Issues Vol. 63‎ > ‎

Vol. 63 No. 12 • MAR 23 - 29, 2019

03 Index

posted Mar 19, 2019, 3:56 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:56 AM ]

04 Engagements

posted Mar 19, 2019, 3:55 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:55 AM ]

05 Editorial - A Caring and Conciliatory Approach to the LGBTQ Community

posted Mar 19, 2019, 3:49 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:49 AM ]

This week's Pro-Life Day issue of The Examiner tackles the issues of Gender and LGBTQ rights. These issues, particularly the latter, have increasingly become a matter of public debate, as more and more LGBTQ-oriented people come out fearlessly to assert their rights and ask for a more compassionate treatment by society. This issue is especially relevant in Catholicism, since the debate on homosexuality often makes arguments and assertions inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church. The Church is often portrayed as an enemy of the LGBTQ movement, and against giving them their rightful and respectful place in society. This, of course, is a false narrative. As social mores in our country change, Catholics must understand the deeper ramifications of this issue in the light of Church teaching, and what the Church really teaches.

Increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were natural and normal, and to condone homosexual activity. They reflect, even if not entirely consciously, a materialistic ideology which denies the transcendent nature of the human person, as well as the supernatural vocation of every individual. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger)

The push for redrawing the traditional understanding of marriage is just one among the many strongholds that an aggressive post-modern secularism is trying to topple in its thirst for reshaping the future of humanity. The underlying narrative here is what is slowly coming to define modern society — complete and unfettered personal freedom. "I have the right to be happy, any which way I can. I have the right to exist in the manner I choose." They fail to see the truth about the human person which is disclosed in the mystery of Christ.

A clear distinction must be made between an 'orientation' and the sexual act. While the Church is not against LGBTQ-oriented persons, the Church cannot condone homosexual activity. Homosexual acts go against the "spousal significance" of the human body, as intended by the Creator. In the complementarity of the sexes, man and woman are called to reflect the inner unity of the Creator, by cooperating in the transmission of life by a mutual donation of the self to the other.

Having said this, it is also true that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics often feel ignored, marginalised, excluded, insulted and misunderstood by their own Church communities. Those who live out an authentic Christian life in keeping with the values of the Gospel are also shunned, instead of being praised for their heroism in the spiritual and moral life. The Church needs to listen to the experiences of LGBTQ Catholics in order to better treat them with "respect, sensitivity and compassion," as the Catechism of the Catholic Church asks. The Catechism, in its discussion on homosexuality, says "every sign of unjust discrimination" must be avoided (No. 2358).

Pope Francis' tenure has been especially notable for his adoption of a more conciliatory and compassionate tone towards the LGBTQ community. He has dined with them, and identified with the anguish that they go through, in coming to terms with their identity and place in society. He has led the charge in creating a Church which is more welcoming and understanding.

We need to listen. When we listen, we will hear not only their experiences, but also their desire to live as disciples of Christ. We will hear their desire to experience God's love through the loving embrace and welcome of their Christian community. We will hear of their desire to serve the community, through the gift of their personhood and God-given talents. The stories of courageous LGBTQ persons who have resisted secular ideologies and been steadfast to the teachings of Christ need to be told. Testimony builds, encourages and brings hope. Every child of God, irrespective of orientation, is called to imitate the Divine Love that God - so selflessly and unceasingly - continues to pour down on us everyday.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on the Editorial Board of The Examiner.

06 The Church and the LGBT Community - Ninette Lobo

posted Mar 19, 2019, 3:47 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:47 AM ]

The word 'love' can mean different things to different people. It exists in different forms – between two lovers, a mother and her child, friendship, acts of service etc. But society seems to have a rather biased, one-sided definition of love, prioritising one form over the other, and therefore diminishing every other form of love and the value it bears for society. This redefinition of a word designed to guide the natural order of the world has been twisted to suit every whim and fancy and emotional impulse of a society focused only on limiting the bountiful forms of love to merely that which is romantic.

In 2017, Australia became the twenty-fifth nation to extend the right to marry to the LGBT community, and in 2018, India celebrated the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The banner of the multi-coloured flag flew high, and the illusionary rainbow became a brand and an insignia that the community painted as a public service campaign to showcase its pride. The community, along with the rest of society, had unanimously agreed that same sex love was indeed a human rights issue worth fighting for, and that love had no other adjectives, no other qualities, and that its very essence could best be narrowed to an all-encompassing phrase: 'Love is love.'

