Archive for September, 2008

Troubling Consequences of Artificial Reproduction

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JULY 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- As demand for in vitro fertilization continues to rise, so too are concerns over the clinics and consequences for families. A leading British expert recently had harsh words for the industry, whose methods have long been criticized by the Church.

Robert Winston, professor of fertility studies at Imperial College London, said clinics had been corrupted by money and that doctors were exploiting women desperate to get pregnant, reported the Guardian on May 31. “It’s very easy to exploit people by the fact that they’re desperate and you’ve got the technology, which they want, which may not work,” he said.

When it comes to the impact on family life, one of the changes introduced is the trend toward older mothers, reported the London-based Times newspaper June 6. The proportion of in vitro fertilization (IVF) patients aged between 40 and 45 has risen from 10% in the 1990s to 15% in 2006, the article noted. Last year a total of 6,174 women in this age group had fertility treatment, compared with just 596 in 1991. 

The average age of all fertility patients has also increased by a full year since 1996, from 33.8 to 34.8. The information comes from data published by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority.

The Times commented that the success rate of treatments at an older age is much lower. For women aged between 40 and 42, the live birthrate for a first treatment cycle is 9%. Once they are 44 or above it is 1%.

Moreover, at 40, the risk of miscarriage is twice what it is at 20, and there is an increased likelihood of ectopic pregnancy, premature birth, stillbirth, neonatal death and birth defects. 

Twins at 60

Shortly before the publication of this data, news came from the United States of a 60-year-old woman who gave birth to twin boys, reported the Associated Press, May 23. Frieda Birnbaum gave birth to the boys at Hackensack University Medical Center, New Jersey.

Another case that received attention was that of Spanish mother Carmela Bousada, who gave birth at 67 to twins, reported the Times on Jan. 29. She underwent IVF treatment at the Pacific Fertility Center in Los Angeles. 

Meanwhile, the Canadian newspaper the Ottawa Citizen reported April 18 the case of Melanie Boivin, who donated some of her ova to her daughter, Flavie.

The daughter, aged 7, is sterile due to a genetic condition. The article commented that if Flavie eventually decides to use the ova and becomes pregnant, she will be give birth to her genetic sister and Melanie Boivin will simultaneously become mother and grandmother.

The mother’s actions were criticized by ethicist Margaret Somerville, the paper reported. “We have to think about what we are doing when we are running around nature,” she said, noting that such a procedure completely overturns the normal transition of life.

Another practice that raises ethical doubts is the increasing use of surrogate mothers from developing nations to bear children for families from richer nations. One of the countries where this is taking place is India, explained an article published by Reuters on Feb. 4. 

A surrogate mother in the United States would cost a couple anything up to $50,000, Gautam Allahbadia, a fertility specialist, told Reuters. In India, however, it can be done for $10,000-$12,000. The Indian clinics usually charge $2,000-$3,000 for the procedure while the surrogate mother is paid $3,000-$6,000.

The article observed that there are no official figures, but it is possible that 100-150 surrogate babies are born each year in India.

Motherless

Clinics are also starting to offer treatments aimed at the homosexual community. The Los Angeles-based The Fertility Institutes has launched a program for homosexual men who want to become parents, Reuters reported March 14.

According to clinic director Jeffrey Steinberg they have already treated about 70 gay male couples while preparing the new service. He also noted that around three-quarters of the homosexual couples pay extra to choose the sex of their baby. 

The convoluted parental structures created by IVF techniques also give rise to complex legal problems. A surrogate mother who has no genetic connection to the baby she is carrying does not have to be listed as the mother on a birth certificate, ruled the Maryland Court of Appeals, according to a report by the Associated Press on May 16.

The case involved twins born in 2001. The woman carried the twins for a father who used an egg donor, and the surrogate mother had no genetic relationship to the twins. 

Another case, still to be decided, involves the fate of a couple’s frozen embryos. Augusta and Randy Roman decided to go ahead with treatment to produce the embryos, but just hours before they were due to be implanted in the wife’s womb, her husband decided he did not want to go ahead with the procedure, reported the Los Angeles Times on May 30.

This took place in 2002 and the following year the couple divorced. Since then they have disagreed over the fate of the frozen embryos and the matter has now reached the Supreme Court of Texas. Randy wants the embryos destroyed or to remain frozen.

The Los Angeles Times noted that so far the top courts of six states have ruled in such cases. In general they have decided that the right of one ex-spouse to not procreate trumps that of the other to procreate.

Not morally neutral

The Church has long warned of the problems associated with IVF. In 1987 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published the “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation,” (“Donum Vitae”).

Since 1987, the technologies involved in IVF have changed greatly, but many of the underlying ethical problems are the same. Science and technology are valuable resources, the instruction readily acknowledged. Nevertheless, it is a mistake to consider that scientific research and its applications are morally neutral.

Moreover, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained, they must be put at the service of the human person and should follow the criteria of the moral law. It is a mistake to consider the human body as merely made up of biological elements, the instruction argued. The human person has both a bodily and a spiritual nature.

As well, when it comes to the question of transmitting human life, it is not permissible to ignore the special nature of the human person. From the moment of conception, the instruction insisted, the life of every human person must be respected. In addition, the gift of human life should be carried out in the context of acts by a husband and wife.

The congregation admitted that the desire for children and the love between spouses who wish to overcome problems of sterility “constitute understandable motivations,” behind the use of IVF methods. Nevertheless, the instruction continued, the existence of good intentions needs to be placed alongside the nature of marriage and the need to respect the rights of the child.

The document also commented on how only too often IVF techniques involve the destruction of human embryos. By acting in this manner we place ourselves in the position of imposing “death by decree,” the text warned. 

The regular practice of such acts carries with it the risk of creating a mentality that leads us to a domination over the life and death of fellow human beings, the congregation adverted. A domination that with the passing of time is creating a seemingly unstoppable slide into practices that bring about serious moral and social dilemmas.

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The God Debate Heats Up

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JULY 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The attack against religion started by Richard Dawkins in his book “The God Delusion” shows no sign of letting up. In recent months a number of emulators have published books that continue the polemic. 

In “God: The Failed Hypothesis,” Victor J. Stenger purports to provide a sort of scientific proof that God does not exist. Stenger, a retired professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii, alleges that scientific reasoning has now progressed to the point where it can offer “a definitive statement on the existence or nonexistence of a God having the attributes that are traditionally associated with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God.” 

God, he contends, should be detectable by scientific means, because of the role he is supposed to play in the universe and human life. An examination which, he argues in the books’ chapters, that God fails. 

Another contribution is from English philosopher A.C. Grayling. In a collection of brief essays titled “Against All Gods,” he purports to provide an alternative to religion, based on the Western philosophical tradition. 

Grayling declares his objection to religion both in terms of a belief system and its institutional role. Moreover, he accuses apologists for faith as being “an evasive community, who seek to avoid or deflect criticism by slipping behind the abstractions of higher theology.” 

In addition to his criticisms of faith, Grayling contends that religion is now in its death throes, soon to be replaced by a far more benign humanism. 

