Category Archives: Father Zuhlsdorf

Abortion and the Kennedy Clan, Part III

How Support for Abortion Became Kennedy Dogma

By ANNE HENDERSHOTT

For faithful Roman Catholics, the thought of yet another pro-choice Kennedy positioned to campaign for the unlimited right to abortion is discouraging. Yet if Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of Catholics John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, is appointed to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton, abortion-rights advocates will have just such a champion.

Ms. Kennedy was so concerned to assure pro-abortion leaders in New York, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on Dec. 18, that on the same day Ms. Kennedy telephoned New York Gov. David Patterson to declare interest in the Senate seat, “one of her first calls was to an abortion rights group, indicating she will be strongly pro-choice.”

Within the first week of her candidacy, Ms. Kennedy promised to work for several causes, including same-sex marriage and abortion rights. In responding to a series of 15 questions posed by the New York Times on Dec. 21, Ms. Kennedy said that, while she believes “young women facing unwanted pregnancies should have the advice of caring adults,” she would oppose legislation that would require minors to notify a parent before obtaining an abortion. On the crucial question of whether she supports any state or federal restrictions on late-term abortions, Ms. Kennedy chose to say only that she “supports Roe v. Wade, which prohibits third trimester abortions except when the life or health of the mother is at risk.” Presumably Ms. Kennedy knows that this effectively means an unlimited right to abortion — including late-stage abortion — because the “health of the mother” can be so broadly defined that it includes the psychological distress that can accompany an unintended pregnancy.

Ms. Kennedy’s commitment to abortion rights is shared by other prominent family members, including Kerry Kennedy Cuomo and Maryland’s former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Some may recall the 2000 Democratic Convention when Caroline and her uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, addressed the convention to reassure all those gathered that the Democratic Party would continue to provide women with the right to choose abortion — even into the ninth month. At that convention, the party’s nominee, Al Gore, formerly a pro-life advocate, pledged his opposition to parental notification and embraced partial-birth abortion. Several of those in attendance, including former President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, had been pro-life at one time. But by 2000 nearly every delegate in the convention hall was on the pro-choice side — and those who weren’t simply kept quiet about it.

Caroline Kennedy knows that any Kennedy desiring higher office in the Democratic Party must now carry the torch of abortion rights throughout any race. But this was not always the case. Despite Ms. Kennedy’s description of Barack Obama, in a New York Times op-ed, as a “man like my father,” there is no evidence that JFK was pro-choice like Mr. Obama. Abortion-rights issues were in the fledgling stage at the state level in New York and California in the early 1960s. They were not a national concern.

Even Ted Kennedy, who gets a 100% pro-choice rating from the abortion-rights group Naral, was at one time pro-life. In fact, in 1971, a full year after New York had legalized abortion, the Massachusetts senator was still championing the rights of the unborn. In a letter to a constituent dated Aug. 3, 1971, he wrote: “When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.”

But that all changed in the early ’70s, when Democratic politicians first figured out that the powerful abortion lobby could fill their campaign coffers (and attract new liberal voters). Politicians also began to realize that, despite the Catholic Church’s teachings to the contrary, its bishops and priests had ended their public role of responding negatively to those who promoted a pro-choice agenda.

In some cases, church leaders actually started providing “cover” for Catholic pro-choice politicians who wanted to vote in favor of abortion rights. At a meeting at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport, Mass., on a hot summer day in 1964, the Kennedy family and its advisers and allies were coached by leading theologians and Catholic college professors on how to accept and promote abortion with a “clear conscience.”

The former Jesuit priest Albert Jonsen, emeritus professor of ethics at the University of Washington, recalls the meeting in his book “The Birth of Bioethics” (Oxford, 2003). He writes about how he joined with the Rev. Joseph Fuchs, a Catholic moral theologian; the Rev. Robert Drinan, then dean of Boston College Law School; and three academic theologians, the Revs. Giles Milhaven, Richard McCormick and Charles Curran, to enable the Kennedy family to redefine support for abortion.

Mr. Jonsen writes that the Hyannisport colloquium was influenced by the position of another Jesuit, the Rev. John Courtney Murray, a position that “distinguished between the moral aspects of an issue and the feasibility of enacting legislation about that issue.” It was the consensus at the Hyannisport conclave that Catholic politicians “might tolerate legislation that would permit abortion under certain circumstances if political efforts to repress this moral error led to greater perils to social peace and order.”

Father Milhaven later recalled the Hyannisport meeting during a 1984 breakfast briefing of Catholics for a Free Choice: “The theologians worked for a day and a half among ourselves at a nearby hotel. In the evening we answered questions from the Kennedys and the Shrivers. Though the theologians disagreed on many a point, they all concurred on certain basics . . . and that was that a Catholic politician could in good conscience vote in favor of abortion.”

