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Vatican conference tackles new technology and medicine

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 12:43

Vatican City, Oct 3, 2017 / 12:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Technology will be at the heart of an upcoming Vatican conference on accompanying human life in the digital era, particularly with regard to the medical field.

The conference will emphasize both the benefits and limits of new technology, and what those mean for the Church.

New technology has “an increasingly relevant impact on the various aspects, the various moments of human life,” Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro, chancellor of the Pontifical Acedemy for Life, said Oct. 2.

The Pontifical Academy for Life wishes to look at the positive aspects of technology and everything it has achieved “in the field of health, of human life, and the betterment of certain conditions and situations.”

However, while great helpful strides have certainly been made, Pegoraro said it's also important to discuss “the dangers, the risks that are linked with a technology that is increasingly invasive and powerful, which can condition many aspects of human life.”

Pegoraro spoke at a news briefing on the academy's upcoming general assembly, which is titled “Accompanying Life: new responsibilities in the technological era,” and will take place Oct. 5-7.

The conference marks the academy's first general assembly since the renewal of their statutes last year, and will draw new academic members from 37 countries around the world.

Among the members are four honorary members; 45 ordinary members appointed by the Pope; 87 corresponding members named by Board of Directors; and 13 young researchers, a request of the new statutes. All members will serve for a five-year period.

In his comments to journalists, Pegoraro said the academy wants to start the discussion from a “positive perspective,” and stressed that there is “there is no fear of technology or immediate negative judgement” of its uses.

Rather, the goal is to recognize the positive and beneficial contributions of new technologies while also drawing attention to the risks.

The great challenge, he said, is finding an answer to the question: “what is the responsibility? What ethics are at play? What methods are there of managing this power, which has been entrusted to man's responsibility?”

The program of the conference more or less follows the structure of the new charter for healthcare workers the Vatican published in February, and is divided into three main categories: issues surrounding the beginning of life, healthcare in general, and the themes relevant to the phase of the end of life.

Topics to be discussed include looming modern questions in the areas of reproduction, parenthood, illness, and death, as well as the consequences of what Pope Francis has often called a “throwaway culture.”

Discussion will also bring in elements of Pope Francis' chapter on technology in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si', raising questions such as: “Is the spread of technology is creating more justice and reducing certain inequalities? Or are inequalities growing?” Pegoraro said.

“Those who have this technology in hand, are they favoring global growth in various countries, especially in the relationship between the north and south of the world? Or do they run the risk of widening the gap between developed countries and those in the process of developing?”

He stressed the need to more clearly explore where the line should to be drawn between prolonging life and when to accept mortality, incorporating technology to reduce pain and help the person to have a “dignified death.”

Technology can help to keep a person comfortable, he said, but “it doesn't defeat death.” So the great challenge, then, is “to find the lines that are respected for every person, especially the most weak, vulnerable and suffering.”

In comments to CNA, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the academy, said there is an urgent need to reflect on life “not as if it were an abstract idea, but in the concrete reality of people of all ages, in the different conditions in which they live, so that human life rediscovers its meaning, its vocation, and also its responsibility in the entire context of the planet.”

So while beginning of life issues such as abortion or end of life issues such as euthanasia are crucial modern talking points, they aren't the full picture, he said, explaining that the academy seeks to address “defending life in all its conditions,” including childhood, adolescence, and old age, as well as when it comes to other opics such as the death penalty.

“We interested in accompaniment at every moment, we are interested in making understood the contradiction of choices of new technologies in front of a humanistic vision,” he said, explaining that the recovery of a “humanistic” dimension is required for all “scientific areas that involve human life.”

Also present at the news briefing was Dr. Bernadette Tobin, Director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics at the Australian Catholic University.

In comments to CNA, Tobin said that “new technologies require us to think out (about) medicines, healing, ethics, and thinking out how that can be provided for people in a way that respects their dignity as human beings.”

New technologies have helped ensure that people suffering from various diseases have cures, “and can now live out what you might call a natural lifespan rather succumbing to some of these terrible diseases.”

However, the reverse side “is that people are often kept alive in circumstances in which they simply would not want that to happen, and they simply feel that they don't have a duty to accept what kind of healthcare is being offered to them,” Tobin said.

Because of this, “we need to think carefully about that, and help doctors who are looking after people at the end of their lives understand ethically and clinically what their responsibilities are because there is both over-treatement, and under-treatment, and we've really got to avoid both.”

New technologies, she said, have “augmented medicine's ability” to pursue noble objectives such as pain relief, various cures and organ transplantation.

“This is a wonderful new set of technologies,” Tobin said, while cautioning there is always a challenge in ensuring “that what's now possible is done in ways which respect both the internal ethic of medicine, and respect the dignity of the human being.”