Further polemics against faith came in “God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” by Christopher Hitchens. The quality of the arguments in the book, however, was found severely wanting by many reviewers. For example, a review by Michael Skapinker, editor of the weekend edition of the Financial Times, described the work using terms such as “intellectual and moral shabbiness.” 

That hasn’t stopped the book from being successful. According to a June 22 report by the Wall Street Journal, the book had sold almost 300,000 in its first seven weeks. 

Christian letters 

The atheist attacks have not gone unanswered. In recent months two slim books by evangelical Christians were published in the United States in reply to the 2006 essay by Sam Harris, “Letter to a Christian Nation.” 

The first is “Letter from a Christian Citizen,” by Douglas Wilson, a minister and senior fellow of theology at New St Andrews College, Idaho. In the foreword Gary Demar echoes a common opinion among those who have reviewed the current spate of anti-religious books. “The same tired arguments that have been answered convincingly by any number of Christian writers over the centuries have been trotted out in the vain hope that atheism will find a new audience,” he observed. 

Wilson accuses Harris of selectively quoting texts from the Bible in an effort to embarrass believers by highlighting outmoded cultural norms. A more unbiased study of the Bible, particularly the New Testament Wilson argues, shows the revolutionary nature of Christianity, which subverted many of the unjust pagan cultural practices. 

Wilson then notes that Harris reduces morality to a calculation involving happiness and pain. If human conduct is to be regulated on this basis it will easily be led into committing abuses against others. 

Among other criticisms Wilson also accuses Harris of a superficial interpretation of the problem that evil poses for a believer. According to Harris the mere existence of a single evil act is enough to cast doubt on the idea of a benevolent God. 

The second reply to Harris is “Letter to a Christian Nation: Counter Point,” by R.C. Metcalf. Harris, he observes, makes a number of points based on arguments related to Old Testament laws, slavery and human sexuality in an attempt to discredit religion. Metcalf deals with each of these issues, in general by showing how Christianity has been a force for good in society. 

Moreover, Metcalf argues, Christianity provides the most secure foundation for morally upright behavior. By contrast an atheist has no such grounding. 

Religion’s contribution 

Another recent defense of religion came from Canadian Archbishop Thomas Collins. Archbishop Collins received his pallium from Benedict XVI on June 29 after being installed as Toronto’s archbishop in January. 

On May 31 he gave a speech to the Empire Club of Canada titled “The Contribution of Religion to Society.” The archbishop introduced his talk by referring to the way in which religion enables us to perceive the meaning of both the material world and of human life. 

“We live in a web of relationships, and through faith see the pattern of connections that show the purpose of our brief journey through this world,” he said. 

This is particularly relevant in today’s world “in which we can so easily become lonely individuals, without purpose or direction, disconnected, rootless, and going nowhere faster and faster,” the archbishop continued. 

The main part of his speech was then given over to presenting four contributions which religion makes to society. 

1. Religion enhances local communities in which human relationships can flourish. 

The Catholic Church, he explained, places great stress on subsidiarity which fortifies smaller communities. This helps people relate to one another in a more humane relationship, based on reverence for the personal dignity of each of the children of God. 

The ultimate community, said Archbishop Collins, is the family, today under great pressure. The Catholic Church celebrates marriage as the stable covenant of a man and a woman faithful in love and open to the gift of life, he explained. 

2. Religious communities make massive contributions to the common good of all society through deeds of charity and social action. 

Imagine what would happen, he asked his audience, if suddenly Toronto were deprived of the social assistance offered daily to the most vulnerable by the religious communities and organizations. Christians undertake such works of charity motivated by the words of Jesus: Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me. 

3. Religious communities bring to bear on current issues the wisdom of their heritage. 

Religious people do disagree on important issues of doctrine, explained Archbishop Collins, but they do share reverence for the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, and have in common a tradition of working together to address social issues. 

There is a wisdom in religious tradition, he added, composed not only of elements stemming from faith, but also made up of experience and the use of reason. 

“Whatever the irritation caused to those who profess a secularist faith — and secularism is itself a kind of faith — it is of great value to any healthy society that a strong religious voice speak out on all issues of public concern,” the archbishop affirmed. 

He also referred to arguments against religion based on the misdeeds committed in the name of faith. It would be more just, however, to base our judgment on religion looking at those who strived to live fully the reality of their faith. “Fairness dictates that religion be judged by its saints, not by its sinners,” the archbishop maintained. 

4. Religious communities endow society with beauty. 

Beauty, truth, and goodness are both signs of God’s presence and of that which is greatest in humanity, Archbishop Collins explained. Religious communities endow society with beauty through art, works of music and literature. 

In conclusion the archbishop asserted that what most matters in life are not the things that can be weighed or measured on a material scale. Unlike materialism, which he termed “the ultimate delusion,” religion enables us to perceive harmony, beauty, and above all, love. Arguments to which the atheists have no convincing answers. 

“To Reveal Christ the Healer”
ROME, JULY 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of an message written by Cardinal Javier  Lozano Barragán, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry on the profile of the Catholic teacher of medicine.

* * *

PROFILE OF THE CATHOLIC TEACHER OF MEDICINE

Introduction

It is a very drawn out task to establish the profile of the Catholic teacher of Medicine. It involves understanding what a teacher is, what a teacher of medicine is, and knowing what it means to describe them as Catholic.

In the following reflection I will especially look at the term “Catholic.” The question has to be asked whether a non-Catholic teacher of medicine will really be different from a Catholic teacher of medicine. And, if so, of what will this difference consist?

I will try to begin by following this sequence in order to answer these questions: the teacher as the one who teaches, the teacher as professor, and the teacher as a Catholic.

To talk about a teacher is to talk about culture. Culture has been defined in very many ways; here I understand it as the humanization of nature. I understand nature to be everything outside individuals that they need to live. Education, seeing culture like this, will be the assimilation of culture. It is necessary to understand the process of culture to understand the process of education. This involves four basic stages: introspection, tradition, assimilation and progress. In introspection, individuals realize their own needs. In tradition, they see what they are offered to meet these needs. In assimilation, they meet them. And in progress, they detect new needs and proceed to create new satisfiers which they have not found in tradition.

I. The Catholic professor of medicine

1. The teacher of medicine as a “teacher”

Teachers of medicine are teachers; they teach. The word “teach” comes from a word meaning a sign. The teacher gives the students the signs that they need and must appropriate. This means that first of all the teacher has to know what the students need in order to guide them in their own introspection and to realize what their needs are.

Once the teacher has taught the students to know their own needs, they show them how they can meet these needs in tradition. This is what tends to be called a “cultural asset.”  

Having detected the “cultural asset” they also signal the way to be able to appropriate this asset and assimilate it.

They also need to signal new horizons, both in relation to needs and in relation to possible new horizons. They teach the research which leads to the “creation” of new cultural assets as something necessary.

Consequently, medical culture consists of the humanization of medicine, and medical education consists of the assimilation of the humanization of medicine. The task of the teacher of medicine is to signal to the medical student how to assimilate the humanization of medicine.

Following the steps of all culture, in the introspection stage, the teacher of medicine needs to signal to the students the path so that it is the students themselves who find the needs that they have, which lead them to seek the medical tradition as a satisfier of these needs. Here we can see firstly whether or not the students have the aptitude to learn medical culture. If their needs, which are related to their abilities, are not those which are fulfilled with medical culture, the teacher should indicate to the possible student that they should not be educated in a culture that they do not need, or for which they are not capable.

