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Vatican paper notes ideology can slant science on difference in sexes

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Be cautious about scientific data that offer to be the sole basis and single explanation for the differences between men and women, the Vatican newspaper said.

Different eras have produced different scientific conclusions about sex differences, it said, in part because assumptions were built on the knowledge available at the time.

But past scientific views were also inspired by the particular social concepts in force and were “marked, in general, by a strong ‘male-centric’ ideological slant, aimed at scientifically establishing female inferiority,” the newspaper article said.

The article, “History of Biological Difference,” was published Sept. 1 in L’Osservatore Romano’s monthly insert dedicated to women in the church and the world.

The article presented a rundown of different findings, spanning from the 1800s to present day, by scientists in explaining why men and women are different.

It began with conclusions drawn by Charles Darwin and his contemporaries from the study of the body’s organs, that women were not as evolved and were stunted midway between monkeys and men.

Scientists then went from using the body’s morphology to the effect of hormones in explaining sex differences. The discovery of the X and Y chromosomes shifted research to looking at genetic determinants in sex and behaviors.

New discoveries about cell-trait variation, molecular function and the brain continue to offer more scientific explanations for sex differences, it said.

Biological views of the difference between the sexes, therefore, “have changed over time, according to the theories and dominant ideologies in each historical context, and the interests of medical research,” it said.

Today, at a time when “the male/female concept is fluid and controversial, the language of genomes is preferred in explaining and describing the differences in sex and gender,” it said.

However, “much caution is needed in evaluating scientific data that purport being the basis” for and single cause of the differences between men and women, it said.

“Biological determinism has very serious implications: It could justify, for example, the recourse to classifications such as sexual hierarchies,” like in an earlier era, the article said.

 

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Vatican newspaper calls pope’s document on family life ‘authoritative church teaching’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family is an example of the “ordinary magisterium,” papal teaching, to which Catholics are obliged to give “religious submission of will and intellect,” said an article in the Vatican newspaper.

A newly married couple hold rosaries in their hands as they leave Pope Francis' general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. The Vatican newspaper is calling Pope Francis's  apostolic exhortation,  "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love"), an authoritative church teaching. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See stories to come.

A newly married couple hold rosaries in their hands as they leave Pope Francis’ audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The Vatican newspaper is calling Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), an authoritative church teaching. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Father Salvador Pie-Ninot, a well-known professor of ecclesiology, said that while Pope Francis did not invoke his teaching authority in a definitive way in the document, it meets all the criteria for being an example of the “ordinary magisterium” to which all members of the church should respond with “the basic attitude of sincere acceptance and practical implementation.”

The Spanish priest’s article in L’Osservatore Romano Aug. 23 came in response to questions raised about the formal weight of the pope’s document, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”).

For instance, U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke has said on several occasions that the document is “a mixture of opinion and doctrine.”

Father Pie-Ninot said he examined the document in light of the 1990 instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the vocation of the theologian.

The instruction, issued by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now-retired Pope Benedict XVI, explained three levels of church teaching with the corresponding levels of assent they require.

The top levels are: “Infallible pronouncements,” which require an assent of faith as being divinely revealed; and teaching proposed “in a definitive way,” which is “strictly and intimately connected with revelation” and “must be firmly accepted and held.”

A teaching is an example of “ordinary magisterium,” according to the instruction, “when the magisterium, not intending to act ‘definitively,’ teaches a doctrine to aid a better understanding of revelation and make explicit its contents, or to recall how some teaching is in conformity with the truths of faith, or finally to guard against ideas that are incompatible with these truths, the response called for is that of the religious submission of will and intellect.”

“Amoris Laetitia” falls into the third category, Father Pie-Ninot said, adding the 1990 instruction’s statement that examples of ordinary magisterium can occur when the pope intervenes “in questions under discussion which involve, in addition to solid principles, certain contingent and conjectural elements.”

The instruction notes that “it often only becomes possible with the passage of time to distinguish between what is necessary and what is contingent,” although, as the Spanish priest said, the instruction insists that even then one must assume that “divine assistance” was given to the pope.

Accepting “Amoris Laetitia” as authoritative church teaching, Father Pie-Ninot said, applies also to the document’s “most significant words” about the possibility of people divorced and remarried without an annulment receiving Communion in limited circumstances.

