"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
The Peace Bell, Newport, Kentucky
We pray that America will be "one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all."
Families Are Key To Humanity's Future
New Communities Are Called To Be Signs Of Hope
Pope Appeals For Reconciliation And Peace During Auschwitz Visit
IN DEFENSE OF LIFE: Frozen Embryos
Bishops Decode Jesus
Pray The News
One of the critical apostolates in the Church is the promotion and strengthening of the family and promotion of the Gospel of the family and of life. Pope Benedict XVI addressed participants in a meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Family on May 14.
The Pope said:
". . . The family, founded on marriage, is the 'patrimony of humanity,' a fundamental social institution; it is the vital cell and pillar of society and this concerns believers and non-believers alike. It is a reality that all States must hold in the highest regard because, as John Paul II liked to repeat, 'the future of humanity passes by way of the family' (Familiaris Consortio, n. 86).
"In the Christian vision, moreover, marriage, which Christ raised to the most exalted dignity of a sacrament, confers greater splendor and depth on the conjugal bond and more powerfully binds the spouses who, blessed by the Lord of the Covenant, promise each other faithfulness until death in love that is open to life.
"For them, the Lord is the center and heart of the family. He accompanies them in their union and sustains them in their mission to raise children to maturity. In this way the Christian family not only cooperates with God in generating natural life, but also in cultivating the seeds of divine life given in Baptism. These are the well-known principles of the Christian view of marriage and the family. I recalled them once again last Thursday, when I spoke to the members of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.
"In today's world, where certain erroneous concepts concerning the human being, freedom, and love are spreading, we must never tire of presenting anew the truth about the family institution, as God has desired it since creation. Unfortunately, the number of separations and divorces is increasing.
"They destroy family unity and create numerous problems for children, the innocent victims of these situations. In our day it is especially the stability of the family that is at risk; to safeguard it one often has to swim against the tide of the prevalent culture, and this demands patience, effort, sacrifice, and the ceaseless quest for mutual understanding. Today, however, it is possible for husbands and wives to overcome their difficulties and remain faithful to their vocation with recourse to God's support, with prayer and participating devotedly in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. The unity and strength of families helps society to breathe the genuine human values and to be open to the Gospel. The apostolate of many of the Movements called to work in this context in harmonious understanding with the dioceses and parishes contributes to this.
"Furthermore, a particularly sensitive topic today is the respect due to the human embryo, which ought always to be born from an act of love and should already be treated as a person (cf. Evangelium Vitae, n. 60). The progress of science and technology in the area of bioethics is transformed into a threat when human beings lose the sense of their own limitations and, in practice, claim to replace God the Creator. The Encyclical Humanae Vitae reasserts clearly that human procreation must always be the fruit of the conjugal act with its twofold unitive and procreative meaning (cf. n. 12).
"The greatness of conjugal love in accordance with the divine plan demands it, as I recalled in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: 'Eros reduced to pure "sex," has become a commodity, a mere "thing" to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity.... Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body' (n. 5).
"Thanks to God, many, especially young people, are rediscovering the value of chastity, which appears more and more as a reliable guarantee of authentic love. The historical period in which we live asks Christian families to witness with courageous coherence to the fact that procreation is the fruit of love. Such a witness will not fail to encourage politicians and legislators to safeguard the rights of the family. Indeed, it is well known that juridical solutions for the so-called 'de facto' unions are gaining credibility; although they reject the obligations of marriage, they claim enjoyment of the same rights.
"Furthermore, at times there are even attempts to give marriage a new definition in order to legalize homosexual unions, attributing to them the right to adopt children. Vast areas of the world are suffering from the so-called 'demographic winter,' with the consequent gradual aging of the population. Families sometimes seem ensnared by the fear of life and of parenthood. It is necessary to restore their trust, so that they can continue to carry out their noble mission of procreation in love.
