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Issue: Two                                                              February 2003
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  The Question of Purgatory
by Bill Rutland

Purgatory is one of the favorite subjects of those professional rock-throwers in attacking the Catholic Church.  The whole concept of Purgatory is so foreign to most Protestants that the doctrine makes an easy target.  For all of the noise that comes from certain circles about Purgatory is may come as a surprise that the Church had officially said very little about the doctrine.  The first official definition of Purgatory was prorogated at the Council of Florence (1431-1445):

Also, if truly penitent people die in the love of God before they have made satisfaction for acts and omissions by worthy fruits of repentance, their souls are cleansed after death by cleansing pains; and the suffrages of the living faithful avail them in giving relief from such pains, that is, sacrifices of masses, prayers, almsgiving and other acts of devotion which have been customarily performed by some of the faithful for others of the faithful in accordance with the church's ordinances. (SESSION VI )

Later the Council of Trent (1545-1643) in its Decree on Purgatory states:

Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, from the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught, in sacred councils, and very recently in this oecumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar; the holy Synod enjoins on bishops that they diligently endeavour that the sound doctrine concerning Purgatory, transmitted by the holy Fathers and sacred councils, be believed, maintained, taught, and every where proclaimed by the faithful of Christ. But let the more difficult and subtle questions, and which tend not to edification, and from which for the most part there is no increase of piety, be excluded from popular discourses before the uneducated multitude. In like manner, such things as are uncertain, or which labour under an appearance of error, let them not allow to be made public and treated of. While those things which tend to a certain kind of curiosity or superstition, or which savour of filthy lucre, let them prohibit as scandals and stumbling-blocks of the faithful. But let the bishops take care, that the suffrages of the faithful who are living, to wit the sacrifices of masses, prayers, alms, and other works of piety, which have been wont to be performed by the faithful for the other faithful departed, be piously and devoutly performed, in accordance with the institutes of the church; and that whatsoever is due on their behalf, from the endowments of testators, or in other way, be discharged, not in a perfunctory manner, but diligently and accurately, by the priests and ministers of the church, and others who are bound to render this (service). (SESSION XXV)

Vatican II then reaffirms these statements but as  for official Church statements on the subject that’s pretty much it.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up the doctrine of Purgatory like this:

All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. (CCC1030-1031)

Recently statements coming out of Rome have suggested that Purgatory may not be a place but a state of being.  

Misconceptions

One of the most wide spread misconceptions about the doctrine of Purgatory in the Protestant world is that Purgatory is a kind of second chance.  As an Evangelical Protestant I believed that the Catholic Church taught that if a person was not good enough to go to heaven and not bad enough to go to hell that he went to Purgatory.  There the poor sinner would reform himself and go on to heaven or fall deeper into his sin and go to hell.  I have come across several variations of this misconception.  As can be seen from the Church statements cited above, this is not the case.  Purgatory is not a second chance.  Those who go to Purgatory are guaranteed heaven.  

Another misconception is that Purgatory was a pagan idea that was brought into the Church after the ascendance of  Constantine  to the throne of Rome.  In his book Answers to My Catholic Friends Thomas Heinze states:

Purgatory was evidently a pagan idea. Virgil, the pagan Latin poet who lived 70 - 19 B.C. divided the departed souls into three different places in his writings: One for the good, one for the damned, and a third where the less bad could pay for their sins. Since the idea of Purgatory existed outside of the church before it came into the church, it is probable that it was brought in by contact with pagans like Virgil. There was a great influx of non-Biblical ideas into the church around 300 A.D. when the Roman Emperor Constantine took many unsaved people in as members of the church.

Others claim that the doctrine of Purgatory was invented in the time of Pope Gregory the Great (590–604) as a money making scheme.

All though the word Purgatory had not yet come into use it can be clearly demonstrated that the doctrine existed and was believed in the Church well before Constantine (AD 312) or  Pope Gregory the Great.  Prayers for the dead can be found written in the catacombs by the early Christians.  The early apocryphal the Acts of Paul and Thecla  (A.D. 160) states:

And after the exhibition, Tryphaena again received her [Thecla]. For her daughter Falconilla had died, and said to her in a dream: ‘Mother, you shall have this stranger Thecla in my place, in order that she may pray concerning me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the righteous.