But can they now? There are signs today that some of the bishops are beginning to confront the Catholic politicians who consistently vote in favor of legislation to support abortion. Charles J. Chaput, the archbishop of Denver, has been on the front lines in encouraging Catholics to live their faith without compromise in the public square. Most recently in his book “Render Unto Caesar,” Archbishop Chaput has reminded Catholic politicians of their obligation to protect life.

The archbishop is not alone. The agenda at November’s assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops included a public discussion of abortion and politics. The bishops’ final statement focused on concern about the possible passage of the “Freedom of Choice Act,” and referred to it as “an evil law that would further divide our country.” The bishops referenced their 2007 document, “Faithful Citizenship,” which maintains that the right to life is the foundation of every other human right. In it, they promised to “persist in the duty to counsel, in the hope that the scandal of their [Catholic congregants’] cooperating in evil can be resolved by the proper formation of their consciences.”

Whether the bishops truly will persist remains to be seen. New York’s Cardinal Edward Egan, for instance, has not publicly challenged Ms. Kennedy’s pro-choice promises. This is unfortunate. Until the clerics begin to counter the pro-choice claims made by high-profile Catholics such as Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and, now, Caroline Kennedy, faithful Catholics will continue to be bewildered by their pastoral silence.

Ms. Hendershott is a professor of urban studies at The King’s College in New York. She is the author of “The Politics of Abortion” (Encounter Books, 2007).
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page W11

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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Abortion and the Kennedy Clan, Part II

27 August 2009
The 1964 Hyannisport Conclave: Catholic leaders teaching Catholic pols how to ignore evil
CATEGORY: SESSIUNCULA — Fr. John Zuhlsdorf @ 1:47 pm

Back in January, the Wall Street Journal had an article about how the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, Catholic and staunchy pro-abortion, came to embrace the pro-abortion position he championed for decades in the most public way possible.

The article was sparked from the possibility that Caroline Kennedy would be appointed to fill the senatorial seat opened by Sec. Hilary Clinton’s choice to take a pay check from the Obama Administration.

My emphases and comments.

JANUARY 2, 2009

How Support for Abortion Became Kennedy Dogma

By ANNE HENDERSHOTT

For faithful Roman Catholics, [Ms. Hendershott thinks that the Catholic dimension is important enough to raise here. She leads with it.] the thought of yet another pro-choice Kennedy positioned to campaign for the unlimited right to abortion is discouraging. Yet if Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of Catholics John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, is appointed to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton, abortion-rights advocates will have just such a champion.

Ms. Kennedy was so concerned to assure pro-abortion leaders in New York, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on Dec. 18, that on the same day Ms. Kennedy telephoned New York Gov. David Patterson to declare interest in the Senate seat, “one of her first calls was to an abortion rights group, indicating she will be strongly pro-choice.”

Within the first week of her candidacy, Ms. Kennedy promised to work for several causes, including same-sex marriage and abortion rights. In responding to a series of 15 questions posed by the New York Times on Dec. 21, Ms. Kennedy said that, while she believes “young women facing unwanted pregnancies should have the advice of caring adults,” she would oppose legislation that would require minors to notify a parent before obtaining an abortion. On the crucial question of whether she supports any state or federal restrictions on late-term abortions, Ms. Kennedy chose to say only that she “supports Roe v. Wade, which prohibits third trimester abortions except when the life or health of the mother is at risk.” Presumably Ms. Kennedy knows that this effectively means an unlimited right to abortion—including late-stage abortion—because the “health of the mother” can be so broadly defined that it includes the psychological distress that can accompany an unintended pregnancy.

Ms. Kennedy’s commitment to abortion rights is shared by other prominent family members, including Kerry Kennedy Cuomo and Maryland’s former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Some may recall the 2000 Democratic Convention when Caroline and her uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, addressed the convention to reassure all those gathered that the Democratic Party would continue to provide women with the right to choose abortion—even into the ninth month. [“the ninth month”] At that convention, the party’s nominee, Al Gore, formerly a pro-life advocate, pledged his opposition to parental notification and embraced partial-birth abortion. Several of those in attendance, including former President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, had been pro-life at one time. But by 2000 nearly every delegate in the convention hall was on the pro-choice side—and those who weren’t simply kept quiet about it.

Caroline Kennedy knows that any Kennedy desiring higher office in the Democratic Party must now carry the torch of abortion rights throughout any race. [This is liberal dogma, to be sure. Sadly it is nearly liberal Catholic dogma.] But this was not always the case. Despite Ms. Kennedy’s description of Barack Obama, in a New York Times op-ed, as a “man like my father,” there is no evidence that JFK was pro-choice like Mr. Obama. Abortion-rights issues were in the fledgling stage at the state level in New York and California in the early 1960s. They were not a national concern.