"I am grateful to your Pontifical Council because at various continental and national meetings, it seeks to enter into dialogue with those who have political and legislative responsibility in this regard, as it also strives to set up a vast network of conversations with Bishops, offering the local Churches the opportunity of courses for those with pastoral responsibilities.
"Next, I take this opportunity to repeat my invitation to all the diocesan communities to take part with their delegations in the Fifth World Meeting of Families that will take place next July in Valencia, Spain, and in which, please God, I will have the joy of participating.
"Thank you again for your work; may the Lord continue to make it fruitful! For this I assure you of my remembrance in prayer while, invoking Mary's motherly protection, I impart to all of you my Blessing, which I willingly extend to families so that they will continue to build their homes on the model of the Holy Family of Nazareth."
One of the trends in recent Church history has been the growth and development of new ecclesial movements and new communities. The Second World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities met outside Rome from May 31 to June 2. Pope Benedict XVI sent the following message to the group. The message was dated May 22.
"The memory of the previous World Congress of Ecclesial Movements, held in Rome from May 26 to 29, 1998, is still vivid in my mind and in my heart. In my capacity as the then-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith I was asked to speak at it, with a lecture on the Theological locus of Ecclesial Movements.
"That Congress culminated in the memorable meeting with beloved Pope John Paul II on May 30, 1998, in St. Peter's Square, during which my Predecessor expressed his approval of the Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, which he described as 'signs of hope' for the good of the Church and humanity.
"Today, aware of the ground covered since then on the path marked out by the pastoral concern, affection, and teachings of John Paul II, I would like to congratulate the Pontifical Council for the Laity in the persons of Archbishop Stanisaw Ryko, President, Bishop Josef Clemens, Secretary, and their coworkers, for the important and worthwhile initiative of this World Congress.
"Its theme: 'The beauty of being Christian and the joy of communicating it,' is inspired by something I said in the Homily inaugurating my Petrine Ministry. This theme is an invitation to reflect on what the essential features of the Christian event are: in fact, we encounter in it the One Who in flesh and blood visibly and historically brought to earth the splendor of God's glory.
"The words of Psalm 45: 2 apply to Him: 'You are the fairest of the sons of men.' And paradoxically, the Prophet's words also refer to Him: 'He had no form or comeliness that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him' (Is 53: 2).
"In Christ the beauty of truth and the beauty of love converge; but love, as people know, also calls for the willingness to suffer, a willingness which for those who love one another can even extend to the sacrifice of life (cf. Jn 15:13)! Christ, Who is 'the beauty of every beauty,' as St. Bonaventure used to say (Sermones Dominicales, 1:7), is made present in the hearts of men and women and attracts them to their vocation which is love. It is thanks to this extraordinary magnetic force that reason is drawn from its torpor and opened to the Mystery. Thus, the supreme beauty of God's merciful love is revealed and at the same time, the beauty of the human being who, created in the image of God, is regenerated by grace and destined to eternal glory.
"Down the ages Christianity has been communicated and disseminated thanks to the newness of life of persons and communities capable of bearing an incisive witness of love, unity, and joy.
"This force itself has set a vast number of people in 'motion,' from generation to generation. Was it not perhaps the beauty born from faith on the saints' faces that spurred so many men and women to follow in their footsteps?
"Basically, this also applies to you: through the founders and initiators of your Movements and Communities, you have glimpsed the Face of Christ shining with special brightness and set out on your way.
"Christ still continues today to make resound in the hearts of so many that 'come, follow Me' which can decide their destiny. This normally happens through the witness of those who have had a personal experience of Christ's presence. On the faces and in the words of these 'new creatures,' His light becomes visible and His invitation audible.
"I therefore say to you, dear friends of the Movements: act so as to ensure that they are always schools of communion, groups journeying on in which one learns to live in the truth and love that Christ revealed and communicated to us through the witness of the Apostles, in the heart of the great family of His disciples.
