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00Wednesday, January 12, 2011 4:32 PM

Church reveals fine details
of the England-Wales ordinariate

By Anna Arco

11 January 2011

Personal ordinariates for groups of Anglican converts around the world are likely to develop their own missal according to traditional Anglican use, an English Church official has said.

Fr Marcus Stock, the general secretary of the Bishops of England and Wales, said that while an ordinariate in Britain would be likely to follow the Roman Rite, he expected that an Anglican use of the Roman Rite would be developed.

Fr Stock said: “When we are talking about the ordinariate we’re not just talking about England and Wales but for across the world and I’d be surprised if something isn’t developed for use for all the ordinariates. I don’t think they’ll develop particular ones.

“There will be an Anglican Traditional Use, such as there is in the United States who use the book of divine worship, which again they might simply adapt that for use in ordinariates around the world.”

He said that Anglican patrimony and tradition did not only refer to the missal used in Mass, but also to things like Evensong and Morning Prayer “and a slightly different form of the Breviary than the Roman rite would use and additional funeral rites and marriage rites which might reflect a particular tradition in the Anglican communion”.

“So it will probably be more of a sacramentary than a missal, which will have different rites,” Fr Stock said. “That’s a long-term project.”

The ordinariate in England and Wales, which is due to be established by a decree from the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, will have a principal church which is to serve a similar function to a diocesan cathedral.

Fr Stock said: “They will need a place to meet, to have meetings and gather as a group. Not a cathedral as such, but a principal church, it’s called in the constitution, where the members of the ordinariate can gather for the celebration of liturgies and where the ordinary will be based.”

The bishops have been on the look out for a church of sufficient size, capacity and centrality to serve as the principal church for the ordinariate.

Fr Stock said: “Like any diocesan centre, you want somewhere where people can get to easily, so that’s all being looked into at the moment. And that will hopefully not just have the church, but also accommodation for the ordinary and a bit of luck some additional facilities for social meeting and some offices for the ordinariate.”

While the bishops’ conference has pledged £250,000, which is in a restricted fund of the Catholic Trust for England and Wales at the moment until the ordinariate is actually established, Fr Stock said that funding for the ordinariate has also been coming in from other sources. He cited charities, individuals and communities which have pledged “not insubstantial amounts” to assist the establishment of an ordinariate.

He said that financing the ordinariate would clearly be “a major strategic concern for the ordinary when he is appointed and his council when that is constituted”.

Fr Stock said the rapid ordination of the three former Anglican bishops who were received into the Church on the first of January and will be ordained priests on January 15, was a unique situation.

He said “The pastoral arrangements that have been put at the inception of the ordinariate are to recognise the fact that there is a pastoral need for those men who have been ministering to the congregations hitherto need to be making their journey into the Catholic Church and that’s why these provisions have been put into place. Of course those men who are going to have to be prepared for the Catholic priesthood—things to do with canon law and pastoral practice that they need to get used to and need to learn those things. But it is a recognition that fundamentally we need to keep these groups together to meet their spiritual needs.”

When he was asked whether it was a step forward from the pastoral provision which was granted to former Anglican clergymen in the 1990s thanks to the efforts of Cardinal Basil Hume, Fr Stock said: “I think it’s recognised that that may have been a weakness at the time, that there wasn’t a recognition of the need for their pastors to accompany the people, but any priest who has been parish priest will tell you that after a bit time the priest and people get very close. It’s important sometimes for priests to accompany their people.”

The ordinariate represents a completely new canonical structure which is similar to a military diocese, but allows groups of Anglicans who wish to keep their patrimony to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Members of the ordinariate will be fully-fledged Catholics of the Roman Rite – this means they are not like the Eastern ritual churches which are in communion with Rome. Ordinariate priests will be able celebrate Mass normally in Catholic churches and Catholics attending ordinariate Masses will be able to receive Communion there.

Fr Stock today issued an extensive guide to the ordinariate on behalf of the Bishops of England and Wales. [I posted the Guide and Archbishop Nichols's announcement of the ordination at Westminster in the BENEDICT thread.]

00Thursday, January 13, 2011 12:18 AM

Among other things, this eye-opening article by Father Samir article blows the myth that Egyptian propaganda has fed the world for several days....

Europe and Islam in the wake
of attacks against Copts in Alexandria

by Samir Khalil Samir, S.J.

ROME, January 12 (AsiaNews) - The attack against the Church of Saints in Alexandria, Egypt, on December 31 last, shows in an increasing harsh light the growth of Christianophobia in the Islamic world (and beyond). It is important to denounce this violence, but also to find practical steps to counter it.

First, the facts: Muslims accuse the Egyptian Coptic Church and Patriarch Shenouda III, of holding two women who converted to Islam captive against their will in convents in Egypt. This accusation, which is completely false, was repeated on the very same day of the attack, on December 31.

In the mosque 200 meters from the church attacked at midnight, following the imam’s sermon, there was a demonstration of Muslims calling for the release of these two women and all others.

This story has been dragging on for four years. It claims that the two women, Wafa 'Constantine and Camelia Shehata, who are married to two priests, had marital problems, that they then converted to Islam, and were kidnapped and hidden by the Church.

It is true that women had marital problems, but it is not true that they converted. In fact the late leader of Al-Azhar, Tantawi, decreed that there is no evidence of their conversion. The two women were then brought to the Church, who for fear of their possible kidnapping by Islamist movements, gave them refuge in convents.

But the story keeps coming back to the surface. Even after the attack on the Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad on October 31 last year, the group that claimed responsibility for the terrorist act, cited the case of these two women, to justify attacks against Christians in Egypt.

All of this is absurd. Yesterday, I participated in an online forum of an Islamic newspaper, al-Mesreyya, discussing the attack on the church in Alexandria. Instead of expressing their condolences for the Christian victims, their horror at the attack, etc.. Everyone - at least 60 comments - said that "it is the Copts fault," and cited the story of the two women; that the attack on the church was organized by Copts themselves "to make us look bad in front of the rest of the world"; or something that was organized by the U.S. and Mossad.

[So my gut reaction was right that there was something not convincing about the official Egyptian propaganda on orthodox Christmas Day about 'massive Muslim solidarity' for Copts[/G} - to the point of offering themselves as 'human shields' during the midnight Masses! Again, while I do not doubt that some Muslims may have been sincere about their solidarity with the Copts, the 'human shield' claim was the safest thing to make because all Egypt was on security alert that night and Christmas Day, and chances were that the 'human shields' would be unnecessary. As they were! So, thanks, but no thanks!]

I posted a short comment, but it was not published. In the few lines I wrote, I asked what right is there to force a conversion? Conversions are stifled in Egypt, that is, conversion to Islam is facilitated, but those from Islam to another religion are strongly hindered.

In this situation the reaction of Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the current Imam of Al-Azhar, is understandable. He paid a visit to the Coptic Patriarch Shenouda III to express his condolences. In Egypt, these visits are a formality every time there is an attack: they imply “we always understand each other”, and "we should not destroy national unity."

Thousands of Christians were demonstrating in front of the patriarchate to ask for more security and protection for Christians. They reacted to al-Tayyeb's visit by shouting slogans and throwing stones at his car.

But we must also take into consideration what Muslims do. Over the past three months, several times a picture of Shenouda was trampled upon and destroyed, and the names of 200 Copts are on a death list, with the patriarch in first place. Among them are 100 Canadian, German, Austrian and European Copts, and "shedding their blood – reads the list - is lawful." In this case too, the obsession with conversions is at the root of the violence.

The Egyptian government says that the attack on the church of Alexandria was carried out by foreigners. And in a way it's true: the Iraqi group linked to Al Qaeda that claimed responsibility for the Church attack in Baghdad on Oct. 31, threatened further violence if the two Egyptian women were not handed over to the Islamic community. Al Qaeda, whose leader is al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian, is in fact a widespread terrorist mafia with international branches.

The imam of Al-Azhar has criticized the Pope for asking world governments to defend Christians and claims he does not care about Muslims killed in Iraq.

That a figurehead such as he, considered a very learned and moderate man - he knows several languages and studied in Paris – should say such things against the Pope is unacceptable: he has criticized the pope without really knowing anything, by simply repeating what he has read in the headlines.*

*[Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the imam of Al Azhar, criticized the Pope, claiming that he only appealed for greater protection for Christians in his homily on January 1. "I do not agree - he said - with the position of the Pope and wonder why the Pope did not ask for protection when they were killing Muslims in Iraq."

In fact, the Pope's words were: "Faced with the threatening tensions of the moment, especially in the face of religious discrimination, abuses and intolerance, which today affect Christians in particular, once again I address this urgent appeal not to give in to despair and resignation. I urge everyone to pray that the efforts undertaken by several parties to promote and build peace in the world come to fruition".

It is true however, that many media have published headlines like "Pope calls on governments to protect Christians," with a clear reduction of the message.]

In fact there is nothing to criticise in the Pope's address. Benedict XVI only recalled that violence against man is against the will of God. Of course he asked for help for Christians, seeing that he was referring to recent events. But even if he asked for increased security for Christians, is that really a scandal?

If the governments of the Middle East are not able to defend their Christian minorities, because they do not want to or because they are not capable of doing so, then the world must do something, otherwise what's the UN or other international bodies for?

It is also ridiculous to say - as the imam of A;-Ahzar did - that the Pope has never defended the Muslims of Iraq. Neither John Paul II nor Benedict XVI ever approved of the American intervention of Iraq, nor believe that it was lawful.

It must be said then that Muslims are often targeted and killed by other Muslims. The Pope can condemn violence and say that we must defeat intolerance, and stop justifying violence in the name of God, but the Pope has done this countless times.

Some analysts warn against attempts by the West to exploit all this violence against Christians. In fact, however, in many European countries, Muslims continue to increase their demands, presenting them as their "rights"; they do unusual things and nobody says anything.

For example, in France and Italy, Friday Muslim prayer takes place in public spaces, on the streets, blocking traffic.

Islam in Europe is becoming increasingly more demanding, and governments do not know how to react to it. Some impede integration/ The relationship between European governments and Muslim immigrants is among the most difficult.

Of course, the vast majority of Muslims want peace, want to integrate, but among them there are people who have another project, namely, "We in Europe have the right to have our law, Shariah, and you prevent us from having this".

A few years ago in Milan, the head of the Viale Jenner mosque, responding to a questions about conversions to Christianity in Egypt said “you simply have to apply the law”, which means the death of those who have converted.

And if you condemn the application of the law then you are holding back our freedom of religion. This position is creating problems in France, Italy, Sweden, etc. It is possible that European governments use violence against Christians to block Islamic emigration. Just as is it possible that Israel uses this violence to justify an ever more apparent racism in Israeli society. [???? Fr. Samir has lost me here!]

But violence against Christians is something that happens every day with the aim of ridding the Middle East of the Christian presence. Bombings and killings are a constant reality in Egypt.

For this reason, some European countries are beginning to say "enough". There is the growing realization that something must be done. It is true that other attacks on the religious freedom of Christians in China or Vietnam or in Laos, are condemned, if only, sporadically. The fact is that the Middle East is closely tied to Europe and the problem of coexistence with Islam is a European problem.

I am pleased with the unanimous response of the international community on the attack on the Copts in Egypt. What is striking in this case is the absolute innocence of the Copts: What have they done to deserve such a murderous attack? In other parts - Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon ... - there are acts of war, but there is none of this here in Egypt.

The attacks on the Copts are violent and gratuitous, motivated only by alleged "conversions" - just the Church is asking for freedom of religion everywhere, as the Pope did in his message for World Peace Day and in his address to the diplomatic corps.

The Alexandria church bombing was an act against religious freedom. Yet Muslims, in the name of Shariah, are not able to understand the value of human rights, which must come before all tradition and all laws, even sharia.

It must be said that this violence also involves the West. The Pope, in his speech on 1 January, said that concrete actions are needed and not just words.

We must pay particular attention to the Middle Eastern and Islamic countries, or wherever violence against religious freedom occurs. It is no good putting pressure on these nations, because they see it as interference. The American proposal for collaboration with Islam, made by Barack Obama, does not arouse enthusiasm because the U.S. proposals then lapse into a form of colonialism.

Eelationship with the Muslim countries must not be exclusively economic but also cultural. One of the main points of this dialogue is the need to take seriously the fundamentalists' criticism of Western civilization as atheist. They see that the West promotes an irreligious culture.

In fact, the West is either neutral or indifferent, or even contrary to religion. Whereas for fundamentalists, the priority is to promote Islam, which is both religion and culture.