Having passed the introspection step in medical culture, the teacher of medicine should signal the medical tradition. This is the whole set of medical “cultural assets” that exist. Here we find the complex field of medical science, technology and art. The teacher of medicine should have a command of this field, or, given the complexity of current medical know-how, at least the specialty that they are teaching.

In addition to scientific and technical competence, the teacher of medicine, like any other teacher, should be an expert in educational science, especially in Didactics, as when “teaching,” they should do so with such clarity that the students can find the medical cultural asset that they are being shown. The teacher of medicine thus tackles the third step of culture, assimilation. It is not sufficient to teach medical culture; rather it is necessary to indicate to the students the practical path which has to be taken to have a command of it.  

Once the teacher of medicine has completed this third step, they should open up subsequent paths for the students to recognize subsequent medical needs and, based on that already existing, to succeed in “creating” new medical cultural assets in the future. In particular, they should indicate the paths of medical progress, and how their students should move along these previously unexplored paths.  

2. The teacher of medicine as a professor

In addition to a teacher, the teacher of medicine should be a professor, and here we expand our thoughts to enter the field of the Catholic teacher of medicine. As teachers, to a certain extent, they share their personality with any other teacher of medicine, of whatever mentality or ideology. As a professor, it is different.

Indeed, the word professor contains a religious connotation, as it comes from the verb to profess, which means adherence to a faith and its profession. If the teacher just remains at the level of teacher, they will be frustrated and so will their students. They signal health and life sciences and technology but, being realistic, they indicate that the whole of medical science and technology finally lose the battle, because death arrives and, in the face of death, all medical science and technology are shown to be impotent and fail. Being sincere with themselves and with their students, at the levels of introspection and assimilation of medicine to overcome disease, they should signal the ultimate failure of all medical science, technology and art, as death can be found at the end of all their efforts.

Only if they are capable of signaling, together with the same medicine and in a way from it, the overcoming of death, does their teaching have a lasting value and is not lost in just delaying the end as much as possible.

For this they must go beyond the mere level of the teacher and truly become a professor. To profess a faith which opens up health and life to transcendence.

3. The teacher of medicine as a Catholic professor

If the professor of medicine is a Catholic, then this transcendence and this victory over death are not merely beautiful desires which, for many, in our secularized culture, do not go beyond good intentions and palliatives for the failure of death, but rather they are based on the same reality of an irrefutable historical event, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On professing this faith, the teacher of medicine becomes a triumphant professor. He and his students advance toward medical culture with the certainty and the joy of knowing that the progress in health science is a foretaste of the full health that they will find for themselves and for their patients in the resurrected Christ.

It is obvious that this is incomprehensible for those who do not profess this faith. For a physician who does not have faith in Christ and in his Church, nothing here means anything, and rather it is something absurd which would appear to be for ignorant and mad people as it goes against the biological experimental knowledge which they believe to be the only one valid in medicine: “evidence-based medicine.” However, here is another type of evidence, even stronger than laboratory evidence, the evidence of a faith based on an irrefutable fact which is reached for the same reason, but which arises from a free and firm decision of the will of each person. St Paul already said that the announcement of a crucified Messiah was offensive for the Jews and madness for the Gentiles, but it is much wiser than all human wisdom, and what may seem to be weakness in God, is stronger than all human strength (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).

In accordance with this profession of faith, what then should a Catholic professor of medicine be like? The answer is to teach how a physician should be who is not frustrated but rather who opens up health science and technology, the art of curing, toward the full victory over death in the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. A Catholic professor of medicine is one who teaches, signals, to their students, how to be a Catholic physician.

Below I propose a few lines which set out the figure of the Catholic physician and which can be used as a basis for a Catholic professor of medicine to signal to their students how to be a Catholic physician.

II. The Catholic physician

I take as the basis the Charter for Health Care Workers published by the Pontifical Council for the Health Pastoral Care, which in turn refers to the thought of God’s Servant John Paul II in this respect and from the identity expressed by the Pope, and in it I try to put together a few ideas to interpret and discuss it.

CHARTER FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS

The Catholic physician is described as follows in the Charter for Health Care Workers:

The Catholic physician’s profession requires them to be a custodian and server of human life. They should do this through a watchful and solicitous presence with the sick. The medical and healthcare activity is based on an interpersonal relationship. It is an encounter between trust and conscience. The trust of a man marked by suffering and disease who trusts in another man who can take care of his need and who is going to go to him to assist him, care for him and heal him.

The patient is not just a clinical case, but rather a sick man toward whom the physician should adopt an attitude of sincere sympathy, suffering together with him, through personal participation in the specific situations of the individual patient. Sickness and suffering are phenomena which, when dealt with in depth, go beyond medicine and deal with the essence of the human condition in this world.  

The physician who cares for them must be aware that the whole of humanity is involved, and that complete dedication is required. This is their mission, and is the fruit of a call or vocation that the physician hears, personified in the suffering and invoking face of the patient who trusts in their care. Here the physician’s mission to give life is linked to the life of Christ, who came to give life and to give it in abundance (Jn 10,10). This life transcends the physical life, to reach the height of the Holy Trinity. It is the new and eternal life that consists of communion with the Father to whom every man is called freely in the Son, through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The physician is like the Good Samaritan who stops by the side of the sick man to become his neighbor, because of his understanding and sympathy, in short because of his charity. The physician thus shares the love of God as an instrument of diffusion and at the same time becomes infected with the love of God for man.

This is the therapeutic charity of Christ who went around doing good and healing all (Acts 10:38). At the same time, it is the charity toward Christ represented in each patient. It is he who is cured in each man or woman, “I was sick, and you looked after me,” as the Lord will say in the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-40).

It thus results that the physicians’ identity is the identity received from their therapeutic ministry, their ministry of life. They collaborate with God in the recovery of health in the sick person’s body. The Church accepts the work of the physician as part of its ministry, as it considers the service to sick people to be an integral part of its mission. It knows that physical harm imprisons the spirit, and the evil of the spirit overpowers the body. Through their therapeutic ministry, physicians thus share in the pastoral and evangelizing action of the Church. The paths that they should take are those marked by the dignity of the human being and therefore by Moral law, especially when it is a question of practising their activity in the field of Biogenetics and Biotechnology. Bioethics will provide a channel for them, outlining their principles of action.[1]

THE IDENTITY OF THE PHYSICIAN

A short summary of the Christian identity of the physician can be found in this position of the Pontifical Council for the Health Pastoral Care. As already mentioned, I will strive to reflect on this identity, paying particular attention to the fact that it is an identity received from a vocation and a mission which founds a very special ministry, the therapeutic ministry, the ministry of life, the ministry of health.

The Vocation and the Church

We can begin by referring to the meaning of a vocation in the Church. Etymologies often help to take us back to the original meaning of the words that we use frequently and which appear to be weakened through use. One of them is the word Church. There are two etymologies, the Greek and the Latin. Its Greek etymology takes us to the verb “ekkalein,” to call. The Church, “ekklesia,” would be the plural participle of the verb “ekkalein,” and would mean those who have been called.