"May Jesus' exhortation ceaselessly re-echo in your hearts: 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in heaven' (Mt 5:16). Bring Christ's light to all the social and cultural milieus in which you live. Missionary zeal is proof of a radical experience of ever renewed fidelity to one's charism that surpasses any kind of weary or selfish withdrawal.
"Dispel the darkness of a world overwhelmed by the contradictory messages of ideologies! There is no valid beauty if there is not a truth to recognize and follow, if love gives way to transitory sentiment, if happiness becomes an elusive mirage, or if freedom degenerates into instinct.
"How much evil the mania for power, possession, and pleasure can spawn in the lives of people and nations! Take the witness of the freedom with which Christ set us free (cf. Gal 5:1) to this troubled world.
"The extraordinary fusion between love of God and love of neighbor makes life beautiful and causes the desert in which we often find ourselves living to blossom anew. Where love is expressed as a passion for the life and destiny of others, where love shines forth in affection and in work and becomes a force for the construction of a more just social order, there the civilization is built that can withstand the advance of barbarity.
"Become builders of a better world according to the ordo amoris in which the beauty of human life is expressed.
"Today, the Ecclesial Movements and New Communities are a luminous sign of the beauty of Christ and of the Church, His Bride. You belong to the living structure of the Church. She thanks you for your missionary commitment, for the formative action on behalf of Christian families that you are increasingly developing, and for the promotion of vocations to the ministerial priesthood and consecrated life which you nurture among your members.
"She is also grateful to you for your readiness not only to accept the active directives of the Successor of Peter, but also of the Bishops of the various local Churches who, with the Pope, are custodians of truth and charity in unity. I trust in your prompt obedience.
"Over and above the affirmation of the right to life itself, the edification of the Body of Christ among others must always prevail with indisputable priority.
"Movements must approach each problem with sentiments of deep communion, in a spirit of loyalty to their legitimate Pastors.
"May you be sustained by participating in the prayer of the Church, whose liturgy is the most exalted expression of the beauty of God's glory, and in a certain way a glimpse of Heaven upon the earth.
"I entrust you to the intercession of the One whom we invoke as the Tota pulchra, the 'All Fair,' an ideal of beauty that artists have always sought to reproduce in their works, the 'Woman clothed with the sun' (Rv 12:1) in whom human beauty encounters the beauty of God . . ."
During his pastoral visit to Poland, Pope Benedict XVI journeyed to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp in World War II. In an address at the camp on May 28, the pontiff asked for the grace of reconciliation and that the remembrance of the atrocities committed at the camp would lead to "resistance to evil and the triumph of love." The Pope's address follows:
"To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man, is almost impossible and it is particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a Pope from Germany. In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can only be a dread silence a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did You remain silent? How could You tolerate all this? In silence, then, we bow our heads before the endless line of those who suffered and were put to death here; yet our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again.
"Twenty-seven years ago, on June 7, 1979, Pope John Paul II stood in this place. He said: 'I come here today as a pilgrim. As you know, I have been here many times. So many times! And many times I have gone down to Maximilian Kolbe's death cell, paused before the wall of death, and walked amid the ruins of the Birkenau ovens. It was impossible for me not to come here as Pope.' Pope John Paul came here as a son of that people which, along with the Jewish people, suffered most in this place and, in general, throughout the war. 'Six million Poles lost their lives during the Second World War: a fifth of the nation,' he reminded us. Here too he solemnly called for respect for human rights and the rights of nations, as his predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI had done before him, and added: 'The one who speaks these words is ... the son of a nation which in its history has suffered greatly from others. He says this, not to accuse, but to remember. He speaks in the name of all those nations whose rights are being violated and disregarded ...'
