Sunday, April 26, 2009

Benedict XVI Rethinking Catholic Boston at 200 years

Rethinking Catholic Boston at 200 years

Link|Comments (69) Posted by Michael Paulson April 23, 2009 03:57 PM

Boston College's Church in the 21st Century Center has pulled together a series of thematic essays reflecting on Catholicism in Boston over the two centuries since the Archdiocese of Boston was established. The essays are collected in a new book, "Two Centuries of Faith: The Influence of Catholicism on Boston, 1808-2008,'' edited by university historian Thomas H. O'Connor. The book is not a comprehensive history of the archdiocese, but rather takes a look at several aspects of the development of the archdiocese, from the French influences on its beginnings, to the role of women and minorities in its ranks, to the role of Catholicism in Boston politics, social services, education and literature.

BC held an event Tuesday to present a copy of the book to Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston; the authors and a variety of faculty and students gathered in the Irish Room at BC's Gasson Hall, under a giant stained glass window of St. Patrick, the patron saint of the archdiocese.

O'Connor, offering the gathering an overview of the book, provocatively suggested that in some ways, the archdiocese of today resembles the archdiocese of 200 years ago, with fewer Catholics and fewer priests than it enjoyed during the triumphalist decades of the early 20th Century.

In the book, one of the contributors, the Rev. William T. Schmidt, pastor of St. Patrick Church in Stoneham, offers a sober look at the history of parish life in the archdiocese, observing that the sexual abuse scandal caused a "crisis of confidence and trust in the leadership of the Catholic Church" and saying "the long-term impact of this crisis is still unknown.''

"The parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston are facing extraordinary struggles, disappointments, and challenges at the beginning of Boston's third centenary. Sunday Mass attendance on the part of Boston Catholics has dropped precipitously from more than 70 percent of baptized Catholics during the halcyon days of the 1940s and 1950s to less than 25 percent today. This depleted participation at Sunday Mass is certainly reflective of continuing anger over the clergy sex abuse scandal. It is also refelctive of some deep distress with the closure of parishes. It would be inaccurate, however, to attribute the depleted numbers at Sunday Mass to these issues alone. There has indeed been a steady erosion of Sunday Mass attendance since the 1970s that is reflective of sweeping changes within the church and society.''
The last word in the book goes to BC history professor James M. O'Toole, who looks back at the bishops of Boston, and then looks ahead:

"For the foreseeable future, the institution of the church will continue to shrink, and the number of priests and sisters will become steadily smaller. Even as new forms of lay ministry expand, the reconfiguration of the institutions and agencies of the church will have to be accomplished cooperatively. For their part, lay people are eager to participate in this process of seeking new ways of 'being the church.' As time puts distance between ourselves and the events of the scandal, it seems increasingly significant that large numbers of Catholics did not simply abandon the church. That they stayed with it, even amid the heartbreaking scandal, evinces a desire to remain faithful members of the church. That commonality of faith has sustained them for the last two hundred years and will be essential for the next century -- centuries -- of Catholics of Boston.''

Cardinal O'Malley spoke briefly as he accepted a copy of the book. Here are some video excerpts of his remarks:

(Photo above, by Wendy Maeda of the Globe staff, shows Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston greeting history professor Thomas H. O'Connor of Boston College on 4/21/09.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Benedict's Evasive Apology

Benedict's Evasive Apology

When the Pope apologizes for anything, his statement generally signifies nothing more than an attempt at damage control in the wake of an unanticipated public relations disaster created by his and his church's actions. In all fairness, it must be said that this generalization also applies to nearly every apology made by secular politicians. This should not be surprising, because all popes are politicians. They wouldn't have gotten to be popes otherwise.

Pope Benedict's belated, ambiguous response to the storm of public criticism over his reversal of the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop in January is a classic example of an apology unaccompanied by any real action to remedy the situation.

Richard Williamson, who has repeatedly said there were no gas chambers and that only 300,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis (and not as part of any organized plan) was told by the pope that he needed to revise his views or he couldn't serve as a bishop again. (Pope Benedict's reversal of the excommunication issued by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II--not, by the way, because of Holocaust denial but because of Williamson's opposition to liturgical reforms--was unchanged.) Williamson said he had to consult with more experts to examine his views. One of the "experts" was David Irving, a British historian who is also a renowned Holocaust denier.