Looking from the Latin etymological perspective, the Church is the effect of the “Vocation.” The “Vocation,” etymologically speaking, is the nominalized Latin acceptance of the Latin verb “vocare,” to call, (the same as “ekkalein”) and would this mean the same calling which brings together those who have been called, that is which congregates them in the Church. The vocation thus makes the Church.  

The only “Vocation” or fundamental calling is the one made by God with the Word with which he calls into existence everything that exists, and this calling, this primitive “vocation,” is Christ, who is the Word of God through which everything that exists and each of us is called into existence (cf. Ephesians 1:3-10; Colossians 1:15-20). It is especially interesting to see that God’s maximum way to call everything that exists, the maximum presence of Christ in the world, is through the Eucharist, as it is the memorial, the presence of Christ in the present of history (cf. Luke 22:19).

In this calling from God, we discover three essential moments which make it up and which we can summarize in three words: “BEING,” “WITH,” “FOR.” We are thus called to be (to exist), with God, for others.

We can verify this in Christ’s call to his apostles (Mark 3:14-15), and most especially his call to the Virgin Mary to be the Mother of God, the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38). But it is a paradigm that spreads throughout the history of Salvation.

We are going to use these three words of the Vocation as a guideline to reflect on the pontifical doctrine on the identity of the Catholic physician which we set out in the Charter of the Pontifical Council.  

1. “BEING”

When we talk about “Being” in the vocation, we are talking about total existence. God speaks and everything begins to exist. Genesis says: “God said, Let there be light. And there was light … (1:3). When God  pronounces his Word, it is practical: he does what he says, and everything has its consistency, its beginning and its end, its totality, in it.

When we talk about true Catholic physicians, they are so because of a true vocation received from the same God from which they receive their whole existence, obviously without excluding the same physician’s collaboration with the calling. How does God call the physician to the medical vocation, and of what does this vocation consist? Below we offer some characteristics of the ” being” of this calling.

1.1. The profession

Firstly, we will say that God calls the physician for a profession which is not the same as for a trade. Historically, three professions are recognized, that of the priest, that of the physician and that of the ruler or judge. It should be noted that, as we said earlier, the profession is somewhat linked to the profession of the faith, is something religious. The profession is not strictly speaking something legal, as what is legal may or may not be carried out, or changed depending on the will of those who take on an obligation. On the contrary, the profession is an obligation and a responsibility which is contracted with God himself. It is a responsibility and responsibility originally meant the capacity to respond, and respond comes from the Greek “Spenden” which originally meant to offer a sacrifice of libation to God. Medical professional responsibility means a commitment (Commitment is “syngrafein” in Greek, which means to write together), which is written jointly by man and God.

This sacred nature of the medical profession led to the Hippocratic oath, which is the oath not to harm the patient, to always do good to them and to look after all stages of life, an oath which is not a promise made to the patient, but rather directly to God. In this context the physician’s vocation is a vocation which is born from the love of God, and it is God that the physician follows in this profession, as extremely benevolent Good.[2]   

1.2. The love of God in the physician

However, despite the sublime nature of this Hippocratic position, it is limited and defective. We were talking about the love of God, but this love, in accordance with the classical Greek mentality, the mentality of Socrates and Plato, which Hippocrates shared, is defective because it presupposes need and is never plenitude. Indeed, for classical Greek philosophy, God does not love. He is extremely benevolent, but he does not love, as love would mean a lack and God cannot lack anything. Love is only characteristic of the needy man interested in sating himself, not of God the All-perfect. In Greek mythology, love arises from Poros and Penia in Aphrodite’s wedding. Poros represents expediency, need, and Penia, poverty; on bringing together need and poverty, love is born as self-interested desire.

This mentality is completely corrected by the divine Revelation: God himself is Love. This is the deepest definition of God. His love does not consist of him lacking something, but rather of the greatest circulation of his kindness, which is presented is such a way that God the Father loves the world that he created so much that, out of his love for it, he gives his one and only Son in death (John 3:16).

The Christian medical profession is therefore centered on love, but not on self-interested and poor, Hippocratic, love, but rather it imitates the perfect love of God and has its paradigm in the Good Samaritan, thus suffering together with the sick, pitying them and providing them with everything they need to cure them. The Good Samaritan is thus the example to be imitated by the Christian physician. The Good Samaritan is the figure of Christ who takes pity on the whole of sick and fallen humanity, and raises it up to deification. He is infinite love and is in both those who love and those who are loved. He is in both as plenitude. The Good Samaritan is thus the figure which identifies the physician who takes pity to such an extent on their patient that they do everything they can to return them to health, out of love of plenitude.[3]

Talking about the love that physicians must have for God and thus for their patients, Pope Pius XII talks to us about the commandments of the law of God in the sphere of medicine. He talks to us about the first commandment which is to love God above all else and about the second which is to love your neighbor like yourself, and the identity of physicians consists of this love when their relations with the patient are surrounded by humanity and understanding, gentleness and devotion.

The same Pope Pius XII complements the characteristics of the physician on referring to two other commandments in particular, the fifth, “you shall not murder” and the eighth, “you shall not give false testimony.”[4]

1.3. Respect for and Defense of Life

The fifth commandment reminds us how the identity of the Christian physician means that, because of the love they are obliged to have for God and for their patient, they are totally obliged to defend life at any of its stages, but especially at the stages at which it feels the weakest, which are the initial and the terminal stages. Their personality is formed from a clear and absolute no to abortion and no to euthanasia. The whole meaning of human life is contained in the fifth commandment, as a gift given by God to be merely administered by man and by woman, and which should only have its origin in marriage.

1.4. Medical training

The eighth commandment, “you shall not give false testimony,” tells us about the physician’s clear commitment to the truth, both to the truth of disease and of health, and to the truth of medical science.[5]

The physician’s identity comes from the training that they receive. However, if we look at what is occurring in many Faculties of Medicine, we can see that this training has many defects. Indeed, the curriculum of the medical degree has two essential parts. The first is the basic knowledge and the second is the knowledge that is obtained from the clinical science divided into disciplines or from a consideration of the different organs of the human body. It is obvious that these subjects should be taught, but at the same time it is noted that there is a bio-technical reductionism. On presenting the subjects, their anthropocentric value and the ethical, affective and existential values have been lost. The physician is seen from the requirements of the patient and the demands of an economicist health system with complete indifference for the violations of human rights, especially human life.

We often find as a paradigm of the current clinical applications a fragmentation and reduction of the patient to organs and biological or technological functions and to medicines. The intention is to obtain a command of fragmented specialized knowledge without the perspective of the whole, through knowledge and relational competence with other human fields outside medicine. The idea of health is proposed as a passive adaptation to pathogenic stimuli and to those of a bio-physical nature. The adaptation of the clinic is carried out with often exclusive reference to the requirements, even of an economic nature, of the national health system. A loss of the ethical values in medicine and the anonymity of the patients are observed. It is even seen that little value is given to the existential aspects of the medical profession, to the person of the patient, of the physician and of the nurse.