Even Ted Kennedy, who gets a 100% pro-choice rating from the abortion-rights group Naral, was at one time pro-life. In fact, in 1971, a full year after New York had legalized abortion, the Massachusetts senator was still championing the rights of the unborn. In a letter to a constituent dated Aug. 3, 1971, he wrote: “When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.”

But that all changed in the early ‘70s, when Democratic politicians first figured out that the powerful abortion lobby could fill their campaign coffers (and attract new liberal voters). Politicians also began to realize that, [wait for it] despite the Catholic Church’s teachings to the contrary, its bishops and priests had ended their public role of responding negatively to those who promoted a pro-choice agenda. [Bishops and priests at the time failed in their duty. However, consider also the horrific damage done by enablers such as the late Fr. Robert Drinan, SJ. Men like Drinan gave the Kennedy’s and others their instructions on how to dodge the abortion issue, how to relegate faith (at least concerning abortion) to the sphere of the private so that it would not impinge on their public actions.]

In some cases, [as I just said] church leaders actually started providing “cover” for Catholic pro-choice politicians who wanted to vote in favor of abortion rights. At a meeting at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport, Mass., on a hot summer day in 1964, the Kennedy family and its advisers and allies were coached by leading theologians and Catholic college professors on how to accept and promote abortion with a “clear conscience.”

[READ THIS NEXT PART WITH CARE]

The former Jesuit priest Albert Jonsen, emeritus professor of ethics at the University of Washington, recalls the meeting in his book “The Birth of Bioethics” (Oxford, 2003). He writes about how he joined with the Rev. Joseph Fuchs, a Catholic moral theologian; the Rev. Robert Drinan, then dean of Boston College Law School; and three academic theologians, the Revs. Giles Milhaven, Richard McCormick and Charles Curran, to enable the Kennedy family to redefine support for abortion. [Get that? There was a workshop for them to help them get around the teaching of the Church.]

Mr. Jonsen writes that the Hyannisport colloquium was influenced by the position of another Jesuit, the Rev. John Courtney Murray, a position that [AGAIN… pay attention…] “distinguished between the moral aspects of an issue and the feasibility of enacting legislation about that issue.” It was the consensus at the Hyannisport conclave that Catholic politicians “might tolerate legislation that would permit abortion under certain circumstances if political efforts to repress this moral error led to greater perils to social peace and order.” [And there it is, folks.]

Father Milhaven later recalled the Hyannisport meeting during a [And refresher courses were necessary….]1984 breakfast briefing of Catholics for a Free Choice: “The theologians worked for a day and a half among ourselves at a nearby hotel. In the evening we answered questions from [from who?] the Kennedys and the Shrivers. Though the theologians disagreed on many a point, they all concurred on certain basics . . . and that was that a Catholic politician could in good conscience vote in favor of abortion.” [Have you wondered how Catholic Democrat pols such as Speaker Pelosi and VP Biden, not to mention a score of other Catholic pro-abortion pols, could justify avoiding the evil of their stand on the instrinsic eveil of abortion? This is how it was done. They were given formation by Catholic theologians. They were given a framework whereby they could justify supporting what Catholics know is evil.]

[QUAERITUR] But can they now? There are signs today that some of the bishops are beginning to confront the Catholic politicians who consistently vote in favor of legislation to support abortion. Charles J. Chaput, the archbishop of Denver, has been on the front lines in encouraging Catholics to live their faith without compromise in the public square. Most recently in his book “Render Unto Caesar,” Archbishop Chaput has reminded Catholic politicians of their obligation to protect life.

The archbishop is not alone. The agenda at November’s assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops included a public discussion of abortion and politics. The bishops’ final statement focused on concern about the possible passage of the “Freedom of Choice Act,” and referred to it as “an evil law that would further divide our country.” The bishops referenced their 2007 document, “Faithful Citizenship,” which maintains that the right to life is the foundation of every other human right. In it, they promised to “persist in the duty to counsel, in the hope that the scandal of their [Catholic congregants’] cooperating in evil can be resolved by the proper formation of their consciences.” [Moreover, the Notre Dame Debacle has not been forgotten. For the USCCB, this is not over.]

Whether the bishops truly will persist remains to be seen. New York’s Cardinal Edward Egan, for instance, has not publicly challenged Ms. Kennedy’s pro-choice promises. This is unfortunate. Until the clerics begin to counter the pro-choice claims made by high-profile Catholics such as Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and, now, Caroline Kennedy, faithful Catholics will continue to be bewildered by their pastoral silence.