"Pope John Paul II came here as a son of the Polish people. I come here today as a son of the German people. For this very reason, I can and must echo his words: I could not fail to come here. I had to come. It is a duty before the truth and the just due of all who suffered here, a duty before God, for me to come here as the successor of Pope John Paul II and as a son of the German people a son of that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises of future greatness and the recovery of the nation's honor, prominence, and prosperity, but also through terror and intimidation, with the result that our people was used and abused as an instrument of their thirst for destruction and power. Yes, I could not fail to come here. On June 7, 1979, I came as the Archbishop of Munich-Freising, along with many other Bishops who accompanied the Pope, listened to his words, and joined in his prayer. In 1980 I came back to this dreadful place with a delegation of German Bishops, appalled by its evil, yet grateful for the fact that above its dark clouds the star of reconciliation had emerged. This is the same reason why I have come here today: to implore the grace of reconciliation first of all from God, Who alone can open and purify our hearts, from the men and women who suffered here, and finally the grace of reconciliation for all those who, at this hour of our history, are suffering in new ways from the power of hatred and the violence which hatred spawns.
"How many questions arise in this place! Constantly the question comes up: Where was God in those days? Why was He silent? How could He permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil? The words of Psalm 44 come to mind, Israel's lament for its woes: "You have broken us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with deep darkness ... because of You we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Rouse Yourself! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off forever! Why do You hide Your face? Why do You forget our affliction and oppression? For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up, come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of Your steadfast love!' (Ps 44:19, 22-26). This cry of anguish, which Israel raised to God in its suffering, at moments of deep distress, is also the cry for help raised by all those who in every age yesterday, today and tomorrow suffer for the love of God, for the love of truth and goodness. How many they are, even in our own day!
"We cannot peer into God's mysterious plan we see only piecemeal, and we would be wrong to set ourselves up as judges of God and history. Then we would not be defending man, but only contributing to his downfall. No when all is said and done, we must continue to cry out humbly yet insistently to God: Rouse Yourself! Do not forget mankind, Your creature! And our cry to God must also be a cry that pierces our very heart, a cry that awakens within us God's hidden presence so that His power, the power He has planted in our hearts, will not be buried or choked within us by the mire of selfishness, pusillanimity, indifference, or opportunism. Let us cry out to God, with all our hearts, at the present hour, when new misfortunes befall us, when all the forces of darkness seem to issue anew from human hearts: whether it is the abuse of God's name as a means of justifying senseless violence against innocent persons, or the cynicism which refuses to acknowledge God and ridicules faith in Him. Let us cry out to God, that He may draw men and women to conversion and help them to see that violence does not bring peace, but only generates more violence a morass of devastation in which everyone is ultimately the loser. The God in Whom we believe is a God of reason a reason, to be sure, which is not a kind of cold mathematics of the universe, but is one with love and with goodness. We make our prayer to God and we appeal to humanity, that this reason, the logic of love and the recognition of the power of reconciliation and peace, may prevail over the threats arising from irrationalism or from a spurious and godless reason.
"The place where we are standing is a place of memory, it is the place of the Shoah. The past is never simply the past. It always has something to say to us; it tells us the paths to take and the paths not to take. Like John Paul II, I have walked alongside the inscriptions in various languages erected in memory of those who died here: inscriptions in Belarusian, Czech, German, French, Greek, Hebrew, Croatian, Italian, Yiddish, Hungarian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Romani, Romanian, Slovak, Serbian, Ukrainian, Judaeo-Spanish, and English. All these inscriptions speak of human grief, they give us a glimpse of the cynicism of that regime which treated men and women as material objects, and failed to see them as persons embodying the image of God. Some inscriptions are pointed reminders. There is one in Hebrew. The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth. Thus the words of the Psalm: 'We are being killed, accounted as sheep for the slaughter' were fulfilled in a terrifying way. Deep down, those vicious criminals, by wiping out this people, wanted to kill the God Who called Abraham, Who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that are eternally valid. If this people, by its very existence, was a witness to the God Who spoke to humanity and took us to Himself, then that God finally had to die and power had to belong to man alone to those men, who thought that by force they had made themselves masters of the world. By destroying Israel, by the Shoah, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.