No matter. The latest on Williamson is that he and his ultra-conservative Catholic liturgical sect, called the Society of St. Pius X, are trying to buy their own church in England. According to the East Manchester Advertiser, "It is understood that the Bishop of Manchester, chairman of the (U.K.) national council of Christians and Jews, has grave reservations about the move." I'll bet. When a Holocaust denier is moving into your liturgical neighborhood, it must be difficult to preside over well-meaning ecumenical efforts involving Christians and Jews. Pope Benedict hasn't weighed in on the matter. His apology--which I wouldn't call an apology because it was really just an admission that he had misjudged the strength of feeling on this matter in Europe--is worthless.

This pope's apologies (or expressions of regret) for the harm done to victims by pedophile priests are equally worthless, because he has done nothing to punish the bishops and cardinals, throughout the United States, who were fully aware of the accusations against these priests for decades and did everything possible to cover up the crimes by shifting the priests from parish to parish. That goes for the previous pope, John Paul II, as well. Boston's former cardinal, Bernard Law, one of the worst offenders, was given a position in the influential curia of Vatican cardinals, took a prominent role in funeral services for John Paul, and is head of the storied basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. Some punishment. Why should anyone have paid attention to Benedict's crocodile tears (or, rather, misty eyes) over victims when he visited the United States?

I don't place much value on apologies for distant historical events about which the apologizer can do nothing. But the Catholic Church could, in fact, still do something about the evil heritage left by pedophile clergy. The church has the power to punish every high official who knew and looked the other way, but it has chosen not to do so. In similar fashion--instead of shilly-shallying and demanding that the Holocaust-denying Williamson reexamine his views--Benedict could simply revoke any church sanction for his acting, in any capacity, as a priest.

I cannot imagine why anyone would care one way or the other about what the Vatican does, and does not, consider worthy of an apology. Consider the Vatican's defense of a decision by a Brazilian archbishop to excommunicate the mother and doctors of a nine-year-old girl who had an abortion after she was raped by her stepfather. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Catholic Church's Congregation for Bishops, declared that "life must always be protected, the attack on the Brazilian church is unjustified."

The rapist-stepfather was not excommunicated because, the Brazilian bishop had said, abortion is a far more serious crime than the rape of a child. So what if the nine-year-old, who was carrying twins, could, as the doctors feared, have died in childbirth? Why should anyone attribute any moral authority to a church, and its leaders, that upholds such inhumane doctrines? Their apologies and their moral rationalizations merit neither attention nor praise.

And, gentle readers, please refrain from criticizing me for criticizing the Catholic Church, and not some other church, in this instance. The question was about Pope Benedict and his apologies, not about a grand rabbi, an ayatollah, or the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. Yes, I know that representatives of other faiths, like other politicians, have also issued meaningless apologies. And when a rabbi or an ayatollah issues some smarmy non-apologetic apology in the future, I'll be happy to criticize him.

Religious "authorities" ought to burn in hell, if there were a hell, for hypocritical apologies composed of words rather than deeds. There could surely be no better place for church leaders who believe in forcing a nine-year-old to bear the children of her rapist. No apology could ever wipe away their guilt. But they won't apologize, because they feel no guilt. And no shame.

By Susan Jacoby | April 4, 2009; 8:55 AM


One World, Under God

What's your reaction to President Obama's recent statements to the Muslim world that "the United States is not, and never will be, at war with Islam" and that "we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation"?

I admire President Obama for saying that the United States is not, has not been, nor will ever be in a war against Islam.

I would disagree with him had he said that the United States is not a Christian nation. That's not what he said. He said that the United States does not "consider itself to be a Christian, Jewish or Muslim nation, but a nation of citizens bound by ideals and a set of values." In so saying, he is honoring belief that divisions and differences among people ought to minimized, while at the same time, the common ground between people ought to be recognized and used to build a better world.

Mr. Obama's beliefs might be called idealistically religious, meaning that at their core, most religions hold to the ideal that all people are created by God and are therefore to be respected.

I am reminded that in the Christian Bible, Paul writes that in the new Christ-religion, "there is no favoritism." Later, Paul says in the Book of Galatians (in the Holy Bible) that we "are all sons of God..there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female."