Ms. Hendershott is a professor of urban studies at The King’s College in New York. She is the author of “The Politics of Abortion” (Encounter Books, 2007).

This was an excellent piece. I remember when it came out.

Do yourselves a favor and memorize those dates and names.

1964 … 1984 … Jonsen… Fuchs… Milhaven… McCormick… Curran… Drinan… Hyannisport

Abortion and the Kennedy Clan

2 March 2010
Archbp. Chaput’s HOMERUN in Houston!
CATEGORY: SESSIUNCULA — Fr. John Zuhlsdorf @ 10:09 am

This will stir controversy… and it should.

For a long time we have known that someone with a MITER on his head should have gone after John F. Kennedy’s speech in Houston? It will be 50 years… think of that.

Archbishop Chaput of Denver has.

Sandro Magister has the entire text with footnotes on his site, also in Italian. The speech was delivered last night. We conclude from this that someone close to Archbp. Chaput in Denver knows what he is doing.

Archbp. Chaput’s speech relies heavily on Augustine of Hippo. Someone really knows what is going on.

Ask yourself this question as you read:

Are the consciences of politicians subject to the Catechesim of the Catholic Church or not?

My emphases:

JFK speech on faith was ‘sincere’ but ‘wrong,’ Archbishop Chaput states

Houston, Texas, Mar 2, 2010 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday evening, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver delivered a talk at Houston Baptist University, in which he criticized President John F. Kennedy’s historic campaign speech on his faith impacting his possible presidency as “sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong.” The archbishop called on his audience to get involved in the Christian “vocation” of being engaged in public service, at a time when religion is being increasingly ignored in the political sphere.

Archbishop Chaput gave his address, “The Vocation of Christians in American Public Life,” on the evening of March 1 at the Houston Baptist University’s Morris Cultural Art center. The lecture was presented in coordination with the Pope John Paul II Forum for the Church in the Modern World at the University of St. Thomas.

After offering caveats about his remarks, Archbishop Chaput emphasized the need for ecumenism and dialogue based on truth as opposed to superficial niceties. He then remarked, “We also urgently owe each other solidarity and support in dealing with a culture that increasingly derides religious faith in general and the Christian faith in particular.”

During his talk, the archbishop noted that there are currently “more Catholics in national public office” than there ever have been in American history.

“But,” he continued, “I wonder if we’ve ever had fewer of them who can coherently explain how their faith informs their work, or who even feel obligated to try. The life of our country is no more ‘Catholic’ or ‘Christian’ than it was 100 years ago. In fact it’s arguably less so.”

One of the reasons why this problem exists, he explained, is that too many Christian individuals, Protestant and Catholic alike, live their faith as if it were “private idiosyncrasy” which they try to prevent from becoming a “public nuisance.”

“And too many just don’t really believe,” he added.

Recounting the historical context that led to the current state of affairs, Archbishop Chaput referred to a speech that the late John F. Kennedy made while running for president in 1960 which greatly effected the modern relationship between religion and American politics. At his speech almost fifty years ago, President Kennedy had the arduous task of convincing 300 uneasy Protestant ministers in a Houston address that his Catholic faith would not impede his ability to lead the country. Successful in his attempt, “Kennedy convinced the country, if not the ministers, and went on to be elected,” he recalled.

“And his speech left a lasting mark on American politics,” the prelate added.

“It was sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong. Not wrong about the patriotism of Catholics, but wrong about American history and very wrong about the role of religious faith in our nation’s life.”

“And he wasn’t merely ‘wrong,’” the archbishop continued. “His Houston remarks profoundly undermined the place not just of Catholics, but of all religious believers, in America’s public life and political conversation. Today, half a century later, we’re paying for the damage.”

“To his credit,” he noted, “Kennedy said that if his duties as President should ‘ever require me to violate my conscience or violate the national interest, I would resign the office.’ He also warned that he would not ‘disavow my views or my church in order to win this election.’”

“But in its effect, the Houston speech did exactly that. It began the project of walling religion away from the process of governance in a new and aggressive way. It also divided a person’s private beliefs from his or her public duties. And it set ‘the national interest’ over and against ‘outside religious pressures or dictates.’”

Archbishop Chaput then clarified that although “John Kennedy didn’t create the trends in American life that I’ve described,” his speech “clearly fed them.”

In light of this separation of religion from the public sphere, “What would a proper Christian approach to politics look like?” the archbishop queried.

Drawing on St. Augustine [In this section he quotes the work, by name, of a scholar of of Augustine, Fr. Robert Dodaro, OSA, who is my thesis director. His book Christ and the Just Society is really hard, but worth time for the scholar. I have had it on the side bar for a long time! The average reader will find this book to be tooo haaard. Really.] and several theologians, Archbishop Chaput answered, “Christianity is not mainly – or even significantly – about politics. It’s about living and sharing the love of God. And Christian political engagement, when it happens, is never mainly the task of the clergy.”

