Archive for the ‘analysis’ Category
Institute’s New Director on Speaking Truth in Understandable Ways
By Kathleen Naab
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, JAN. 9, 2012 (Zenit.org).- A Philadelphia-based educational institute focused on promoting Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body has named a new executive director.
The 7-year-old Theology of the Body Institute picked Damon Owens, a successful businessman turned marriage promoter. Included on his extensive resume is his work as the Archdiocese of Newark’s Natural Family Planning and Marriage Preparation Coordinator, and leadership with the Life Education And Resource Network (L.E.A.R.N.), the largest African-American, pro-life ministry in the country.
Owens is himself a certified Natural Family Planning instructor who has counseled more than 20,000 couples over the last 16 years. He often appears on Catholic television and radio, sharing various aspects of the theology of the body, as well as commentating on topics related to marriage and family. He and his wife, Melanie, have been married for 18 years and have eight children.
ZENIT spoke with Owens about the Theology of the Body Institute and its work, and the difficulties facing those who promote Blessed John Paul’s message.
ZENIT: The Theology of the Body Institute exists to promote John Paul II’s theology at the secular level, too. Is that truly possible and if so how?
Owens: Our mission is to train and educate men and women to understand, live and promote Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body. While most of the individuals who come in contact with our programs are Catholic, our on-site and Certification courses regularly draw non-Catholics and non-Christians. It is not only possible, but it is critical that we evangelize the broader culture. Our preparation as believers for the “springtime of the new evangelization” includes a deeper grounding not only in the “what’s” of our faith, but the “why’s” behind them.
As believers, we accept even what we cannot fully understand about God’s revelation, because we love and trust him. Still, our faith is reasonable. There is a tremendous amount of truth that can be encountered before an assent of faith. There is a tremendous amount of beautiful and compelling meaning that can be successfully proposed even to a darkened intellect and hardened heart.
Rooted in objective truth, the theology of the body provides a personalistic approach that is well-suited for evangelizing in the modern culture. Our sexuality — masculinity and femininity — carries deep meaning for the identity and vocation of every human person. It is also the place of deep wounds for so many. The Theology of the Body Institute desires to help persons in every state of life gain an understanding of what it means to be created in God’s image and to live out their call to love as he loves. Only from this foundation can an authentic culture of life and love take root and flourish.
ZENIT: Linked to the previous question, statistics about Catholic married couple’s use of artificial contraception seem to indicate there is plenty need for Catholics as well to hear and accept John Paul’s theology. What are your thoughts in this regard? Must we first clean up our own camp before engaging the secular world?
Owens: Beginning with your last question, evangelization is, of course, intimately connected with catechesis (the head) and conversion (the heart). It is always a messy, personal, and inefficient work! Our witness is hurt by our own sin, ignorance, and lack of faith. On one hand, our ongoing conversion strengthens our witness. On the other hand, we have to be careful about setting too high a standard of personal perfection before witnessing to perfection. Without question, contraception is a tap-root of nearly every modern evil. Moreover, the prevalence of Christians contracepting is both a cause and an effect of the rise of other grave evils such as pornography, divorce, violence against women, abortion, fornication and homosexuality. These were the predicted consequences of their widespread use, and the subsequent result of their widespread acceptance.
The question remains, however: How do we reach people’s heads and hearts to reject the evil of contraception? It cannot just be emphatic instruction on the mortal sin of contraception (the head). It must include a compelling invitation to a true conversion of heart. Their hearts must “see” how contraception is a withholding of themselves that deforms the marital act and stifles the very love they long for. Theology of the body is a means to illumine the immutable meaning of things (natural law) in the heart of the person.
Fortunately, the great majority truly desire love. Whether they are in a pew or at the mall on Sunday, they deserve to hear the truth in a way that they can understand it. It is in our heart — or inner life — that we as unique and unrepeatable persons encounter the One True God. While we certainly wish there were a more authentic faith witness from Catholic married couples today, we at the Theology of the Body Institute have been just as awed by conversions in the Faith as by those to the Faith. We remain passionately committed to the simple mission of educating and training men and women to understand, live, and promote the Theology of the Body.