But as quickly as Paul sets forth an egalitarian notion of personhood, he builds in, ironically, a dividing factor: Jesus the Christ. One can only belong to this "egalitarian" club if one confesses the Christ.

Therefore, the reasoning goes, if one is not Christian, one is not able to qualify for the same type of respect as would a fellow Christian. Mutual respect, in other words, is reserved for people who belong to the club.

This divisiveness built into the religious fabric is not unique to Christians. Many religions state an ideal belief in the universal equality of people created by God, only to back away from that ideal as religious doctrine pushes to the fore.

So, when Mr. Obama says that the United States is not dominated by any religion, but rather by an adherence to an ideal of mutual respect worthy and due all human beings, he is stating an ideal.

In reality, we are filled with division. The president's statements must be a balm to Muslims who have been excoriated because of emotions elicited after 9/11. Muslims, no doubt, have felt shunned and scorned by the United States, which is, after all, 77 percent Christian.

The rhetoric used by the previous administration further deepened the feelings of fear and dread of Muslims by America's bruised Christians. We, the Christian nation, lapsed deeply into divisive language and attitudes, and the war in Iraq was even referred to as a "Holy War."
That was dangerous and that was wrong. This war has never been about religion. It so happens that Iraq is a predominantly Muslim nation, and America is predominantly Christian, but the war has been about oil and power, not religion.

And though some religious extremists were responsible for the destruction of the Twin Towers, they did not and do not represent the sentiments of the Iraqi people in general, any more than Christian fundamentalists who bomb abortion clinics and kill innocent people represent the vast majority of Christians in America.

Yes, there are some Muslims who would like to see Islam as THE world religion, just as there are some Christians who are actively working to make Christianity THE world religion. We in America have yet to come to terms with our feelings of prejudice, superiority and entitlement, as indeed some Muslims must do as well.

Once a nation starts to use religion as its justification for going to war, a cyclonic reaction is set in motion that is bound to have catastrophic effects. There is nothing quite so brutal, ironically, as a war fought "in the name of God."

I think Mr. Obama realizes that, and knows the anger that the Muslim world has felt since 9/11 against a nation, America, which it feels has maligned them unfairly. There can be no peace and no progress if the ground between two entities is filled with clay and rock as opposed to being filled with fertile ground.

Times are too dangerous, too unstable and too scary to continue to concentrate on how different we are. Mr. Obama, it seems, is trying to smooth feathers in the name of the God of us all, in order to attain a much needed and long overdue higher good.

By Susan K. Smith | April 14, 2009; 8:06 PM ET

Benedict XVI's choice: NY Archbidhop Dolan is cowardly and disingenuous toward child sex abuse laws

It’s cowardly and disingenuous for Dolan to dodge questions

Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago, national president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (312-399-4747)

It's cowardly and disingenuous for Dolan to dodge questions (as he did this morning) about reforming New York's predator-friendly child sex abuse laws.

At every opportunity, in Wisconsin, Ohio, Maryland, Colorado and other states, Dolan and his brother bishops have deceptively and aggressively fought against sorely-needed 'window' laws that enable child sex abuse victims to expose dangerous predators and those who shield dangerous predators. He will do so in New York too, and he knows it. Not only will Dolan continue to act in ways to keep the identities of predators secret, but it is highly likely he will continue his predecessor's policy of sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars into public relations and lobbyists to stop legislation that would identify predators.

He, like virtually every other high ranking church bureaucrat, fears facing tough questions in open court about how much he knew and how little he did to stop serial predator priests.

The bottom line is that he'll fight for keeping child sex crimes concealed and fight against warning the public about child molesters through the time-tested, open American justice system.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around since 1988 and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), John Pilmaier (414 336 8575)

April 15, 2009, 10:16 am

Archbishop Dolan’s First News Conference

By Sewell Chan

Updated, 11:20 a.m. | Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan on Wednesday held his first news conference as the new leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. Asked about Gov. David A. Paterson’s plan to introduce a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in New York, he said the church’s position on the issue was clear, but he declined to specify whether or how actively he would lobby the governor and state lawmakers on the issue.