“That work belongs to lay believers who live most intensely in the world,” he asserted.

“Christian faith is not a set of ethics or doctrines. It’s not a group of theories about social and economic justice. All these things have their place. All of them can be important. But a Christian life begins in a relationship with Jesus Christ; and it bears fruit in the justice, mercy and love we show to others because of that relationship.” This fundamental relationship then informs how we involve ourselves in public life, he explained.

“As I was preparing these comments for tonight,” he added, “I listed all the urgent issues that demand our attention as believers: abortion; immigration; our obligations to the poor, the elderly and the disabled; questions of war and peace; our national confusion about sexual identity and human nature, and the attacks on marriage and family life that flow from this confusion; the growing disconnection of our science and technology from real moral reflection; the erosion of freedom of conscience in our national health-care debates; the content and quality of the schools that form our children.”

Because of the immensity of these issues, the Denver archbishop stressed that Christians need to united in their societal involvement. “The vocation of Christians in American public life does not have a Baptist or Catholic or Greek Orthodox or any other brand-specific label. Our job is to love God, preach Jesus Christ, serve and defend God’s people, and sanctify the world as his agents. To do that work, we need to be one. Not ‘one’ in pious words or good intentions, but really one, perfectly one, in mind and heart and action, as Christ intended,” he said.

Archbishop Chaput concluded his remarks by saying that “We live in a country that was once – despite its sins and flaws – deeply shaped by Christian faith. It can be so again. But we will do that together, or we won’t do it at all.”

“We need to remember the words of St. Hilary from so long ago: Unum sunt, qui invicem sunt. ‘They are one, who are wholly for each other.’ May God grant us the grace to love each other, support each other and live wholly for each other in Jesus Christ – so that we might work together in renewing the nation that has served human freedom so well.”

Remember Ratzinger to McCarrick… USCCB letters about voting… the Pelosi and Bidens of the world… the Card. Cottier nonesense… Notre Shame.

And do you remember the 2006 letter written by 55 Democrat Catholics in the House of Representatives who wrote to Card. McCarrick claiming, based on a twisting of Christifideles laici, that they can shape social doctrine from their role as laypeople because of their expertise, etc?

It goes all the way back to the hellish 1964 conclave in Hyannisport…. and before.

The rot set in and it began with John F. Kennedy.

This will stir controversy. And it should.

What Does The Prayer Really Say?»Blog Archive » Agnes… lambs… Popes…. nuns… pallia

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via What Does The Prayer Really Say?»Blog Archive » Agnes… lambs… Popes…. nuns… pallia.

21 January 2010

Agnes… lambs… Popes…. nuns… pallia

CATEGORY: “But Father! But Father!” — Fr. John Zuhlsdorf @ 11:58 am

The Holy Father blessed lambs today, the feast of St. Agnes, as usual.

The lambs are associated with Agnes, because of the Latin similarity of their names, Agnes and agnus.  Get it?

Those sisters in the background are Benedictine nuns from the convent at St. Cecilia in Trastevere.  When I first lived in Rome, I would go there everyday, into the cloister, and serve Mass for the rector of the basilica.  I got to know them a bit.

In the morning the rather heavily drugged lambs are, tied down on a small litter, decorated with flowers, and brought to the Basilica of St. Agnes out on the Via Nomentana, where Mass is said.  You are thereby entertained by their bleating…. better than the Sistine Choir, actually.

Now that I think of it….it’s a good thing they don’t mix that agnus thing up with angus. That would make the litter harder to carry!  (Where is Vincenzo when you need him?)

Then they are taken to the Pope.

Then they are taken to St. Cecilia’s.

Later they will be shorn and, traditionally, their wool is used for the pallia distributed to new archbishops on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.  Of course there are so many archbishops these days that they would need a whole flock of lambs.

Then they are taken out to a beautiful farm, Timmy, where they can play with other lambs.

Well… honestly… I am not sure about the fate of the lambs.

But I do know that Romans are neither overly sentimental about critters nor are they sparing in their appreciation of abbacchio scottaditto.

“But Father! But Father!”, the fluffly lamb-lovers will blurt, as they recoil in horror from the screen.  “Would you… would you….?!?  You’re baaaaahd!”

I would.  When I see lambs, I think “Supper and sweater.”

And for the record, in June the new archbishops get the better design of the pallium.   Just in case the Pope was going to ask.

• • • • • •

What Does The Prayer Really Say?»Blog Archive » 21 January: St. Agnes of Rome, virgin and martyr

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via What Does The Prayer Really Say?»Blog Archive » 21 January: St. Agnes of Rome, virgin and martyr.