ZENIT: Tell us about the institute and plans you have for it as the new executive director.
Owens: The Theology of the Body Institute was formed in 2004 with the simple mission to educate and train men and women to understand, live and promote the theology of the body. Each of the founders experienced a profound conversion through Blessed John Paul II’s great work and continue to be animated by the desire to make it accessible to the world — Christian and secular — in an understandable, engaging and attractive manner. Ours is an integrated educational approach that presents the rich intellectual theology in an environment that encourages a real encounter with Our Lord. As we often say, it is an immersion of the head and the heart!
Our certification program with its retreat-format courses is the heart of our mission. These courses include Theology of the Body I, II, & III, Love & Responsibility, Catholic Sexual Ethics, Writings of John Paul II on Gender, Marriage, & Family, The Thought of Karol Wojtyla, and Theology of the Body & the Interior Life. Our on-site events at schools, parishes, seminaries and conferences around the world complement these courses and have grown in number and size every year.
We have a world-class faculty that includes Dr. Janet Smith, Dr. Michael Waldstein, Christopher West, Bill Donaghy, Dr. John Haas, and beginning for 2012-2013, Dr. Peter Kreeft and Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV. To date, more than 1,600 individuals have come to Pennsylvania for our week-long certification courses, and thousands have attended our on-site events around the world. We also held the first Theology of the Body Congress in 2010 bringing together leaders from around the world to explore the diverse applications of TOB. So, I begin with an organization that I consider successful in its mission.
My plans are to build on this success with an enhanced Clergy Enrichment Program for priests and seminarians that enriches both their priestly identity and vocation as fathers. We also plan to expand both our faculty and our Certification course offerings to reach even more lay and clerical leaders. The fact remains that only a small percentage of people in the world are familiar with this profound teaching. I see my role as expanding this success, as opposed to any real change in direction.
ZENIT: You are taking over leadership of the institute when the push for same-sex marriage and adoption is unprecedented. What do you hope to contribute to this battle?
Owens: We are an educational apostolate, so our contribution to social issues such as these is teaching the meaning of things. What is marriage? What does our sexuality mean? What is love, truth, freedom, or joy? What does it mean to be a human person? How do I choose, act, and live in accord with these truths and meanings? These cultural issues ultimately represent a critical loss of the meaning and dignity of human personhood. God bless those who are taking up these issues in the public square. I did that for years and deeply appreciate the need for, and difficulty of, these urgent defenses. It is abundantly clear, however, that these issues incubated long-term in a culture steeped in a disintegrated concept of human personhood. Sexual complementarity devolved into sexual difference, now sexual difference has been denied all together. Equality is argued as sameness. So, the argument continues, since men and women are the same, there is no difference between a husband and a wife or a mother and a father.
This is an identity crisis that requires long-term reformation and restoration. If we don’t know who — and whose — we are, we won’t know how to behave in a way that is in accord with our dignity and brings us true joy. Sexuality, sexual morality, love, marriage, fatherhood, motherhood, family, and life itself are integrated realities that flow from who God has revealed himself to be — a Trinitarian Communio: Three Divine Persons in such union that they are truly One.
The Gospel is “good news” precisely because it reveals to us the deepest truths of our identity created in the “image and likeness” of God, and subsequently our vocation to love. The language, approach, and appeal of the theology of the body gives us a means to understand and embrace the Gospel by rereading the language of the body. Simply put, as the body reveals the person, masculinity and femininity reveal the original, enduring, and eternal meaning of personhood as a call to communion. Love is self-gift. By rereading the language of the body in truth, we see love as not simply something we do, but as a universal human vocation that flows from who we are.
With regard to the specific question of redefining marriage, students of theology of the body are equipped to articulate not mere disagreement, but why it is simply not possible.
By Kathleen Naab
ROME, JAN. 13, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The director of the “Church and Sport” section at the Pontifical Council for the Laity admits that the “Tim Tebow phenomenon” has heightened his interest in the NFL playoffs.
Legionary of Christ Father Kevin Lixey works in the Roman Curia helping the Church make a contribution to the world of sport, with the aim of promoting a sports culture suitable to the integral development of the individual.