We have to take the middle road between two extremes: the secularist West, in which there is no room for religion, or Islamic fundamentalism in which religion forcibly penetrates all areas of life: prayer, work, sex, family, etc. ...

In the Angelus of January 1, the Pope said: "Today we are witnessing two opposite trends, both negative, both extremes: on one hand, secularism, which often in a very deceitful way, marginalizes religion to confine it to the private sphere and on the other fundamentalism, which instead wants to impose it by force. "

The Pope is right. We must reject both secularism and fundamentalism.

00Monday, January 17, 2011 7:31 PM

Because the beatification announcement is still in the headlines, I posted these stories earlier in the BENEDICT thread. I shall post on this thread any subsequent news related to the beatification that does not directly involve Benedict XVI.

Rome scrambles to prepare
for 2 million pilgrims

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 16 (AP) – Crowd control experts were rushing to ready Rome for an estimated 2 million pilgrims for Pope John Paul II's beatification on May 1, when the city will be thronged with Easter week tourists.

No tickets or invitations will be necessary — as many faithful who want to be there to see the Polish-born Pontiff beatified, the last formal step before possible sainthood, can come, a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said Saturday.

"We don't give estimates" of the size of the crowds who will come, said Benedettini. But Italian news reports say authorities in Rome were planning for 2 million pilgrims.

With St. Peter's Square and the boulevard leading from the Tiber to the Vatican able to hold a few hundred thousand people, large video screens are expected to be set up in nearby streets so the spillover crowd can watch the ceremony led by Pope Benedict XVI.

The last turnout so big in Rome was the 3 million mourners for John Paul's funeral and other ceremonies following his death in April 2005 after he struggled for years with Parkinson's disease.

Even the more popular ceremonies in his papacy didn't come near to drawing so many faithful. When an ailing John Paul beatified Mother Teresa in 2003 in St. Peter's Square, 300,000 pilgrims attended. Padre Pio's sainthood ceremony, led by John Paul in June 2002, saw about 200,000 faithful swelter the square in one of the larger turnouts in his 26-year-long papacy.

In 2000, about 700,000 young Catholics streamed into Rome for church World Youth Day events stretched out over several days at locations throughout the city as well as at the Vatican.

La Stampa, an Italian daily, said the national civil protection agency personnel hope to rein in any chaos by meeting pilgrims' buses and channeling the faithful down selected streets to the square.

Easter falls on April 24, meaning Rome's hotels will be brimming with Easter week tourists, when many students are on school break and families pour into Italy, so organizers might look to Romans to open their homes to pilgrims.

May 1 is also national labor day, and traditional May Day concerts near the Basilica of St. John in Lateran usually draw hundreds of thousands of young people from throughout Italy to enjoy the free music.

On Friday, Benedict set the date for beatification after declaring that a French nun's recovery from Parkinson's disease was the miracle needed for John Paul to be beatified. A second miracle, attributed to John Paul's intercession after the beatification ceremony, will be needed for the widely popular Pontiff to be formally honored with sainthood.

Once he is beatified, John Paul will be given the title "blessed" and can be publicly venerated.

Veneration is the word commonly used to refer to that worship given to saints, either directly or through images or relics, which is different in kind from the divine worship given to God only, according to reference work, the Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary.

John Paul's entombed remains, currently in the grotto underneath St. Peter's Basilica, will be moved upstairs to a chapel just inside a main entrance for easier access by throngs of admirers.

A cursory and belated wrap-up of Poland's reaction to the news... I have not had the time to look up any English sources in Poland itself.

Polish leaders hail JPII beatification

WARSAW, January 16 (AFP) - Leading Poles including former President Lech Walesa last Friday hailed the Vatican decision to beatify the late Polish-born Pope John Paul II on May 1.

“I am doubly happy. Firstly, because a man who was a living saint will officially become a saint. Our Pope did great things,” anti-communist Solidarity trade union founder Walesa told AFP.

“Without him, there would have been no Solidarity in Poland. It was the Polish Pope and Solidarity that contributed to the disappearance of communism in Europe in the 20th century,” he said.

Historians agree that the 1978 election of Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla to the papacy inspired the rise of Poland’s 10-million strong anti-communist Solidarity movement in 1980.

By 1989, under Walesa’s leadership, Solidarity negotiated a peaceful end to communism in Poland, making it the first country in the Soviet bloc to eschew the system.

By 1991, the Soviet Union crumbled putting an end to the bipolar world of the Cold War.

“It’s possible that our great friend, once he becomes a saint, will help us from on high to solve our problems in Poland, Europe and the world,” Walesa said last Friday.

In the southern city of Krakow Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the late Pope’s former personal secretary and one of his closest friends for 40 years, said Poland was “overjoyed”.

“Speaking in the name of the diocese, in the name of Krakow and, I think, in the name of all of Poland, I’m overjoyed,” Mgr Dziwisz told reporters in the city where John Paul II served as a cardinal.

“I want to express my great gratitude to the Holy Father for the decree necessary for this beatification,” Mgr Dziwisz said.

John Paul II is to be beatified on May 1 – a key step on the path to sainthood – the Vatican announced last Friday after his successor Pope Benedict XVI signed an official decree.

“Personally, I’m overwhelmed by it, even though I knew him since almost my youth (...) When the news arrived, I felt overwhelmed that John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla, will be beatified and canonised.”

“It’s an incredible feeling: I’ve understood how a husband whose wife has been canonised must feel,” Mgr Dziwisz added.

The process of beatification is usually lengthy, but calls for John Paul to be canonised came immediately after his death in April 2005 at the Vatican, at the age of 84.

Pope Benedict himself will conduct the ceremony in St Peter’s Basilica, according to Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.

May 1 falls this year on the first Sunday after Easter, which is the Feast of the Divine Mercy, a devotion promoted by John Paul II.

Italian media had suggested the beatification ceremony would take place on Sunday, April 3, the day after the sixth anniversary of John Paul’s death.

But Lombardi said that the date fell during Lent, traditionally a period of penitence for the Church as it commemorates the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, and “was not the ideal time” for a “joyous” ceremony.

Works are under way in St Peter’s Basilica to make space for Pope John Paul II’s tomb. As is traditional, the Pope’s remains will be moved up from the crypt to the nave of the basilica after he is beatified.

Preparations are being made in the Chapel of St Sebastian, on the right-hand side of the nave, between the Chapel of Michelangelo’s Pietà and the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament.

The ex-pontiff’s body “will not be displayed, it will be placed in a tomb closed by a simple marble tombstone with the words: Beatus Ioannes Paulus II,” (Blessed John Paul II), Lombardi said.

The beatification follows the announcement last week that the Congregation of the Causes for Saints had approved the Polish Pope’s first miracle. The commission confirmed that French nun Marie Simon-Pierre was miraculously cured of Parkinson’s disease through the intercession of John Paul II.

The following CNS story is dated January 14 but it was not posted until today since CNS does not register any activity at all on weekends...

For many, beatification announcement
confirms long-held sentiment

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (CNS) -- The news of Pope John Paul II's upcoming beatification was welcomed by many as a confirmation of something they already felt from the moment the shouts of "Santo subito!" ("Sainthood now!") reverberated through St. Peter's Square at the Pontiff's funeral.

Many in the crowd were young people who had a special affinity to Pope John Paul, whose pontificate started and ended with a special greeting to young people. During his installation ceremony in 1978, the newly named Pope told young people: "You are the future of the world, you are the hope of the church, you are my hope."

And his last words, reportedly delivered hours before his death, were also to youths, in response to the thousands of young people praying and singing in St. Peter's Square.

"I sought you and now you have come to me. ... I thank you," said the Pontiff, who died April 2, 2005 at age 84.

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, founder and CEO of Canada's Salt and Light Television, said it was no coincidence that he heard the news of the Pontiff's beatification while attending a meeting in Spain for the upcoming World Youth Day.

"A thunderous, sustained, standing ovation followed the announcement," he said in a Jan. 14 statement.

The priest, national director for World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, said the date for the beatification, May 1, is also no coincidence. Not only is it Divine Mercy Sunday, but it is also the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, known as "May Day" on secular calendars.

"Communists and socialists around the world commemorate May Day with marches, speeches and festivals," he said, adding that it was fitting that "the man who was a unique instrument and messenger in bringing down the Iron Curtain and the deadly reign of communism and godlessness will be declared blessed" that day.

Father Rosica said the announcement is "the formal confirmation of what many of us always knew as we experienced the Holy Father in action throughout his pontificate" particularly among youths, noting that one of the Pope's gifts to the Church was his establishment of World Youth Day.

Tim Massie, the chief public affairs officer and adjunct professor of communication and religious studies at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., called the news of Pope John Paul II's upcoming beatification a "morale boost" especially for Catholics in the United States "where sex abuse scandals, financial crises and disagreements with church hierarchy have dramatically affected parishes, dioceses and the faithful in the pews."

Because of the Pope's extensive travels in the United States, he said, "there are literally millions of people who were touched by his charisma and holiness."

The Pope visited the United States seven times and in each visit urged Catholics to use their freedom responsibly and to preserve the sacredness and value of human life.

In an e-mail to Catholic News Service, Massie said the "general public already considers John Paul II a saint and those who saw him, listened to him, prayed with him, already believed they met a saint -- not a future saint, but someone who, like Mother Teresa, lived out the Gospel message in his everyday life."

Michele Dillon, who chairs the department of sociology at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, said she believes most American Catholics will welcome John Paul II's beatification.

She described him as the "first cosmopolitan pope for a cosmopolitan age, and his warm, energetic, and telegenic personality served him well on his many trips to all parts of the globe."

Dillon remarked that it would "be interesting to see whether his beatification, at this time of uncertain commitment among the faithful, will reignite a new spark of Church engagement especially among the generation who as teenagers turned out in force" for World Youth Day events.

Dennis Doyle, University of Dayton religious studies professor, noted that many U.S. Catholics didn't understand the Pope and wondered how he "could be liberal on social issues but yet so conservative on church issues. He was consistent in a way that was difficult for some people in the U.S. to understand."

"But ultimately, he is being beatified because he was loved throughout the world and is recognized iconically as a holy person," he added.

Tony Melendez, the armless guitarist whose embrace by Pope John Paul electrified an audience during the Pope's 1987 visit to Los Angeles, said he had always considered his encounters with the Pontiff "like I got to meet a living saint."

Melendez, in a phone interview with CNS while en route to his Missouri home, said he got to see Pope John Paul six more times, including a private audience at the Vatican about a year and a half after the 1987 U.S. pastoral visit.

"He remembered me," Melendez remarked. "And he said, 'Oh! My friend from Los Angeles!' without me saying anything. He hugged my head after I was (done) playing a song. ... To me, he was a wonderful man who did great things."

Told of the May 1 beatification date, Melendez said, "If I can be there, I want to go. I'll make some time to go. He was a living saint, in my heart."

Vatican officials and Catholics
on the street talk about John Paul II

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 14 (CNS) -- Vatican officials, Catholic leaders around the world and ordinary people on the streets and in St. Peter's Square were more pleased than surprised by news that Pope John Paul II will be beatified May 1.

Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, retired prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, said, "finally" more than once during a brief conversation Jan. 14 just minutes after Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree recognizing the miracle needed to beatify Pope John Paul.

"This is what the whole world was waiting for," said Cardinal Saraiva Martins, who was the head of the saints congregation when Pope John Paul died and when his sainthood cause was opened.

"I can't help being happy. This is the crowning moment of a work I began," he said.

The cardinal said the written work of Pope John Paul is so vast and the time before his beatification so short that the best "spiritual preparation" Catholics could make would be to "thank God for Pope John Paul's example of holiness and recommit ourselves to follow his example."

Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, said Pope John Paul's upcoming beatification is a "call to each of us to emulate his personal holiness."

Anderson, who stood in St. Peter's Square on the day of Pope John Paul's funeral as many shouted "Santo subito!" ("Sainthood now!"), said there were many who were ready to have him beatified that very day.

In an e-mail to Catholic News Service, Anderson called the upcoming beatification a great opportunity for the world to focus on the Pope's message of human dignity.

"He led by example, caring for the poor, the intellectually and physically disabled, the unborn, the oppressed. He forgave those who did him harm, and he broke down barriers. He had great respect even for those who differed with him religiously. In short, Pope John Paul is a model the world needs," he said.

Anderson said the beatification is not a recognition of the Pope's "successful papacy or a thank-you for his good work" but a call for each person to "imitate the holiness, the love of God and neighbor that this man exhibited throughout his life."