21 January: St. Agnes of Rome, virgin and martyr

CATEGORY: “Who Am I?” – Identify Saints & Symbols, SESSIUNCULA — Fr. John Zuhlsdorf @ 11:11 am

Here is something I have posted in the past… about St. Agnes of Rome.  Newcomers to WDTPRS may not have seen it.

Behold the skull of Agnes.

The dies natalis (“birthday into heaven”) of Agnes was recorded in the register of the depositio martyrum as 21 January.

St. Agnes was slain probably during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian in 304. Some say she died during the time of the Emperor Valerian (+260).

The little girl was buried by her parents in praediolo suo, on their property along the Via Nomentana where there was already a cemetery.

This cemetery expanded rapidly after that, because many wanted to be buried near the grave of the famous martyr. The ancient cemetery grew in stages between the Basilica which Constantina, daughter of Constantine and Fausta began over her tomb from 337-350 and the small round Basilica of Constantia (Constantine’s daughter).

There was an acrostic inscription from that time in verses about the dedication of the temple to Agnes:

Constantina deum venerans Christoque dicata
Omnibus impensis devota mente paratis
Numine divino multum Christoque iuvante
Sacravit templum victricis virginis Agnes…

You get the idea.

The Basilica of St. Agnes was reconstructed towards the end of the 5th c. by Pope Symmachus (+514). Honorius I (+638) rebuilt it as a basilica with three naves, adding a wonderful fresco of Agnes. It was worked on again in the 16th c. by St. Pius V and in the 19th by Bl. Pope Pius IX.

Excavations in 1901 uncovered the silver sarcophagus made by Pius V for St. Agnes together with St. Emerentiana.

It contained the headless body of a young girl.

Zadock gave us a photo of the miraclous protection of Bl. Pius IX when once at the Basilica there was a near disastrous cave-in/collapse and no one was injured.While Agnes’s body is in her tomb on the Via Nomentana, her skull is now at the place of her supposed martyrdom at the Piazza Navona in Rome’s heart. It is a fitting place to venerate a saint so much in the heart of the Roman people even today. It is not unusual for people to name their children Agnes in honor of this great virgin martyr, whose name is pronounced in the Roman Canon.

The skull was bequeathed to that church at the Piazza by Pope Leo XIII who took it from the treasury of the Sancta Sanctorum.

The Piazza itself was in ancient times the Stadium of Domitian (+96) a place of terror and blood for early Christians, far more than the Colloseum ever was. The Piazza is thus called also the “Circo Agonale” and the name of the saint’s church Sant’Agnese in Agone. “Navona” is a corruption of “Agonale”, from Greek agon referring to the athletic contests of the ancient world. St. Paul used the athlete’s struggle as an image of the Christian life of suffering, perseverance, and final victory even through the shedding of blood. Early Christian tombs often have wavy lines carved im the front, representing an iron instrument called a strigil, used by athletes to scrape dirt and oil from the bodies after contests. Victory palm branches are still used in the iconography of saints, as well as wreathes of laurels.

We know about St. Agnes from St. Jerome, and especially St. Augustine’s Sermons 273, 286 and 354. St. Ambrose wrote about Agnes in de virginibus 1,2,5-9 written in 377 as did Prudentius in Hymn 14 of the Peristephanon written in 405.

Ambrose has a wonderful hymn about Agnes (no. 8), used now in the Roman Church for Lauds and Vespers of her feast. The Ambrosian account differs somewhat from others. For Ambrose, Agnes died from beheading. Prudentius has her first exposed to shame in a brothel and then beheaded.

Here is the text of the hymn from the Liturgia horarum for the “Office of Readings” with a brutally literal translation.

Igne divini radians amoris
corporis sexum superavit Agnes,
et super carnem potuere carnis
claustra pudicae.

Shining with the fire of divine love
Agnes overcame the gender of her body,
and the undefiled enclosures of the flesh
prevailed over flesh.

Spiritum celsae capiunt cohortes
candidum, caeli super astra tollunt;
iungitur Sponsi thalamis pudica
sponsa beatis.

The heavenly host took up her brilliant white spirit,
and the heavens lifted it above the stars;
the chaste bride is united to the
blessed bride chambers of the Spouse.

Virgo, nunc nostrae miserere sortis
et, tuum quisquis celebrat tropaeum,
impetret sibi veniam reatus
atque salutem.

O virgin, now have pity on our lot,
and, whoever celebrates your victory day,
let him earnestly pray for forgiveness of guilt
and salvation for himself.

Redde pacatum populo precanti
principem caeli dominumque terrae
donet ut pacem pius et quietae
tempora vitae.

