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Pope Francis: Subsidiarity means everyone has a role in healing society

Vatican City, Sep 23, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that he is worried that large pharmaceutical companies are listened to more than front-line healthcare workers in pandemic recovery and that the Catholic principle of subsidiarity is the solution.

“When a project is launched that directly or indirectly touches certain social groups, these groups cannot be left out from participating … the wisdom of the humbler groups cannot be set aside. Unfortunately, this injustice happens often in those places where huge economic and geopolitical interests are concentrated,” Pope Francis said Sept. 23.

“Let’s think of the grand financial assistance measures enacted by countries. The largest financial companies are listened to rather than the people or the ones who really move the economy,” the pope said in Vatican City’s San Damaso Courtyard.

“Or let’s think about the cure for the virus: the large pharmaceutical companies are listened to more than the healthcare workers employed on the front lines in hospitals or in refugee camps. This is not a good path. Everyone should be listened to, those who are at the top and those who are at the bottom, everyone.” 



Pope Francis explained that the principle of subsidiarity was necessary in these situations to ensure the best solutions. Subsidiarity is the idea, deeply rooted in Catholic tradition, that the authority closest to a local need is best suited to tackle the issue. It is opposed to all forms of collectivism and sets limits for state intervention. 

“To emerge better from a crisis, the principle of subsidiarity must be enacted, respecting the autonomy and the capacity to take initiative that everyone has, especially the least,” Pope Francis said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, according to the principle of subsidiarity, “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”

The pope underscored that the wisdom and contribution of individuals, families, associations, businesses, and the Church were all needed to revitalize society. 

“The principle of subsidiarity allows everyone to assume their own role in the healing and destiny of society,” he said.

Religious freedom and freedom of expression are a critical component that allow for these voices to be heard, according to the pope.

“In some societies, many people are not free to express their own faith and their own values, their own ideas: if they express them freely, they are put in jail. Elsewhere, especially in the Western world, many people repress their own ethical or religious convictions. This is no way to emerge from the crisis, or at least to emerge from it better,” Pope Francis said.



The pope’s reflection on subsidiarity was part of his series of weekly catecheses, launched in August, on Catholic social teaching. Entitled “Healing the World,” the pope’s message at his Wednesday audiences focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic in light of Church teaching. 

In previous weeks, Francis has spoken about the importance of solidarity and the common good. This week he noted that subsidiarity and solidarity were both needed for the good of society.

“This path of solidarity needs subsidiarity,” he stressed. “In fact, there is no true solidarity without social participation, without the contribution of intermediary bodies: families, associations, cooperatives, small businesses, and other expressions of society … This type of participation helps to prevent and to correct certain negative aspects of globalization and actions of countries, just as it is happening regarding the healing of people affected by the pandemic.”

“These contributions ‘from the bottom’ should be encouraged. How beautiful it is to see the volunteers during the crisis. The volunteers come from every part of society, volunteers who come from well-off families and those who come from poorer families. But everyone, everyone together to emerge. This is solidarity and this is the principle of subsidiarity.”

Another important component of subsidiarity, the pope explained, is that those with a higher responsibility look out for the good of those without adequate resources.

“After the great economic depression of 1929, Pope Pius XI explained how important the principle of subsidiarity was,” Pope Francis said.

“On the one hand, and above all in moments of change, when single individuals, families, small associations and local communities are not capable of achieving primary objectives, it is then right that the highest levels of society, such as the state, should intervene to provide the necessary resources to progress.”

“For example, because of the coronavirus lockdown, many people, families and economic entities found themselves and still find themselves in serious trouble. Thus, public institutions are trying to help through appropriate interventions. On the other hand, however, society’s leaders must respect and promote the intermediate or lower levels.”

At the end of his general audience, which took place on a rainy morning, the pope mentioned that he would bless a bell named “The Voice of the Unborn,” commissioned by the “Sì alla Vita” foundation.

“It will accompany the events aimed at remembering the value of human life from conception to natural death,” he said, noting a desire that its sound would awaken the consciences of legislators and all people of good will.

“During the lockdown, the spontaneous gesture of applauding, applause for doctors and nurses began as a sign of encouragement and hope. … Let’s extend this applause to every member of the social body, to each and every one, for their precious contribution, no matter how small,” Pope Francis said.

“Let’s applaud the ‘castaways,’ those whom culture defines as those to be ‘thrown out,’ this throwaway culture -- that is, let’s applaud the elderly, children, persons with disability, let’s applaud workers, all those who dedicate themselves to service. Everyone collaborating to emerge from the crisis.”

More than 130 Colorado doctors, scientists support late-term abortion banĀ 

Denver, Colo., Sep 23, 2020 / 04:06 am (CNA).- More than 130 medical professionals and scientists in Colorado have signed a letter in support of Proposition 115, a ballot measure seeking to ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy.