"Then there is the inscription in Polish. First and foremost they wanted to eliminate the cultural elite, thus erasing the Polish people as an autonomous historical subject and reducing it, to the extent that it continued to exist, to slavery. Another inscription offering a pointed reminder is the one written in the language of the Sinti and Roma people. Here too, the plan was to wipe out a whole people which lives by migrating among other peoples. They were seen as part of the refuse of world history, in an ideology which valued only the empirically useful; everything else, according to this view, was to be written off as lebensunwertes Leben life unworthy of being lived. There is also the inscription in Russian, which commemorates the tremendous loss of life endured by the Russian soldiers who combated the Nazi reign of terror; but this inscription also reminds us that their mission had a tragic twofold effect: they set the peoples free from one dictatorship, but the same peoples were thereby subjected to a new one, that of Stalin and the Communist system.
"The other inscriptions, written in Europe's many languages, also speak to us of the sufferings of men and women from the whole continent. They would stir our hearts profoundly if we remembered the victims not merely in general, but rather saw the faces of the individual persons who ended up here in this abyss of terror. I felt a deep urge to pause in a particular way before the inscription in German. It evokes the face of Edith Stein, Theresia Benedicta a Cruce: a woman, Jewish and German, who disappeared along with her sister into the black night of the Nazi-German concentration camp; as a Christian and a Jew, she accepted death with her people and for them. The Germans who had been brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau and met their death here were considered as Abschaum der Nation the refuse of the nation. Today we gratefully hail them as witnesses to the truth and goodness which even among our people were not eclipsed. We are grateful to them, because they did not submit to the power of evil, and now they stand before us like lights shining in a dark night. With profound respect and gratitude, then, let us bow our heads before all those who, like the three young men in Babylon facing death in the fiery furnace, could respond: 'Only our God can deliver us. But even if He does not, be it known to you, O King, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up' (cf. Dan 3:17ff.).
"Yes, behind these inscriptions is hidden the fate of countless human beings. They jar our memory, they touch our hearts. They have no desire to instill hatred in us: instead, they show us the terrifying effect of hatred. Their desire is to help our reason to see evil as evil and to reject it; their desire is to enkindle in us the courage to do good and to resist evil. They want to make us feel the sentiments expressed in the words that Sophocles placed on the lips of Antigone, as she contemplated the horror all around her: my nature is not to join in hate but to join in love.
"By God's grace, together with the purification of memory demanded by this place of horror, a number of initiatives have sprung up with the aim of imposing a limit upon evil and confirming goodness. Just now I was able to bless the Center for Dialogue and Prayer. In the immediate neighborhood the Carmelite nuns carry on their life of hiddenness, knowing that they are united in a special way to the mystery of Christ's Cross and reminding us of the faith of Christians, which declares that God Himself descended into the hell of suffering and suffers with us. In Oswiecim is the Center of Saint Maximilian Kolbe and the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. There is also the International House for Meetings of Young People. Near one of the old Prayer Houses is the Jewish Center. Finally the Academy for Human Rights is presently being established. So there is hope that this place of horror will gradually become a place for constructive thinking, and that remembrance will foster resistance to evil and the triumph of love.
"At Auschwitz-Birkenau humanity walked through a 'valley of darkness.' And so, here in this place, I would like to end with a prayer of trust with one of the Psalms of Israel which is also a prayer of Christians: 'The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me ... I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long" (Ps 23:1-4, 6)."
by Fred H. Summe
Now that our contracepting society has accepted as "a good" the conjugal act closed to procreation, it has been easy to accept as "a good" the procreation of life without the conjugal act in marriage. Through the practice of in vitro fertilization (IVF), new human lives come into existence, many of whom are frozen in time.
