elevation to the See of Peter, Benedict XVI wrote and spoke about the continuity our liturgical rites and practice must have with our Tradition. Liturgy grows organically over a long period from living the faith and coming in contact with various cultures.

The Missal of Paul VI was, in some ways, pasted together on desks by experts, some of whom it must be said had their own ideological agendas. Together with an unbridled attitude of “out with the old,” there was a perceived rupture in the Church’s liturgical tradition.

This break in the Church’s liturgical life has not borne exclusively happy fruits. Among other wounds, it gave an impression that if the liturgy could change almost overnight and old forms be banished, anything could change — even doctrine.

But let’s cut through the theory. Restoring the older way of saying Mass is simply the prudent thing to do. As Benedict XVI has written, it was unreasonable to ban so suddenly a form of the Mass that shaped Catholic identity for centuries. That did damage to our Catholic identity. We have to heal the wounds.

Q: Many commentators view the “motu proprio” as an attempt to heal the schism between the Holy See and traditionalist sects. What is your view?

Father Zuhlsdorf: This ought to help remedy the break between the Society of St. Pius X and the Holy See.

My view is that extending this faculty to all priests will help, but it won’t solve anything. There are deeper issues that will not be easily resolved.

The matter of what book a priest can say Mass from, or lifting the excommunication imposed on the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, can both be resolved with the stroke of the Pope’s pen.

But yet to be resolved are theological issues such as the Second Vatican Council’s teaching about religious liberty and how the Church is to interact with the world. That is why I don’t think this “motu proprio” is primarily about the break with the Society of St. Pius X.

People on both sides of the issue have long looked at the other with what I call “funnel vision.” When we look at each other with Christ’s heart, through “the invisible wound of love” as Richard of St. Victor called it, many problems melt away. It is time to heal.

Q: Other analysts argue that the purpose of the “motu proprio” is to help foster genuine liturgical renewal of the Missal of Paul VI — along the lines of a “reform of the reform.” How might this occur?

Father Zuhlsdorf: As I said before, liturgy grows organically over a long period from living the faith and coming in contact with various cultures. Historically, different rites of Mass influenced each other.

What will happen with the derestriction of the older form of the Mass will be a cross-pollination, as it were, use of one Mass influencing the other. This is already the case.

Since Pope John Paul II’s original derestriction, many young priests have become interested in older forms of Mass. They didn’t really know the “Tridentine” Mass, but they also aren’t lugging around the baggage of the 60s and 70s. They aren’t trapped in that false “Spirit of Vatican II.”

The same goes for some older priests who get reacquainted with the “extraordinary” form of the Mass after years without contact. When they start studying the older form, they adjust the way they celebrate the “Novus Ordo.” They begin to re-root their style of celebration of Mass in our profound tradition.

They develop a different sense of the “ars celebrandi,” the proper liturgical manner and attitude spoken of by Pope Benedict in his post-synodal exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis.”

In an ironic sense, I have heard some quip that the “Novus Ordo” gets better the more you celebrate it as if it were the older form of Mass.

On the other hand, people using the older form of Mass have learned from the last few decades of the “Novus Ordo.” They probably say and participate in the Tridentine Mass better now than people did before all the changes.

The lack of the older missal for so long increased our appreciation of its riches. The good and the bad experiences, even the abuses, have taught us lessons.

When I watch priests celebrate the older form, I can tell they are acutely aware that there are actually people in the pews. There is a strong connection between the priest and congregation. The bottom line is that the different uses will have an influence on the whole liturgical life of the Church. We will all be enriched. There are no losers here. We are all winners.

Q: What does the “motu proprio” have to do with what the Holy Father calls “the hermeneutic of continuity?”

Father Zuhlsdorf: Let’s make a couple of distinctions. I try to examine important documents by considering what they say to the Church — “ad intra” — and also to the world — “ad extra.”

From the “ad intra” point of view, Benedict XVI wants to heal breaks in continuity in various spheres of the Church’s life. The derestriction will, as I said, re-root celebrations of Holy Mass in our deep liturgical tradition.