In the face of these problems of the medical “being” from the beginning of the training that is received, a series of methods has been conceived to make the teaching active, especially from the so-called PBL (Problem-Based Learning) and the teaching method oriented toward the community which sees the physician as a necessarily competent person on a relational and scientific level, inserted in a community reality, capable of collaborating with other health figures and of administering the resources available with continuing learning, always an advocate of the patient’s health, capable of combining knowledge with medical practice, and therefore with continuing training.

This kind of medical training would offer a new understanding of health and of disease. It would deal with prevention and the handling of the disease in the context of the individuality of the patient complemented by their own family and society as a whole. It would thus develop a learning based more on curiosity and continuous investigation than on passive acquisitions. It would reduce the information load. It would encourage direct contact with the patients through a personalized analysis of their problems and of the whole of their curriculum.

A program should therefore be prepared which is based on the following principles: 1. Existence of a comprehensive and ultimate meaning of medical knowledge. 2. Definition of its epistemological orientation. 3. Definition of the values, the motivations, the psychological maturity, the quality of the objective knowledge and the methodological, relational and technical capacities, applied to the exercising of the profession. 4. Definition of the values, the motivations, the capacities and the quality of the training of the teachers. 5. Definition of the general and partial objectives of the training. 6. Definition of the teaching methods. These principles contain the epistemological knowledge of present-day medicine which considers health as a psycho-biological construction determined by the possibility and the quality of the person’s resources and whose aim is to give a single response to the fundamental questions of human existence.[6]

1.5. Lifelong learning

The physician’s identity is not shaped once and for all in their initial training, but rather is prolonged in their lifelong learning. It demands a very careful preparation of students of medicine, but at the same time requires the continuing and progressive preparation of the lecturers who teach any medical subject, a preparation that should never be lacking. The lecturers in particular have the responsibility to promote new physicians, and they will never achieve this if they are not sure of each student’s capacity to carry out such a delicate mission.

The same eighth commandment obliges all physicians to keep professional secrecy and, as we have already mentioned, to have a sound medical culture which should be improved constantly through lifelong learning.[7]

2. “WITH”

We said that the second characteristic of the Christian vocation is expressed with the preposition “with,” with God. That is to say that any vocation is to be with God our Lord, who prepares man to carry out a mission which, without his strength, it would be pointless to carry out. In the book of Exodus we can read what Moses says to God on mount Horeb: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt, and God said: I will be with you …” (Exodus 3:12).

2.1. Revelation of Christ the physician

In this section we set out the deepest values that should shape the identity of the Catholic physician. The personality of the Christian physician is identified with the revelation of Christ the physician. Christ sent his apostles to cure all ailment and disease and said to them, I will be with you to the end of the age (Mark 16:17; Matthew 28:20). The physician performs the therapeutic ministry in this way, beside the apostles, as a continuation of the mission of Christ and with his revelation.

The whole breadth of this revelation should be understood. The physician should reveal the whole life of Christ, which is the presence of Christ in the physician. Because Christ cures all ailments and disease with all his action taken as a whole. The miracle cures that he performed, including the resurrection of the dead, were not definitive in his struggle against the evil that exists in humanity, against its ailments and death, but rather just a sign of the profound reality that entails his own death and resurrection.

2.2. Pain

He took all suffering, all ailments, all disease, without exception, and summarized them in his own death as the death of God who had become man, so that no pain would remain outside, and from his death he exploited death itself, he conquered it in the plenitude of his resurrection. One of the physician’s main doubts is always the problem of pain. This question only has its answer here, when pain does not appear as something negative, but rather as a positivity which, it is true, ends in death, but in a death full of resurrection.  

The physician should thus cure, revealing the death and the resurrection of Christ. An identification of the physician as such, as a healer, with Christ the healer, is necessary for this revelation. This identification is now carried out especially through the Eucharist and through the other sacraments. The sacraments are the historic presence of Christ in the present, at the specific moment that we are crossing in life.

2.3. Health

Consequently, the physician should realize that health is complexive and bodily health should not be talked about as something radically different from the complete health that we call eternal health or salvation. The physician’s ministry is therefore an ecclesiastic ministry which is directed toward the salvation of man from his body, but which involves other aspects.

We thus describe health as a dynamic tension toward physical, mental, social and spiritual harmony and not just the absence of disease, which prepares men to carry out the mission with which God has entrusted them, in accordance with the stage of life at which they are.

The physician’s mission is therefore to ensure that this dynamic tension toward complete harmony exists, as required at each stage of the life of this specific man who is their patient, so that they can carry out the mission with which God has entrusted them. Thus, the contradiction of reducing the medical function to the single physical and chemical aspect of the disease. This function is complete and moreover cannot be static, but rather should be inserted within the dynamism of the patients who tend toward their own harmony.

In this context, death is not a frustration for the physician, but rather a triumph, as they have accompanied their patient in such a way that they have been able to use their talents to the full at each stage of their life. When it has reached its end, the medical function ends, not with a cry of impotence, but rather with the satisfaction of a mission fulfilled, both by the patient and by the physician.

Thus, the physician truly is with Christ and their profession is identified in this communion with Christ, and then the physician joins together with our Father God like a son with his father, and their professional love becomes the action of the Love of God in himself, which is the Holy Spirit. A Christian physician is therefore one who is always guided by the Holy Spirit. From the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit is all the sympathy that must exist between the physician and the patient, all the due humanization of medicine and all the demand for updating and lifelong learning, as the Love of the Holy Spirit makes the physician an essentially open person for the rest, as they are obliged to do so before God because of their profession of Faith represented by their medical profession. We thus succeed in outlining the third trait of the medical identity, being for others, is the “FOR” of their vocation and of their professional identity.

3. “FOR”

When God chose Moses, it is very clear that he did so to remove his people from the power of the Egyptians. God says, “I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:8).

Physicians cannot withdraw into themselves. They cannot simply think that they already have enough money, that they do not need to work any more, and that therefore they will now leave their profession. A true physician is a physician for life. If they have truly received this vocation, they will have it for ever and they must practice it for humanity as a mission specifically received for the good of all, and for which they must account to God when He says to them, “I was sick, and you looked after me” (Matthew 25:36,43).

3.1. Openness to the patient

We said that love of the medical profession imitates the love of God which is disseminated. Physicians cannot hide their knowledge in pure theories and laboratories, but rather should expand them in favor of the community. They have received the gift of taking care of life and making it grow. Their vocation is for life, never for death, which would be to blind the mission with which God has entrusted each human being. According to Pope John Paul II, nowadays the religious ministry is connected to the therapeutic ministry of physicians in the affirmation of human life and of all those specific contingencies in which life itself can be endangered by deliberate human will. Their deepest identity involves being ministers of life and never instruments of death. This is the most intimate nature of their noble profession. They are called to humanize medicine and the places where they practice it, and to use the most advanced technologies for life and not for death, always having Christ, the physician of bodies and of souls, as their supreme model.[8]

According to Pope Pius XII, Catholic physicians should place their knowledge, their strengths, their heart and their devotion at the disposal of the sick. They should understand that they and their patients are subject to the will of God. Medicine is a reflection of the goodness of God. They should help the sick to accept their illness, and they should make sure they are not dazzled by technology and use the gifts that God has given them and not give in to the pressure to assaults on life. They should remain firm in the face of the temptations of materialism.[9]

The good physician must therefore have dianoetic virtues and skills and convert them into virtuosity, that is to say into a habit, so that both the virtues of theoretical science and those of practice come together in them as if they were second nature.[10]

3.2. Fundamental qualities of the physician

The fundamental qualities of the physician have thus been classified under 5 sections: Awareness of responsibility, humbleness, respect, love and truthfulness. Awareness of responsibility leads them to work with the patient and be aware that it is the physician who gives the direction. Humbleness tells them that physicians look after their patients and not the opposite. Humbleness makes them see themselves as indebted to the patient. Physicians cannot talk about “their” patients, but rather the patients will talk about “their” physician. Physicians should receive their patients as written on the lintel of an old German hospital: “recipere quasi Christum”; they should receive their patients as if they were Christ himself. 