Those familiar with the NFL — and even those who are not — might have heard of Tebow for more than his unique style as a quarterback. His outward expressions of his Christian faith are being talked about by all sorts of commentators, in the world of American football and beyond. Though certainly not the only athlete to publicly express his faith on the field, Tebow is drawing more attention than usual. We asked Father Lixey what he thinks about that.
ZENIT: Do you see Tim Tebow’s public expression of faith as a positive or negative phenomenon? Certainly it is drawing a lot of attention to Christ, in one form or another …
Father Lixey: The hype over Tim Tebow is certainly an interesting phenomenon in an ever more secularized world. I consider it something very positive. Even at the college level, while quarterback for the Florida Gators during the 2009 Bowl Championship Series title contest, Tebow wrote “John 3:16” on his eye black. The Palm Beach Post reported that 92million people Googled the verse following the game … impressive!
But, it is not the mere public expression of faith — as Tebow drops a
knee to give thanks after a touchdown, or prays with other players who include teammates and opponents after the game — that is attracting people; it is his entire person.
I had the chance to speak with the offensive coordinator who coached Tim at the Florida Gators. He said he was a very unique player who was spiritually on another stratosphere with respect to the rest of the team. Yet, Tim was respected by his teammates because he was genuine. And this is the point I would like to touch on. As one reporter noted (Chuck Klosterman, Dec. 6, 2011): “This, I think, is what makes Tebow so maddening to those who hate him: He refuses to say anything that would validate the suspicion that he’s fake (or naïve or self-righteous or dumb).”
While Tebow certainly sticks out for these external manifestations of his faith, not to mention his unorthodox playing style as an NFL quarterback, his personal background is also not typical for an NFL quarterback. It is a real “Cinderella” story — although those who have to tackle Tim would not consider him a Cinderella.
First of all, Tim Tebow was born in the Philippines to American parents who were serving as Baptist missionaries, as his father is a pastor. His mother, while pregnant, suffered a life-threatening infection and was advised to have an abortion but she decided not to, and both Tim and his mother survived a difficult pregnancy. Another unique aspect is that Tim, like his four older siblings, was home-schooled. Thanks to legislation that was passed in Florida in 1996, home-schooled students were allowed to compete in local high school sporting events.
ZENIT: OK, but does prayer really have a place in football? Surely God doesn’t care about who wins the Super Bowl — or does he?
Father Lixey: Judging from his public statements, Tebow is one of the few and most prominent religious athletes to recognize that God does not care about the score of football games. Tebow considers his missionary and philanthropic work much more important than football, but at the same time, possible, because of it. We all too often equate prayer with only asking good things from God, where prayer is only used “to obtain something” i.e., victory, health, or a miracle. The Catechism reminds us that prayer is also “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God” and that we “we must remember God more often that we draw breath.”
Certainly there are moments and places more conducive to prayer, but there is no reason that all religious manifestations be entirely banned from the public square. These external manifestations of one’s beliefs are impressive precisely because they are public. Just as Christians once fell to their knees at the sound of the Angelus bell to remember the Incarnation, or just as the cab driver makes the point of getting out of his car to bow down toward Mecca in prayer, I see no reason why a professional football player cannot offer a prayer of thanksgiving or point to heaven instead of doing a lewd victory dance in the end zone.
Nonetheless, these external manifestations can make some people feel uneasy and it is not certain how long this will be “allowed” in the NFL. The Danish Football Federation complained to FIFA for permitting members of the Brazilian national to gather together in prayer after their victory of the 2009 Confederations Cup. FIFA’s president responded by warning that any religious manifestation would not be permitted in the 2010 World Cup.
ZENIT: Along those lines, the Tebow “phenomenon” comes at a time when the U.S. bishops are particularly concerned about religious freedom. Is reaction to Tebow’s public expression of faith a sign that their concern is warranted? Or misplaced? Or is religious freedom on the playing field one thing, and in the public square something else?
Father Lixey: Pope Benedict XVI is also particularly concerned about religious freedom and touched upon this point Monday in his address to members of the diplomatic corps, noting: “In many countries Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and sidelined from public life; in other countries they endure violent attacks against their churches and their homes.”