Jim Nicholson, a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, who also attended Pope John Paul's funeral, said the vast crowd that day was a testament to the Pope's exceptional qualities "of leadership and hope."

In a phone call from his Washington law office, Nicholson told CNS he was "extremely pleased" for the Pontiff, whom he frequently described as a "hope-filled freedom fighter." During his 2001-2005 role as ambassador, he got to know Pope John Paul pontiff personally and said he greatly admired his "adherence to hope, faith and prayer, coupled with courage and clever actions."

Jim Young, a Presbyterian from Ohio, was in St. Peter's Square when the beatification announcement was made. He said his only real reaction was that he'd better make sure he found some Pope John Paul souvenirs because "I'm related to a bunch of Polish Catholics who were already convinced he's a saint."

Giovanni Caponi, one of the souvenir-sellers who has a stand on the boulevard leading to St. Peter's Square, said the news will be good for business.

From a sales point of view, "John Paul is our most popular figure. No one greater exists. He's No. 1," said Caponi, who described himself as a nonbeliever.

Kaitlin Benedict, a 21-year-old Catholic from Eden, N.Y., said she thought the decision to beatify Pope John Paul just over six years after his death "is a little fast. I was surprised. Usually these things take decades and now they're just changing up tradition. But if they feel so strongly ...," she said, her voice trailing off.

Brigida Jones, a 26-year-old Australian from Melbourne, said Pope John Paul "was probably one of our best Popes; he was a people's Pope."

The young woman said, "I think he did so much when he was alive, and you'd just see him on television and get this sense of peace -- obviously he was holy."

00Monday, January 17, 2011 8:49 PM
Some reflections on Popes
and their personal holiness, etc

Of course, it is a human tendency to focus on John Paul II at this time because he is being beatified. But comments like those given by the prominent Catholics cited in the CNS stories above would give the impression that John Paul II is the only Pope in recent memory to have been recognized as holy in his lifetime, nor for that matter, the only Pope whose human virtues must be emulated.

It would be nice to for some to remind the world for a change that, of the Popes since the mid-19th century, Pius X has been canonized; Pius IX, Pius XI and John XIII have been beatified; and Pius XII, Paul VI and John Paul I are being 'processed' for beatification (it has been reported that a 'beatification miracle' is under study for both Pius XXII and John Paul I).

I feel bad about Leo XIII and Benedict XV who appear to have been left off from consideration, but I have no doubt both Popes could well be considered if their respective dioceses took the initiative.

And of course, the most obviously overlooked in all this is the present Pope himself, whose personal holiness is not questioned even by those among his worst critics who are well-informed, and who - I think no one would dispute it - is a living Doctor of the Church. Most importantly, he is the one individual who sets the example of shining Christian witness daily and publicly to the entire world.

I am not arguing that Popes should automatically be considered for sainthood. Popes have not always been inspirational figures, as history tells us abundantly. But the Church does appear to be blessed in the era of the modern papacy with Popes whose election may well have been the action of the Holy Spirit, each of whom was inspirational in his time.

Perhaps the Conclaves that elected each of the modern Popes were enlightened in their choice by the demands of the times when they made their choice, so that each historical period somehow got the right Pope. But certainly no one has characterized any of the modern Popes as rascals.

In fact, even the Popes who have been most anathematized by their detractors for misunderstood episodes - Pius IX with his denunciation of modern errors; Pius X who was such a champion of Tradition that the FSSPX is named after him; Pius XII with respect to the Holocaust; Paul VI and his perceived ambivalences over Vatican II, and Papa Wojtyla himself, whose record is considered by some to be 'clouded' by the shadow of the sex-abuse scandals and his friendship with Father Maciel - are faulted for not being 'perfect', not for being unholy.

Some have argued that Popes should not be considered for sainthood at all because they enjoy an unfair advantage over 'lesser mortals'. That seems so illogical, because by definition, the spiritual leader of the Church - officially the Vicar of Christ on earth - should be more worthy than any other priest to be the Vicar of Christ, and their election would seem to be proof that their peers in the Church thought so, as well. In this light, every Pope should be a candidate for sainthood! And if the individual Pope is indeed a holy man, why should he be discriminated against?

The argument that Popes have an unfair advantage is equally fallacious - there are so few of them as to make a difference. Cardinal Amato says that the Congregation of Saints has about 3,000 causes pending. Of those, we are aware of six modern Popes.

The best argument, of course, is to cite the hundreds of humble folk - priests, religious and laymen - whom the Church has beatified and canonized in the past several decades, to limit ourselves to recent memory. The Church is not responsible for the miracles that lead to the beatification and canonization of candidate saints nor for the timing of these miracles, which for the most part, determine the fate and timing of each individual cause.

The whole Church celebrates, or should, whenever any one candidate for sainthood - whether he was a great Pope as Karol Wojtyla was, or a dying Roman teenager like Chiara Badano who inspired those around her with the luminous strength of her faith - hurdles the formal requirement for a 'certified' miracle, because new blesseds and saints are not just examples of Christian witness as Christ wants each of us to be, but because the miracles associated with them - events that are inexplicably by science - are extraordinary signs of God that are visible and tangible to a world where many people deny the existence of God.

00Tuesday, January 18, 2011 4:33 PM

French nun says late Pope
gave her a 'second birth'

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France. January 18 (Reuters) - The French Catholic nun who credits the late Pope John Paul with curing her of Parkinson's disease said on Monday her sudden recovery came just as she was about to quit working because of her ailment.

Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, 49, said she woke up in June 2005, two months after the Polish-born pope had died, suddenly cured of the disease she had suffered from for four years.

John Paul's successor, Pope Benedict, approved a decree last Friday declaring her healing a miracle and attributing it to the late pontiff, clearing the way for him to be beatified on May 1.

"When I woke up, I felt I was not the same," Sister Marie told a news conference at the bishop's office in this southern French city. "There was no more heaviness in my muscles, I could move normally. For me it was a new birth, a second birth."

Her superior said the nun had told her the previous evening that she could no longer work in their order's maternity clinic because of her worsening health.

"I asked her to take a pencil and write John Paul's name," Mother Marie Thomas told journalists. "I saw the writing was very messy and illegible. I said to myself there was nothing left to do but hope."

Church-appointed doctors concluded that there was no medical explanation for the healing, although last year there were some doubts about the validity of the miracle.

A further miracle occurring after the beatification ceremony -- which confers the title "Blessed" on John Paul -- must be approved before he can be made a saint.

The beatification ceremony in St Peter's Square is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people, harkening back to the funeral of the charismatic pope in 2005. Sister Marie said she hoped she could attend the event.

"Since my healing, many requests for prayers have come in from many countries," the nun said. "To all these ill people, I'd like to say they must not give up. At the end of the tunnel, there is always a little light."

Crowds at John Paul's funeral on April 8, 2005 chanted "Santo subito!" ("Make him a saint right now!"). A month after his death, Benedict put him on the fast track by dispensing with a Church rule for a five-year wait after a candidate's death before the procedure that leads to sainthood can start.

The period between John Paul's death and beatification is believed to be the shortest in modern Church history.

Pope John Paul II's blood
to be a relic in Krakow church

CARCOW, Poland, Jan. 18 (AFP) - A vial containing blood drawn from Pope John Paul II shortly before he died will be installed as a relic in a Polish church soon after his beatification later this year, an official says.

Piotr Sionko, the spokesman for the John Paul II Centre, said the vial will be encased in crystal and built into the altar of a church in the southern city of Krakow that is opening in May.

The exact date of the opening is not yet known, but it should be shortly after John Paul's beatification at the Vatican on May 1.

Sionko said the idea came from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of Krakow and the longtime friend and secretary of the late Polish-born pontiff.

The blood was drawn for medical tests at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic shortly before John Paul's death on April 2, 2005, and is now in Cardinal Dziwisz's possession, he said.

"It was the cardinal's proposal," Mr Sionko said. "He is of the opinion that this is the most precious relic of John Paul II and should be the focal point of the church."

The church in the Lagiewniki district is part of a centre that will be devoted to cultivating the memory and the teaching of the late pope - who was born Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, southern Poland, and spent decades in Krakow.

Many Catholics in the world are rejoicing over Pope Benedict XVI's announcement last week that he will beatify John Paul on May 1.

The announcement came after a French nun miraculously recovered from Parkinson's disease.

Marie Simon-Pierre was diagnosed with degenerative Parkinson's disease in 2001.

After the death of John Paul II, who also suffered from Parkinson's, her condition quickly deteriorated, and her community began praying for the late pope's intercession to cure her.

The 49-year old recovered overnight in June 2005, two months after the pope's death, an event that doctors could not explain.

"On June 7 I met with my neurologist and when he saw my way of moving, he asked me if I had doubled my dosage of dopamine. I told him, 'No, I stopped everything,'" Simon-Pierre recalled.

"Why me? It remains a great mystery. There are, without a doubt, people, children, who are more sick than myself. I can't answer you. We are in the hands of life."

One miracle is required for beatification and a second one is needed for sainthood.

The process of validating his second miracle cannot begin before John Paul II is beatified. But speculation over which miracle will be chosen has already begun.

In April 2009, sources in Poland and in the United States spoke of two possibilities, one involving a wheelchair-bound Polish boy who walked after praying at John Paul II's tomb ,and the other an American who recovered from a serious head wound after he was given a rosary blessed by the pope.

The idea of displaying the Pope's relics has met with some reservations, even inside the Catholic Church.

"The tradition of relics comes from medieval practices of teaching the Bible through images and symbols," said the Rev. Krzysztof Madel, a Jesuit priest in Nowy Sacz who has publicly questioned the usefulness of displaying John Paul's blood.

"But in today's rationalised world the message should rather come through teaching about someone's life."

After John Paul's death, some Polish officials said they hoped John Paul's heart would be removed from his body and returned to his homeland for burial.

However, Church officials dismissed any possibility of dismembering the body, saying the age had passed for that practice.

Dziwisz said on Friday that he has always been against dividing of the body, but that "relics have always existed and will always exist".

[I would have imagined that Mons. Dsiwisz at the time would have kept some of the late Pope's hair from haircuts, as the most convenient way to keep a 'body part' of a potential saint. I wonder what Gemelli has done with any untested blood samples of the late Pope - it is standard practice in medical labs to keep frozen aliquots (small portions) of untested blood from specific dates and times even with 'ordinary patients' for a certain period of time, for possible future re-testing such as, for instance, to check out some results.]

00Thursday, January 20, 2011 9:51 PM

At the beginning of the year, AsiaNews reported the visit of the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople (See report on preceding page of this thread) and noted:

Arinc's visit assumes special significance because it occurs one month after the legal recognition of the Ecumenical Patriarchate by Turkish authorities with the restitution of the deeds of property of the Buyukada orphanage.

The interpretation was wrong, in view of this report from the English edition of a leading Turkish newspaper:

Turkish government: It has not given
legal status to the Ecumenical Patriarchate
but is seeking a 'delicate balance'
on Patriarch Bartholomew's rights

by Emine Kart

19 January 2011

ANKARA - Voicing determination to expand the rights and freedoms of non-Muslim communities in Turkey, including Orthodox Christians, a senior Cabinet minister has made it clear that such willingness does not mean Ankara recognizes the legal personality of the İstanbul-based Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. [If the Turkish government will not grant legal status to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, that means it won't do that for the Catholic Church in Turkey either.]

“The institution represented by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew does not have a legal personality under current Turkish law. They don't have a legal personality, but they exist,” Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said on Monday, echoing Ankara's argument that Turkey doesn't consider the patriarchate to be ecumenical, in line with the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which governs the status of the Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey.

Ankara rejects Patriarch Bartholomew's use of the title “ecumenical,” or universal, arguing instead that the Patriarch is merely the spiritual leader of İstanbul's dwindling Greek Orthodox community.

The Greek Patriarchate in İstanbul dates back to the 1,100-year-old Byzantine Empire, which collapsed when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453.

“We are seeking an arrangement that recognizes the existence of the Patriarchate but doesn’t offer a legal personality to it, in line with the Lausanne Treaty and our laws,” Arınç said, as he visited the Ankara bureau of Today’s Zaman to join a modest celebration on the fourth anniversary of the establishment of the newspaper.

Arınç underlined that the same was valid for Roman Catholics living in Turkey as well. “For now, it is not possible for us to meet the Vatican’s demands for a legal personality for the Catholic Church in Turkey,” Arınç said. [There we are!]