In The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity (A.D. 202) we read:

[T]hat very night, this was shown to me in a vision: I [Perpetua] saw Dinocrates going out from a gloomy place, where also there were several others, and he was parched and very thirsty, with a filthy countenance and pallid color, and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother after the flesh, seven years of age, who died miserably with disease. . . . For him I had made my prayer, and between him and me there was a large interval, so that neither of us could approach to the other . . . and [I] knew that my brother was in suffering. But I trusted that my prayer would bring help to his suffering; and I prayed for him every day until we passed over into the prison of the camp, for we were to fight in the camp-show. Then . . . I made my prayer for my brother day and night, groaning and weeping that he might be granted to me. Then, on the day on which we remained in fetters, this was shown to me: I saw that the place which I had formerly observed to be in gloom was now bright; and Dinocrates, with a clean body well clad, was finding refreshment. . . . [And] he went away from the water to play joyously, after the manner of children, and I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from the place of punishment. (2:3-4)

Some may argue that the Acts of Paul and Thecla and The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity are not inspired, to which I would agree, yet it gives evidence of the early Christian belief of praying for the dead.

Turning to the early Christian writers we see the same evidence of the belief. Commenting on our Lord’s words in Matthew 5:25-26 Tertullian writes:

[T]hat allegory of the Lord . . . is extremely clear and simple in its meaning . . . [beware lest as] a transgressor of your agreement, before God the Judge . . . and lest this Judge deliver you over to the angel who is to execute the sentence, and he commit you to the prison of hell, out of which there will be no dismissal until the smallest even of your delinquencies be paid off in the period before the resurrection. What can be a more fitting sense than this? What a truer interpretation?" (The Soul 35 A.D. 210).

Again in his word The Crown (AD 211)  Tertullian states, "We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday anniversaries [the date of death—birth into eternal life]" (The Crown 3:3 )."   In his writing on monogamy we read:

A woman, after the death of her husband . . . prays for his soul and asks that he may, while waiting, find rest; and that he may share in the first resurrection. And each year, on the anniversary of his death, she offers the sacrifice (Monogamy 10:1–2 ,A.D. 216).

The Early Church Father Cyprian of Carthage writes:

The strength of the truly believing remains unshaken; and with those who fear and love God with their whole heart, their integrity continues steady and strong. For to adulterers even a time of repentance is granted by us, and peace [i.e., reconciliation] is given. Yet virginity is not therefore deficient in the Church, nor does the glorious design of continence languish through the sins of others. The Church, crowned with so many virgins, flourishes; and chastity and modesty preserve the tenor of their glory. Nor is the vigor of continence broken down because repentance and pardon are facilitated to the adulterer. It is one thing to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory; it is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence of God at the day of judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord (Letters 51[55]:20 A.D. 253).



Old Testament Roots

It is admitted up front that the doctrine of  Purgatory is not explicitly spell out in Scripture, but like the doctrines of the Trinity and the hypostatic union of Christ (i.e. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man) the Bible does allude to Purgatory.  The Old Testament Jews believed in a place of purification where the righteous dead went to await God.  The Old Testament Rabbis saw hints in Scripture of this doctrine.  For instance the great Rabbi Shammai interpreted  Zechariah 13:9 as a purification on the righteous after death:

I will bring the one third through fire, and I will refine them as silver is refined, and I will test them as gold is tested. They shall call upon my name, and I will hear them. I will say, "They are my people," and they shall say, "The LORD is my God." (Zechariah 13:9)

Job 14:13 also seems to express this same idea:

Oh, that you would hide me in the nether world and keep me sheltered till your wrath is past; would fix a time for me, and then remember me!

The Rabbis also interpreted verses like Sirach 7:33, "Be generous to all the living, and withhold not your kindness from the dead" as speaking of sacrifices offered for the dead.