Obviously the Holy Father was not speaking about the FIFA decision to sideline religion. But it does raise the question: “What is the public square today?” Is it literally that quaint square in front of a town hall somewhere in New England, where perhaps it is no longer permissible to display a Nativity scene? Or is it the Internet, a person’s desk at work, or the professional football stadium?
I think many are impressed with Tim Tebow’s courage in professing his faith for he certainly is mocked for it. When he received flack for doing a pro-life ad with “Focus on the Family” that ran during the 2010 Superbowl, he said: “I know some people won’t agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe in.” This is all Tim is asking. Whether it is standing up, or taking a knee, for what he believes in, many people do respect this, that he stands up for what he believes. Yet, others become infuriated as they consider Tebow guilty of breaching the line that all are supposed to respect, namely, that which separates the secular from the religious, the holy from the profane, the sacred from the everyday.
ZENIT: As Catholics, what can we learn from this situation — from Tebow himself, perhaps, and from the reactions he’s causing?
Father Lixey: Blessed John Paul II once reminded a group of top professional soccer players: “The eyes of sports fans throughout the world are fixed on you. Be conscious of your responsibility! It is not only the champion in the stadium but also the whole person who should become a model for millions of young people, who need ‘leaders,’ not ‘idols.’ They need men who can convey to them the zest for challenge, a sense of discipline, the courage to be honest and the joy of unselfishness.”
I believe Tim Tebow is trying to live up to these words of John Paul II and his example can prompt other athletes to be “leaders” and not idols, being a model on and off the field, especially of the corporal works of mercy. As Tim shares in his own words: “When I was a student at the University of Florida, I found great joy in taking time to encourage children suffering from cancer in hospitals or visiting a prison or juvenile detention center, or doing mission work with my family at Uncle Dick’s Orphanage in the Philippines. … Football is so popular (that) it enables an athlete like me to establish a platform for doing good deeds … to take this experience to an even greater level of outreach and influence. … After my professional career, I plan on giving my life full time to this outreach.”
That’s not a bad role model for the youth. … It’s not a bad example for us to follow either.
By Genevieve Pollock
ALBANY, Georgia, JAN. 16, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Thousands of men are answering the call to rediscover God’s plan for fatherhood, inspired by a new movie, “Courageous,” due to be released on DVD on Tuesday.
The film, which debuted in theaters Sept. 30, follows four men striving to fulfill their mission “to serve and protect,” both as law enforcement officers and fathers.
Stephen Kendrick, producer and co-writer of the film, told ZENIT that every day he sees some 200 e-mails from “people sharing how the movie has impacted, inspired and blessed them.”
“The stories they share are so heartfelt and moving,” he said. “Countless dads are now reaching out to win the hearts of their children.”
Kendrick continued: “One man realized he needed to step up and reconnect with the daughter he’d abandoned.
“Many have chosen to forgive their dads.
“Wives are saying that ‘my husband was a good dad, but now he’s becoming a great dad after seeing this movie.’
“Couples heading for divorce have reunited and said that they must resolve to leave a legacy of faithfulness to their children like the men in the movie. We thank God for this!”
As policemen, the main characters must team up against gang members and drug dealers to protect the community. Yet even as they battle evil with their guns and Tasers, they learn to use Scripture to fight the demons within in order to become the men of integrity their families need.
“There is so much in Scripture about what fatherhood means, but most men have not taken time to search it out and then live it out,” Kendrick stated. “‘Courageous’ shows it to them in living color.”
He continued: “It is so incredible to see how a message about the importance of strong fatherhood is so deeply resonating with audiences.
“The issue of fatherhood touches the core of who we are. Millions of people have seen this movie and have gone on the emotional roller-coaster of laughter and tears as they watch five men trying to figure out what it means to be a great dad.”
For actor Ken Bevel, who portrayed the cop Nathan Hayes, the movie was an opportunity to “help serve in turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.”
He explained to ZENIT: “As I look at the consistent decline of families and the minimal involvement of fathers in our communities, my heart is challenged — challenged to the point of action. So, when God provided the opportunity to address biblical fatherhood through film, I was humbled that he would allow me to be used in such a task.”