Turkish authorities say that the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, the main agreement regulating minorities in Turkey, recognized only Jews, Armenians and Greek Orthodox communities as minorities, meaning many others, including Roman Catholics, Syriacs and Protestants, were left out.

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI said, “The Catholic Church in Turkey is waiting for civil juridical recognition,” noting that this would help the Turkish Catholic community “to enjoy full religious freedom and make an even greater contribution to society.”

Arinc with Patriarch Bartholomew at the Fanar last January 3.
In early January, Arınç became the highest-level Turkish official to visit the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in more than half a century, symbolizing the government’s pledges to address the problems of religious minorities and strengthen the country’s bid for European Union membership.

Turkey for decades has ignored demands from the patriarchate due to mistrust stemming from their rivalry with Greece. But Arınç’s visit coincided with government promises to consider reopening a seminary that trained generations of ecumenical patriarchs and return property that the state confiscated from Christian and Jewish minority foundations. In November, Turkey complied with a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling, returning a 19th-century orphanage to the patriarchate.

“We have to dispose of fears, delusions and prejudices. What matters is that different faith groups in Turkey should be able to live freely and peacefully and that their justified demands should be met. This is the approach and the decision of the AK Party [the ruling Justice and Development Party], even if some politicians find such an approach dangerous,” Arınç said. “We will do whatever is ordered by law. Furthermore, we will make the necessary arrangements if some laws are insufficient for meeting these demands because what matters are rights, and we are very careful about that,” he added.

Arınç also reiterated that the government is trying to overcome legal obstacles that stand in the way of reopening the Halki (Heybeliada) Seminary, which has been closed since 1971.

The Halki Seminary, the only school where the Greek minority in Turkey was able to educate its clergymen, was closed in 1971 during a period of tension with Greece over Cyprus and a crackdown on religious education, which also included Muslim religious schools.

The total number of graduates from the school is 990, and some of them have become clergymen in various places in Turkey and even in Athens. The school has been maintained by the functioning monastery on its premises.

00Saturday, January 22, 2011 8:25 AM

I must admit I was schoked and unprepared for the recent Vatican decision to reject a request made by the Japanese bishops conference to suspend the activities of tne Neocatechumenal Way in Japan for at least five years, even if it was also decided that the Holy Father rwould send a personal delegate to look into the movement's activities and its frictions with the local dicoeses that are hosting their 'missionary work'. The Neocats' history in Japan has already been marked by the closing down of their seminary in Japan a few years back - a step that indicates the seriousness of the problems they have with their local hosts, not just in Japan but in other places.

To upset the Japanese, who are known for their innate courtesy and deference as a people, to the extent that the bishops' conference asked to suspend the Neocats' activities for five years, is quite remarkable! One Japanese bishop has made it clear, however, that the complaining bishops were also told by the Vatican to do as they think best within their respective dioceses. Which I believe is as it should be.

But as this part was not reported in the news that came from the Vatican, it looked very much like the Holy Father himself had taken the side of the Neocats against the Japanese bishops. I personally find the 'privileges' allowed by the Vatican to the Neocats incomprehensible. Why should a movement be allowed to have its own catechism, its own communion ritual and Saturday evening mass instead of Sunday Mass? Allowing them to bring these 'privileges' to their host dioceses around the world cannot be conducive to lcaol Catholic discipline.

Japanese bishop suspends Neocat work
in his diocese until papal envoy
completes his visit

TOKYO, Jan. 20 (UCAN) - Bishop Osamu Mizobe of Takamatsu today issued a New Year pastoral letter titled “The Neocatechumenal Way” that described a visit by Japanese bishops to Rome to discuss problems that have arisen in connection with that movement in Japan.

The bishop announced that, “until we have received the visit of the special Envoy of the Holy Father all activities of the Neocatechumenal Way will be suspended in this diocese.”

Bishop Mizobe says that until now he has tried to deal with the problem of the Neocatechumenal Way in the Church in Japan “as quietly as possible,” hoping for “self-discipline.”

On Dec. 13, Bishop Mizobe was among four Japanese bishops who discussed their concerns about the Way with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. In his message, the bishop says that, contrary to what they had been led to expect, the Japanese bishops found that joining the Pope at the table were Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, five other cardinals, and one archbishop.

The Diocese of Takamatsu has been the focus of Japanese bishops’ problems with the Neocatechumenal Way for decades, especially since a diocesan seminary affiliated with the Way, Redemptoris Mater, was opened in 1990.

Salesian Bishop Mizobe, formerly bishop of Sendai, was installed as bishop of Takamatsu in July 2004. Takamatsu diocese is home to nearly 5,000 Catholics.

Below is the text of Bishop Mizobe’s New Year pastoral letter, in an English translation provided by the bishop:

To the Clergy, Religious and Faithful of the Diocese of Takamatsu:

At the beginning of this New Year I send you greetings. I pray that this year you will journey with me, your Bishop, to bring about “Rebirth and Unity” in our diocese.

Last year on December 13, 2010, having received a message from the Vatican Secretariat of State that they wished to have a discussion regarding the Neocatechumenal Way, I went to Rome with three other Bishops from Japan. We presumed that we would meet around a table with the Holy Father, Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, and Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Dias.

When we arrived at our hotel, however, we were advised that the place and time of our meeting had been changed and that the Holy Father, five Cardinals and one Archbishop (Undersecretary of the Secretariat of State) would be in attendance. To our surprise Bishop Hirayama was also included in the meeting, which proceeded with the aid of simultaneous translation. I will not go into detail about the contents of the meeting.

In the January 2 and January 16, 2011 editions of the Catholic Newspaper of Japan there is an article regarding the meeting and there is also concrete information in Catholic channels on the internet about the content of the meeting.

At the end of the year and at the beginning of this year many of the clergy and Christian people of the diocese asked for a report of the meeting in Rome. I was asked what the future policy of the Diocese of Takamatsu would be regarding the Neocatechumenal Way.

I also received the painful admonition that maintaining the position of “not knowing, not being told” would not be admissible. On the internet both in Japan and internationally, the fact that the Bishops of Japan were called to Rome has been widely reported.

You can read on the Internet that the Archdiocese of Clifton in England forbade all activities of the “Way” and that the Bishops’ Conference of Palestine has published a document asking the Neocatechumenal Way to practice self-control in their activities.

Recently the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan in the Philippines announced that an inspection of the Neocatechumenal Way in the archdiocese would be carried out. Comments in Italian, Spanish and English regarding articles about the “Way” are readily available on the internet.

What such articles tell us clearly is that problems with the Neocatechumenal Way are not exclusive to the Diocese of Takamatsu and the Church in Japan. The whole world is paying attention to the Church in Japan. Because of the seriousness of this issue, I made the decision to report clearly to you what has taken place and to explain to you the policy of our diocese.

After returning from Rome, the papal nuncio asked to have a meeting with us on December 23. Archbishop Okada of Tokyo and three Bishops attended the meeting. We were told that there was a strong possibility that a special envoy of the Holy Father would be sent to Japan. Until that time, however, with regard to the activities of the “Way”, it was agreed that each Bishop is free to proceed as he sees fit for his diocese.

At the meeting in Rome the four Bishops from Japan emphasized that this problem is concerned with the disciplinary laws of the diocese and as such is under the jurisdiction of the local ordinary. We emphasized that the fact that the Neocatechumenal Way has been approved by Rome does not automatically imply that a local diocese must accept them.

We also emphasized the fact that the person who understands the situation of the local church best is its Bishop and that any decisions made in Rome should begin with a discussion with the local ordinaries. The opinions of the Cardinals in attendance were diverse, and the meeting was simply an expression of the opinion of each person present rather than a discussion.

It was clear that the fact that the Bishops’ Conference of Japan made the decision to suspend the activities of the Neocatechumenal “Way” is a big problem for the Vatican. It was necessary, therefore, to think of a plan of action. In this regard the Holy Father stated that he would think positively about sending a special envoy of the Holy Father to Japan.

The special envoy from the Vatican will surely come to our diocese. If we look at the reverse side of the decision that it is necessary to send a special envoy, we realize how wide the fissure in our diocese is. Besides, this is the second time such an envoy has come. In 2003 Cardinal Kim from Korea was sent as a special envoy to our diocese and after his visit he compiled a detailed report.

In that report he analyzed the situation in the diocese and proposed ways to remedy the situation. Cardinal Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said that the envoy will be sent to hear the opinions of the Christian people of the diocese.

Until this time I have tried to deal with the problem of the Neocatechumenal Way as quietly as possible and without making public statements. I was waiting for the members of the Neocatechumenal Way to decide for themselves to use self-discipline in their activities. Now that this problem has become a worldwide issue, however, I cannot wait any longer.

After I came back from Rome I realized that I have an obligation to speak to the people of the diocese. If the people of the diocese do not have information about the situation, when the envoy comes, there is a possibility that they would refuse to speak out or end up affecting ignorance because they had not been informed, and the result would be that the envoy would leave the diocese without a true grasp of the situation.

As Bishop of the Diocese of Takamatsu I have come to the following conclusion regarding the issue of the Neocatechumenal Way. This problem is one that concerns the local Church, namely the Diocese of Takamatsu. It is an issue that can only be settled here in the diocese. The Holy Father and the Prefects of the Congregations agree that this is a problem of the local Church and that it is the Bishop who must settle it.

It is not permissible for any organization or movement to use whatever power they can to stop the Bishop from taking action in his diocese. It is important for all of us to earnestly and seriously face the events that have occurred in our diocese for the past 20 years and are still happening.

This is not the time to devote oneself only to the interests of one’s group but rather a time to think of ways that one can be of service to the diocese. In our diocese, gathered around our Bishop. we are standing at an important turning point in the road towards true “Rebirth and Unity”.

The conclusion I have come to is that, until we have received the results of the visit of the special envoy of the Holy Father, I ask you to suspend all activities of the Neocatechumenal Way in the diocese. This decision has been approved by both the Presbytery Council and the Pastoral Council of the diocese. It is not a decision that means that dialogue has ended but rather an opportunity for reflection for all of us.

When a process goes amiss it is said that one should always return to the starting point. I believe that NOW is a good time for us to return to the starting point. This decision does not mean that the members of the Neocatechumenal Way are excluded from the diocese. My wish is that we use this time of reflection to make true dialogue possible.

I respect the members of the Neocatechumenal Way and hope that they will take an active part in the activities of the diocese. I wish also that all the people of the diocese play an active role in the three-year process we have begun in order to revitalize our diocese. There is not one person in the diocese that can be exempted from playing a part in this process.

January 20, 2011

Osamu Mizobe
Bishop of the Diocese of Takamatsu

00Saturday, January 29, 2011 1:11 AM

Council of Europe calls
for defense of Christians,
recommends monitoring religious
freedom in member states

STRASBOURG, France, JAN. 27, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) today adopted a Recommendation in 17 points on "Violence against Christians in the Middle East."

The Recommendation and its explanatory memorandum were drafted by Italian Member of Parliament Luca Volontè. It was adopted by 125 votes in favor, with nine voting against and 13 abstentions.

The document notes that Christians have been present in the Middle East since Christianity began there, but that for the last century, the communities have been dwindling.

"The situation has become more serious since the beginning of the 21st century and, if it is not properly addressed, it could lead to the disappearance -- in the short term -- of Christian communities from the Middle East, which would entail the loss of a significant part of the religious heritage of the countries concerned," the council document declares.

The Council of Europe specifically condemned two recent episodes of anti-Christian violence: the Oct. 31 attack on a church in Baghdad, Iraq, and the Jan. 1 bombing of a church in Alexandria, Egypt. It further mentions a Christmas episode in Cyprus.

"[T]he Assembly calls on Turkey to clarify fully the circumstances surrounding the interruption of the celebration of Christmas Mass in the villages of Rizokarpaso and Ayia Triada in the northern part of Cyprus on 25 December 2010 and to bring to justice those responsible," the document states. "The Assembly urges Iraq and Egypt to be transparent and determined in their attempts to bring the culprits of the attacks in Baghdad and in Alexandria to justice as rapidly as possible."

The Recommendation also affirms that "freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, including the freedom to change one’s religion, are universal human rights."

A statement from the European Centre for Law and Justice welcoming the vote noted some Members of the Assembly also observed that negating the role of Christianity in European culture is "also a kind of violence" against Christians.

Referring to anti-Christian persecution by communist regimes and by Islamic fundamentalists, the ECLJ statement asserted that "the secularist ideology also discriminates against religions, at a different level."

In this regard, "Europeans should be consistent," it added.