Respect and love for the patient, about which we have already spoken, are the basis for their humbleness. They know that they have received a mission for which they do not have the necessary strength, but rather they receive it from the person who sends it for this reason. Truthfulness entails being aware of the great trust that the patient places in them on revealing their personal matters. Truthfulness is required in the diagnosis and in the therapy, not just on the bodily but also on the complete, mental, social, psychic, spiritual level. They should never experiment on the patient if this involves a danger disproportionate to the good that they intend to do. This must be absolutely necessary and the patient must agree to it. They should notify the patient of the development of their illness, tell them the truth about their condition in the most appropriate way and at the most appropriate time possible. They should complement their action with the action of the priest as both missions, that of the priest and that of the physician, are closely connected.[11]

3.3. Portrait of the physician

The “Portrait of the perfect physician,” described by Enrique Jorge Enriquez in 16th century Spain in the flowery language of the time, is still current: “The physician should be fearful of the Lord and very humble, and not haughty and arrogant, and be charitable to the poor, meek, kind, affable and not vengeful. They should maintain secrecy, should not be talkative or gossipy, flattering or envious. They should be prudent, restrained, not be too audacious … should be distinguished and given to honesty and reserved. They should work on their skill and flee from idleness. They should be a well-read physician and should know how to give information about everything.”[12]

Nowadays, we would talk about medical excellence. This would be what Aristotle called the “Teleios iatrós” (perfect physician), or Galen called “Aristós iatrós” (best physician).

3.4. Morality and Law

Initially we said that the medical profession is something that goes beyond the Law and is positioned in the framework of Morality, and this is true, but this does not mean that we can do without medical Law. Medical Law without adequate morality would be arbitrariness based on shameful interests. Morality without medical Law would just be general principles without direct application. The rules of medical Law must be sufficiently clear and brief to aid the physician’s action. The leading principle is always the same: the physician’s purpose is to help and to heal, not to do harm or to kill.

It is worth mentioning in particular the field of Ethics, the field of Morality, in which the physician must be competent, but in which so often they are not specialists. Bioethical committees are therefore required in each health centre, and should also be created in the teaching centers, in open dialogue with the specialists in the different subjects taught.

Physicians are thus trained to bear witness to God in all the medical, trade union and political environments, etc. They can even be valid bearers of ecumenical dialogue and dialogue with other religions, as sickness does not know religious barriers. The physician will thus actively belong to the Church as an individual person and as a group.[13]

3.5. Teamwork

In order to carry out such a demanding mission, physicians cannot stay enclosed in their own individuality, but rather should first open up to other physicians and be sufficiently humble to work in collaboration and as a team, both on strictly physiological matters, and especially on those relational matters connected to fields of which they do not necessarily have a command and which to a certain extent are outside their competence, namely sociological, anthropological and political aspects, and those from technical fields beyond their profession, namely everything connected to the strictly computing field.

In a certain way, within this opening-up, in the Spanish field of medicine what two authors call the decalogue of the new physician is designed. They express it like this: 1. Multidisciplinary teamwork with a single person ultimately responsible. 2. The more scientific the professional, the better. 3. The human aspects will be strengthened in professional practice. 4. Action will be adapted to agreed scientific diagnostic and therapeutic protocols. 5. They will be aware of the expense. In addition to the protocols, they will use guides to good practice. 6. They shall aid coexistence and solidarity with work colleagues and with the patients. 7. They shall think that all healthcare acts can involve a preventive action, and even a promotion of health. 8. They shall bear in mind at all times the need to care for the satisfaction of the user of the service. 9. The Patient Service Units will be strengthened, circulating the complaints and suggestions which arise among the people affected. Frequent opinion surveys will be held. 10. It will be essential to apply ethical principles to the professional activities.[14]

CONCLUSION

Being a Catholic physician is a ministry which arises from a vocation in the Church. It is a therapeutic ministry. It is closely linked to God our Father, revealed in Christ the physician, full of the Love which is the Holy Spirit. Being a physician is a path to achieve the plenitude of the human being, to initiate the resurrection already. It involves proximity and a special intimacy with God, and at the same time represents an opening-up and a complete gift to others. This is the Catholic identity of the physician, to reveal Christ the healer.

Being a Catholic professor of medicine is to have far-reaching sight to be able to see the resurrection in death. It is not just this, though. It is the ability to sense a harmonious tension in health which leads to plenitude, in accordance with the different stages of the life of people. And it is to feel in medical science, technology and skills the all-powerful force of God who resurrects his Son Jesus Christ and who already gives us a foretaste of the resurrection in medical progress. Being a Catholic professor of medicine is to teach the Love with which the Holy Spirit delivers Jesus Christ on the cross to the Father, who with his loving strength brings him back to life. Being a Catholic professor of medicine is to teach the physician to be the loving caress of God who looks after his children in sickness and in death, making their condition more bearable for them and opening up for them a complete expectation of health which will not now be tension toward harmony, but rather the total harmony of love. Being a Catholic professor of medicine is to teach the physician to be the revelation of Christ the healer.

Vatican City, 15 April, 2007.

+ Javier Card. Lozano Barragán
President, Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry

“A Crime Against the Most Weak”

ROME, JULY 20, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of a pamphlet on “Pedophilia and the Priesthood” written by Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and member of the editorial commission of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

* * *

Q: How does the Church evaluate cases of pedophilia committed by priests?

These crimes of pedophilia have been labeled as “a crime against the most weak,” “a horrendous sin in the eyes of God,” a crime “that damages the Church’s credibility,” characterized as “filth” by Cardinal Ratzinger in the memorable Via Crucis on Good Friday 2005, just a few days before being elected Pope. That filth is created by “many cases of sexual abuse of minors that break one’s heart, and are particularly tragic when the one committing the abuse is a priest.” To the bishops of Ireland, Benedict XVI in October 2006 stated once more that these are crimes that “break one’s heart.”

The most severe condemnation, a source of clear and unequivocal blame, is found in the words of Jesus when, identifying himself with the little ones, affirms in the synoptic Gospels: “And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:5-6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:1-2).

Acts of pedophilia are the responsibility of the individual who carries them out.