“As Healthcare professionals we are totally aware of the science of human development. The humanity of a 22-week fetus is apparent to each of us. There can be no doubt that the 22-week fetus is fully alive and fully human,” the letter reads.

Colorado currently has no laws regulating late-term abortion, either restricting the procedure or explicitly protecting it. As a result, abortions can take place up until birth.

This November, Proposition 115 will ask voters if they want to ban abortion in the state after 22 weeks of pregnancy, unless a mother’s life is threatened. If the ballot measure passes, doctors would face a three-year suspension of their license for performing or attempting to perform an abortion. Women would not be charged with seeking or obtaining an abortion.

More than 150,000 people from across Colorado signed a petition to place the initiative on the upcoming ballot.

In their letter, released last week, the 134 health care professionals and scientists outlined facts of fetal development that illustrate the humanity of an unborn baby at 22 weeks.

Babies at this age may react to their mother’s touch, experience pain, and demonstrate a preference for their mother’s voice, as well as for musical pieces to which they have been exposed. Children at this age may even exhibit social interaction with a twin in utero.

Advances in neonatal medicine mean that babies born at 22 weeks are often able to survive, the signers of the letter said. They noted that some medical centers in the U.S. have a 70% survival rate for premature babies born at this age.

A fetus can also undergo surgery, and is treated as a separate and distinct patient from the mother, the doctors and scientists noted, adding, “Therefore, they should be treated as individuals by Colorado law.”

“With advances in medical science, it has become obvious that the fetus is much more than ‘just pregnancy tissue’, as some would claim. There can be no equivocation that the fetus is a living, learning and actively participating human being,” they stressed. “Every one of these lives has inherent value and dignity. They deserve to be embraced and protected by the citizens of Colorado, as equal members of our society.”

The doctors and scientists recognized the difficulties some pregnant women face. Rather than abortion, they said, these women should be offered a robust support system, through both public and private venues. They encouraged adoption, perinatal hospice programs, and housing for pregnant women.

The signers of the letter applauded the efforts of both public and faith-based pregnancy resource centers, including the Caring Pregnancy Resource Center of Northeast Colorado, Little Flower Maternity Home, Let Them Live, Alternatives Pregnancy Center, and Marisol Health.

“We stand in solidarity with all those who work privately and publicly to support women during their pregnancies, especially those women who face difficult circumstances or challenges during their pregnancies,” they said.

Know some excellent parishes of the pandemic? There's an award for that

Denver Newsroom, Sep 23, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Scot Landry has worked for the Catholic Church for years. So he knows that diocesan and parish offices typically hear very little about what they’re doing well, and a lot about what's not going right.

“The ratio of compliments or gratitude or praise, to complaints...that ratio was in the complaint end of things, stronger than any other time of my life,” Landry told CNA, reflecting on his years working for the Archdiocese of Boston.

For years, Landry has wanted to do something to recognize parishes doing exemplary things, but it never seemed to be the right time.

This year, however, as a global pandemic shut down public Masses in many parts of the world, Landry said he watched parishes find new and creative ways to reach their flocks, and he wanted to celebrate that. That’s why Landry, in partnership with the Parish Excellence Summit and Good Catholic Leadership Group, created the first-ever Parish Excellence Awards.

“There was immediate mission-driven innovation related to continuing the parish’s sacramental and other ministries” in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Landry said in a release announcing the awards.

Catholics can nominate their parishes for excellence awards in a variety of categories, which aim to recognize things like technological excellence to parish outreach and re-opened Mass protocols. There are three “Broadcast Mass” categories alone.

“Most parishes have now turned into broadcasters,” Landry said, because of the temporary closure of public Masses throughout the United States this past spring.

Some parishes were “excellent on the technical side of things, and the broadcast is beautiful. Others were excellent at trying to maximize the number of parishioners who were watching the livestream. Others were good at solving the complexity of doing livestreams when they have a multilingual, multicultural community.”

The Parish Excellence Awards are similar to another national effort, by Mundelein Seminary, which earlier this month accepted nominations for “hero priests” of the pandemic, who went above and beyond to reach their flock in these unprecedented times.

Landry said while his idea wasn’t inspired by the “hero priest” awards, he was glad there are others who also wanted to recognize all that parishes have done for their people during this time.

“We do need to hold up people who are doing great work during the pandemic. I was glad to see that Mundelein was thinking of it,” Landry said.

Winners of the Parish Excellence Awards will be chosen by small committees of volunteers, Landry said, and will be announced at the Parish Excellence Summit, a virtual event held from Nov. 9-13. All who nominate their parish for an award will be invited to the Summit for free.

