Bishop John Leibrecht of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, head of the American bishops’ committee to implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae at Catholic universities, recently stated, “The bishop’s crosier is not meant to be a big stick but the staff of a shepherd.” A comment like this indicates how widespread is the false presupposition that Catholic university officials are somehow “David” in this struggle against the “Goliath” of the Vatican and the bishops. This false presupposition that the Church somehow seeks to stifle the intellectual freedom of Catholic universities has been promulgated for decades. If anyone is “David” in this titanic struggle, it is the faithful Catholic students who are often treated with disdain while homosexual and abortion advocacy groups receive preferential treatment.
So long as this false presupposition of the supposed victimhood of heterodox Catholic university officials is accepted there is little reason to expect they have any intention of participating in good faith in the implementation of the norms of Ex Corde Ecclesiae.
The committee Leibrecht heads plans to have a document prepared to apply the papal norms in time to be put to a vote at the U.S. bishops’ meeting in November.
Boston College, a Jesuit institution, is establishing a scholarship in honor of Shannon Lowney, the 1991 BC alumna who was killed in the Brookline, Massachusetts, abortion clinic shootings on December 29, 1994 while working as a receptionist at the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago has moved to withdraw recognition of the Catholic identity of Chicago’s St. Elizabeth’s Hospital because the hospital joined the non-Catholic Chicago Health System in violation of archdiocesan policy. The policy was expressed in a “Protocol for Evaluating Joint Ventures and Affiliations” released by Bernardin in August of 1994 that gives priority to Catholic health care networks. While the policy does not rule out all joint ventures with non-Catholic institutions, all such affiliations must be cleared with the cardinal or his delegate first. The protocol also requires that consultation now be initiated with the superior general of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, who own the hospital, to determine what the future relationship between the congregation and the archdiocese will be.
A resurgence of interest in human life has been reported (CWN) and debate is sweeping Italy due in large part to Pope John Paul II’s statements, especially the encyclical, Evangelium Vitae. Evidence of this trend is becoming apparent in meetings organized to discuss Evangelium Vitae, in a conference on the psychological consequences of abortion, in the discussions of natural family planning, in the appearance of a “life-issues page” in a daily newspaper, and in the publication of a book about abortion by prominent American pro-life activists, Dr. Jack and Barbara Wilke. Evening meetings that center on discussions of Evangelium Vitae have been multiplying in Italy. In Verona, Cardinal Ersilo Tonini spoke on “the new culture of life” in a February 1 meeting that was broadcast on local radio and television shows.
The bishops of Spain denounced widespread corruption in that country as national elections drew near (CWN). The bishops called for spiritual renewal in what they called an “anything goes” society. Recent scandals—numbering at least 20—involving public officials prompted the bishops to release the document, calling for measures to curb government corruption. According to the bishops’ conference secretary, Bishop Jose Sanchez, Spanish democracy is severely threatened when its freedoms are abused. He said, “The behavior of some politicians is a risk for democracy as it breaks public confidence and therefore decreases citizen participation.” The document said, “We have to reject the accusation that the Church, when it proposes doctrines of moral and human truth, is a danger to democracy and an ally or even promoter of fundamentalism.” The document continues, “Today religious and ethical education are more urgent than ever . . . Spaniards have come to see freedom as simply the power to choose and do as they please.”
Pope John Paul II lauded the spirit of enterprise in an audience for a group of public officials February 2. According to a CWN report, the pope said, “It is essential to create a new mentality and a new culture, characterized by a spirit of enterprise and the acceptance of risk, within a framework of liberty but also of solidarity.” He asked the government officials to “keep in mind especially the young people who have the courage to be entrepreneurs and the courage to believe.” He emphasized employment opportunities in his remarks, lamenting the “potential that is not exploited, or not sufficiently recognized” by the marketplace. He pointed his remarks toward the year 2000, calling the jubilee an occasion to celebrate the value of work as well as the value of faith. He urged public officials to help form a sense of respect for immigrants and refugees, giving them a chance to live a dignified life within the framework of local laws.