This role, Bevel said, “caused me to examine my own life and my role as a father.”
He added: “I asked myself the question, ‘Am I being completely intentional about fatherhood and leading my children to the Lord?’ Unfortunately the answer was no. So, ‘Courageous’ has also challenged me to spend more time in Bible study with my family, while praying for wisdom in leading my children to the Lord.”
Kendrick expressed the hope for this “life change,” not only for all who worked on the movie, but also for all who view it.
The film’s release on DVD will allow its viewing by greater audiences. Parishes, ministries and other groups are encouraged to show the movie and utilize the corresponding resources to help effect this life-changing experience.
One group, the Philadelphia-based Fatherhood and Leadership Initiative, sponsored a showing of the movie that drew the players of two football teams with their fathers, in addition to other families.
Jim Gabriele, one of the group’s founders, told ZENIT that “the response was tremendous.” People were moved not only by the film, he said, but also by “the underlying message of love of Christ and faith in him as the foundation of a man’s most important vocation — his family.”
“This movie clearly brings people together,” added Gabriele, “and challenges men in particular to be men of the kingdom, the Godly husbands and fathers we are all called to be.”
He added that the “widespread release of the movie provides a tremendous opportunity to put the emotion we all felt at the end of the movie to practical use in our daily lives.”
“It is an unbelievably easy tool to use for ministry, and the producers have provided outstanding resources to bring the movie to life via Bible studies, small group sessions, etc.” Gabriele noted.
He continued: “Men are notoriously hard to reach in ministry, but the ability to invite men to an engaging movie, followed by structured discussions and the ability to delve more deeply into their faith and how it applies to marriage and fatherhood is an incredible gift.”
He revealed to ZENIT that his group will be sponsoring an eight-week study series, available through the Internet as well, on scriptural fatherhood.
Kendrick expressed the hope that many of this generation of men will see “Courageous” and “learn that the role of father is irreplaceable.”
He underlined the hope that the audience will see that God created fatherhood “to introduce the next generation to what their loving Heavenly Father is like: a loving Provider, a strong Protector, an honorable Authority, a great Example, a wise Teacher, and an intimate Friend.”
The producer continued: “We hope that men get a vision for this and begin to step up with courage and begin to lead their families by example as God intended. This will positively affect the next generation in countless ways.”
“We produced a movie,” he concluded. “But only he can change a heart. To him alone be the glory!”
A Tribute to L’Osservatore Romano
By Antonio Gaspari
ROME, JAN. 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- It should be called “the friend of truth.” It opposed Nazism and Communism. In defense of the Pope and of the poor, it has challenged dictators worldwide. Its motto affirms “Non praevalebunt.” Pope Paul VI pointed it out as “a light nourished by the See of Peter,” it has just celebrated its 150th anniversary, and Benedict XVI speaks of its “long and great history.”
We are talking about L’Osservatore Romano, commonly known in Rome as “the Pope’s newspaper.” Born in difficult times in 1861, when it seemed that the Holy See would be swept away, it has grown enormously and today comes out with editions in eight languages among which is also the Malaysian version published in India.
In Brazil there is a street dedicated to L’Osservatore Romano in the Carlos Lourenco Garden of Campinas.
The paper was founded by lawyer Nicola Zanchini together with journalist Giuseppe Bastia after Pope Pius IX gave his blessing to the publication.
Written in the founding constitution is that the objective of L’Osservatore Romano is to “unmask and confute the calumnies hurled against the Roman Pontificate,” to “recall the principles of the Catholic religion and those of justice and law as the basis of ordinary civil living” and to “stimulate and promote the veneration of the Sovereign Pontiff.”
In connection with the nascent Italian nation and the sciences, L’Osservatore Romano proposed “to instruct on the duties owed to the homeland” and to “bring together and illustrate all that through art, literature and sciences merits being pointed out to the public, especially the inventions and related applications.”
In the course of its glorious history, L’Osservatore Romano has distinguished itself for opposing every form of totalitarianism and for defending the liberty and dignity of the person.