 

Pope Francis' retooling of the JPII Institute shows his modus operandi

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 05:00

Vatican City, Oct 2, 2017 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The September 19 re-establishment of the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Science on the Family and Marriage is a good object lesson in the modus operandi of Pope Francis. It offers observers some helpful lessons about the Roman Pontiff’s leadership style.

The John Paul II Pontifical Institute, founded by the late Polish Pope, whom Pope Francis calls the “Pope of the Family”, has developed as well-respected institution in theological circles. It is known to foster and promote theological discussions on family and marriage issues at twelve campuses around the world.

The institute’s work was mentioned in the 2014 Synod on the Family’s instrumentum laboris – its working document. It is worth noting, however, that no professors of the institute were invited to serve as theological experts to the 2014 Synod.

Fr. José Granados, however, who is one of the institute’s most prominent faculty members, was included among the participants of the 2015 Synod.

Nevertheless, some have suggested the institute seems to have been sidelined under Pope Francis.

The appointment of Archbishop Paglia as Grand Chancellor of the institute, together with the appointment of Professor Pierangelo Sequeri as its president, were interpreted as a shift away from the institute’s ordinary approach, which some speculated the Pope considered too traditional.

With the motu proprio refounding the institute, Pope Francis apparently wanted dispel any perception that he had sidelined the institute.

Speaking with journalists Sep. 20, Sequeri remarked twice that “the Pope renews an institute that was considered sidelined, and involves the same professors of the institute in this renewal.”

The institute’s new direction will not take shape until its statutes are drafted. It is possible that some faculty members will be involved in the drafting process. The Pope, however, gave clear indication of his intentions in the motu proprio.

According to Archbishop Paglia, the new institute will broaden its focus to include history, economics, and other social sciences.The social science focus will include a new endowed chair, to be named for  Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council's pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world.

However, much remains uncertain about the institute’s future. Nothing is known about how the new statutes will be developed, nor if the institute’s present professors will be invited to stay on.

So how can the establishment of this new theological institute can give clues about Pope Francis' modus operandi?

First of all, it is clear that Pope Francis wants to make every reform very personal. He issued a motu proprio to renew a Pontifical Institute, an unusually involved step that might ordinarily be delegated, which seems intended to connect his desired reforms to his name and to his authority.

Likewise, this reform follows his pattern: all the others reforms he has enacted in the Curia have begun with a motu proprio or a chirograph.

In general, the Pope has left the details to be determined after announcing his intentions – discussion of the statutes of the new dicasteries has typically come after his announcements.

He has done the same with the new John Paul II Theological Institute. He issued a motu proprio, setting the direction, and he left the discussion of statutes, which govern the practical details of reform, to others.

A second characteristic of Pope Francis’ leadership style is that he likes to do reform “in the making.”

What does this mean? A response to the question can be provided by Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

In the exhortation, the Pope stressed that “giving priority to time means being concerned about initiating processes rather than possessing spaces”, and so “what we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events. Without anxiety, but with clear convictions and tenacity.”

The Pope begins reforms, and then he waits for things to organically move in the direction for which he is calling.

Finally, it is an old saying in leadership that “people are policy.” Pope Francis seems to approach personnel decisions uniquely. Rather than firing people, the Roman Pontiff prefers to add new people or new groups to decision-making processes, in order to rebalance the general discussion.

At the renewed John Paul II Institute, it seems unlikely that the Pope will dismiss the full professors, who are hired into tenured positions. Instead, he will add to the faculty new chairs on different topics in order to broaden the conversation.

And then, if history is a good predictor, he will wait to see what happens next.

 

Pope mourns victims of 'senseless' Las Vegas shooting

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 18:34

Vatican City, Oct 2, 2017 / 06:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday Pope Francis offered his condolences and spiritual support to victims of a deadly shooting in Las Vegas that left at least 50 people dead and 200 more wounded when a gunman opened fire at a country music festival.

“Deeply saddened to learn of the shooting in Las Vegas, Pope Francis sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all those affected by this senseless tragedy,” read an Oct. 2 telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Addressed to Las Vegas Bishop Joseph Anthony Pepe, the telegram offered the Pope's encouragement for the efforts of police and emergency service personnel. Francis also assured of his prayers “for the injured and for all who have died, entrusting them to the merciful love of Almighty God.”

In what has become deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, at least 50 people died and 200 were wounded when a shooter opened fire on the last of a the three-day Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas, Nev. just after 10p.m. Sunday night, according to Las Vegas Police.

According to the Las Vegas Police department, an estimated 406 people have been hospitalized after the incident.