The new archbishop also spoke of the need for the church to embrace immigrants, to speak with greater “vigor and clarity” in its teachings, and to continue the process of reform that began after the sexual-abuse scandals that rocked the church this decade.

The news conference took place at the New York Catholic Center on the East Side, the morning after a prayer service welcoming Archbishop Dolan to New York, and hours before Archbishop Dolan is to formally take his position in a Mass of installation at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It started on a friendly, cordial note. “Part of the business of being a bishop is being a communicator,” he told the reporters.

A New Style?

The first questioner asked about issues like the ordination of women, prayer on Saturday nights and abortion. “Will you be, sir, an agent of change in New York or an agent of continuity?”

Archbishop Dolan added:

The most sacred responsibility that a bishop has, Tim, is to pass on the faith that remains changeless and has for 2,000 years. So in substance, Timothy, in the quality, no, I couldn’t change things if I wanted, because they’re not mine to change. I’ve often said our goal is to change our lives to be in conformity with Jesus’s church, not to change the teachings of Jesus’s church to be in conformity with what we want.

“That said,” he continued, “changes in style, in the method, or the how” of the message, might be in the works.

So the substance “won’t change, but the style, the how, might.”

He added, “You might be able to let me know in a couple of months if you see changes in style.”

Declining Church Attendance

The second question concerned declining church attendance in among Catholics New York City. “How are you going to get Catholics back to church?” Magee Hickey asked.

“That’s a bigee,” the new archbishop answered.

He decried a phenomenon in which people want to be religious, but without a sense of belonging to a community of faith.

“They want to believe without belonging,” he said. “They don’t mind being the sheep, but without shepherd. They want to be part of the family, but only if they’re the only child.”

Elaborating on that analogy, he added, “We’re not used to our families sitting down and having quality time together… in our natural families. You shouldn’t be surprised that our supernatural families are having the same downward trend. It’s something we have to work on.”

Same-Sex Marriage

The third question, from Gabe Pressman of WNBC, was this: “Do you regard your position as a bully pulpit where you can speak out on public issues, and are you going to do that, and an example would be the recent introduction of a bill by Governor Paterson here to validate same-sex marriages?”

“I don’t know if I like the word bully –” the archbishop began.

Teddy Roosevelt started it,” Mr. Pressman interjected.

Archbishop Dolan continued: “– but I know what you mean, Gabe. Bully means aggressive and mean and sharp and bitter. I don’t know if I want to use the word bully pulpit… but the pulpit of the archbishop of NY has a particular prominence whether I like it or not… I’ll still preach the truth, I’ll still try to apply the immutable teachings of Jesus and his church to contemporary situations. I don’t know if I’d tailor that to New York.

He continued: “The topic you raise - other topics that are controversial that the church has a message to give - you’ll find that I don’t shy away from those things and I wouldn’t sidestep them. … We bishops aren’t into politics, we’re into principles.”

(In response to a brief follow-up question, Archbishop Dolan said the position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican on same-sex marriage is clear.)

The fourth question, from Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times, concerned whether the new archbishop would directly lobby the governor on same-sex marriage.

You can bet I would be active and present and I hope articulate in this particular position. Being still very new, my first day on the job, I would be eager to sit down with trusted advisers within this archdiocese like Bishop Sullivan and say: Tell me what we’ve done in the past. Tell me what’s worked. Tell me what is the best way to communicate the sentiments of the church on controversial moral issues, and this isn’t the only one… I wouldn’t be hesitant to talk about that in the future. I am, if you don’t mind my saying it, confessing it, hesitant to talk about it today… It might not be too appropriate to get into the particularities of some of these controversial issues…. I hope I can be more forthcoming in the future.

‘Vigor and Clarity’ in Preaching

The fifth question, from Fox News, asked Archbishop Dolan for a defense of the Catholic tradition over other interpretations of Christianity. Archbishop Dolan defended the Catholic tradition, saying:

What we’re doing is choosing what we’ve gratefully inherited from a supernatural point of view, in the same way we embrace and claim our families. … Just as sometimes a child when he or she grows up in the teenage years might grow rebellious, lose their moorings with their family, and then come back to it … I’m thinking, I’m hoping, that’s the way it is with a lot of our people who have decided to depart from the church. It’s very interested what you raised, in that what we see in the sociology of people that leave the church, many of them, most of them, … go to the evangelical mega-churches, where they find the preaching of the Bible, the Gospel, the teachings of Jesus, preached with particular vigor and clarity. I wonder if we have to examine our conscience as a church to say have we done that… or have we gotten a little too subjective… diluting, watering down the essentials of the faith.