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Vatican newspaper runs articles on possibility of women preaching at Mass

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published several commentaries reflecting on the possibility of allowing laypeople, including women, to preach at Mass. Read more »

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Oscar-winning ‘Spotlight’ is not anti-Catholic, Vatican paper says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican newspaper said the Oscar-winning film, “Spotlight,” is not anti-Catholic.

“It is not an anti-Catholic movie, as has been written, because the film succeeds in giving voice to the alarm and deep pain” experienced by the Catholic faithful when a team of investigative newspaper reporters in Boston revealed the scandal of clerical abuse, said the article published Feb. 29 in L’Osservatore Romano.

Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Brian d'Arcy James star in a scene from the Academy Award-winning movie "Spotlight." The film, about the priest sexual abuse crisis in Boston, is not anti-Catholic, the Vatican newspaper says. (CNS photo/Open Road Films)

Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Brian d’Arcy James star in a scene from the Academy Award-winning movie “Spotlight.” The film, about the investigation of priest sexual abuse  in Boston, is not anti-Catholic, the Vatican newspaper says. (CNS photo/Open Road Films)

The paper said it was also a “positive sign” when Michael Sugar, the movie’s producer, said he hoped the film would “resonate all the way to the Vatican.”

In his acceptance speech at the 88th annual Academy Awards Feb. 28, Sugar said the movie “gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies this voice.” He then expressed hopes this voice would “become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican.”

“Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith,” he said.

The fact there was such an appeal, the Vatican newspaper said, was “a positive sign” because it shows “there is still trust in the institution (of the church), there is trust in a pope who is continuing the cleanup begun by his predecessor.”

“There is still trust in a faith that has at its heart the defense of victims, the protection of the innocent,” said the article, written by Lucetta Scaraffia, a professor of contemporary history and a frequent contributor to the Vatican newspaper.

“Spotlight” won two awards: one for best picture and one for best original screenplay. The film documents the Boston Globe’s investigation into the scandal and cover-up of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the Archdiocese of Boston.

The Vatican newspaper said the film does not touch on the “long and tenacious fight” by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in launching action against abusers in the church.

“But a film can’t say everything, and the difficulties that Ratzinger encountered only confirm the premise of the film, that is, that too often the church institution did not know how to respond with the necessary determination before these crimes,” the article said.

While children are vulnerable to abuse in many other places, like in the family, school or sports teams, it said, “it is now clear that too many in the church were more worried about the image of the institution than the seriousness of the act.”

“All of this cannot justify the very grave crime of one, who as a representative of God, uses this prestige and authority to take advantage of the innocent,” the article said.

The film, in fact, shows the kind of devastation wrought on victims when “they don’t even have a God to plead with anymore, to ask for help,” it said.

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told Vatican Radio many bishops had urged others to see the film and “take seriously its central message, which is that the Catholic Church can and must be transparent, just and committed to fighting abuse, and it must ensure it never happens again.”

Catholic leaders cannot think clerical sexual abuse will go away if they don’t talk about it, Father Zollner said. “I think this is one of the central messages of the film.”

Director Tom McCarthy had said that while he’s excited the pope is a “forward-thinking, inclusive, progressive, reform-minded person,” addressing the scourge of sexual abuse will not occur overnight.

“He’s taking over the reins of an institution that does not change very quickly,” McCarthy said in an interview with America magazine in November 2015.

“Like any leader, within his institution, he’s got his work cut out for him. What remains to be seen is how much change, how much action happens under his guidance. I think you just have to wait and see,” McCarthy had said.

 

Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves at the Vatican.

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New ‘Star Wars’ villains not evil enough, says Vatican movie critic

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Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” broke box office records and restored a new hope in the franchise to the delight of fans worldwide with a few exceptions, including the Vatican’s newspaper.
Emilio Ranzato, author and frequent movie critic for L’Osservatore Romano, wrote Dec. 18 that the first installment of the sequel trilogy was “confusing and vague,” but he reserved his harshest criticism for the film’s new villains. Read more »

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Vatican paper says Bard of Avon was a secret Catholic

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VATICAN CITY — There is “little doubt” that William Shakespeare was a Catholic who was forced to hide his faith in Protestant England while leaving hints about his faith throughout his vast body of work, said an opinion piece in the Vatican newspaper.

Taking a cue from renewed speculation about Shakespeare’s true identity sparked by the film “Anonymous,” L’Osservatore Romano wrote, “There may be questions regarding his identity, but not his religious faith.”

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