By REY FLORES
I recently had the opportunity to interview Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., and also president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The interview included questions on the HHS mandate, same-sex marriage, the liturgy, and more.
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Q. What are your hopes and expectations for the Supreme Court decision on the HHS mandate?
A. We certainly look forward to a favorable decision to relieve the Little Sisters of the Poor and all Catholic entities as we seek to serve others. By end of June we would like to have some direction from the Supreme Court of the United States and have Catholic organizations relieved of requirement of objectionable participation or big fines.
Q. We have had the new translation of the Novus Ordo in effect for two years now — what impact has the new translation had on the faithful?
A. I have found the orations and prayers very uplifting, like the response to the peace be with you, now being “and with your spirit.” There are the things people were used to, but the new format becomes easier when they get to know it. My hope would be that the faithful appreciate the richness and poetic nature of this and as something positive.
Q. How do you view the role of the Traditional Latin Mass?
A. First, I would like to note that the use of Latin in the Novus Ordo Mass continues to progress — liturgies are sung in Latin, as are the introit and the antiphon. Second, in the Diocese of Louisville, we offer three opportunities of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Overall, I can’t say there are great numbers, but it is greatly appreciated by those who do attend it.
After all, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI asked we give generous application of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form to the faithful.
Q. Same-sex “marriage” seems to be gaining ground; what do you see as the best strategy for opposing it? And what future plans does the USCCB have for this?
A. The truth is written in our hearts and we recognize that marriage is for one man and one woman. It is important for children to have a mother and a father married in a permanent union. This is the foundation of a solid and healthy society.
Church teaching is very clear on the dignity of the human person — people say that somehow our non-acceptance of the sin of homosexuality diminishes the dignity of a person. All of us are called to practice the virtue of chastity, proclaiming the law of chastity.
We also understand that the mercy of God calls us to reconciliation. If we look at Sacred Scripture, Jesus said “go and sin no more,” which was His final word, which then leads us to a fuller life in Christ.
We must also deepen understanding, which John Paul II shared so well with us in the Theology of the Body. It is my hope that we would be able to continue to provide leadership this way. We must also come up with new pastoral strategies for people who are dealing with this to help them live the Church’s teachings.
Pope Francis also talks about solid anthropology — how God creates men and women as equals, but each with unique charisms. Solid anthropology in our culture is lacking — marriage is a two in one flesh reality.
Obviously we have our work cut out for us — preserve the great gift of marriage of one man/one woman and open to life
Q. You have been critical of social media because “friending” hundreds of people on Facebook leads to a devaluing of true friendship. How do you see the role of social media in evangelization?
A. First of all, we need to welcome new media. The Church is active on Twitter and Facebook and we also have blogs. Here in Louisville, we encourage priests to become involved in positive social media evangelization.
Second, with extensive use of social media, we are also at risk of becoming distant and impersonal and use social media as a substitute for personal interaction. We must make good use of social media and be aware of the dangers. Like alcohol, it can be used or abused.
Q. How do you propose to encourage vocations to the religious life during your term as president of the USCCB?
A. Jesus continues to call, but we must always begin in deep prayer. There exists a conviction and attraction for priests, brothers, deacons, and sisters to pursue religious vocations.
The USCCB has the special Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations to help foster vocations. Young people like to hear the witness of religious — through efforts like the Vocation Initiator where young people can begin their discernment.
Always, we must begin in prayer, because human enterprises devoid of God fall flat on their face.
Q. Last year, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) upset a lot of the laity by admitting that it grants money to organizations that commit abortion and dispense abortifacient birth control pills and devices….
Is the USCCB taking any action to bring CRS more in line with the guidelines of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), to deny funds to organizations that in any way promote abortion, birth control, or other actions against Catholic moral teaching?
A. The bishops’ conference, like any active Catholic institution, [is] working to make sure resources are used in morally permissible ways. I am confident that CRS is taking very positive steps in ways to use money it collects responsibly.
The USCCB enunciates principles and we are united on those principles and united on the issues on marriage and the right to life, no question about it. On the practical implementation, we rely on local bishops. We seek the common good, but not in a way with movements that are not consistent with Catholic teaching.
Our effort to work closely with local bishops is going to be key in ongoing efforts. Locally, the overall responsibility to put into practice the principles of the social doctrine of our Church is with the bishops.
Bishops must say to themselves, “I seek to do that responsibly and I need to avoid being co-opted by a political agenda and avoid straying from the Catholic principles we espouse.”
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(Rey Flores can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)