Most likely the best referance in the Old Testament comes from II Maccabees:

On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.
(II  Maccabees 12:39-46)

Most Protestants do not accept II Maccabees as Scripture, but even so it is a firm reference to the belief that prayers could be offered for the dead.  The Old Testament Jews believed in a place called Sheol.  It was divided into the place of torment and the place of the righteous dead called Paradise.  Although this belief comes mainly from Jewish oral tradition as we have seen is was none the less affirmed by Jesus in His parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).

New Testament References

Like the Old Testament the New Testament never gives us explicit information about Purgatory but it does make reference to it.  The doctrine of Purgatory is built on two Biblical planks.  First that there can be no sin in Heaven:

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.
The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and to it the kings of the earth will bring their treasure. During the day its gates will never be shut, and there will be no night there. The treasure and wealth of the nations will be brought there, but nothing unclean will enter it, nor any (one) who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
(Revelation 21:22-27)


Secondly, all people are sinners:

Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come. (Romans 5:12-14)

Given there two Biblical facts we can logically conclude that there must be a place of purification between this life and the next.  Many Protestants will argue that we have been completely justified in Christ, yet no one can doubt that even after we receive Christ’s forgiveness there are still vestiges of sin.  This is why the Apostle Paul states:

If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one's work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone's work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)

Here the Apostle Paul speaks of a judgment, yet not one of condemnation but of purification.  This is a clear reference to Purgatory.  A second reference takes place at the crucifixion  between Jesus and the repentant thief Luke tells us:

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23: 39-43)

We know that Jesus is not speaking of heaven because in John 20:17 Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father."  Many Protestants will acknowledge that the "Paradise" of Luke 23, but will claim that it on longer exists on the basis of  Ephesians 4: 7-10:

But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore, it says: "He ascended on high and took prisoners captive; he gave gifts to men." What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended into the lower (regions) of the earth? The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.

Yet Paul tells us that:

I know someone in Christ who, fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows), was caught up to the third heaven. And I know that this person (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things, which no one may utter. (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)

May will argue that this "paradise" in heaven, yet the word is never used in the New Testament for heaven.

In Revelation 2:7 Jesus says that the Tree of Life is in the "paradise of God."  Again many Protestants will argue that this is referring to heaven.  Yet if we look to Revelation 22:14 we learn:

Blessed are they who wash their robes so as to have the right to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates.

Notice here that that, the believers are purified (washed their robes) and eat of the tree of life before they enter into the gates of the city.

Conclusion

We have seen that Purgatory is not a doctrine built out of theological thin air as many Protestants claim.  We have seen from the witness of the early Church that the doctrine of Purgatory was present from the beginning.  We have seen that the Old Testament teaches that there is a place of the "righteous dead" where they await heaven. We have seen that the New Testament called this place Paradise and that it was not done away with at the resurrection of Jesus.  We have also seen that Purgatory is not a "second chance," but a place of preparation where believers go to be prepared to meet the Lord.


  Proving the Eucharist from Scripture
by Bill Rutland

(Part Two)

This is a three part series exploring the Biblical defense of the Eucharist.  The next two parts will appear in subsequent issues.

The Eucharist Foreshadowed in the Pass Over

To understand the Eucharist we must first understand the Jewish Passover.  Passover is the celebration and the commemoration of Israel’s exodus from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.   For 400 years the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians.  Then God hears their cries for help and sends Moses to liberate them.  But Pharaoh wouldn’t budge.  Plague after plague came upon Egypt but still Pharaoh's hart was "hard".  Each of the plagues struck out at a particular Egyptian god.  The seventh and last plague struck out at Egypt’s god-on-earth, Pharaoh himself.  Every first born male, of people and animals were consecrated to the Pharaoh.  So it was the first borne that were struck down in the Passover.  Yet God provided an escape for the Jews.  In Exodus we read:

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, "This month shall stand at the head of your calendar; you shall reckon it the first month of the year. Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one and shall share in the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it. The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present, it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They shall take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb. That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

It shall not be eaten raw or boiled, but roasted whole, with its head and shanks and inner organs. None of it must be kept beyond the next morning; whatever is left over in the morning shall be burned up. "This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the LORD. (Exodus 12:1-11)

Notice that there are two parts to the Passover.  The lamb must be killed and his blood put on the tops and frames of the doors of the Israelite’s houses.  Second the lamb must be eaten.  This is a point that must not be overlooked.  The sacrifice of Passover was not over until the lamb was eaten.  If this second part was not observed then the Israelite first born would not have been protected from the "angel of death", sent by God to kill the first borne of Egypt.

