Catholic Essentials

Our prayers go out to Crisis cofounder Ralph Mclnerny, who recently underwent successful heart bypass surgery. We look forward to his full recovery and his return to the back page of Crisis.


In an 8-3 decision, a San Fran-cisco-based federal appeals court ruled that the Constitution protects a “right to die.” The court struck down a Washington state ban on doctor-assisted suicide. This ruling could lead to the reinstatement of a law legalizing assisted suicide in Oregon and to the overturning of bans on this activity in other states.


The authenticity of Pat Buchanan’s Catholicism was the subject of two pieces in the March 3 New York Times: a balanced article by Peter Steinfels and an op-ed by Maureen Dowd. Mr. Steinfels notes both the support of American bishops for Buchanan’s pro-life stance and their misgivings toward his nativist appeals. Mr. Steinfels calls the Catholic reaction “complicated.” Ms. Dowd takes Buchanan to task for his appropriation of Catholicism for political purposes while ignoring the pope’s admonitions on immigration. One hopes that a similar editorial is forthcoming from Ms. Dowd on Frances Kissling and Catholics for a Free Choice, who appropriate Catholicism for political purposes while attacking Catholic dogma on abortion.


The March 17 New York Times ran a front-page story on the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, which is updating the practice of illuminating manuscripts for the twenty-first century. These Benedictine monks, working in New Mexico, are designing sites on the World Wide Web, the multimedia extension of the Internet. Their site includes a walking tour of the monastery, vocational information, beautiful illustrations, and even a recording of chant. They accept Web design work for hire, and they hope to be chosen for the Vatican’s Web site. Their home page on the Web is


On March 11 the pope dedicated a parish church to Blessed Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. The pope expressed his desire that “this temple will be more and more a place of prayer and encounter, fraternity and communion.” People from more than sixty countries assisted in building the church. The new parish, located just south of Rome, is part of a building project of fifty new churches in Rome for the year 2000.


We note with sadness the deaths of Cardinal John Krol, former archbishop of Philadelphia, on March 3, and Cardinal Alfredo Vicente Scherer, former archbishop of Porto Alegre, Brazil, of heart failure on March 9. The Philadelphia Inquirer called Cardinal Krol “an unshakable pillar of tradition and authority” who worked tirelessly on behalf of schools and parishes in his diocese. Cardinal Scherer played a crucial role in mediating political disputes between leftist and right-wing groups in Brazil. In telegrams to the various archbishops in these areas, Pope John Paul II offered his prayers and blessing for their souls and for their relatives and friends. The pope cited Cardinal Krol’s “fruitful and untiring cooperation with the Holy See from the time of the Second Vatican Council” and with the pope personally and eulogized “the constant witness of faith and dedication to the episcopal ministry” of Cardinal Scherer, who “with much wisdom and generosity served both his people and the universal Church.”


Two Catholic churches in the Philippines were the target of four homemade bombs and a grenade on March 10 and may mark the start of a terrorist campaign, according to police. Three people were hurt and hundreds of worshippers were terrorized when two gas bombs exploded outside of a church in downtown Zamboanga, just as Mass began. As people began running, a grenade was rolled down the center aisle, but it did not explode because the safety pin had not been removed. Another bomb landed on the roof but did not explode.


A report by a conference of French bishops, chaired by Bishop Albert Rouet, earned notoriety in the press for some passages that were widely reported as softening the Church’s position on condom use. Bishop Rouet almost immediately denounced this interpretation. At last count, Catholic News Services has run thirteen stories on the controversial report since its release in February. Rarely does a committee report to a bishops’ conference garner such attention.


An Italian newspaper published an interview with the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano in which he spoke about the current international situation and the pope’s mission for the rest of the century. Sodano spoke about the relationship of Christianity to Islam, the pope’s plans for a Holy Land pilgrimage that follows both the steps of Christ and Abraham, and his commitment to reviewing the exercise of papal authority both within the Catholic Church and with the Orthodox and Protestant churches, and the need for Catholic evangelization both in putatively Christian Europe and America, and in Africa and other continents.


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