Give back to this praying people
the Prince of heaven and Lord of the earth,
that he, merciful, may grant us peace
and times of tranquil living.

Laudibus mitem celebremus Agnum,
casta quem sponsum sibi legit Agnes,
astra qui caeli moderatur atque
cuncta gubernat. Amen.

Let us celebrate with praises the gentle Lamb,
whom chaste Agnes binds to herself as Spouse,
he who governs the stars of heaven
and guides all things. Amen.

We can note a couple things from this prayer. First, the reference to fire probably a description of Agnes’s death related in a metrical panegyric of Pope Damasus about how Agnes endured martyrdom by fire. On the other hand, St. Ambrose, when speaking of her death, speaks of martyrdom by the sword.

Pope St. Damasus composed a panegyric, an elogia, inscribed in gorgeous letters on marble (designed and executed by Dionysius Philocalus) in honor of Roman saints, including Agnes.  This was the period when the Roman shifted from Greek to Latin.  Damasus was also trying to make a social statement with these great inscriptions, set up at various places about the City.   The panegyic of St. Agnes was placed in the cemetery near the saint’s tomb, but through the ages it was lost. Amazingly, it was at last rediscovered in 1728 inside the basilica, whole and complete: it had been used upside down, fortunately as a paving stone!

Now it is affixed to the wall in the corridor descending to the narthex. Its discovery was a find of vast importance (thanks to Zadok for the photo of the inscription).

FAMA REFERT SANCTOS DUDUM RETULISSE PARENTES
AGNEN CUM LUGUBRES CANTUS TUBA CONCREPUISSET
NUTRICIS GREMIUM SUBITO LIQUISSE PUELLAM
SPONTE TRUCIS CALCASSE MINAS RABIEMQUE TYRANNI
URERE CUM FLAMMIS VOLUISSET NOBILE CORPUS
VIRIBUS INMENSUM PARVIS SUPERASSE TIMOREM
NUDAQUE PROFUSUM CRINEM PER MEMBRA DEDISSE
NE DOMINI TEMPLUM FACIES PERITURA VIDERET
O VENERANDA MIHI SANCTUM DECUS ALMA PUDORIS
UT DAMASI PRECIBUS FAVEAS PRECOR INCLYTA MARTYR

It is told that one day the holy parents recounted that Agnes, when the trumpet had sounded its sad tunes, suddenly left the lap of her nurse while still a little girl and willingly trod upon the rage and the threats of the cruel tyrant. Though he desired to burn the noble body in the flames, with her little forces she overcame immense fear and, gave her loosened hair to cover her naked limbs, lest mortal eye might see the temple of the Lord. O one worthy of my veneration, holy glory of modesty, I pray you, O illustrious martyr, deign to give ear to the prayers of Damasus.

Damasus used the sources available. There were the stories told by her parents, the 4th edict of Diocletian against Christians in 304 (lugubres cantus tuba concrepuisset). Agnes did what she did of her own free will (sponte). Note the reference to the body as temple of God (1 Cor 3:16 and 2 Cor 6:16).

St. Agnes of Rome, has two grand churches in Rome.  She has two feast days in the traditional Roman calendar.  Since the reform of the calendar, Agnes now has only one day, alas.

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What Does The Prayer Really Say?»Blog Archive » Bp. Vasa: excommunication can be appropriate

via What Does The Prayer Really Say?»Blog Archive » Bp. Vasa: excommunication can be appropriate.

6 January 2010

Bp. Vasa: excommunication can be appropriate

CATEGORY: Our Catholic Identity, SESSIUNCULA, The Drill — Fr. John Zuhlsdorf @ 7:31 pm

More from the ever interesting Bishop of Baker, H.E. Most Rev. Robert Vasa.

My emphases and comments:

Excommunication is a declaration of acts that severs ties

By Bishop Robert Vasa BEND — During the course of this past year there have been a number of occasions when bishops have hinted to laity that being Catholic involves a bit more than claiming the title. [In some cases more than hint.  Would that we could say in many cases.] This has been done, in particular, with regard to politicians who may, in their own way, love Jesus, who may attend Sunday Mass and who do identify themselves as “faithful” Catholics. The press usually hints at the big “E” word, excommunication. The question of when a Catholic should be excommunicated has even been asked quite frequently and very seriously. [And for very good reason.] While bishops are extremely reluctant to take the seemingly dramatic step of excommunication, I think there is very good reason for us to explore more thoroughly what excommunication really means and why it might be considered in certain circumstances[Can I believe me eyes?  Is this a bishop who is suggesting that excommunication could be appropriate?]