At the summit, Landry said he plans on presenting three awards each day, and showing video interviews with winners, who can give tips and pointers to other parishes wanting to model initiatives after ones that have been recognized for making a difference.

The summit will highlight the two reasons for the parish awards in the first place, Landry said, which is to recognize excellent parishes, and to pass on ideas for best practices to other parishes who are also striving for excellence.

“One of the ways to honor a parish that is innovative in a mission-driven way, is to learn from it,” Landry said. “Apply it to your own context and then help it to strengthen your own parish. We certainly hope...we wouldn't be doing this if that wasn't one of our big hopes at the end of it.”

Catholics can nominate parishes in 16 different categories through October 19.

And while the Parish Excellence Awards this year are specifically focused on innovation during the pandemic, Landry said he hopes the awards are something he can continue year after year.

“Winning people back after the pandemic, that could be a theme for next year,” he said. “As long as there’s a need to share what's working in some parishes with all the other parishes in the church, at least in the United States, we certainly have an interest in doing it.”

The medieval carpentry techniques used in Notre Dame cathedral rebuild

CNA Staff, Sep 23, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).- After fire toppled the iconic spire and destroyed the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France in April 2009, heated debates ensued about whether the reconstruction should use the church’s original design, or use a more modern design and technique.

Some proposed futuristic ideas included a rooftop swimming pool and a greenhouse atop the 850-year-old cathedral.

Last year, the French Senate passed a bill mandating that Notre-Dame be rebuilt as it was before the fire, with lumber and medieval carpentry techniques, which were highlighted in a public demonstration Saturday in the cathedral’s square.

“It shows…firstly that we made the right choice in choosing to rebuild the carpentry identically, in oak from France,” Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, who heads the reconstruction efforts, told the AP.

“Secondly, it shows us the...method by which we will rebuild the framework, truss after truss.”

The public carpentry demonstration was held Sept. 19 as part of European Heritage Days. The triangular truss highlighted at the event was the seventh of a total of 25 new trusses that will be installed in the nave of the cathedral during the rebuild.

Carpenters told the AP that they selected a truss with a more complex design for the event. The truss, built in July, was raised from the ground for display at the event using a pulley system. Once raised, a celebratory oak branch was tied to the top, a traditional “symbol of prosperity and a salute to the workers,” according to the AP.

“It’s a moment to see ancestral techniques that last. There is the present and the past and it links us to our roots,” Romain Greif, an architect attending the event with his family told the AP.  “It’s an event.”

The trusses will be installed in the roof of the church at a yet unknown date. French president Emmanuel Macron has said he wants the reconstruction to be completed by 2024, when Paris is set to host the Olympics.

Last year on the evening of April 15, 2019, a major fire broke out at the cathedral, destroying the roof and the spire. Shortly after midnight April 16, firefighters announced that the cathedral's main structure had been preserved from collapse.

The major religious and artistic treasures of the cathedral were removed as the fire began, including a relic of the crown of thorns.

Originally built between the twelfth through fourteenth centuries, the landmark cathedral in the French capital is one of the most recognizable churches in the world, receiving more than 12 million visitors each year.

Its original spire was constructed in the 13th century, but was replaced in the 19th century due to damage.

The cathedral was undergoing some restorative work at the time the fire broke out, though it is unknown if the fire originated in the area of the work.

Survey: Catholics, like fellow Americans, favor abortion restrictions

CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).-  

The vast majority of Catholic likely voters – more than 8 in 10 – favor restrictions on abortion, a new poll released this week has found.

Only 15% of those surveyed said abortion should be permitted at any time in a pregnancy. The same percentage said abortion should never be permitted.

Eight percent said abortion should only be allowed in the first six months of a pregnancy, while 21% favored limiting the procedure to the first three months of a pregnancy. Thirty-one percent said abortion should only be permitted in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Nine percent said it should only be allowed to save the life of the mother.

The poll, conducted Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 1,212 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic.

The findings among Catholics are consistent with surveys showing that the majority of Americans support restrictions on abortion.

A January 2020 Marist Poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus found that 70% of Americans favored banning abortion after three months of pregnancy, at the latest. Almost half of those who labeled themselves as pro-choice said abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy, at most.

The majority of Catholic likely voters in the RealClear poll – 59% – said they are concerned about the issue of abortion as they consider the upcoming presidential election, with 30% identifying the issue as a “major concern.” Among weekly Massgoers, 70% said they were concerned about abortion, with 41% saying it is a topic of “major concern.”

Twenty-two percent of survey respondents said they were more likely to support a candidate for public office if that candidate supports abortion, while 30% said they were less likely to support a candidate who supports abortion.

Forty-three percent of weekly Mass attendees said they were less likely to support a candidate who supports abortion, compared to 26% of those who attend Mass monthly to yearly, and 18% of those who attend Mass less than once a year.