The Sex-Abuse Scandals

The next question, from a Reuters correspondent, concerned the sexual-abuse scandals that have rocked the church. Archbishop Dolan replied:

Without taking away from the fact that we have made a lot of progress, a lot of renewal in the church…. we’ve made some very tough decisions and things are beginning to work… the rigor with which we have removed any priest who’s been guilty of this in the past. … we’ve got a lot of trust to re-earn from our people.

To a follow-up question by a reporter who noted that critics had accused Archbishop Dolan of not being forthcoming enough on the sex-abuse issue when he was archbishop of Milwaukee.

Archbishop Dolan struck a conciliatory tone: “Some of those criticisms have been unfair. That said, those who said that I could have done more, that bishops could have done more, they may have a point… ” He said the archdiocese’s safety training and child protection programs had become much more rigorous, with annual audits by “outside forensic experts.”

“Do you keep trying to refine it, do you keep making it better, do you keep learning new things? Yeah,” he said.

He said he had talked with Boy Scout officials about sex scandals in their organization, comparing the “war wounds” experienced by both entities.

Religious Vocations

Rich Lamb of WCBS then asked Archbishop Dolan, “In an instant-gratification society, what’s your argument for organized religion in the form of the Catholic church? … How are you going to persuade young men, young women, to take up the religious life? And are you holding your breath to become a cardinal?”

Archbishop Dolan sidestepped the last question, saying only that he hoped the St. Louis Cardinals, his hometown team, would play the Mets at Citi Field. (He did not specify for whom he would root.)

He said it was important to communicate the message that a religious vocation “is one of the most freeing, liberating, joyful styles of life that you can lead,” and not burdensome, oppressive or dour as is commonly believed.

He recalled visiting, in Milwaukee, visiting cloistered, contemplative religious women who live an austere life devoid of worldly goods. “From a worldly point of view, these are obviously women who should be sad, should be crabby, should be dour, who should be oppressed,” he said. Instead, however, “they are the most free, joyful, loving, happiest women you’d ever meet. And that shouldn’t surprise us.”

“True freedom is the liberty to do whatever we ought, not the freedom to do whatever we want,” he said. “We are at our best when we give away freely what’s most inside of us.”

The experience of giving and sacrifice is what makes us most happy, he said.

The Church and Immigrants

Asked about the plight of undocumented immigrants in New York, Archbishop Dolan said the church and the archdiocese have long been sanctuaries for poor immigrants, like his own Irish ancestors.

“The first place they go is where? The parish, the church,” he said. “The church became the spiritual version of the Statue of Liberty. As the Statue of Liberty kind of fostered a sense of worldly freedom, and a new start and promise, the holy mother church, that other woman, began to be this embracing, loving lady, welcoming the immigrants.”

The challenge now, he said, is that the Catholic church in the United States is now a “settled, accepted religion.”

“We’ve got to revive within the more settled Catholic people a sense of energetic solicitude for the immigrants that are coming today,” he said. “The immigrants have got to be able to look to us for care, for support, for love.”

Statute of Limitations on Sex-Abuse Cases

The next question, from Paul Vitello of The New York Times, concerned legislation in Albany that would lift the statute of limitations for sex abuse crimes — legislation that the church has opposed in other jurisdictions and that Archbishop Dolan testified in opposition to in Wisconsin. Again, the new archbishop of New York deflected the question:

This is an area where I gotta listen. I understand my brother bishops in the state of New York have already been rather clear in addressing this issue. I appreciate what’s been done. I would anticipate I would be a partner and, after today, a leader, in that. If there’s going to be any change in that, if there’s going to be anything new in that, it’s a little premature for me to say. Something tells me, Paul, I’ll be eager to speak out on that issue in the near future. It might not be the best for me to say anything today.

Morale Among Priests

A reporter asked what the archbishop can do to “lift up” the spirits and morale of the priests of the archdiocese.

“The perception of a morale crisis among priests” is widespread, Archbishop Dolan said, while adding that many priests individually express satisfaction and happiness about their work.