It has to do with individual cases: It should not be generalized. There are some 500,000 priests in the world, and the priests who have cases brought against them are a small percentage. Those that have been proven and ended with punishment are even less: Trustworthy, nonpartisan sources say the percentage is 0.3%, that is, three priests out of 1,000. It is necessary to distinguish between “delinquent” priests who have done and continue to do bad things, from the multitude of other priests who have dedicated and continue to dedicate their lives to the good of children and adolescents.

We must not forget that in some cases the victims themselves have subsequently retracted their baseless accusations.

It must also be said that even one pedophile priest is too many. He is a priest that never should have been a priest and he should be punished severely with no ifs, ands or buts.

The Church has been working for some time with its personnel (even priests, for example, in Italy Father Fortunato Di Noto, working with his association on Internet sites) and institutions to single out, unmask, condemn and overcome the phenomenon of pedophilia, from within and from without.

Unfortunately it must also be said that some bishops were mistaken when they undervalued the facts and limited themselves to moving, from one parish to another, a priest who was found guilty of pedophilia. For this reason, the Holy See decided in 2001 to claim for itself the judgment on those crimes.

Q: Which documents of the Holy See deal with the crimes of pedophilia?

The Holy See has put out two documents that deal with the crimes of pedophilia:

1. The instruction of March 16, 1962, “Crimen Sollicitationis,” approved by Blessed Pope John XXIII and published by the Holy Office which later became the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was an important document to “instruct” canonical cases and laicize the presbyters involved in the vileness of pedophilia. In particular, it dealt with violations of the sacrament of confession.

2. The “Epistula de Delictis Gravioribus” (on most grave crimes), signed May 18, 2001, by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as prefect of the congregation. That letter’s objective is to give practical execution of the norms (“Normae de Gravioribus Delictis”) promulgated with the apostolic letter “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela,” published on April 30, 2001, and signed by Pope John Paul II.

These documents deal with the Church’s internal judicial acts, at the canonical level. Therefore they do not deal with the accusations and the provisions of the civil courts of states, which must be carried out according to their own laws. Whoever has addressed or addresses the ecclesiastical court can also address the civil court, to denounce similar crimes. Therefore the action of the Church is not aimed at retracting these crimes from the jurisdiction of the state and keeping them hidden.

There exist two paths to ascertain and condemn priests responsible for acts of pedophilia: that of the Church, with canon law, and that of the state with penal law. Each of these two paths is autonomous and independent of the other: the civil forum and the canonical forum must not be confused. This means that, whether or not a civil trial has taken place, the Church must necessarily carry out the canonical process. At the moment of the application of canonical punishment, if it is deemed that the guilty priest has been sufficiently punished in the civil forum, in that case the canonical punishment can be withheld.

In Italian law, a private citizen (this includes the bishop and anyone invested with ecclesial authority) is required to accuse [before the state] only crimes for which the penalty is life in prison. Yet, in Church law established in 1962, it was obligatory, under penalty of excommunication, to accuse [before the state] crimes of pedophilia if they happened in conjunction with the sacrament of confession. Therefore, from this point of view, the Church’s legislation was more severe than that of the Italian state in punishing the crimes of pedophilia.

Q: What is the procedure followed by the Church to prosecute crimes of pedophilia committed by priests?

This is the prescribed procedure: Faced with the accusation of an act of pedophilia by a priest, the bishop (or ordinary) must first of all carry out an investigation to ascertain the certainty of the accusation. Having obtained proof, the bishop (or ordinary) must give the documentation of the case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to follow the procedural path already contained in the Code of Canon Law. In the meantime, in some cases, the canonical judicial procedure to apply punishment can be followed — as, for example, demission from the clerical state — or, in other cases where, for example, the evidence is very clear, the administrative procedure can be carried out.

The seriousness with which the Church evaluates and judges acts of pedophilia is shown by the fact that with a new law passed in 2001, the Holy See (and not the local bishops) decided to reserve the right to judge those crimes. The new law says that judgments concerning “the crime against the sixth commandment committed by a cleric against a minor, under the age of 18, art. 4, are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which acts in these cases as the ‘apostolic tribunal’ — as is prescribed in ‘Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela.'”

Q: Why does the Church reserve judgment to the Holy See?

The fact that the Pope wanted to reserve to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — a dicastery of the Holy See — with the apostolic letter “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela” judgment of the acts of pedophilia committed by priests, shows that the Church considers those acts to be very serious, serious crimes on the same level of the other two serious crimes — reserved to the Holy See — that can be committed against two sacraments: the Eucharist and the holiness of confession. Therefore the Holy See’s decision has nothing to do with wanting to hide potential scandals or to diminish the seriousness of these wicked deeds, but serves to help us understand that they are very serious crimes, to which they give the maximum attention, and for this reason they reserve judgment to one of the most important offices of the Holy See, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith and not “local” entities which could possibly be influenced.

Q: Why secrecy under penalty of excommunication?

In the first place, the two documents cited by the Holy See were not secret, given the fact that they were sent to all bishops — some 5,000 — to indicate what to do in cases of pedophilia.

The 1962 instruction calls for the excommunication of whoever reveals details about the canonical penal procedure. For this reason the Instruction dealt with the way in which to proceed in cases. Therefore we speak of the need for secrecy about the legal proceedings, equal to that called for, in civil proceedings, by the judge while an investigation is in progress. Nothing more, nothing less. As is the case with every legal procedure, even the canonical ones have steps that must be secret to allow the ascertainment of the truth and to protect the innocent.

The main reason why the instruction calls for secrecy in canonical procedures was to permit any future witnesses to come forth freely, with the guarantee that their statements would be confidential and not exposed to publicity. And as a consequence, the name of the accused was kept hidden before a sentence was given in the case.

Another reason the Holy See did not want to cover up these crimes is described in a paragraph of the 1962 document, that obligated anyone, victim or witness, that was aware of any sexual abuses occurring in the confessional to come forth with that information; if not, they would incur the penalty of excommunication.

In the new legislation of 2001, the secrecy of the legal proceedings was not only applicable to cases of sexual abuse, but also for crimes against the Eucharist and those against the sacrament of penance. The letter establishes the pontifical secrecy without establishing any punishment for the violation of that secrecy, even though it is a secret that binds the conscience in a stronger way than that of a normal secret. In this case, the reason for the secret is to protect and safeguard:

— the good name of the accused, who is considered innocent until proven otherwise

— the right to privacy of the victims and witnesses

— the freedom of the superior who must freely made judgments, without being under pressure

Despite “the right to the freedom of information, it must not allow moral evil to become an occasion for sensationalism” (John Paul II, Discourse to American Bishops).

We must not forget that secrecy is needed to safeguard the dignity of the people involved: Many times those who are accused are shown to be innocent in the preliminary investigation.

Q: How are the testimonies of the victims of acts of pedophilia evaluated?

We need to underline here that:

— the testimonies of victims need to be verified, for love of the truth and of the people involved, as is the case with other crimes;

— in order to safeguard the the right of the accused to a fair trial, both sides must be heard

— in many cases the question arises: Why did the victim not report the crime after it happened but instead waited many years?

We must not forget that in the Anglo-Saxon world, the diocese to which the guilty priest belongs also shares the responsibility for the crimes committed and must offer economic recompense to the victim: Besides suffering from the scandal itself, the Church also suffers economically (which can be pleasing to some …)

Q: What does the Church do for the victims of these crimes?