The center hailed a "list of clear and precise political actions" as the "best achievement of this Recommendation."

These include the call to "develop a permanent capacity to monitor the situation of governmental and societal restrictions on religious freedom and related rights in Council of Europe member states and in states in the Middle East, and report periodically to the assembly" and to "pay increased attention to the subject of freedom of religion or belief and to the situation of religious communities, including Christians, in its co-operation with third countries as well as in human rights reports."

The Recommendation also requests a comprehensive policy of asylum based on religion, and promotion of policies to help relocate Christian refugees in their home countries and support communities offering a local refuge to the Christian minorities of the Middle East.

This Recommendation follows the adoption a week ago of a resolution by the European Parliament. It will be further followed by a discussion within the European Council (Brussels) next Monday, at the initiative of the governments of Italy, Hungary and Poland.

00Saturday, January 29, 2011 2:20 PM

A biography that stresses
John Newman's literary imagination.

Book review by David Michael

January 2011

David J. Michael is the editor of Wunderkammer, a web-based journal of cultural criticism. He is currently pursuing a master's degree at Lund University, Sweden.

James Joyce thought he was England's greatest prose writer. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus described his prose as "cloistral silverveined."

His spiritual autobiography is widely considered the best in the genre since Augustine's Confessions, and George Eliot wrote that it "breathed much life into me."

The Victorian critic Richard Holt Hutton called him "not only one of the greatest English writers, but perhaps the very greatest master … of sarcasm in the English Language."

W. H. Auden marked the beginning of the modern age with his conversion to Catholicism. He wrote the treatise in support of liberal education.

He is arguably the most important thinker of the last two hundred and fifty years in both the Anglican and Catholic churches.

One would think that John Henry Newman's reputation as a man of letters would be more than well-established.

But perhaps because of Newman's particular blend of the literary and the theological, he may also be England's greatest unread prose writer, at least among current undergraduates and students of literature. This was not always the case.

Fifty years ago, Martin Svaglic remarked in his introduction to The Idea of a University, "There must be few American collegians, surely, who do not, thanks to their freshman readers or their literature survey books," recognize some of Newman's ideas, however "hazily."

Yet when I asked my peers in my graduate program in literature and cultural studies how many of them had read Newman, none of them answered in the affirmative. In fact, none of them had even heard of him.

It is Newman's reputation as a man of letters that John Cornwell seeks to cement in Newman's Unquiet Grave. Though Newman's beatification in September by Benedict XVI has spawned a small industry of accounts of Newman's holiness, Cornwell's subject is Newman's literary imagination.

He writes that his "overarching purpose is to show that Newman's unrelenting literary obsession was the story of his own life: he was the ultimate, self-absorbed autobiographer."

One of the marks of an active literary imagination is a marked inwardness, bordering on solipsism. Cornwell suggests that Newman was characterized by such inwardness from a young age.

He was raised in a comfortably religious, middle-class family in London in the early 1800s. By fourteen, he had read Paine's Tracts against the Old Testament, Hume, and Voltaire's denial of the immortality of the soul, after the latter of which he recollected "saying something to myself like 'How dreadful, but how plausible!' "

In 1816, under the influence of his schoolmaster, Newman converted to a dogmatic evangelical Christianity. In his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, he writes that at this time he rested in the "thought of two and two only absolute and luminously self-evident beings, myself and my Creator."

In 1817, Newman set off to Trinity College, Oxford, where he would gradually drop Calvinist evangelicalism in favor of Anglicanism. It was also at Oxford that Newman was to develop his prodigious talents and astounding work ethic. (He recorded having once written for 22 hours straight while working on his Apologia.)

Cornwell dubs Newman a "superabundant literary workaholic." While preparing to take his honors examination, he sometimes read fourteen hours a day. He may have studied too hard for his examinations, failing mathematics and taking a lower second-class honors in classics. But he rebounded in 1822, winning a fellowship at Oriel, at the time Oxford's most intellectually prestigious college.

Newman was constantly sorting his letters, organizing and reorganizing, essentially creating the story of his life. He once wrote, "It has ever been a hobby of mine (unless it be a truism, not a hobby) that a man's life lies in his letters." If this is the case, Newman lived a richer life than most; there are 20,000 extant letters.

As Ian Kerr points out in his hefty biography of Newman, with so much of information the difficulty becomes what to include.

Newman's Unquiet Grave traces Newman's inwardness, developing literary style, and prolific output through the rest of his life. Readers gain an intimate portrait of his years as a tutor, his involvement in the Oxford Movement, his prolonged and tortured conversion to Catholicism in 1845, and his many years as an Oratorian priest, with Cornwell telling the story of Newman's life through his works.

Cornwell nimbly shifts from critiquing Newman's poetry in his chapter on Newman's book-length poem The Dream of Gerontius to introducing the concepts of notional and real assent in a chapter on The Grammar of Assent.

All the while, Cornwell mostly lives up to his goal of writing a "shorter, less academic account" of Newman's life — Ian Kerr's epic Oxford Lives biography runs to more than 700 pages — though it seems inevitable that any book on a theologian's literary imagination will smack of a certain specialization.

Cornwell's project is a worthy one, and as a prize-winning journalist and former Catholic seminarian he has the credentials for the undertaking. But at times, his vision may be too narrow; the biography focuses on Newman's imagination and writing to the neglect of properly framing the intellectual and religious milieu of the age, which would have proven helpful for emphasizing not only how controversial Newman was but also how influential.

Further, the book suffers from intermittent sensationalism. The unfortunate cover seems to have been designed with the customers of airport bookstores in mind. The back of the jacket asks forebodingly, "But was Newman a 'Saint'?" The subtitle of Cornwell's biography — "The Reluctant Saint" — promises a tell-all, nigh-on scandalous biography, and indeed the book opens with an account of the 2008 unearthing of Newman's grave in an attempted search for relics.

No remains were found. Newman had instructed his grave to be filled with compost to expedite his decomposition. But it was brought to the media's attention that Newman was buried in the same grave as his closest friend and fellow friar, Ambrose St. John. Rumors of Newman's homosexuality abounded.

Cornwell handily refutes those allegations, but the amount of time he spends on them and on the subject of Newman's femininity may be overkill. Cornwell's account of the exhumation ends forebodingly: "On the day of the exhumation the graveyard was guarded by members of the local constabulary lest Gay Rights demonstrators should intrude upon the scene to cause an affray. No such insult occurred."

These touches of tabloid style seem rather odd juxtaposed with an explication of Newman's influence on Joyce, giving the book a slightly split personality.

Perhaps Newman was something of a reluctant saint, though. He once wrote, "I have no tendency to be a saint — it is a sad thing to say so. Saints are not literary men."

Cornwell wonders if Newman was being modest, or if he feared the "ossifying travesty" his beatification and likely canonization "would make of his life and contribution."

But Cornwell himself fears Newman's beatification, much more than readers would be led to believe by the last chapter on his legacy and the skeptical but charitable epilogue on the miracle that enabled Newman's beatification.

In early September, Cornwell published a vitriolic article in the Financial Times accusing Benedict of hijacking Newman's identity and remolding it to fit the Pope's conservative agenda: "Addressing the bishops of England and Wales in Rome this February, he declared that Newman was an example to the world of opposition to 'dissent.' It was like saying that Churchill had been a Trotskyite all along."

The concern, for Cornwell, is whether the Church will stifle the dialectical nature of Newman's work — his ability to always see both sides — which has always been "source of inspiration to Catholic liberals." [If so, Cornwell is willfully ignoring Benedict xVI's universally acknowledged trait, as a genuine intellectual, of listening to both sides!]

Debates about Newman's identity are nothing new. Indeed, he penned his Apologia to defend himself against charges of untruthfulness, to maintain that he was not a closeted Catholic while at the helm of the Oxford Movement.

Only time will tell if Newman's beatification will have a stultifying effect on his life and legacy. It is unlikely; the power of Newman's intellect rendered through his beautiful prose style will continue to speak to readers for generations to come.

If nothing else, it seems to this reader that the Catholic Church will ensure the legacy of John Henry Newman more ably than our English departments and literary journalists.

00Monday, January 31, 2011 12:51 AM

The following is a rather oversimplified layman's account of what's happening in the world's first Ordinariate for converted Anglicans...

Anglicans fear more
'defections' at Lent

by Tadhg Enright

January 30, 2011

Hundreds of disillusioned Anglicans are expected to defect to the Roman Catholic Church in time for Lent.

It follows a campaign by Father Keith Newton to leave the Church of England in protest at its stance on the ordination of women and gay clergy.

Fr Newton has encouraged Anglicans to join the Ordinariate - a special branch of Catholicism established by the Pope - to welcome protestant defectors. He was named the first Ordinary or bishop in charge of the Ordinariate named for our Lady of Walsingham.

The Ordinariate is a special structure established by Pope Benedict to welcome the disillusioned Anglicans.

The efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury have not been enough to stop hundreds of Anglo-Catholics making the split that he had hoped to avoid.

In mid-January it got off the ground with the conversion of three Anglican bishops who are now bringing others on board.

The Church of England says that 1,000 of its 13,000 parishes are opposed to the ordination of women.

At St. Barnabas church in Tunbridge Wells, the parish priest says that a majority of his parishioners want to defect - and he's considering going too.

Father Ed Tomlinson believes that traditionalists who oppose the ordination of women have been badly let down by Church leaders.

Yet the priest has been told by the diocese of Rochester that if he and his followers leave they will no longer be allowed to hold services, even on a shared basis, at St Barnabas - a nineteenth-century red-brick church where First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon was baptised.

The firm stance has infuriated Fr Tomlinson, the vicar since 2006. "The whole thing stinks to high heaven," he said.

"The Archdeacon made it abundantly clear that he does not want to entertain the notion of shared worship space and that he would resist my remaining here in any capacity."

The Ordinariate talks of recruiting members in waves with the first beginning training at Lent and they hope many more will follow.

"A little acorn it may have been at the moment, it could grow into a mighty oak," one local church-goer said. "Was this the thing that started to undo the Reformation?"
00Wednesday, February 9, 2011 8:01 PM
Crunching the numbers:
There are 2.3 billion Christians today,
including 1.2 billion Catholics,
compared to 1.6 billion Muslims

by George Weigel

Feb 9, 2011

For 27 years, the International Bulletin of Missionary Research has published an annual “Status of Global Mission” report, which attempts to quantify the world Christian reality, comparing Christianity’s circumstances to those of other faiths, and assaying how Christianity’s various expressions are faring when measured against the recent (and not-so-recent) past. The report is unfailingly interesting, sometimes jarring, and occasionally provocative.

The provocation in the 2011 report involves martyrdom. For purposes of research, the report defines “martyrs” as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives, prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.”

The report estimates that there were, on average, 270 new Christian martyrs every 24 hours over the past decade, such that “the number of martyrs [in the period 2000-2010] was approximately 1 million.” Compare this to an estimated 34,000 Christian martyrs in 1900.

As for the interesting, try the aggregate numbers. According to the report, there will be, by mid-2011, 2,306,609,000 Christians of all kinds in the world, representing 33 percent of world population—a slight percentage rise from mid-2000 (32.7 percent), but a slight percentage drop since 1900 (34.5 percent).

Of those 2.3 billion Christians, some 1.5 billion are regular church attendees, who worship in 5,171,000 congregations or “worship centers,” up from 400,000 in 1900 and 3.5 million in 2000.

These 2.3 billion Christians can be divided into six “ecclesiastical megablocks”: 1,160,880,000 Catholics; 426,450,000 Protestants; 271,316,000 Orthodox; 87,520,000 Anglicans; 378,281,000 “Independents” (i.e., those separated from or unaffiliated with historic denominational Christianity); and 35,539,000 “marginal Christians” (i.e., those professing off-brand Trinitarian theology, dubious Christology, or a supplementary written revelation beyond the Bible).

Compared to the world’s 2.3 billion Christians, there are 1.6 billion Muslims, 951 million Hindus, 468 million Buddhists, 458 million Chinese folk-religionists, and 137 million atheists, whose numbers have actually dropped over the past decade, despite the caterwauling of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Co.

One cluster of comparative growth statistics is striking: As of mid-2011, there will be an average of 80,000 new Christians per day (of whom 31,000 will be Catholics) and 79,000 new Muslims per day, but 300 fewer atheists every 24 hours.

Africa has been the most stunning area of Christian growth over the past century. There were 8.7 million African Christians in 1900 (primarily in Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa); there are 475 million African Christians today and their numbers are projected to reach 670 million by 2025.

