Program #0393 for Thursday, October 11, 2012: Year of Faith, Tweeting Cardinal Sean, Physician-Assisted Suicide

October 11, 2012

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Year of Faith, Tweeting Cardinal Sean, Physician-Assisted Suicide

Year of Faith, Tweeting Cardinal Sean, Physician-Assisted Suicide

Summary of today’s show: Our usual thursday panel of Scot Landry, Susan Abbott, Gregory Tracy, and Fr. Roger Landry discussed the headlines of the week, including the launch of the Year of Faith both in Rome and in Boston and Fall River; Pope Benedict’s homily for the opening Mass; indulgences for the Year of Faith; the Synod for the New Evangelization; Cardinal Seán starting to Tweet daily; religious leaders discussing physician-assisted suicide; and Cardinal Seán’s reflection on the assisted-suicide slippery slope.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott

Today’s guest(s): Gregory Tracy, managing editor of the Pilot, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, and Fr. Roger Landry, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Fall River

Links from today’s show:

  • The Anchor
  • The Pilot
  • Some of the stories discussed on this show will be available on The Pilot’s and The Anchor’s websites on Friday morning. Please check those sites for the latest links.

Today’s topics: Year of Faith

1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show and to the Year of Faith. Cardinal Seán celebrated a Year of Faith opening Mass that was simulcast on WQOM and on Susan and Scot discussed the celebration of the Mass in Rome with the Holy Father and the very crowded Mass in the Pastoral Center with Cardinal Seán. Scot asked Gregory Tracy about his impressions. He said the homily was very engaging as always. He engages first with humors and anecdotes and then gets to the heart of the matter. After the Mass, they gathered in a conference room where Cardinal Seán sent out his first tweet for the Year of Faith in front of a group of journalists. Scot noted that the Cardinal had a tough time typing because his own personal computers are set up with Spanish-language keyboards.

Fr. Roger talked about his own preparations and launch of the Year of Faith in his parish. He outlined his plans for his parish over the year. Scot said Cardinal Seán’s homily and the entire Mass are available online at

Moving to Pope Benedict’s homily at the Mass opening the Year of Faith this morning, Scot quoted:

If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelization, it is not to honour an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago! And the reply to be given to this need is the one desired by the Popes, by the Council Fathers and contained in its documents. Even the initiative to create a Pontifical Council for the promotion of the new evangelization, which I thank for its special effort for the Year of Faith, is to be understood in this context. Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual “desertification”. In the Council’s time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread. But it is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path. The first reading spoke to us of the wisdom of the wayfarer (cf. Sir 34:9-13): the journey is a metaphor for life, and the wise wayfarer is one who has learned the art of living, and can share it with his brethren – as happens to pilgrims along the Way of Saint James or similar routes which, not by chance, have again become popular in recent years. How come so many people today feel the need to make these journeys? Is it not because they find there, or at least intuit, the meaning of our existence in the world? This, then, is how we can picture the Year of Faith: a pilgrimage in the deserts of today’s world, taking with us only what is necessary: neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, nor two tunics – as the Lord said to those he was sending out on mission (cf. Lk 9:3), but the Gospel and the faith of the Church, of which the Council documents are a luminous expression, as is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published twenty years ago.

Scot said the homily is stark about saying that many of the people we meet each day are in the desert, but it is from the starkness of the desert that we can rediscover the faith. Greg said already at the Second Vatican Council, society was making this transition to the secular desert and now 50 years on we are deep into the desert. Susan was reminded of Pope John Paul’s teaching that Christ leads us to the Father through the Holy Father. She also noted he quoted Pope John XXIII: ““What above all concerns the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine be safeguarded and taught more effectively […] Therefore, the principal purpose of this Council is not the discussion of this or that doctrinal theme.” She said we observe the signs of the times and determine how we authentically and faithfully present the faith. She also noted that he talks about going back to the documents and she always encourages people to read the texts.

Fr. Roger said in this homily the Holy Father is bringing us back to the themes of his pontificate. He says the whole mission of the Church is to lead people out of the desert into friendship with Christ. He said many people haven’t read the documents of the Second Vatican Council and this is an opportunity to go back and re-read them. Fr. Roger noted that this isn’t a year of catechesis, but a year of living by faith.