The press would undoubtedly accuse Bishops who talk or even think about excommunication as being tyrannical power mongers [D’ya think?] but this is unfair. Excommunication is a declaration, based on solid evidence, that the actions or public teachings of a particular Catholic are categorically incompatible with the teachings of the Church. It is intended primarily as a means of getting the person who is in grave error to recognize the depth of his error and repent. [It is a remedy more than a punishment.] A second reason, while somewhat secondary but no less important, is to assure the faithful who truly are faithful that what they believe to be the teaching of the Church is true and correct. [In other words to work against the scandal caused by the errant sheep, lest other sheep be lead astray.] Allowing their faith to be shaken or allowing them to be confused when Catholics publicly affirm something contrary to faith or morals, seemingly without consequences, scandalizes and confuses the faithful. This is no small matter. The Church, and particularly bishops, have an obligation to defend the faith but they also have an obligation to protect the faithful. We do not generally see the dissidence of public figures as something that harms the faithful but it has a deleterious effect upon them[They do not see that the dissidence of public figures harms… but it does weaken?  How is that not harming?]

I find, very frequently, when I speak a bit more boldly on matters of morality or discipline, there are a significant number of the faithful who send messages of gratitude and support. [WDTPRS will join them when you do, Your Excellency.] It is their gratitude which stirs my heart for it makes me realize how much there is a need to support and affirm the clear and consistent teachings of our Catholic faith for the sake of the faithful. While the press may caricature such bishops in rather uncharitable fashion, I trust that they are men devoted to true compassion and to the truth itself. Their compassion extends to those who are misled and to those who, while not misled, are discouraged when their faith is attacked without rebuttal. This discouragement of the faithful is not insignificant. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] When we look at the word itself we see that its root is “courage” and allowing someone’s courage to be dissipated, or “dissed” as the young might say, is harmful to the person. En-couragement, by contrast, builds up the courage of the faithful and increases their strength for doing good. It is life giving and revitalizing. Allowing error, publicly expressed, to stand without comment or contradiction is discouraging[How is that not something that harms the faithful?]

When that moral error is espoused publicly by a Catholic who, by the likewise public and external act of receiving Holy Communion, appears to be in “good standing” then the faithful are doubly confused and doubly discouraged. In that case, the error is certainly not refuted. Furthermore, the impression is given that the error is positively condoned by the bishop and the Church. This is very dis-couraging to the faithful. In such a case, private “dialogue” is certainly appropriate but a public statement is also needed. In extreme cases, excommunication may be deemed necessary.

It seems to me that even if a decree of excommunication would be issued, the bishop would really not excommunicate anyone. He only declares that the person is excommunicated by virtue of the person’s own actions. [Bishops cannot do these things from a personal whim.] The actions and words, contrary to faith and morals, are what excommunicate (i.e. break communion with the Church). When matters are serious and public, the Bishop may deem it necessary to declare that lack of communion explicitly.  [It is clear enough in most cases when something is “public”.  Some will want to debate “serious”.] This declaration no more causes the excommunication than a doctor who diagnoses diabetes causes the diabetes he finds in his patient. The doctor recognizes the symptoms and writes the necessary prescription[Excommunication is a remedy.] Accusing the doctor of being a tyrannical power monger would never cross anyone’s mind. Even when the doctor tells the patient that they are “excommunicated” from sugar it is clear that his desire is solely the health of his patient. In fact, a doctor who told his diabetic patient that he could keep ingesting all the sugar he wanted without fear would be found grossly negligent and guilty of malpractice. [And as St. Augustine described when describing Christ as the physician of the soul, using the medicine practice of his century, the doctor does not stop cutting just because the patient is screaming for him to stop.]

In the same way, bishops who recognize a serious spiritual malady and seek a prescription to remedy the error, after discussion and warning, may be required to simply state, “What you do and say is gravely wrong and puts you out of communion with the faith you claim to hold.” In serious cases, and the cases of misled Catholic public officials are often very serious, [Ah!  Now we have the admission that what Catholic public officials can do can be “very serious”.] a declaration of the fact that the person is de facto out of communion may be the only responsible and charitable thing to do.

[Here we go…] Failing to name error because of some kind of fear of offending the person in error is neither compassion nor charity. Confronting or challenging the error or evil of another is never easy yet it must be done. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

The adage usually attributed to Edmund Burke was correct: All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

The Lord has called bishops to be shepherds. That shepherding entails both leading and protecting. [And extracting errant sheep from bushes and pits and keeping them from getting in trouble even by the use of a fast nipping dog or a whack with a staff.] In an era when error runs rampant and false teachings abound, the voice of the Holy Father rings clear and true. The teachings of the Church are well documented and consistent. [And we have laws.] Bishops and the pastors who serve in their Dioceses have an obligation both to lead their people to the truth and protect them from error.

Big WDTPRS kudos to Bp. Vasa.

Do I hear an “Amen!”?