Speaking of the 30s, when Italy was under the Fascist dictatorship, Francis Charles Roux, ambassador of France to the Holy see, writes in his memoirs that L’Osservatore Romano is “the only newspaper in Italy that does not obey the governmental dispositions and those of the Fascist party.”
“Its independence in confrontations with the government, made its circulation grow to a number that was very different from the usual,” added the French diplomat. In that period the Pope’s newspaper sold close to 60,000 copies, reaching even to 100,000, an enormous number at that time.
The diffusion of L’Osservatore Romano infuriated the Fascist militia, to the point that some customers were mistreated, entire packets of the newspaper were confiscated and burnt.
In this connection, in the Constituent Assembly of March 20, 1947, the well-known Italian journalist, jurist, writer and politician Piero Calamandrei said: “In the years of the greatest oppression, we must remember that the only newspaper in which one could still find some reference to liberty, to our liberty, to the liberty common to all free men was L’Osservatore Romano.
“And when the racial persecutions began, the Church lined up against the persecutors and in defense of the oppressed; because when the Germans sought our sons to torture and shoot them, they, no matter what their party, found refuge in the rectories and convents; because priests were found who were prepared to offer themselves as hostages to save the population of a municipality and to rescue the life of all with their sacrifice.”
Among the thousands of acts of heroism carried out by Catholics, emerges that of the director of L’Osservatore Romano, Giuseppe Dalla Torre, who, to follow the indications of the Servant of God Pius XII, on Oct. 29, 1943, took care of and sent the Jew Giovanni Astrologo with his father and four aunts to the Lombard Seminary of Rome.
They were persecuted and sought by the Nazis. Dalla Torre entrusted them to Monsignor Francesco Bertoglio, rector of the seminary, who on June 29, 2010 was recognized by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations.”
On Sept. 24, 1936, intervening in the second international congress of Catholic journalists, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli said that L’Osservatore Romano “for fifteen lustrums was the austere herald of the voice and sentences of Peter and the champion of his most sacred rights.”
And when Pacelli became Pope Pius XII he described it as “faithful and dear.”
According to Blessed Pope John XXIII, L’Osservatore Romano is “the daily herald, the instrument, the surest voice by which the Pope’s thought is ordinarily transmitted and guaranteed of its authenticity, from Rome to the extreme ends of the world.”
In the introduction of the pamphlet marking the paper’s 150th anniversary, Benedict XVI explained that L’Osservatore Romano knows how to express “the cordial friendship of the Holy See for humanity in our time, in defense of the human person created in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by Christ.”
Former Baltimore Archbishop Comments on ‘Ad Limina’ Visit
By Ann Schneible
ROME, JAN. 20, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Christians must remain ever vigilant in confronting movements that seek to infringe upon religious freedom.
This was the reminder voiced by Cardinal-designate Edwin O’Brien when he spoke to ZENIT today about Benedict XVI’s address Thursday to U.S. bishops on their “ad limina” visit.
The archbishop of Baltimore from 2007 till last year, and now the Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Cardinal O’Brien also served for a decade as the archbishop for the Military Services.
The Holy Father announced Jan. 6 that the 72-year-old prelate will be made a cardinal next month.
ZENIT: What have been your impressions of this ad limina visit, especially in light of the upcoming consistory in which you will be created Cardinal?
Cardinal-designate O’Brien: Well, I don’t see much connection, but I’m certainly taking an extra interest in things Roman, since I will be living here soon, as soon as my successor is installed — and I hope that’s very soon, but we’ve had no word on that yet. I will be moving permanently here to Rome, and the visits to these dicasteries have given me some good insight, some good orientation, and kind of a sense of expectation for what awaits me here.
ZENIT: The Holy Father in his discourse to the bishops spoke about the issue of religious freedom. Throughout the world Christians have been facing persecution, both through the secularization of the West and also with violent persecution in other places. What does it mean for you to be created a cardinal at this point in Church history?
Cardinal-designate O’Brien: Aside from being created a cardinal, I think we in the United States have always been concerned about persecution and intolerance around the world. I don’t think we ever expected it to come in the form it is coming in our own country, where the government is impinging on some very good work we are trying to do, to force on us values that are foreign to the Judeo-Christian heritage.