The question arises of what should become of these "frozen embryos." Should they be placed in a woman's womb, in order to at least have the chance to live?
Before addressing that question, let's review what IVF is.
Ripe ova (egg cells) taken from a woman's body are placed in a glass dish and then fertilized by sperm cells. Human life begins at fertilization, and at this stage, human life is referred to as an "embryo." (Embryo is like other words used to describe a person's stage of development: fetus, newborn, infant, toddler, adolescent, and adult.) The embryos are then implanted into the woman's womb.
This process of uniting the sperm and egg outside of the woman's body through an act dissociated with sexual intercourse can result in the conception of a child. But what is forgotten, or simply ignored, is that many, many more embryos are discarded in the selection process, or die during the procedure. To increase the chance of a birth, multiple embryos are implanted into the woman's womb.
Prior to implantation, the embryos are screened for "suitability," resulting in those who fail being destroyed. Since many embryos are created at once, "spare" or "surplus" embryos are either frozen or are used for experiments. According to the Catholic World Report, "of the 300,000 human beings created between 1991 and 1994, only 7,000 about 2 percent survived as live babies. The remaining 98 percent had either been thrown away or frozen, or had died in the womb, or had been used for scientific research."
IVF has been condemned by the Catholic Church as being an intrinsic evil. First, because it does entail the intentional killing of a number of embryos, i.e., innocent persons.
Even if IVF developed where it was unnecessary to create multiple embryos for "success," IVF would still be immoral.
The moral principle, based on natural law, is that there is an inseparable nexus between the process of procreation and the marital act.
The Church, which teaches in Humanae Vitae that every sexual intercourse must be open to procreation (and thus condemning the practice of artificial contraception), also logically proclaims that the beginning of human life must originate in the sexual act.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
"Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral." (2376)
"They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children." (2377)
We all can sympathize with a married couple who longs to conceive, love, and raise a child, but to whom God has not given that blessing. However, the "good" of conceiving a child cannot morally justify all acts to conceive a child.
Once the immoral act of in vitro fertilization has been completed, and the embryo frozen, in a stage of existence that will soon lead to his death, would it be morally acceptable to rescue these embryos? The Magisterium of the Catholic Church has not taken a position on whether it is morally acceptable for the adoption of frozen embryos.
Catholic ethicists who have addressed this issue do not differ on the intrinsic worth and sanctity of all embryonic human life, regardless of its origin, nor do they doubt the good intentions to save a child's life through the adoption of these frozen embryos.
As explained by Sheila Diamond, writing for the National Catholic Bioethics Center: "Theologians supporting the adoption of frozen embryos point out that these tiny human lives might otherwise suffer the unfortunate fate of destruction or exposure to experimentation. They argue that, unlike those who pursue IVF, adoptive parents are seeking to 'rescue' those embryos already considered 'spare' for whom the transfer to the biological mother's womb is not an option. Because these human lives already exist, these theologians argue that the prohibition against their artificial manufacture becomes moot, and their safeguarding and care take precedence."
On the other hand, as Diamond explains: " another group of ethicists does not see the end as justifying what they consider an illicit means.
"Embryo adoption typically involves embryos that are already frozen, but if these were to be transferred to the womb of a woman, they would have no biological relation to the adoptive 'mother.' The resulting pregnancy would be produced without the very actions which God has ordained for generations of a new human life, that is, new life as the fruit of the sexual union of a man and woman in a permanent and loving relationship. In embryo transfer, the pregnancy results from the actions and interventions of a laboratory technician.
"The beginning of this embryonic life has occurred without the benefit of this loving union, and the transfer procedure proposed here would in no way rectify that wrong."
Thus, faithful Catholics must continue to pray to the Holy Spirit that the Church may be guided in its teachings so that the will of God may be done.
Faithful Catholics must continue to proclaim the teachings of the Church that the human person has an intrinsic right to be loved for himself.
by Michael J. Halm
The U.S. Catholic bishop's new documentary, Jesus Decoded, has been shown by many stations over the past few months. The DVD will soon be available and may be preordered at jesusdecoded.com.
Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco, who contributed "What's Missing from The Da Vinci Code?," begins his introduction at jesusdecoded.com with: "Causing people to see something they never saw before in a five-hundred-year-old work of art which is among the most famous and reproduced of all time is an accomplishment of genius, if that 'something' is a valid new insight. If it is not, then this kind of achievement usually goes by other names."
He is, of course, referring to Dan Brown's book, The Da Vinci Code, and Ron Howard's movie based on it, which claim that the beloved disciple in John's Gospel and in Leonardo's mural, The Last Supper, is actually Mary Magdalene. It also claims Emperor Constantine deified the otherwise unnoteworthy Jewish rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth.
"This claim," Maniscalco writes, "cannot be sustained on the basis of the existing evidence which demonstrates that Constantine did no such thing. It also highlights the schizophrenia in The Da Vinci Code about Jesus Christ. Only if Jesus is divine would we have any interest in the possibility that His descendant might walk the earth today."
Jesus Decoded was shot on location in Israel, Turkey, and Italy, and features international scholars versed in art, history, and Scripture. Its purpose is to present "clear and accurate information about the person of Jesus, His disciples, and the formation of the books included in the official canon of the Bible."
The most important question the documentary answers may be: "Is the movie as bad as the book?" The answer is "Yes."
In both, the character Sir Leigh Teabing makes the incredible statement, "Until that moment in history [the Council of Nicaea, AD 325], Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet . . . a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A Mortal."
Records clearly show that the question decided at Nicaea was not "Is Jesus divine?" but "Is Jesus equal to or subordinate to God the Father?" The bishops, then as now, overwhelmingly affirmed as the faith of the Church from the beginning, that Jesus is "true God from true God, one in being with the Father."
Teabing continues with ". . . the early Church needed to convince the world that the mortal prophet Jesus was a divine being. Therefore, any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus' life had to be omitted from the Bible . . . More specifically, [Mary Magdalene's] marriage to Jesus Christ."
Even the Gnostic writings he refers to do not make any claims about a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the website article explains. The Gnostics were not enthusiastic about the material world, but they were enthusiastic about secret spiritual knowledge. If the so-called Gospel of Philip, the website says, "has Jesus kissing Mary, that is meant to be a symbol of a spiritual communication, not sexual. The apostles' reaction makes that clear. They are portrayed as being jealous of this alleged fondness for Mary. If it were the affection of a husband for a wife, there is no reason for jealousy. But the fact is the Gospel of Philip is no more a reliable source for knowing about Jesus and His relationships than the script of Jesus
Christ Superstar. Both use the name of Jesus and His followers for reasons other than proclaiming the gospel as it came from Jesus Himself."
Other questions answered are: "How reliable is the text of the New Testament that we have today?", "Does it reflect what was originally written?", "Didn't copyists introduce many variations either deliberately or by mistake?", "Is there a woman in Leonardo's Last Supper?", "Wasn't Jesus a rabbi and didn't rabbis have to be married?", "Is belief in the divinity of Christ found in the New Testament?", and "Did Jesus remain unmarried?"
Visitors to the website are also invited to submit questions in the Question box.
There are not many left unanswered by the website's contributors. Amy Welborn answers "What do you say to a Da Vinci Code Believer?" and Fr. John Wauck "What's Wrong with The Da Vinci Code?"
Elizabeth Lev has articles on the historical Leonardo and other depictions of the Last Supper. Peter Feuerherd has one on secret societies and Kate Blain on killing witches.
It also has "The origin of the 'Holy Grail' " by John Gehring and "The real Opus Dei" by Peter Bancroft. There is also one on the early councils by Alan Schreck, Ph.D. and another on Ignatius of Antioch by Rev. Thomas G. Weinandy.
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com