Scot noted that at the same time as the opening of the Year of Faith is a synod of bishops on the New Evangelization. Cardinal Donald Wuerl says that it’s like a tsunami of secularism has swept across Europe and beyond. He also talked about the cost of poor catechesis.

The cardinal said a “tsunami of secularism” has washed across the world, leaving in its wake a tendency to deny God’s existence, or to deny that God’s existence is relevant to human thinking and action.

Yet, without God “the very understanding of what it means to be human is altered,” he said.

A key task of the new evangelization is to help people see that human dignity and human rights flow from the fact that human beings are created in God’s image, he said.

Susan said she couldn’t agree more with the Cardinal that the Catechism has immensely improved catechesis. Susan would add the improvement in understanding of hiw we learn through the social sciences.

Scot also noted that the plenary indulgences for the Year of Faith have been given. An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven. Fr. Roger explained that Purgatory repairs the damage to relationships caused by sin. Indulgences take away that temporal punishment for sin by the merits of Christ. they can be applied to the living or the dead. The indulgences are gained in this circumstance through some specific steps, including making pilgrimages to a local site designated by the bishop, attending parish missions or lectures on Vatican II or the catechism, attending a Mass or Liturgy of the Hours on days designated by the local bishop or renewing baptismal vows where we were baptized; or attending a Mass celebrated by a bishop on the Year of Faith’s last day. The other usual conditions for indulgences apply as well. Scot noted the last day of the Year of Christ will be the Feast of Christ the King on which we have the Cheverus Awards at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and that could be one of the biggest Masses ever at the cathedral.

2nd segment: Scot said it was announced today that Cardinal Seán will be tweeting at least daily until November 6 and encouraging everyone to follow him on Twitter. He’s hoping that people will retweet his messages on the Year of Faith and physician-assisted suicide. The cardinal says the biggest challenge of Question 2 is that not enough people know about it yet. Scot noted that yesterday his follower count was about 5,090 and today it’s up a few hundred more already.

Greg explained what twitter is and how it works. He said Twitter is very ephemeral and it’s easy to miss one tweet so if the Cardinal writes consistently it will be more easily found.

Scot said we don’t have to be confrontational in talking to people about this issue. There are plenty of low-impact ways of spreading the message. Fr. Roger said the cost of a failure to act is that someone might die and the benefit of acting might be to help people get the help they need instead of poison from their doctor. He noted some anecdotes from people in his parish who have talked to others about it, describing their own experiences with suicide or terminal illness.

Another story in the Pilot this week was an invitation to Cardinal Sean from Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Methodius to gather with representatives from different religious groups—from Salvation Army to Islam— to talk about physician-assisted suicide. Greg was there and said there was a sense that this can’t be described as just a Catholic issue. One of the issues on their minds was how to make it clear to their congregations and others that this isn’t just a Catholic issue, even though the Catholic Church is on the forefront.

Scot said in the Pilot is Cardinal Seán’s third reflection on assisted suicide:

Slippery slope arguments involve small decisions that lead to undesirable outcomes that never would have been supported at the outset. Often, it is impossible to prove that one small step will have significant negative effects, but common sense allows reasonable people to judge the likelihood that a sequence of events that have
happened in one place are likely to happen in another place in a similar way

He then points out 7 potential problems downstream: It could lead to increased elder abuse; It could lead to adoption of “quality of life” standards; It could lead to lower quality of care; It could undermine doctor/patient relationship; It could lead to a general devaluing of human life; It could lead to an increase of suicide generally; and It could lead, eventually to euthanasia—like it has in the Netherlands.

Scot said people say you can’t prove a slippery slope argument empirically. Susan said arguing the slippery slope can make you seem like an extremist. She noted that in the Netherlands they have mobile euthanasia units now. She also said both the American Medical Association and Massachusetts Medical Society oppose this ballot question.

Scot said there are also good op-ed columns in the Pilot on this topic as well.

Winding up the show, Scot noted the death of Fr. Lawrence Wetterholm at 88 and the appointment of Fr. Bill Schmidt to pastor of both St. Marym, Wrentham, and St. Martha, Plainville from St. Patrick in Stoneham, one of the biggest parishes in the Archdiocese.

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