In his 2005 Christmas address to the Roman Curia, the Holy Father spoke of a “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” after the Second Vatican Council. A “hermeneutic” is a principle of interpretation, like a lens through which you examine a question. For many it was as if nothing good or worth preserving happened before Vatican II. Anything old was bad.

The council documents don’t call for a rupture. A false “Spirit of Vatican II,” of discontinuity and rupture, captivated many influential people in the Church. This “hermeneutic of discontinuity” was applied in parishes, seminaries, universities, chanceries, and in Catholic media. It created fractures in nearly every aspect of the Church’s life after the council.

This “motu proprio” is a concrete step in Benedict XVI’s promotion of a new way of seeing how past, present and future are connected. He proposes a “hermeneutic of reform,” as he called it in that same Christmas address in 2005.

You will hear some use the cliché that this is a move to “turn the clock back.” They misread the motive. It is a way to implement the Council more authentically. The derestriction of the older form of Mass must be seen as just one part of Benedict XVI’s vision for reform. He is rebuilding continuity with the Church’s tradition. “Ad intra,” the document is all about healing.

Rebuilding continuity leads us to what the “motu proprio” says “ad extra,” to the larger world.

Everyone knows about the efforts to silence and belittle the Catholic Church in public debate, politics and academic settings. Catholics are marginalized if they open their mouths. In short, faith is being shoved off to the side as mere a “private” matter, not to be expressed in public.

Benedict XVI holds that the Church has a right to her own language, symbols and identity. We have a right to express ourselves in the public square with our Catholic identity intact. We must make a contribution as Catholics.

At the same time, Benedict XVI defends the concept of properly understood laicality, but insists on bringing Catholic concerns out in public. In Italy this has started to cause unrest. The Italian bishops are rediscovering their voice in the piazza and their opponents are furious.

For this dimension of Benedict XVI’s vision to bear fruit, we must begin to rediscover and reintegrate an authentically Catholic identity. The “motu proprio” to derestrict the form of Mass that shaped Catholic identity for centuries is a major move in the Pope’s project to recover continuity with our tradition, to start the healing, and therefore reinvigorate the Church in an ever more secularized and relativistic world.

Churches Face Challenge in Postmodern Culture

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JULY 8, 2007 ( With just a year to go before World Youth Day takes place in Sydney, data on religion from the 2006 national census in Australia reveals several challenges facing the Church.

The June 27 press release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics explained that Christianity remains the dominant religion in the country. Since the 1996 census the number of people reporting that they are Christian grew from around 12.6 million to 12.7 million. This is, however, a significant fall in terms of a proportion of the total population, from 71% to 64%.

The Catholic Church continues to be the largest Christian group in Australia. Since 1996 the number of Australians affiliated with the Catholic Church grew by 7% to 5.1 million. Nevertheless, this growth was not enough to keep the proportion of Catholics from declining as a proportion of the country’s overall population, from 27% in 1996 to 25.8% by 2006.

The Anglican Church is the second-largest group, accounting for 19% of the population. Their numbers are in decline with a 5% fall over the decade between the census surveys of 1996 to 2006. The fastest-growing Christian denomination was Pentecostal, increasing by 26%, to around 220,000 members.

Australia’s three most common non-Christian religious affiliations were Buddhism (2.1%), Islam (1.7%) and Hinduism (0.7%). Their numbers are growing strongly, with Hinduism more than doubling from 1996 to 2006, to 150,000. The numbers of Buddhists doubled in the ten-year period.

The number of nonbelievers also continues to grow. Since 1996, the number who stated they had no religion increased from 2.9 million to 3.7 million — boosting their proportion from 16.6% to 18.7% over the period 1996-2006.

New South Wales, whose capital Sydney will host World Youth Day, had the smallest proportion — 14% — of any of the nation’s main cities not affiliated with any religion. It is also the state with the highest proportion of Catholics, at 28.2% of the population.

Pentecostal boom

Pentecostals are also strong in New South Wales. From a small base, their numbers grew by no less than 48% in the state over the decade leading up to 2006, reported the Sydney Morning Herald on June 28. Among other groups Sydney is home to the Pentecostal Hillsong Church, which claims 19,000 members.