In the mainstream media, there is a rather misguided narrative being spewed that elevates the romantic form of love as the most supreme form, determining that its emotional engagement supersedes and dominates every other form of love. Pope Francis, in his encyclical 'Amoris Laetitia', elaborates, almost romantically, the forms of love, re-establishing its salient qualities, of what it is to love and to be loved. In the almost poetic and lyrical passages of St Paul, true, unadulterated love is that which is patient, kind, not jealous or boastful; it bears all things, hopes all things and endures all things (1 Cor 13:4-7). And yet, despite the rather rich features that love bears, society is given to believe in the existence of the limited gifts offered only through a romantic context.

In discussing conjugal love or love shared between husband and wife, Pope Francis describes it as "a precious sign" that is celebrated when man and woman commit themselves to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The Catholic Church minces no words in defining who can partake in this form of love, stating unequivocally the boundaries of this love, and those who can access it and receive its fruit in return.

The teaching is clear: "Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered… They present sexual acts as acts of grave depravity" (CCC, 2357). The Catechism further notes that "Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and wife." The physical union between a husband and wife is sacred, and mimics the spiritual communion of Christ and His Church. The tone is therefore firm, determined and unflinching. It seems, on the surface, restrictive, oppressive and constrained, making it hard for people to navigate their options, their life, and therefore, acceptance of the teaching. But the Church, whose very premise and foundation is that of love, has its reasons, and despite what may appear to some as rather harsh strictures, it is a view that has so far worked, in keeping with the natural order for society to grow, flourish and procreate.


07 Is there a Third Gender? - Dr. Jeanette Pingo

posted Mar 19, 2019, 3:45 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:46 AM ]

Eunuchs or 'hijras' are worthy of our respect and dignity as children of the one True God.

'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth' (Gen 1:2). God the Creator had a beautiful plan to share His joys with life on the planet. After creating the complete environment, He created humankind. "He created man in his own image. In the image of God, he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27) - just two genders. In India, however, there has, since early times, been a third group called 'eunuchs', or in common parlance, referred to as 'hijras'. Who are these people? Are they a third gender?

Eunuchs are castrated males. They have been in existence since the 9th century BC, according to some references. The word is derived from the Greek "keeper of the bed", because castrated men were in popular demand to guard royal harems. It is believed that this practice began in China, where, at the end of the Ming dynasty, there were as many as 70,000 eunuchs in the grand palace of the Emperor. India, perhaps, is the only country where the tradition of eunuchs is still prevalent today. It is believed that there are about a million of them, but their roles have changed drastically. They are wrongly referred to as the 'Third Gender.'

The Hijras sadly are often feared in society. Nobody wants to be accosted by one of them; to be nudged with their elbows, stroked on the cheek, taunted or cursed. They are truly treated as rejects of society. They cause discomfort and embarrassment and are shunned by people. This forces them, in 21st century India, to make a living by begging, which forms their main source of income. It is customary to have them bless child births, weddings, house warming ceremonies, and other auspicious occasions. People believe that they possess occult powers, and their blessings and curses are both considered potent.

They feel that life has short-changed them, hence their exaggerated behaviour in public. "What have we to lose?" says Sita. "We are treated worse than untouchables. If we overdo this kind of behaviour, we can twist people's arms and make them pay for our sustenance. It's the least society can do for us."


08 ROBOETHICS: humans, machines and health - Dr. Pascoal Carvalho

posted Mar 19, 2019, 3:44 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:44 AM ]

Artificial devices that simulate human capabilities are devoid of human quality." "A dramatic paradox is thus outlined: just when humanity possesses the scientific and technical capacities to achieve a justly distributed well-being, we observe instead an exacerbation of conflicts and an increase in inequality," said Pope Francis to us, members of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life on February 25. The Pontifical Academy for Life is marking its 25th anniversary this year. The Plenary included a workshop on 'Roboethics: humans, machines and health'.

In his address, the Pope stressed how machines are useful, but should not be confused with human beings. He warns that "the risk of man being 'technologised', rather than technology humanised, is already real: so-called 'intelligent machines' are hastily attributed capacities that are properly human."

Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the head of the Academy opened the Feb. 25-26 workshop on "Robo Ethics: Humans, Machines and Health," which attracted some of the most pioneering engineers, developers and scientists, Catholic and people of other faiths, to discuss the ever-growing field of Artificial Intelligence.

