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 December 13, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 21   •   Oakland, CA

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Make room for Jesus
Spotlight on pope’s new book: Condom comments show pastoral concern
Make room for Jesus

“Entren santos peregrinos, peregrinos, reciban este rincón; aunque pobre la morada, la morada, se la doy de corazón” (“Enter, holy pilgrims, receive this little corner; although the dwelling is poor, I give it to you with all my heart”).

These endearing words ring familiar to all those who, at this time of the year, celebrate the Mexican tradition of La Posada: the reenactment of Mary and Joseph seeking lodging on the night of Jesus’ birth. The concluding words of the Posada song speak to us of the deeper, spiritual meaning of Christmas, and the difference that it should make in our lives.

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

Think of the irony: The Creator of the world is about to be born into the world, and yet cannot find a welcome among His creatures; the eternal Son of God deigns to take the world as His dwelling place, yet His mother cannot find a decent dwelling place in which to give Him birth; the King of the universe comes to visit His people and His people do not even notice.

Our lives are busy, and especially so at this holiday time. Many families are under great stress due to the current economic climate. In the midst of all this, let us not forget to make room for Jesus. We should give Him a corner of our heart in which to be born and to dwell, so that we might share His love with others. Let us remember that Jesus’ own family was poor and, at the time of His birth, homeless. The Church’s various celebrations marking the mystery of the Incarnation at this time of the year should especially focus our attention on the plight of the poor, the homeless, the vulnerable, the marginalized — all those who suffer in any way, spiritually as well as physically. As Mother Teresa was fond of reminding us, these are the disguises in which Jesus comes to visit us.

Let us open our hearts in welcome. Although we may think that we do not have much to offer, what matters is to offer it with all our heart. May Jesus receive a little corner of our heart, of each one of us, so that he might be born anew in our world.

A Blessed Christmas and happy New Year to you all.

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Spotlight on pope’s new book:
Condom comments show pastoral concern

“Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” by Pope Benedict XVI and Peter Seewald. Ignatius Press (2010), hardcover, 239 pages, $21.95. This third collaboration between German journalist Peter Seewald and Benedict XVI is a series of interviews dealing with topics such as clergy abuse, sexuality and infallibility.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI’s comments about condoms represented a “normal and traditional” pastoral application of moral theology, according to a theologian who advises the Vatican on doctrinal matters.

The pope’s comments reflect the principle that there can be “intermediary steps toward moral awareness” that allow for some flexibility in how church teachings are applied, Franciscan Father Maurizio Faggioni said Dec. 3.

Father Faggioni, a moral theologian and a consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, spoke to Catholic News Service about the reaction to the pope’s statement on condoms in the book, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.”

In the book, the pope repeated his view that condom campaigns are not the way to stop the AIDS epidemic, but he allowed that in some specific cases — for example, a prostitute who tries to diminish the risk of spreading infection — use of a condom could be a first step toward taking moral responsibility for one’s actions.

Father Faggioni said the pope’s comments should be seen in the light of traditional principles of moral theology, including gradualism, which understands moral decision-making as a path that involves a series of progressions.

“The Holy Father recognizes that there is a path of growth in responsibility,” Father Faggioni said. By saying condom use may mark a step along that path, he said, the pope is allowing for a “wise and prudent” application of church teaching to individual cases.

“This is nothing more than a normal and traditional application of some principles of pastoral teaching and of moral casuistry,” Father Faggioni said. Moral casuistry refers to a method that tries to determine appropriate moral responses to particular cases and circumstances.

Father Faggioni said the pope’s comments do not place in question the church’s teaching against birth control, but recognize that there can be different ways of applying the general law to specific situations.

“One could ask to which other cases this would extend. This is something that will be seen. One should not force the words of the Holy Father, either,” he said.

Father Faggioni noted that the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation began studying the morality of condom use in disease prevention at a time when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict — was the congregation’s prefect.

He said the pope had chosen an informal medium, that of a book-length interview, to discuss the issue. In the strict sense, then, his words do not have the weight of official church teaching, he said.

But at the same time, Father Faggioni said, the pope knows what he’s talking about, having followed the theological discussion on this issue for many years. He said commentators should remember this when suggesting, as some have, that the pope may have strayed outside his field of expertise.

“This is the pope speaking, after all,” Father Faggioni said. “He is the supreme teacher.”

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