It was on the backdrop of these events that Jesus establishes the new Passover.  Matthew tells us:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father." (Matthew 26:26-29)

As Jesus celebrates the Passover meal He hands His disciples the bread and tells them "This is my Body".  Then He hands them the cup of wine and says, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

Many Protestants will argue that Jesus is only speaking symbolically, yet the only rational for viewing this statement symbolically is to keep our Lord’s words from contradicting their doctrine.  Comparing Matthew’s account with Luke’s we can see that Jesus cannot be seen as speaking in a symbolic fashion:

He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it (again) until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you (that) from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you. (Luke 22:15-20)

The phrase "Do this in memory of Me.", is a sacrificial phrase.  The word translated "memory"  is the Greek anamnesis. Aside from the Last Supper accounts it is only used in one other place in the New Testament:

Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of them, it can never make perfect those who come to worship by the same sacrifices that they offer continually each year. Otherwise, would not the sacrifices have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, once cleansed, would no longer have had any consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is only a yearly remembrance of sins, for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1-4 )

Hebrews speaks of  the Old Testament sacrifices and calls them "reminders (anamnesis) of sin."  This is a technical Greek term used in the Bible to refer to sacrifices.  The LXX# uses the word anamnesis in texts like Numbers 10:10:

On your days of celebration, your festivals, and your new-moon feasts, you shall blow the trumpets over your holocausts and your peace offerings; this will serve as a reminder of you before your God. I, the LORD, am your God.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church also makes this connection:

The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the making present and the sacramental offering of His unique sacrifice, in the liturgy of the Church which is His body.  In all the Eucharistic Prayers we find after the words of intuition a prayer called the anamnesis or memorial.  In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollect of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men.  In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers so that they may conform their lives to them. (CCC 1362)

From this we see that Jesus uses Old Testament sacrificial language.  If He were speaking symbolically then the Eucharist could not be an anamnesis as Jesus clearly said that it was.

In the sacrifice of the Eucharist we participate in the new Passover Feast.  A feast where the Lord Jesus is present to us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  Jesus has been sacrificed once and for all.  But we are commanded to keep His feast, His anamnesis.  This is why St. Paul tells the Corinthians:   

Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:7-8)


(Continued in Part three in the next Issue)



  Total Catholic
Question & Answer


  Why NFP?


By Andrew J. Nadeau, MI


The Roman Catholic Church’s teaching regarding the use of artificial contraceptives is no secret. Even the average lukewarm cultural Catholic knows, somewhere in the back of his conscience, that the Church prohibits them. Like much of moral theology, however, it is very easy to dismiss this teaching based on personal circumstances. “I just can’t afford a large family,” the father will say. “What about college tuition for the two children I already have,” worries the mother. Statistics have shown that somewhere between seventy and ninety percent of Catholics are using artificial contraception in one of its many forms.


The Church understands that there are circumstances where it would be detrimental to the welfare of a family to engage in unrestrained procreation. However, moral absolutes can never be compromised, especially in the context of twenty first century America, where many families have more sport utility vehicles than they do children. The Church’s answer is Natural Family Planning.


Natural Family Planning, or NFP for short, is a method of birth regulation that relies on the natural periods of infertility that occur in a woman’s menstrual cycle. The purpose of this article is not to give instruction in this method; that can be found through your parish or diocese or organizations such as the Couple to Couple League. However, it must be clarified that NFP is not the “rhythm method” that your mother may have attempted to practice. NFP involves systematic observation and charting of signs of fertility and is based on sound modern science.