The Church is deeply saddened for the innocent victims, as well as for those men who never should have become priests and who, in some cases, received very little condemnation for the crimes they committed.

The Church invites everyone:

— to console the victims
— to support them in their quest for justice
— to immediately declare these crimes

We must not forget that the Church is also a victim, because those crimes are a serious offense to the dignity of the person, created in the image and likeness of God; and they damage Christian witness.

To the victims and to their families the Church offers:

— assistance through its institutions and persons;

— necessary collaboration with public institutions, when civil or penal laws call for it, with attention, delicacy and discretion for the people involved.

The Church community must, in becoming aware of these diabolical acts, know how to more severely condemn them, without confusing reservedness with a conspiracy of silence.

“The Catholic Church had to learn at her own expense the consequences of the grave errors of some of her members and has become more able to react and to prevent pedophilia. Society as a whole must realize that the protection of minors and the fight against pedophilia has a long way to go” (Father Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See’s Press Office).

In fact, the problem of pedophilia does not only involve the Catholic Church, but is a worldwide problem, especially in the West; it afflicts various categories of persons and professions; it has many faces — like sexual tourism, child pornography, sexual exploitation of minors: these phenomenon, according to data from the U.N., afflict more than 150 million young girls and boys. This is another alarming sign of the loss of fundamental values, like love, human dignity –especially that of minors — and the positive sense of sexuality.

Therefore it is urgent for everyone to pay full attention to the words Benedict XVI addressed to the Irish bishops in October 2006: “Establish the truth of what happened in the past, take all measures to avoid it happening in the future, ensure that the principles of justice are respected and, above all, heal the victims and all those who have been affected by these abnormal crimes.”

For further reading on this topic, please consult the following pontifical documents:

— Holy Office, “Crimen Sollicitationis,” instruction of March 16, 1962;

— John Paul II, “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela,” apostolic letter promulgating the “Normae de Gravioribus Delictis,” April 30, 2001; and

— Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “Epistula de Delictis Gravioribus,” May 18, 2001.

Interview With Founder of New Missionary Group

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The founder of a new spiritual family, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, says that gratitude should be the real motivation for a moral life.

The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, also known as the Missionaries of Gratitude, are present in 78 dioceses in 22 countries, totaling more than 10,000 lay members, consecrated women, priests and seminarians. The group’s statutes were recently granted pontifical approval at a Vatican ceremony.

In this interview with ZENIT, Father Santiago Martín, a journalist and priest of the Archdiocese of Madrid, discusses the origin and meaning of the missionaries’ new approach to evangelization and the pursuit of holiness. 

Q: What led you to found the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary?

Father Martín: When you consider the history of the Church, you can see that the process of founding organizations has always been similar. First, problems arise, and then, a solution. 

There were unschooled children in the street, so the Holy Spirit moved someone, St. John Bosco, for example, to do something for them; that is how the Salesians arose. 

There were beggars in the streets of Calcutta and the Spirit urged Blessed Teresa to found the Missionaries of Charity. 

Something similar happened to me. 

Q: What problem did you see?

Father Martín: Secularism. The work I have founded is oriented directly against this evil that uproots God from man’s heart and, as a consequence, casts God and all religious matters away from society. 

In the last few years, a suicidal perversion has come about in the message transmitted by certain ecclesial persons. 

They have stated that hell does not exist or that it is empty, and that everyone goes to heaven. This is not so, but most people now believe it. 

Most people that acted, stirred either by fear or convenience, have suddenly been told that, no matter what they do, they will get the same payment. They have ceased to be driven by religious motivations. 

These motivations, which were so strong in the past, have proved ineffectual, particularly in countries in which the standard of living has improved considerably and there is not much material suffering. 

In this way, the crisis in the belief in heaven and hell has accentuated secularism and has led people to forget about God, at least in everyday life.

Q: How do you include gratitude in the process?

Father Martín: This new foundation is a movement of spirituality based on gratitude, because I believe this to be the best way to combat estrangement from God.

I became aware, and I trust that it was through God’s inspiration, that the problem was that for centuries we had been comfortably settled, drawing returns from motivations that, in fact, were pre-Christian, even if genuine. 

It is true that saints have insisted on the love of God, but most Catholics have made the journey of their relationship with God based on convenience or fear.

That is what led me to feel that the solution to the problem of secularism should take the form of a spiritual conversion that should place in the hearts of Catholics the genuine reason for which things ought to be done: gratitude toward God, who loves us to the extent of having given his life for us.

Q: Is this why you have called your parish groups Schools of Gratitude?

Father Martín: Indeed. We have devised a formation program that is intended to teach people to be grateful.

The first thing is to make them understand how much God loves them. 

The second point is for them to understand that God has rights and we have duties toward him, duties of gratitude. 

The third aspect is to teach them to be grateful in everyday life, because gratitude should be demonstrated through deeds of love. And in this, God’s word, which the Church offers us every Sunday, is our point of reference.

Q: What accounts for the name Franciscan Missionaries of Mary?

Father Martín: St. Francis was the first to denounce publicly that Catholics were not seeking God for the right reason; he did so after the vision that lead him to say in tears: “Love is not loved.”

As for the Holy Virgin, she means everything to us, together with St. John Bosco, of whom I feel a spiritual son. 

I want to say, among us, Mary has done everything. She is the model for loving God because, in her, in the Immaculate, there was no room for interest nor fear; everything was love. She teaches us to love God with a Eucharistic heart, with a grateful heart.

Q: How has the movement spread? 

Father Martín: It has been very rapid, due, mostly, to the use of the media and, particularly, to Mother Angelica’s television channel, EWTN. 

However, I think the reason for this rapid progress is that people are ready to receive this message; they are hungry to hear, not only of God’s love, but of returning God’s love and of how to go about it. 

Our mission of loving and leading people to love Love, God who is Love, is welcomed everywhere with great enthusiasm.

Q: Where is this movement present?

Father Martín: We are all over America, from Canada to Chile and in several dioceses of Spain. 

We have started in Italy, in Poland, and in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam. We are also in Sri Lanka. 

It is the Virgin Mary who goes opening the way for us, and we only begin with a “School of Gratitude” where there are people interested in establishing one. 

Normally, people have heard about them through some communication media or because someone has told them about us.

Q: Is this a movement only for laypeople?

Father Martín: No, it is for everyone, because we are all called upon to live Eucharistically, to live in “thanksgiving” all day long. 

In fact, I think it is a movement that has arisen particularly for priests, both because of the spiritual good they can derive from it and because of the assistance their parishes receive from the Schools of Gratitude.

We insist on the need to help parishes, on the fact that it is through them that one must become inserted in the dioceses. 

I believe that the future of the Church is to be found in the union between movements and parishes. That is why our movement is essentially parochial.

Q: So there is a branch that is specifically for the priesthood?

Father Martín: Yes, and also a branch for consecrated women. The statutes that the Church has recently approved establish these three vocations: laypeople, consecrated women and priests. 

The call to gratitude is for everyone. In fact, I dare insist, that it is more for priests than for anyone else, because priests are the servers of the Eucharist and the Eucharist is thanksgiving par excellence.