The death toll, which police say is only preliminary, tops last year's massacre at a nightclub in Orlando, which left 49 dead. It was also reminiscent of a deadly shooting in Paris in November 2015 that killed 89 people as part of a coordinated attack by the Islamic State that left a total of 130 people dead.

The festival, which took place along the Las Vegas Strip, was sold out, and had drawn thousands of participants to see top performers such as Eric Church, Sam Hunt and Jason Aldean.

Identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, the shooter opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, raining bullets on the open-air music festival happening below. Although the local sheriff department has not given an exact number of casualties, two of the at least 50 killed were off-duty officers.

Paddock was shot and killed by police at the scene. Officers believe he acted alone, but are unsure of his motive. They are also currently pursuing a female Asian companion, reported to be Paddock's roommate, as a “person of interest” in the incident.

In a tweet sent this morning, U.S. President Donald Trump offered his “warmest condolences and sympathies” to victims and families affected by “the terrible Las Vegas shooting.”

Various other global leaders have also voiced support and condolences, including representatives from the UK, Australia and Sweden.

In separate tweets, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston also offered his support to victims, their families and emergency workers, asking that “God grant strength and faith to families affected by last nights violence; Lord welcome the dead into your loving embrace.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Grant strength and faith to families affected by last nights violence; Lord welcome the dead into your loving embrace <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LasVegasShooting?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LasVegasShooting</a></p>&mdash; Cardinal Seán (@CardinalSean) <a href="https://twitter.com/CardinalSean/status/914821607650152448?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 2, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

He also prayed that God would bless all first responders “as they care for the victims of last nights' violence.”

Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas, Texas, also tweeted-out support, saying “Our prayers and concerns are with all those affected by the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas. May God, the giver of all life, sustain us.”

You can’t change politics watching from a balcony, Pope Francis says

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 15:34

Vatican City, Oct 1, 2017 / 03:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis said that we can’t improve our political landscape by observing and judging from afar, but that it involves personal involvement, which should always be done in a spirit of charity and helpfulness.

“Try to act personally instead of just looking and criticizing the work of others from the balcony,” the Pope said Oct. 1.

But make your advice constructive, he continued. “If the politician is wrong, go tell him, there are so many ways to say, ‘But I think that would be better like so, like so…’ Through the press, the radio... But say it constructively.”

“And do not look out from the balcony, look at her from the balcony waiting for her to fail.”

Pope Francis spoke to people in the Italian town of Cesena during a day trip to Cesena and Bologna Oct. 1. In Cesena he met with citizens of the town and with priests, religious and lay people at the city’s cathedral.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Cesena was the birthplace of Pope Pius VI and Pope Pius VII. Also in the 19th century Francesco Xaverio Castiglione (the future Pope Pius VIII) was bishop of Cesena, thus giving the city its nickname of the “city of the three popes.”

In Bologna the Pope’s schedule included meetings with migrants and refugees, clergy and religious, academics and students, and workers and the unemployed.

“The authentic face of politics and its reason for being,” Francis said, is “an invaluable service to the good of the whole community. And that is why the Church's social doctrine regards it as a noble form of charity.”

In order to re-establish the independence and the ability of politics to serve the public good, he continued, we must “act in such a way as to diminish inequalities, to promote the welfare of families with concrete measures, to provide a solid framework of rights-duties – balance both – and make them effective for everyone.”

Therefore, the Pope said, from the centrality of the “piazza” – the square – goes out the message that it is “essential to work together for the common good.”

“I invite you to consider the nobility of political action in the name and favor of the people,” he said. In recent years, the true aim of politics has appeared to retreat in the face of aggression and financial power.

Thus, we must “rediscover the value” of this essential part of society and give our contribution – recognizing the need for political ideas to be held up to reality and reshaped as necessary.

We shouldn’t claim an impossible perfection from those in public life, he stated, but we should still “demand” from politicians “the coherence of commitment, preparation, moral rectitude, initiative, forbearance, patience and strength of spirit in addressing today's challenges.”

This won’t fix everything quickly or easily, of course, he continued. “The magic wand doesn’t work in politics.” But if a politician does wrong: constructively tell them, he encouraged.

We all make mistakes, Francis said. And when we do, we should apologize, return to a right path and go on.

Concluding, he said that it is the right of everyone to have a voice in politics, but especially we should listen to “the young and the elderly.” To young people because they are the ones with the energy to do things, and to the elderly because they have the wisdom and authority of life.

The people expect from good politics the defense and “harmonious development” of their heritage and its best potential, he said.

“Let us pray to the Lord for the raising of good politicians who really care for society, the people and the good of the poor.”

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