There are many reasons for using NFP, some of which will be discussed here. The first and foremost for any serious Christian is the moral reason. Artificial contraception is wrong because is separates the procreative nature from the conjugal act. It frustrates God’s will for marriage and sexuality. Like a person gorging on a certain food, and making himself vomit to avoid the unwanted effects, artificial contraception is contrary to natural law. NFP, because it does not disrupt the natural and divine nature of sexuality, but instead cooperates with the way our bodies were created, it morally permissible. Every sexual act is open to the possibility of procreation.


NFP is also safe and healthy. It does not involve the introduction of harmful chemicals or devices into a woman’s body. Harmful effects of the birth control pill are now being discovered, despite the adamant denial by its producers and profiteers, including a possible link between the pill and the high rate of breast cancer.


NFP is easy to learn and use. The Couple to Couple League has trained volunteers who work with parishes and dioceses providing instruction. NFP also unites both the husband and wife in the family planning decision.


NFP is effective. The Sympto-Thermal Method of Natural Family Planning can be used at the 99% level of effectiveness to postpone or avoid pregnancy. This is greater than any artificial contraceptive method.


NFP is inexpensive. It doesn’t involve doctor’s visits or prescriptions. There are no products to keep purchasing other than a good instruction manual or booklet, and these can often be obtained for free. In my opinion, this is the biggest reason why organizations that provide contraceptives, such as Planned Parenthood the medical profession in general, are usually unwilling to provide information or instruction in NFP. There are no profits to be made.


Lastly, NFP is good for marriages. Because it requires periodic abstinence from sexual relations, times of intimacy are not taken for granted. Everyone knows how good that piece of chocolate tastes on Easter Sunday after forty days of fasting. To paraphrase the well-known saying, “abstinence makes the heart grow fonder”.


Natural Family Planning is God’s gift to the modern Christian family. It is good for families, for marriages, and for the soul.


Andy Nadeau is a 32-year-old father of five and an active member in the “New Evangelization”. He lives in Springvale, Maine with his wife Jeanne, and twin girls.





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  In the News
Date: 2003-02-02
Pope Mourns for Crew of Space Shuttle Columbia
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II prayed for the victims of the U.S. space shuttle Columbia disaster and expressed his spiritual closeness to the relatives.

The spaceship ripped apart over Texas on Saturday as it re-entered the atmosphere after a 16-day mission.

When greeting the faithful gathered today in St. Peter's Square, the Pope expressed his "distress" on hearing "the painful news of the tragic explosion," which killed seven astronauts.

"I invite all to pray for the victims of the incident, who died while carrying out an international scientific mission," the Holy Father said.

"At this time of harsh trial, I am spiritually close to the relatives, whom I assure of my remembrance in prayer," he added
(From http://www.zenit.org/english )

Monday, Dec. 23, 2002
  Priest Bars Gov. Davis From Premises
Proclaiming "We don't let any pro-abortion people in our grounds here," Monsignor Edward Kavanagh told California Governor Gray Davis to stay away from St. Patrick's Home for Children in Sacramento.
Davis, he said, "should get his life together and he should change his whole philosophy on the unborn," according to CNSNews.com.
Davis had planned to visit the home in a Santa Claus costume to hand out presents to the children, but now says he's invited the youngsters to come to the state Capitol to pick up their presents.
According to Wire service reports, a defiant Davis said that Kavanagh is entitled to his point of view and added, "I'm unapologetically pro-choice and I'm not changing my position."
Monsignor Kavanagh had previously scolded Davis, a Catholic, for his pro-abortion stance at the California ProLife Prayer Breakfast in Sacramento marking the 26th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
"I think personally they have excommunicated themselves from the Church," Monsignor Kavanagh said at the breakfast, referring to Davis, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and other Catholics who support abortion.
Kavanaugh blasted Davis for comments in his inauguration speech when he warned California legislators to refrain from trying to change abortion laws. He said Davis defends the "culture of death" as an accomplice to abortion in California, where 100,000 federally funded abortions are performed each year.
Quoting Pope John Paul II, Kavanaugh said: "No Catholic can be pro-choice when the choice is killing unborn babies. ... If America is the home of the free and the land of the brave, then defend life."
(from http://www.newsmax.com/showinside.shtml?a=2002/12/23/110549 )