Among the speakers was Hiroshi Ishiguro, a Japanese innovator in the field of androids and interactive robotics. He is globally known for his hyper-realistic robots capable of sustaining 10 to 15-minute conversations with humans. Ishiguro is also famous for creating an AI copy of himself, "his twin," which he claims to have developed not only to avoid travel, but also to delve into the secrets and mysteries of the human mind.

According to Ishiguro, in this present age, 10 per cent of every activity is human intervention and the balance 90 per cent is technology. He then poses the question: "What will happen in the future, say 10,000 or 100,000 years hence?" According to Ishiguro, we will move from organic to majorly inorganic beings. Ishiguro mused about the possibility of eventually substituting the human brain altogether with a computer. "We would obtain immortality," he said.

Dr Aude Billard, who has a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence, had a very different approach. She aimed to make "robots that actually make our life better."


10 Why the Readings of Year A for the Scrutinies of the RCIA - Fr Vincent D’Cruz

posted Mar 19, 2019, 3:42 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:42 AM ]

"The assembly is missing out on hearing the readings for Year C. Why do we always have to take the readings of Year A at the Scrutinies?"

The above is an oft repeated question, especially in parishes where catechumens are undergoing preparation for the Sacraments of Initiation. These catechumens, on the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent, have to undergo certain rites called 'Scrutinies' in public.

We have come a long way since before Vatican II, when the amount of Scripture people heard at Mass over the course of a year was very limited (1 per cent of the Old Testament and 17 per cent of the New Testament) compared to today (14 per cent of the Old Testament and 71 per cent of the New Testament). When the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (#51) of Vatican II said that "the treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's Word," the Church took it seriously, and the faithful have come to value more and more a fuller proclamation of the Word in the midst of the assembly.

Yet, we still have a long way to go when it comes to valuing the rites of initiation within the Sunday gathering of the assembly.

What does the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) say?

Taking a look at the rubrics for the Scrutinies, we read:

The scrutinies should take place within the ritual Masses "Christian Initiation: The Scrutinies," which are celebrated on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent; the readings with their chants are those given for those Sundays in the Lectionary for Mass, Year A. In every case, the ritual Masses "Christian Initiation: The Scrutinies" are celebrated and in this sequence: for the first scrutiny, the Mass with the gospel of the Samaritan woman; for the second, the Mass with the gospel of the man born blind; for the third, the Mass with the gospel of Lazarus. (146)

What does history say?


12 Into the Desert - Fr. Michael D'Cunha

posted Mar 19, 2019, 3:41 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:41 AM ]

A call to introspection and response

The Desert is easily among the most unlikely places one would choose for a 'vacation', and yet the Bible often points to the desert (sometimes translated as wilderness) as the place where persons find their 'vocation'.

A case in point comes from the readings of the Third Sunday of Lent (Year C). The first reading narrates the call of Moses who is tending his father-in-law's sheep. Moses, we are told, sees a 'burning bush' – one that is burning, but not being consumed. This strikes him as strange, and he goes to investigate the scene before him. The desert with its inhospitable climate and punishing landscape can often play tricks on a person's mind.

In the desert, dry bushes often catch fire. Winds blowing across an open landscape rustle leaves and twigs which make for the perfect cinder. While burning bushes would have been commonplace in Moses' time, none of them were known to catch fire and not be consumed. This explains why Moses considered this a "strange sight" worthy of investigation. The author of Exodus, however, narrates this incident to drive home a deeper point; he portrays the intense presence of the Creator with the creature; a presence that turns even a nondescript bush into a prophetic sign of God's presence. It is a presence so sublime, as to be intimately present without violating the essence of the creature.

We must bear in mind that Moses, at this juncture of his life, is a refugee; having killed an Egyptian, he is now on the run from Pharaoh. God, in calling Moses, sends him on a mission to Egypt – a mission to save the Israelites from slavery; but also a mission that will challenge Moses with the one thing he dreads — coming face to face with Pharaoh.

The season of Lent is a call to journey into the desert – into that stark and unflattering reality of who we are – and there, attend to the Divine Presence and respond to God. While we can do nothing to change the past, what we do now is what will decide the future for us. In narrating a past event, the biblical author helps us understand what we should be doing in the present, for this is where we encounter God.