The highlight of this ad limina visit has been the visit with the Holy Father. I don’t think any of us expected as magnificent an allocution as we heard yesterday. He was right on, and made the proper distinctions and it applies perfectly to our country. I hope that we can make best use of that to help our fellow Americans realize that slowly but surely, “Big Brother” is closing in on religious communities such as ours and the good work we’re trying to do.
ZENIT: Could you speak a little more about this problem of the government infringing on religious freedom, such as regards abortion and same-sex marriage. For instance in Baltimore, there was the instance of the mayor speaking in favor of same-sex marriage.
Cardinal-designate O’Brien: In Baltimore, a couple of years ago, we had a novel requirement which would never have been dreamed of, where our pregnancy counseling centers were told by law, passed by the city council, that they had to put a sign up saying: “We do not provide birth-control or abortion services.” Why did we have to do that? That was totally arbitrary on their part, and an attempt to put us out of business in favor of Planned Parenthood. The courts so far have ruled in our favor on this.
[Moreover,] if we imitate other states that have passed legislation regarding same-sex marriage, the next step will be that we have to teach this as appropriate in all our schools, that every one of our institutions has to accept the principle, and the reality in their communities and wherever they work. The next step will be as it is in European countries: if you speak openly about the immorality of same-sex marriage, you’re open to prosecution. It’s a slippery slope, and it’s certainly going to happen.
The basic thing is, that to compare this to discrimination by race, discrimination by color — that’s pigmentation, that’s real discrimination. But we’re talking about the basic fundamental institution of marriage from the very beginning, from Scriptures and through civilized nations has [always] been between a man and a woman open to children. When we try out of sympathy or emotion to change that, it’s a huge and dangerous initiative, and one that is dangerous for our future.
ZENIT: As the Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, could you speak about the conflicts that are going on in the Holy Land, and how the Church in Rome can be present to the Christians there?
Cardinal-designate O’Brien: My responsibility will be to support the Christian institutions in the Holy Land, primarily — but not exclusively — as they relate to the patriarch of Jerusalem. And to encourage members of the order to take interest in what’s going on there: [such as] the diminishing number of Christians, and the many obligations we have in schools and hospitals, seminaries, the obligations we’ve taken on to support these Christian institutions, and many Catholic institutions, and the people living there. [With] so few people living there, help has to come from outside. That is the principle goal that I will have: to educate, to encourage members of the order to take greater interest — not only by their donations, and by their participation in the activities of the order, but certainly by pilgrimage.
Our main emphasis is the personal sanctity of every member of the order. If we accomplish that — and have that especially [present] in this upcoming Year of Faith — and work on the new evangelization with the various lieutenancies and members of our order, I think the rest will fall into place. Our attention and our help to the institutions in the Holy Land and our patriarch there will follow pretty quickly. We’re doing a lot already, but throughout the Church, this new evangelization reminds us that we never are where we should be. There’s always more we can do, and we should not presume without grace. And grace is available to us, and I think there will be many graces during this Year of Faith.
Cardinal-designate O’Brien: From 1997-2007 I was the archbishop for the military services, which includes 1.5 million Catholics in the armed forces of the United States and their families, and veterans’ hospitals, over 170 of them. Archbishop Broglio is now the military ordinary, and he’s doing a wonderful job. Our biggest problem is bringing the faith to our brave and generous men and women of our armed forces and their families. And without priests we can’t do that adequately. We should have more than 800 priests serving in all the branches, and we’re well below 300 right now. And it’s still diminishing.
There are some good signs of vocations; Archbishop Broglio has done wonderful work, and I think there are over 30 seminarians now studying. They will belong to the various dioceses of the country, but after three years of ordination they will join the military. That’s a first, it’s a huge step forward. And I hope that, as a result of the experiences that some of our men have had in combat, and in the armed forces, the sense of generosity, of self-sacrifice, of discipline, there are ample signs that vocations are coming as a result of the reality of sin and hardship and suffering that’s taken place, and the importance of the Church to meet those needs. I think that’s what our young people are going to respond to when it comes to vocations.