Another astonishing growth spurt, measured typologically, has been among Pentecostals and charismatics: 981,000 in 1900; 612,472,000 in 2011, with an average of 37,000 new adherents every day — the fastest growth in two millennia of Christian history.

As for the quest for Christian unity: There were 1,600 Christian denominations in 1900; there were 18,800 in 1970; and there are 42,000 today.

Other impressive numbers:
- $545 billion is given to Christian causes annually, which comes out to $1.5 billion per day.
- There are some 600 million computers in Christian use, up from 1,000 in 1970.
- 71,425,000 Bibles will be distributed this year, and some 2 billion people will tune in at least once a month to Christian radio or television.
- 7.1 million books about Christianity will be published this year, compared to 1.8 million in 1970.

The big lesson of the 2011 Status of Global Mission report can be borrowed from Mark Twain’s famous crack about his alleged death: Reports of Christianity’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Christianity may be waning in Western Europe, but it’s on an impressive growth curve in other parts of the world, including that toughest of regions for Christian evangelism, Asia.

Indeed, the continuing growth of Christianity as compared to the decline of atheism (in absolute numbers, and considering atheists as a percentage of total world population) suggests the possibility that the vitriolic character of the New Atheism — displayed in all its crudity prior to Pope Benedict’s September 2010 visit to Great Britain — may have something to do with the shrewder atheists’ fear that they’re losing, and the clock is running.

That’s something you’re unlikely to hear reported in the mainstream media. The numbers are there, however, and the numbers are suggestive.

00Friday, February 11, 2011 4:33 PM

John Allen reacted to the resignation of Cardinal Lubomyr Husar as Major Archbishop of the Uktrainian Greek Catholic Church with a very informative article which places Husar's career in the context of the complex history of Catholicism in the Uktraine.

End of an era in the Ukraine
by John L Allen Jr

Feb. 10, 2011

Today marks the end of an era for the Eastern Catholic churches in union with Rome, as the best-known Eastern Catholic leader in the West is stepping off the stage.

The Vatican announced this morning that Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, who turns 78 later this month, has resigned as the leader of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine. The church will shortly organize a synod of its bishops to elect a successor.

Technically, the Vatican recognized Husar as the “Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyč,” but the world's six to ten million Greek Catholics, both in Ukraine and in immigrant communities elsewhere, have regarded him for the last decade as their “Patriarch.”

Born in Ukraine in 1933, Husar fled with his parents to the United States in 1944, during the chaos of the Second World War and the rise of a Soviet regime that would drive the Greek Catholic Church underground and imprison most of its leadership.

He studied at Catholic University and Fordham, and was ordained into the Ukranian Catholic eparchy of the United States. (Husar also became an American citizen, which made him a sort of honorary American cardinal after John Paul II gave him the red hat in February 2001.)

In 1973 Husar joined a Studite Monastery in Italy and became its superior. He was secretly consecrated a bishop in April 1977 in Castelgandolfo by Cardinal Josyf Slipy, his predecessor as head of the Ukranian Greek Catholic Church, but the act was not recognized by Paul VI’s Vatican, anxious not to upset the Russian Orthodox Church or the Soviets.

Husar’s episcopacy would remain a secret for the next nineteen years, until it was formally recognized by John Paul II and the Greek Catholic synod in 1996.

In 2001, Husar was elected archbishop. Though the office is for life, Husar made it clear beginning in 2009 that he intended to step down, in part because of declining health.

Over the years Husar has been easily the most articulate and theologically engaged of the Eastern Catholic prelates. He performed brilliantly during John Paul’s June 23-27, 2001, trip to Ukraine, cementing his reputation as pastorally gifted and politically sophisticated.

He’s also a warm, smiling, slightly chubby prelate, who came off as sort of an Eastern Catholic version of Pope John XXIII. For a brief period, there was a mini-flurry of speculation that Husar could be a candidate to become Pope himself.

One measure of Husar’s impact is that a vice-rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University recently penned a lengthy essay about the transition, the gist of which was to convince Ukrainian Catholics not to freak out.

“He radiates such authentic love and a sense of deep peace, coupled with humility and wisdom and warm and witty humor and he shares all of this with everyone. It is difficult to name anyone in Ukrainian society today who is regarded as a greater moral authority than Lubomyr Husar,” writes Oleh Turiy.

Facing the loss of such a leader, Turiy urges Ukrainian Greek Catholics not to succumb to “a state of panic.”

In fact, Turiy argues, all the changes in leadership in the Greek Catholic Church during the 20th century occurred amid crisis and turmoil, yet they all produced new leaders of unexpected quality.

In a press conference today in Kiev, Husar said that in his retirement he hopes to do some pastoral work with youth and with various professional groups, among other things helping to ensure that “nothing from our Church’s past is lost.”

This is a moment of special anxiety for the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine. After a rebirth in the 1990s, the Church played a key role in Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution.” Today, however, a pro-Russian regime is once again running the show in Kiev, and the Church has been experiencing some not-so-subtle intimidation from the state security service.

The eyes of the Catholic world, therefore, ought to be on Ukraine in coming weeks, both to celebrate the legacy of the one of the most remarkable Catholic personalities of our time, and to signal solidarity with the Church he led.

For an overview of the complicated state of the Orthodox and Catholic churches in the Ukraine, read George Weigel's article for FIRST THINGS

00Sunday, February 13, 2011 12:24 PM
In America's religious marketplace.
the Catholic Church's real problem is new sales

Feb. 11, 2011

Try as we might to remind ourselves that the Catholic church isn't Microsoft and that quantitative measures of success or failure don't always correspond to the logic of the Gospel, most of us take that lesson to heart only selectively.

Some Catholics can't resist touting the huge crowds at World Youth Day as an endorsement of their version of orthodoxy; others cite polling majorities in favor of reform on birth control and other issues as proof of the sensus fidelium. [And they are, even and especially in the face of continuing disaffection by the weak in faith...}

The most powerful recent instance of that temptation has been Catholic reaction to the 2008 "Religious Landscape Survey" from the Pew Forum, which documented a remarkable fluidity in religious affiliation in America -- almost half of American adults have either switched religions or dropped their ties to religion altogether.

For Catholicism, the banner headline was that there are now 22 million ex-Catholics in America, by far the greatest net loss for any religious body. One in three Americans raised Catholic have left the Church.

Were it not for immigration, Catholicism in America would be contracting dramatically: for every one member the church adds, it loses four.

On the other hand, the study also found that the Catholic Church has a higher retention rate than other major Christian denominations, and that 2.6 percent of the adult population is composed of converts to Catholicism, representing a pool of nearly six million new Catholics.

Naturally, critics of various aspects of Catholic life, such as the sexual abuse crisis or what some see as an overly conservative ideological drift, see the defections as proof of malaise. (A prominent American theologian recently claimed the Pew data reveal a "mass exodus" from the Church, which he linked to a preoccupation by some bishops with the culture wars.)

Equally predictably, Catholics content with the status quo play up the good news. [Are any Catholics at all, American or otherwise, content with the status quo? That is a most odd statement to make!]

Given the disparities in interpretation, I turned to the director of the Pew Forum, Luis Lugo, to try to understand what the data really have to say. I spoke to Lugo by phone Thursday morning, and we were joined by Pew senior researcher Greg Smith.

Here's the bottom line: In comparison with other religious groups in America, the Catholic Church's struggles aren't really with pastoral care, but missionary muscle. Overall, Catholicism serves existing members fairly well, as measured by the share that chooses to stick around; what it doesn't do nearly as well is to evangelize.

[What exactly have the bishops of the USA done to evangelize or re=evangelize in the past several decades? The US Church has even failed to come up in the past three decades with someone like Fulton Sheen who could evangelize from the lay pulpit of radio and TV, although one must not minimize the fforts of Mothere Angelica and her band of priests and nuns at EWTN - but they are probablly more influential outside the US than insite it!]

The data do not reflect widespread dissatisfaction in the pews, at least to any greater extent than other religious bodies face. Instead, they reveal a problem with getting people into the pews in the first place.

To put all that into crass capitalistic terms, in America's highly competitive religious marketplace, the real Catholic problem isn't customer service but new sales.

Even if one were to focus just on defections, it's not clear which ideological camp in today's Church could claim vindication. While many former Catholics object to Church teachings on issues such as abortion and homosexuality, one in ten Protestant Evangelicals in America today is also an ex-Catholic, many of whom deserted Catholicism because it wasn't conservative enough.

[It's not about any side vindicating itself. It's about the kind of Christian Catholic witness one presents to the world that makes the faith convincingly attractive to others!]

Finally, there's a clear plug for youth ministry implied in the Pew data: Roughly two-thirds of those who abandon Catholicism do so before they're 23, which means the make-or-break period is adolescence and early adulthood.

The following are excerpts from our conversation with Pew's Lugo and Smith:

What reactions do you get when you discuss these findings with Catholics?
Lugo: People are often a little befuddled when I present the full range of evidence, which puts a different light on things. From headlines, they may have the impression that the Catholic Church is just bleeding members, but that's out of context.

You have to compare it to retention rates of other religious groups, and see it in terms of retention plus recruitment. It's the net relationship between those two factors that's so crucial.

Everybody's losing members in this country, some even more than Catholics. In percentage terms, Catholic losses are not out of line with other groups. It's on the recruitment side that Catholics are not doing as well. Protestants are losing lots of members too, but for every four Americans who are no longer Protestant, there are three who are Protestant today who were not raised that way. Protestantism is declining as a whole, but the recruitment rate is pretty good. Catholics are not replenishing their ranks through conversion in the same way.

There are two other key variables. One is immigration, and the other is higher-than-average fertility rates among Hispanic Catholics. If the only factor driving a religious group's share of the population were conversion, the Catholic Church would be declining.

Smith: One of the things I was struck by, especially with regard to the Catholic church, is the degree to which apparent stability masks enormous change just below the surface. If all you look at is the percentage of the population who told us they're Catholic, it's exactly what we've found for four decades, and you would think nothing much is going on. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In his recent Murray/Bacik Lecture at the University of Toledo, noted Catholic theologian Richard Gaillardetz said the Pew data confirm a "mass exodus from the Church." Is it accurate to talk about a "mass exodus"?
Lugo: In the context of American religion as a whole, it's not really accurate. In fact, Catholic losses are right in line with what we see overall in terms of people changing affiliation in this country.

Look at the fastest-growing religious group in America, the unaffiliated. Even there, half of all people who were raised without an affiliation have since joined a religion!

Or take the group that everybody considers to be the most dynamic, the Jehovah's Witnesses. Those results blew me out of my chair. Two-thirds of those raised as Jehovah's Witnesses say they're no longer members, which is double the losses of the Catholic church in percentage terms.

What really strikes me about the Catholic numbers is on the recruitment side. The Jehovah's Witnesses grow because they recruit even more than they lose, which is not the case for the Catholics.

Smith: It's not fair to say there's a "mass exodus" from Catholicism more than any other faith. You have to bear two things in mind. First, because so many people were raised Catholic, it means that in terms of raw numbers, there are a lot of former Catholics out there. It's not because Catholics do a worse job keeping their members, but because so many were raised Catholic.

Second, if all you looked at is retention, you would probably say that Catholics are doing just as well as other groups, and even better than many of them.

But one of the points of the report is that to understand the dynamics of American religion, you have to see retention and recruitment together. It's the churn, the ratio of leaving to joining, which matters.

It's the recruitment side that sets Catholics apart. Four people leave Catholicism for every one who joins, and there's no other religious group where you see a similar ratio. Baptists, for example, also have more people leaving than joining, but their ratio of 2-1 is twice of what we see for Catholics.

Is the take-away not that Catholics have a problem serving existing members, but that Catholics need to ramp up their missionary efforts?
Lugo: In terms of sheer numbers, that's right. I wouldn't want to say that the Church shouldn't be thinking about pastoral strategies to retain its current members, especially young people. The retention side can't be overlooked, and there are important pastoral implications there.

Yet the bottom line is that if you're a religious group in this country, you're going to lose members in significant numbers. Half of all Americans say they've changed affiliation at least once, so churcn is the name of the game.

Even if the Catholic Vhurch did a markedly better job of retention, if it can't make up a significant share of its membership through recruitment, its ratio will not be very impressive.

I know that all the RCIA people will probably be mad, because they're already over-burdened, but your question nails it: The most striking thing about Catholicism in America isn't that it's losing people, but that it's not recruiting them as successfully as other groups. I should add that when I'm presenting this data, I always say that the 2.6 percent of American adults who are converts to Catholicism is a huge pool of folks, so it's not like nothing is going on.