“You’ve got an individual reality that priests report a tremendous satisfaction and fulfillment and joy in their ministry,” he said.

Final Words

Archbishop Dolan made some warm remarks about his nieces and nephews and about his large family, many of whom have joined him in New York for his installation as archbishop. He expressed gratitude that his mother was able to come; his father died in 1977.

Archbishop Dolan said he was delighted to see parishioners, colleagues and friends from Missouri, Washington, D.C., and other areas where he had served travel to New York to welcome him. The duty now, he said, “is to make new friends here."

Brussels Protest of Benedict XVI's Rule on Condoms

Benedict XVI and the Opus Dei eunuchs live out-of-touch-with-reality at the grand palace of the Vatican. They believe that they hold the "key to the kingdom" of heaven when the fact is they serve the Devil, the "Father of Lies", because the Opus Dei are "Fathers of lies".

The Opus Dei controls the Catholic royalties of Europe especially Spain. Thank God, Belgium's Parliament members are not so Catholic.

Poor Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi is being used like a puppet to do the dirty work in the frontline -- so that the Opus Dei eunuchs at the Vatican do not have to face the mud being thrown at the Pope. Fr. Lombardi is the director of the Vatican Radio in-name-only because the fact is it is now run by the Opus Dei and only students from the Opus Dei Santa Croce Pontifical University in Rome are qualified to work there. The Opus Dei University produces 1,500 communications students every year. So the Vatican Radio and communications will be always be staffed by Opus Dei members only.

But God has his way of justice as the earthquake of Italy was felt by Benedict XVI and the Opus Dei eunuchs at the Vatican. If Benedict XVI and the Opus Dei Bishop of El Salvador do not recant their "Notification" and "Silence" on Jon Sobrino, the Vatican shall sink into a black hole as was seen in a vision by Pope Leo X and as predicted by the Third Secret of Fatima.

The Opus Dei's days are numbered and St. Josemaria Escriva awaits them for a bigger party in Hell with his Opus Dei sons and daughters as we predicted in the John Paul II Millstone


Brussels Protest of Pope's Rule on Condoms

The Belgian parliament's decision to lodge a formal protest with the Vatican for Pope Benedict XVI's recent comments concerning the use of condoms in AIDS prevention "evokes bewilderment," said the Vatican’s spokesman. “It seems obvious that in every democratic country the Holy Father and the Catholic Church are free to express their own positions and line of action" concerning the human person and the moral responsibility of individuals, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi on April 3.

The Belgian parliament voted overwhelmingly April 2 to approve a motion "urging the Belgian government to condemn the unacceptable stance taken by the pope on the occasion of his trip to Africa and to lodge an official protest with the Holy See," reported the French news agency Agence France-Presse. The parliament approved the motion by a 95-18 vote, with seven abstentions.

"The extensive tradition and experience of the church in education and health care, especially in poor countries, is so evident there is no need for proof or comments" to further support the church's position, he said. Father Lombardi said it was worth asking whether the Belgian parliament had reflected "with sufficient attention and seriousness" on what the pope really said or if parliamentarians had instead reacted to statements that had been manipulated by the media "through a filter that was not objective and balanced."

The parliament’s move was the latest in a storm of criticism coming from some governments and U.N. agencies concerning the pope's remarks in mid-March en route to Africa. After highlighting the church's efforts to help AIDS victims, the pope said: "One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem, he said. “The solution can only be a double one: first, a humanization of sexuality, that is, a spiritual human renewal that brings with it a new way of behaving with one another; second, a true friendship especially with those who suffer, and a willingness to make personal sacrifices and to be with the suffering. And these are factors that help and that result in real and visible progress," he said.

Meanwhile, Belgium's Catholic bishops said they respect the democratic nature of the parliament's deliberations, "but regret the content" of the decision. In a written statement released April 3, they appealed for a calm reflection on all means to stop the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Also, an article published March 22 in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, stated that studies by international agencies, including the World Health Organization, have shown that the most effective anti-AIDS campaigns in Africa have been based on efforts to promote abstinence and fidelity in sexual relationships. The idea that condom distribution can arrest the spread of the virus in Africa is an "ideological falsehood," said the commentary.

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