Its pastor, Brett Macpherson, commented that the number of Pentecostals was in all likelihood even greater than the census figures indicated, as some would have just ticked the more generic Christian box on the form. His comments came in an article on the census data published by the Australian newspaper June 28.

The newspaper also published an analysis by Bernard Salt of the situation regarding young people and religion. He commented that the proportion of believers aged 20-35 contracted by no less than 5% between 2001 and 2006. The latest census data, he added, suggest that people in this age group are much less inclined to hold traditional beliefs than were their age counterparts in the 1980s.

One interesting initiative to put young people in greater contact with religion was the launch of a national program to fund chaplains in schools. The National School Chaplaincy Program was launched by Prime Minister John Howard last October.

The program is voluntary and provides annual funding of up to 20,000 Australian dollars ($17,176) a year for both government and nongovernmental schools, according to a presentation of the scheme on the Web site of the federal government’s Department of Education, Science and Training. The government will provide up to 30 million Australian dollars ($25.7 million) a year for the next three years.

Education Minister Julie Bishop said that more than 1,500 applications were lodged around the country — around 15% of Australian schools, reported The Age newspaper May 30. After reviewing the applications, Prime Minister Howard announced that the government allocated funding to 1,392 schools for the first round of grants, reported The Age on June 27. Moreover, due to the high demand, he said that an extra 25 million Australian dollars ($21.4 million) in funds would be made available for the three-year program.

A reawakening

There is a reawakening of interest in religion and spirituality in Australia according to a book published last year by Monash University academic, Gary Bouma. In “Australian Soul,” he notes that Australia is a typical example of a secular, postmodern and post-Christian society. This does not mean, however, that it is irreligious, he argues.

Compared to the 1960s and 1970s, when secularism seemed triumphant, Bouma detects much more interest these days in religion and spirituality. Nevertheless, this is both good and bad news for the traditional churches, because much of this resurgence in religion is often not directed within the formal structures offered by established religion.

Studies of attendance at Catholic and Protestant churches, for example, show that regular churchgoers tend to be older and more likely to be female. One study revealed that the traditional Protestant congregations lost nearly half of those who were raised as young people in these churches.

Furthermore, the traditional predominance of Christianity is under challenge due to a burgeoning of other faiths, in part due to immigration, in part due to a growing desire for religious experimentation. Thus, not only have numbers of Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims risen, but also those who declare themselves followers of New Age type spiritualities or even forms of paganism is on the increase.

A closer look at the situation of the Catholic Church came in another book published last year: “Lost!: Australia’s Catholics Today,” by Michael Gilchrist. The Australian experience after the Second Vatican Council was similar to that of many other Western countries, he commented, with severe inroads made due to the forces of secularism and relativism.

Moreover, declining numbers of priests and a severe decline in many of the religious orders, who staffed the Church’s schools, has notably weakened both parishes and Catholic education. Gilchrist also devoted considerable space in his book to describing the theological and liturgical experimentation that led to a marked dilution in Catholic doctrine.

Catholic renewal

Gilchrist suggested a number of steps to improve the state of the Church in Australia. These ranged from recommending strong leadership by the bishops, to renewing the Catholic identity of the Church’s schools and revitalizing devotion and liturgical life.

He also urged that efforts continue to promote vocations and ensure good formation in seminaries. Over the last decade or so substantial progress was made in this area and the seminaries that have undergone reforms are seeing a steady increase in numbers.

Even though the task ahead is difficult, Archbishop Philip Wilson, president of the Australian bishops’ conference is hopeful. In a speech given this April at a conference for Church administrators he declared certain optimism for the future of the Church. This is based, he explained, both on a conviction of God’s faithfulness, and also because he believes that there is openness in Western culture to receive the Gospel message.

Transmitting this message to today’s world also requires a sustained effort on our parts, he added. In part we can achieve this through living “faithful, vibrant, intelligent Christian lives,” Archbishop Wilson commented. Being able to do this will require a serious religious and moral formation.

To achieve this, the archbishop noted the importance not only of educating young people through the Catholic schools, but also of forming adults in their faith. Not easy tasks, but essential ones to ensure a healthy future for the Church.