What do we know about why those 22 million ex-Catholics left the Vhurch?
Lugo: It's very interesting, because we have to break it down between those who have joined the ranks of the unaffiliated and those who have become Protestants.

When you do that, it's by no means clear, from a purely retention point of view, whether the church ought to become more liberal or more conservative!

Bear in mind that among those becoming Protestants, a majority are Evangelicals. One out of ten Evangelicals in America today is a former Catholic, and many of those folks say the Catholic church isn't conservative enough.

Smith: It's impossible to say in broad strokes why people leave, because it depends on where they're headed.

Among former Catholics who are now unaffiliated, 65 percent say they just stopped believing the religion's teachings. A majority also cites unhappiness with specific teachings; 58 percent say they were unhappy with the teaching on things like abortion and homosexuality, and 48 percent or so were unhappy with the teaching on birth control. However, even more say they just gradually drifted away. 71 percent of former Catholics who are now unaffiliated say that.

Lugo: For that group, one gets the sense of gradually, almost imperceptibly, stepping away from the Vhurch. Many were already fairly "secularized" before they stopped identifying as Catholics. It's less for highly principled theological reasons, that they just can't take this Church anymore, and more for the drift factor.

Smith: For those who have become Protestants, 71 percent say their spiritual needs weren't being met in the Catholic Church. The same number, however, say happiness with their new religion was more important than dissatisfaction with the old one.

What's interesting is differences between those former Catholics who have become Evangelicals, and those who have joined one of the mainline Protestant churches. More than half of those who are now Evangelical cite Catholic teaching about the Bible as a factor in their decision, and most say that the Catholic Church does not view the Bible literally enough.

Only 16 percent of former Catholics now in mainline Protestantism cite the Bible, and those who do are about evenly divided between those who say Catholicism takes the Bible too literally and those who say it's not literal enough.

Lugo: We also find that where ex-Catholic Evangelicals tend to cite reasons of belief and theology, those in mainline Protestant churches tend to be influenced more by what we might call "life cycle" factors, such as marrying someone of a different faith, or they didn't like the priest at their parish, and so on.

For those who leave the church, when do they do so?
Smith: In 2008 we did a follow-up survey, and we found that switching is something that usually happens early in life. Most who left Catholicism did so prior to reaching the age of 24.

For those Catholics who are now unaffiliated with any religion, half left Catholicism before they turned 18, and another three in ten left during the college years, between ages 18 and 23.

Among Catholics who are now Protestants, half left before 18 and another third left between 18 and 23. This is something that happens early in the life cycle.

Catholic membership is being replenished largely through Hispanic immigration. Are those Hispanics likely to remain Catholic?
Smith: People often assume that fewer Latinos leave Catholicism as compared to non-Latinos. There's something to that, although the difference is not as large as you might expect.

Among non-Hispanics who were raised Catholic, 66 percent are still Catholic. Among Hispanics raised Catholic, it's 73 percent. That's a statistically significant difference, but we're not talking about night and day.

Among those who have left, it's just like the non-Hispanic Catholics -- roughly half are now unaffiliated and half have become Protestants, mostly Evangelicals.

Lugo: We know there's a generational difference. The conversion rates are lower among first-generation Hispanic immigrants than in the second generation. However, the percentage in the third generation is identical to the second, so there doesn't seem to be an escalating defection rate generationally.

Latino Catholics also have by far the highest fertility rate of any ethnic religious group in the country. Among American Catholics under 40, half are now Latinos.

Even if immigration rates were to ebb, therefore, it's "baked in" demographically that the Latino share of the adult Catholic population will increase.

00Sunday, February 13, 2011 2:40 PM
There's a very good interview with the Miniorities Minister of Pakistan which gives us a much better picture of the situation there with respect fo Asia Bibi and Christian persecution than most media reports so far.


For now I am only posting the link because I am still surveying news about the Pope this morning....

00Monday, February 14, 2011 8:16 PM

Photo: Pope Pius XI inaugurated Vatican Radioon Feb. 12, 1931.

I have a few belated posts on the Church and the Vatican, starting with this:

80th anniversary of Vatican Radio:
looking to the future

Vatican Radio celebrated its 80th anniversary Saturday, February 12. Since being set up by the father of radio, Guglielmo Marconi, in 1931, the Radio has been a beacon for transmitting the message of the Church during the rise of Fascism, World War II, and the Cold War.

On Thursday evening, Feb. 10, a special conference on the 80th anniversary was hosted by the Vatican Museums. The keynote address was given by a special representative of the Secretariat of State, Monsignor Peter Bryan Wells.

Your Eminence,
Your Excellencies,
Rev. Fr. Director General
Priests, Collaborators and Friends of Vatican Radio, all:

I am honored to be representing the Secretariat of State today at the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the founding of Vatican Radio, which began its service as proclaimer of the Word of God, of the teaching of the Holy Father and of the authentic Magisterium of the Church in 1931, by happy coincidence, the year of the 150th anniversary of the birth of L’Osservatore Romano.

I will not hide a certain emotion, even a certain trepidation in speaking with you today – not only because the relationship between Vatican Radio and the Secretariat of State is constitutive, as the Statutes of the station say: “Vatican Radio, for its programming and doctrinal and informative content, answers to the Secretariat of State, which exercises vigilance over the broadcasting Station, which [in turn] is bound to follow with care the directives that are imparted to it” (art. 2.1 of the Statutes of Vatican Radio, 1 Sept. 1995) – but also, as the same Statutes indicate, because the larger public easily attributes an authoritative character to the programming produced by Vatican Radio, and it is therefore necessary to assure that VR content is “fully in tune with the Magisterium and with the activity of the Holy See” (art. 2.2. of the Statutes of Vatican Radio, 1 Sept. 1995).

It is precisely because of this that I am aware of how heady and how demanding has been the work that Vatican Radio has heretofore advanced. The celebrations of the important milestones reached throughout these 80 years are, therefore, undoubtedly worthwhile and joyful.

Allow me to join myself to these by offering a brief reflection focused more on the challenges of the future, challenges which arise out of the success of the past, in order that these last might not only live in our memory, but also be a stimulus on the way that is unfolding before us.

We are all aware that there is a veritable revolution underway today in the world of media. As the Holy Father stressed recently in his Message for the 45th World Day for Social Communications (24 January 2011):

"The new technologies are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself, so much so that it could be said that we are living through a period of vast cultural transformation. This means of spreading information and knowledge is giving birth to a new way of learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship".

Technical as much as it is cultural, this upheaval directly involves radio broadcasting both in its technological aspects, and in those concerning content. Classic media, including radio, can no longer ignore the power and pervasiveness of the new media.

Just think: a recent study found that cell phones are habit-forming – they call it “mobile addiction”, and since the advent of smart phones, it can become so severe as to force those who suffer from it to go without food rather than be separated from the device that allows them to send and receive calls and text messages (cfr. www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/top-10-signs-of-cell-phone-addi...

Then consider that Nielsen polling data for Western nations show people under 35 spend many more hours online than they do watching television.

One may also note how the new media have served as the catalysts for phenomena in the public sphere, such as the “Manifestation de la Honte” in Belgium and the “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia.

These events indicate that radio broadcasting services cannot fail to take into consideration the emergence of a series of other technological instruments, from the podcast to the iPad, from social networks like Facebook, to micro-blogging platforms like Twitter.

The new means of communication are to be thought of as interlocutors, not as competitors. Radio should look on new media as an opportunity, not as a threat.

Herein lies the spirit of “convergence” among media, to which the Holy Father pointed in his Discourse to Managers and Employees of the Vatican Television Center, 18 December 2008.

Commenting on the way that the boundaries between the various media are fading and how, at the same time, their synergies are increasing, Benedict XVI expressed himself in the following terms:

"Today the Internet requires an ever increasing integration of written, audial and visual communication, and thus is a challenge to broaden and intensify the forms of collaboration between the media which are at the service of the Holy See.

"To succeed in this task, it will be necessary to think outside the box: to see radio, television, internet and newspapers not as free-standing tools with well-defined competences, but rather as circles to intersect and link together".

For Vatican Radio, such a convergence will have a first beneficial effect on the economic level: the use of new technologies, in fact, allows for a maximization of productivity.

I am aware of how difficult it is to speak of these things, and I am also well aware of how much Vatican Radio has been able to do, compared with competitors both public and private.

Certainly, an integrated information process is already underway at Vatican Radio, one that foresees the use of new media and all they have to offer.

The new means of communication, intelligently employed and wisely integrated into existing structures, can be important vehicles for the transmission of the Radio’s message, guaranteeing an extremely wide diffusion at an extremely low cost.

One need only think of how hubs or web streaming permit a much more rapid and certainly more widespread distribution of information, at a much more measured cost.

The principal reason that must push Vatican Radio to embrace new tools and technologies, however, is to be found neither exclusively nor even principally in the economic efficiency that they promise.

The phenomenon of the convergence of classic media with new media – specifically, though not uniquely, the confluence of radio and internet – is to be thought of as the inevitable transformation that will give birth to a new specific role of radio service, in the context of a completely transformed system of information.

We are not talking about taking away radio’s proper function: reaching listeners. Rather we are talking about using new media to render radio capable of meeting the expectations of listeners who are more and more sensitive to information.

I think a new concept of radio is being born. This arises from three considerations. The first is that radio is more flexible than other media, and can find distribution platforms very easily.

The second is that radio is a pervasive, though not intrusive, medium: unlike a picture, the voice surrounds and immerses the listener in an environment of sound, without imposing itself on the listener’s space.

The third is that the radio is an intimate, relational medium, a place for interiority, for responsibility, and not for the externals and appearances that pictures convey.

The convergence of radio and new media will not destroy the essence of radio. Rather, this convergence will strengthen radio communications.

In the specific case of Vatican Radio, the convergence with new media will include two complementary processes. The first process concerns the harmonization of the work of Vatican Radio with other Vatican communications tools. The second process regards the relationship of the Holy See’s radio station to other Catholic radio stations around the world.

The Vatican media outlets have undertaken the first process with determination: the areas of cooperation between the Vatican Television Center, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and Vatican Radio are proof of this.

Nevertheless, these developments are only the first stages of a larger, more broadly encompassing phenomenon able to establish the permanent presence of the Holy See in the world of new media.

The second process is even more specific: Vatican Radio has the role of setting the example, of being a beacon, a guide for all other Catholic radio stations.

The use of new technological tools can then ensure that Vatican Radio be a source of ideas and services to her sister stations – and at the same time a means by which local Catholic radio services can be shared on a global level.

To succeed in this difficult challenge it will be necessary to continue in the direction – long since undertaken – of a new organic relationship between Vatican Radio and other Catholic radio stations throughout the world, a relationship that is now possible precisely thanks to new technologies.

The nature of this new relationship has its roots in the specific role given to Vatican Radio, that of being an integral element among the tools for evangelization available to the Holy See. As the Holy Father explained in his June 20, 2008 Discourse to the International Congress for Catholic Radio Personnel:

"By virtue of its association with words [sic – It. la parola] radio shares in the Church's mission and in its visibility but also creates a new way of living, being and making Church"/

As the Church is by nature universal, so too does Vatican Radio have a universal mission. It resounds in more than forty languages, and presents itself as the instrument par excellence for dialogue with different cultures and religions. Precisely for this reason is it necessary that you, the operators of Vatican Radio, constantly keep yourselves up to date: technically, professionally, culturally.

To just this end, the new tools of communication can be particularly useful, because in them lies the key to the achievement of a truly global reach: I think of the ability to reach millions people with an idea or a news item sent right to their cellular phones, or the ability to guarantee messages in real time to those who live in war zones or under the harshest regimes.

To evangelize means to address the difficulties to which the Church is subject.

Vatican Radio must be the voice of the Church that contests those who say the Church is not capable of inner renewal, showing instead the tireless desire for purification expressed by Her Supreme Pastor.

Vatican Radio needs to be the voice that promotes religious freedom in the world.

Vatican Radio needs to be the voice that calls for dialogue and harmony in a world that turns increasingly to hatred and violence to solve conflicts.

All of us here know that the new media are absolutely essential, if Vatican Radio is to succeed in being such a voice. In this day, newswires, newspaper articles and even talk shows have given way to blogs, to the buzz and to going viral.

Even before reaching the traditional media, a news item is worked over and modified, and new mechanisms shape and influence public opinion from the very beginning, in order either to make the news item important, world-wide, or to let it die and disappear.

