Day: January 31, 2020

The Plenary Assembly of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith

Hello and welcome!

Following the March for Life last Friday, I remained with the friars in Washington, D.C. for the weekend. While I was there, I had an opportunity to visit with Leonardo and Marta Lorena Casco and their daughter, Beatriz. The Cascos are from Honduras, but when they were recently married, they lived in Washington. They were my parishioners when I was a young priest, and I baptized Beatriz.32b83665-bea7-48d1-8f19-ffc1cebbde3a

They used to come to the March for Life in those years, and now, for the last couple of years, they have flown up from Honduras to take part. 01fb818c-d40f-407d-9832-b80601918c3eThey have started a very active pro-life movement in Honduras, and it all began with their participation in the March for Life.


Over the weekend, I also met with the group of Third Order Franciscans that I started when I was pastor in Washington.IMG_1602

The community has grown very much, and I was very pleased to be able to be with them.


Sunday, I departed for Rome to take part in our plenary meeting of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

As I always like to do, I was able to have a meal with the Boston priests and seminarians who are in Rome.IMG_1611

This time, we were happy to be joined by Father Jim Savage, a Boston priest who is here on sabbatical at the Institute of Continuing Theological Education at the North American College.


Our meetings of the Congregation started on Monday, and each day we began our session by praying the Liturgy of the Hours together in the lovely baroque chapel in the CDF headquarters.IMG_1612IMG_1613

IMG_1615The side chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows. The image depicts the blessed mother as she comes down from Calvary

Among the matters we discussed in our meetings was the new document on end of life care. I was very pleased to see the emphasis on palliative care that is part of that document. We also worked on a revision to the norms on “delicta graviora,” the sins reserved to the Congregation.

On Thursday, the members of the Congregation had an audience with the Holy Father in the Clementine Hall. There, I was happy to see Msgr. Alejandro Cifres, who was there with his mother. Msgr. Alejandro works at the Congregation and is the uncle of one of our newly ordained priests, Father Marcos Enrique. IMG_1621

In his address to us, the Holy Father spoke about the work we undertook in the plenary assembly. His remarks were, of course, in Italian, but Zenit had a nice translation in English that I would like to share with you here:Audience-12

Dear Cardinals,

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I welcome you on the occasion of your Plenary Assembly. I thank the Prefect for his courteous words, and I greet you all, Superiors, Officials and Members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I am grateful for all the work you do at the service of the universal Church, in aid of the Bishop of Rome and the Bishops of the world, in the promotion and protection of the integrity of Catholic Doctrine on faith and morals.

Christian Doctrine isn’t a rigid system closed in itself, but neither is it an ideology that changes with the passing of seasons. It is a dynamic reality that, remaining faithful to its foundation, is renewed from generation to generation and can by summed up in a face, in a body and in a name: Jesus Christ Risen.Audience-05

Thanks to the Risen Lord, the faith opens us to our neighbor and to his needs, from the littlest to the greatest. Therefore, the transmission of the faith calls for taking into account its recipient, that he be known and loved actively. In this perspective, your commitment is significant to reflect, in the course of this Plenary, on the care of people in the critical and terminal phases of life.

The present socio-cultural context is eroding progressively awareness regarding what makes human life precious. It, in fact, is valued ever more often by reason of its efficiency and usefulness, to the point of considering “discarded lives” or “unworthy lives” those that don’t respond to such criteria. In this situation of loss of authentic values, the imperative human and Christian duties of solidarity and fraternity also fail. In reality, a society merits the qualification of “civil” if it develops antibodies against the throwaway culture; if it recognizes the intangible value of human life; if solidarity is actively practiced and safeguarded as the foundation of coexistence.

When sickness knocks at the door of our life, the need emerges increasingly to have next to us someone who looks at us in the eyes, who holds our hand, who manifests his tenderness and takes care of us, as the Good Samaritan of the evangelical parable (Cf. Message to the 28th World Day of the Sick, February 2020).

The subject of the care of the sick, in the critical and terminal phases of life, calls into question the task of the Church to rewrite the “grammar’ of taking charge and taking care of the suffering person. The example of the Good Samaritan teaches that it’s necessary to convert the heart’s gaze, because very often one who looks doesn’t see. Why? Why? — because compassion is lacking. There comes to mind that, many times the Gospel, speaking of Jesus before a suffering person, says: “He took pity on him,” “He took pity on him” . . . A refrain of Jesus’ person. Without compassion, one who looks is not involved in what he observes and moves on. Instead, one who has a compassionate heart is touched and involved, stops and takes care.

It is necessary to create around the sick person a true and proper human platform of relations that, while fostering medical care, open to hope, especially in those limit-situations in which the physical ailment is accompanied by emotional discomfort and spiritual anguish.

The relational approach — and not merely clinical — with the patient, considered in the uniqueness and totally of his person, imposes the duty never to abandon anyone in the presence of incurable illnesses. Human life, given its eternal destiny, keeps all its value and all its dignity in any condition, also of precariousness and fragility, and, as such, is always worthy of the greatest consideration. Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who lived the style of proximity and sharing, keeping up to the end the recognition and respect of human dignity, and rending dying more human, said thus; “One who in the path of life has lighted even just one torch in someone’s dark hour has not lived in vain.”

In this connection, I think of how much good hospices do for palliative care, where the terminally sick are accompanied by qualified medical, psychological and spiritual support, so that they can live with dignity, comforted by the closeness of dear persons, the final phase of their earthly life. I hope that such centers will continue to be places in which the “therapy of dignity” is practiced with commitment, thus nourishing love and respect for life.

Moreover, I appreciate the study you have undertaken regarding the revision of the norms on delicta graviora reserved to your Dicastery, contained in John PauI II’s Motu Proprio “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela.” Your commitment is placed in the right direction to update the normative in view of greater efficiency in the procedures, to make it more orderly and organic, in the light of the new situations and problems in the present socio-cultural context. At the same time, I exhort you to continue firmly in this task, to offer a valid contribution, in a realm in which the Church is directly involved, to proceed with rigour and transparency in protecting the sanctity of the Sacraments and violated human dignity, specially of little ones.

Finally, I congratulate you for the recent publication of the document elaborated by the Pontifical Biblical Commission regarding fundamental topics of biblical anthropology. Reflected further with it is a global vision of the divine plan, initiated with Creation and which finds its fulfilment in Christ, the New Man, who constitutes “the key, the center and the end of the whole of human history” (Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 10).Audience-11

I thank all of you, Members and Collaborators of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the precious service you carry out. I invoke upon you an abundance of the Lord’s blessings, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. Thank you.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

January 2020
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