13 What's in a Name? - Christopher Mendonca

posted Mar 19, 2019, 3:39 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:40 AM ]

"Arose by any other name would smell just as sweet."

On the other hand, "a chrysanthemum by any other name

would be easier to spell."

The ancient Hebrews, like other cultures of the time

believed that "names" could cast a spell on others.

Moses was no exception.

It is not surprising therefore, that he thought

he could offset the fears of his incompetence

by asking the LORD for his name.

Knowledge of the name would give him control;

its utterance would make him effective.

In a pre-emptive strike, the LORD reveals

that he is beyond all names.

He will not be a God like other gods; he is simply the ONE WHO IS.

He was inviting them into a relationship

of Faithfulness and Love.

It would be unlike anything they had experienced before.

"This is what love really is;

not our love for God,

but that He has first loved us." (1 John 4:10)


15 Notes & Comments

posted Mar 19, 2019, 3:38 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:38 AM ]

Vote for Leaders who listen to people: Cardinal Gracias

Pastoral Letter to the Catholic Bishops of India (March 14, 2019)

Our country is in election mode. The dates for the General Elections have been announced. From April 11 - May 15, 2019, the country will be going through the gigantic process of elections to choose our Members of Parliament. Hundreds of millions will go to vote in the largest democracy in the world: we are more than Europe and Australia put together! We are truly proud of our country — the generally peaceful election process getting better each time, as each Government tries to make improvements: a smooth transition of office from one Government to the other. India can truly be a model for other countries to imitate and adapt to their circumstances.

As Pastors of our people, we Bishops consider it is our duty to address you through this Pastoral Letter, so that joining hands with all people of good will, our community can effectively contribute to shaping the future of our nation.

At the outset, we wish to make it clear that the Catholic Church does not identify herself with (or side) any political party. This is the stated policy of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, at this important moment, we feel called to give some general guidance to our people for the good of our country. Our country has made great progress because of science and technology. Infrastructure and public facilities have improved. At the same time, there are several areas of concern. The big gap between the rich and the poor seems to be widening. Many unorganised, informal, casual labourers are barely able to survive with what they earn. Farmers and those in the agricultural sector are under serious stress. Ethics is losing primacy as the guiding principle of society. India is a spiritual nation, and yet God is slowly being pushed to the periphery. It is in this context, and at this moment in history, that we are going into elections.

First of all, we remind ourselves of our duty to exercise our vote. Every citizen above 18 years has the right to vote, but this is also a sacred obligation we owe to our country. All our Parish Priests are urged to impress on our people this obligation. Every single vote does count. Hence, we owe it to ourselves, to our children and to our country to fulfil this sacred duty judiciously, and thus get involved in bettering the direction of our nation.

We are called not just to vote, but to vote judiciously, because the direction our country takes, its progress and much of our everyday lives depends largely on the leadership we elect to Parliament. The life of every citizen is affected by the Government, both at the Centre and in the State.

We see that Indian society is undergoing great transformation. Every government has contributed to the great progress that has been made over the years. India is gradually taking its rightful place in the comity of nations. There is indeed great hope for the future, and now is the time for us to get more involved in directing the destiny of our nation.

I urge every community to pray, and in prayer, to discern what is best for our country. The Catholic Church hopes that the General Elections will give us leaders who understand the anxieties of our people, their needs and respond effectively.

We need leaders in India who will:

1. Uphold the secular character of our nation and promote communal harmony through a spirit of inter-religious dialogue and understanding.
2. Care for the minorities and weaker sections of society, protect their rights, and work for their uplift.
3. Safeguard the rights of tribals over land, water and forests. Take particular care of Dalits all over the country, and ensure they are not discriminated against, granting equal rights to all Dalits.
4. Work for an economy that seeks in particular to help the poor and the underprivileged, protecting their dignity and enabling them to play their role in nation building.
5. Improve the climate and conditions in our country, ensuring a totally safe environment for all people, particularly women and children.
6. Climate Change

These are national issues. There would be other local and particular needs to be considered as well.

We urge our people to spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and at home, so as to be able to discern what is best for the common good. All of us must pray ardently for a good government. God sent His Son that we may have life, and life in its fullness (John 10:10). With the Lord's strength and guided by the Spirit, we can all work unitedly for a better India. We lift our country to Mother Mary to always guide, protect and bring us abundant graces. God bless India!

+ Oswald Cardinal Gracias

President, Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI)

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