It is no longer enough to go on air, to publish, to write. Today one needs to be present in the marketplaces, to update the web pages, in order to reach a world ever hungrier for news.

In other words, not having new technical tools at one’s full disposal, or not knowing about the most current tools, will mean that one’s message will arrive late, will arrive wrong, and might even arrive in vain.

In the aforementioned Message for the 45th World Communications Day, The Holy Father has reminded us how the new media
"[are] contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness"/

It is therefore essential for Vatican Radio to continue to adapt to these new tools if it wants to be the engine of new forms of consciousness, of awareness: in other words, of a new culture.

Come to think of it, the development of a new culture based on a specific relationality is typical of the Church. Is not the Catholic Church the first global social network?

Long before the new media existed, the Church’s liturgical language, values, and way of thinking about the human person have bound together Catholics from around the world, whatever their culture, language, age, race or economic status. The globalization of the media cannot frighten us, because we were the phenomenon’s first authors.

I conclude my speech to you, who spread the messages of the Holy Father, by repeating – as an expression of hope, as the driving force and core of your mission – the greeting that opens and closes all your services, and that throughout the whole world, like the notes of Christus vincit, identifies your station – our station: Laudetur Iesus Christus.

00Monday, February 14, 2011 8:30 PM

Vatican statistics for 2009 show
overall increase in number of priests

Feb. 11, 2011

VATICAN CITY, Feb. 11 (CNS) -- The number of Catholic priests in the world has increased consistently over the past decade and the "relative superabundance" of priests in Europe and North America has begun to attenuate, the Vatican said.

The "relative superabundance" refers to the percentage of the world's priests who live in Europe and North America compared to the percentage of the world's Catholics who live there.

Anticipating some of the figures that would be released in the Statistical Yearbook of the Church for 2009 later in February, the Vatican newspaper said that in 1999, just more than 15 percent of the world's priests lived and ministered in Central and South America while 42.4 percent of the world's Catholics lived there.

At the end of 2009, the percentage had changed slightly: Latin America had 17.3 percent of the priests and 42.2 percent of the world's Catholics.

L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, published its article Feb. 10 with a small selection of statistics from the yearbook reporting worldwide church figures as of Dec. 31, 2009.

The newspaper article focused on the statistics' demonstration of 10 years of steady growth in the number of Catholic priests in the world. A more complete set of statistics was expected to be released when the Vatican had finished printing the yearbook.

The Vatican reported an increase of 809 priests during the 2009 calendar year and an increase of close to 5,600 priests between 1999 and 2009, the newspaper said.

The overall increase came despite the continuing steep decline in the number of religious-order priests, it reported.

Of the 410,593 priests in the world reported at the end of 2009, the Vatican said 275,542 were diocesan priests and 135,051 were members of religious orders. Ten years earlier, there were only 265,012 diocesan priests, but there were 139,997 religious order priests, the Vatican said.

The worldwide increase, however, did not mean the number of priests increased on every continent, the newspaper reported. In North America, the number of diocesan clergy decreased 7 percent and the number of religious clergy fell by 21 percent, it said.

The uneven distribution of priests in the world is still remarkable but is easing a bit, the newspaper said. The ratio is changing not only because more priests are being ordained in Africa, Asia and Latin America, it said, but also because the average age of priests is much younger in those regions than in Europe and North America, so the death rate is lower.

For some reason, the OR did not consider this item 'worthy' to be posted online, so one needs to have the actual paper issue to find out aboutitems that are not posted online.

00Monday, February 14, 2011 8:57 PM
How about 'Romanorum coetibus'?
Anglicans in Peru welcome
disaffected Catholics

by Father John Zuhlsdorf

Feb. 14, 2011

Remember my proposal that Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, should facilitate the creation of ordinariates for disgruntled Catholics?

Abp. Williams could issue a document responding to Benedict XVI’s Anglicanorum coetibus called, say, Romanorum coetibus, by which he would offer provisions to give a safe-haven to liberals who want to keep their large puppets and pottery, 1960s music and the ordination of women, prayer to the earthmothergoddess, etc… all without the spirit-repressing domination of masculine Rome! And they can use whatever translation they want!

O my prophetic soul. You can’t make up some things fast enough.

In The Church Times we read this, with my emphases and comments [in red] :

Peru Anglicans set up
ordinariate for RC priests

by Ed Beavan

AN “Ordinariate of Postulants” has been set up by the Diocese of Peru in the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone to host a growing number of Roman Catholic priests who are keen to join the Anglican Church. [HUZZAY! Did I get that one right?]

In contrast to the situa­tion in England, where three former bishops recently joined the Ordinariate for former Anglicans established by Rome, clerics are making the reverse journey in South America.

The Bishop of Peru, the Rt Revd William God­frey, [There's a Peruvian name.] said that, so far, about ten RC priests had joined the new group to explore the possibility of switching denominations. Some may bring con­gregations with them. [Hasta la vista.]

About half of them are from churches that have become indepen­dent from the RC Church, often because the priests have got married.

Bishop Godfrey said that he had also received requests from RC clergy in Uruguay, Ecuador, and Ar­gentina, to join the Anglican Church.

He said that it was not entirely new for Roman Catholics to make this journey, as “the Anglican Church in Latin America would not exist if it wasn’t for ex-Roman Catholics”, but priests were now leaving on a larger scale.

He said that many of these priests were looking for stability in their ministry, and that the Postulate was “some sort of body where these people can draw close to the An­glican Church and experience its liturgical and pastoral tradition and theology, [You just can't make some things up fast enough.] before taking the final step of being received. It provides a buffer zone [a... "safe-haven"?] in which we can prepare to receive them.”

Bishop Godfrey believes that some priests may have been en­couraged by Pope Benedict XVI’s positive words about Anglicanism when setting up the Or­dinar­iate, when he was “extra­ordinarily pos­itive” about the An­glican tradition. [We win that trade.]

He said that the new body was not meant to be “provocative” towards Roman Catholicism; [I don't sense the Church trembling to its foundations because of these folks.] there was in fact “a lot of respect towards the Pope” in the region.

There is no financial motivation for clerics to move to the An­glican Church, as there is no guarantee of a stipend when they join the diocese of Peru.

The diocese currently has 35 clerics, an increase from just four in the late 1990s. It has two seminaries in Lima and Arequipa. RC orders are recog­nised by Anglicans. [Yes... they would be.]

The diocese is currently working out how it will deal with bishops from indepen­dent RC churches [Ummm... if they are "independent" they aren't "Roman". Did they miss that part? But... wait... could this mean the SSPX bishops? Is Bp. Williamson in the shadows of Romanorum coetibus?] who wish to become Anglicans.


I get how you can have Anglicans in Australia. It’s a stretch, but they do use more or less the same language. But, in Peru… are they going to use Spanish? To be in communion with Canterbury? I wonder if they are not attracting people who just like to dress up as bishops and priests.

Meanwhile the Anglicans named a female bishop from Toronto to ARCIC! That’ll help. Catholics, on the other hand, appointed Prof. Janet E. Smith.

If anyone wants out, feel free to contact the Anglican bishop in Peru/

[Or the Episcopalian church in the USA. Or the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany. Or any of hundreds of established Protestant denominations - and hundreds more of those that have sprouted like forest fungi in recent decades.

Actually, the reason the Church's greatest dissenters within cannot bear to leave the Catholic Church to join any church or denomination that accomodates all their liberal desires - and almost all the non-Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches do - is the same reason they cannot obey the Church Magisterium - EGO, writ large and bold and flaming for all to see.

#1 Their dissent against the Magisterium - and the more rabid, the better - enables them to 'make a name' for themselves and guarantees them headlines everytime they speak.

And #2 - They may actually believe that each of them will be the next Martin Luther, forgetting that Luther at least had the courage to leave the Church - while they don't - and that Luther's Reformation had to take place outside the Church, not within the Church. (And just as important. that he inspired the Counter-Reformation, one of the most brilliant and spiritual eras in Church history!)

If the dissidents left the Catholic Church for any other religious affiliation, that's the end of their celebrity, however dubious. And that is why they cling on so tenaciously to a Church they really don't believe in anymore, indulging their pipe dreams of a 'Catholic Church' they would create according to their selfish desires.]

00Tuesday, February 15, 2011 10:03 PM
I have no doubt some - perhaps even much - of what is recounted in this story is true, especially what people are quoted to have said. But journalists often get into an assignment with prejudices that shape how they cover the story and what they choose to report. That is why news accounts are almost always only partially true, or relatively true, generally subjective and hardly objective . That is very much the case here, where every line and word is weighted to put the Church in the worst possible light. And on this issue, secular media has chosen to be the Church's judge, jury and executioner.

New York Times Magazine says Irish
are turning their back on the Church
because of the sex-abuse scandals


February 10, 2011, 8:54 PM

This weekend the New York Times Magazine led with a hard hitting article outlining the clerical abuse crisis in Ireland, and the fall-off in religious belief as a result.

It quotes Father Mark Patrick Hederman, the abbot of Glenstal Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Co. Limerick, as saying the Church is indeed in deep trouble.

Hederman said, “Ireland is a prime example of what the Church is facing, because they made this island into a concentration camp where they could control everything. And the control was really all about sex. They told you if you masturbated, it meant you were impure and had allowed the devil to work on you. Generations of people were crucified with guilt complexes. Now the game is up.” [What a bizarre claim to make - both if it is true, and if it is untrue!]

Between 1974 and 2008 Mass attendance in Ireland was cut in half. The Irish, says the Times, are turning their back on the Church which was once the foundation of their country, its special place enshrined in the constitution.

The article looks at the abuse victims and also the country’s reaction to wave after wave of abuse scandals which emerged within the Irish Catholic Church.

The piece reports that Ireland is the country with the most reported cases of sexual abuse within the church. In second place comes the United States. However, Ireland has approximately one-hundredth of the population of the U.S.

Ireland published two reports, the Murphy and the Ryan reports, which investigated the systematic sexual abuse of children by members of the Church. The reports revealed thousands of cases of rape, sexual molestation and lurid beatings throughout Ireland's independence.
['Systematic' is hardly the right adjective. 'Not uncommon' is more appropriate. as the figures I have looked up will show. Far from the
'thousands' claimed here.]

In the past two months Chapter 19 of the Murphy Report detailed the crimes of “Father Filth,” former priest Tony Walsh. He was shielded by the Church as he continued to abuse.

Also, a letter has been unearthed from the papal nuncio. He told the Irish bishops that the Vatican had "serious reservations" about reporting clerical sexual abuse.

Grainne O'Sullivan, a 32-year-old graphic designer, was one of the many people in their twenties and thirties who have grown up in a mostly secular Ireland, and outraged by the revelations. That is why she, along with a web developer named Cormac Flynn and a civil servant in Cork named Paul Dunbar, set up a website called CountMeOut.ie in 2009.

She told the “Times,” "When I saw the reports, I thought, ‘I can’t even pretend to be part of this club anymore.’”
[EEEWWWWW! Sanctimony is the first recourse for the weak of faith!]

They established the website as “a way of protesting, using their own process against them.”

Over several months 12,000 downloaded the “Defectio ab Ecclesia Catholica Actu Formali” from the site.

Last August the Catholic Church changed the Canon Law. It is now impossible for Catholics to leave the church.
[IS THIS TRUE? I haven't the time to check this out properly just now.] Since then the website has suspended its service but is still active in the debate on Irish identity.

Nonetheless, Ireland and the church remain intrinsically linked. Ivana Bacik, a senator for the Labor Party, is a leader in the effort to extricate the church from the state. She said, “In no other European nation — with the obvious exception of Vatican City — does the Church have this depth of doctrinal involvement in the affairs of State.”

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Irish school system. Novelist Colm Toibin attended a Christian Brothers school until he was 15.

He told the Times, “At times it didn’t feel like there was a line between sexual abuse and corporal punishment. Every Friday one of the brothers would take a boy in front of the class, and whichever way he hit you he’d always put his hand on your testicles. We would laugh, but in fact you were in a permanent state of fear.

“I would vomit in the morning before going out to school. They would hit you across the face if you got a sum wrong. I suppose they did teach me to read and write and for that I should be grateful, but I’m not.”

Clerical sex-abuse scandals have been uncovered in the United States, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Britain, Italy and many other countries, but in Ireland the “stakes for the Vatican are tangible.”

Ninety percent of schools in Ireland are under church patronage. Also, all public hospitals are run by the church which means procedures such as abortions and vasectomies are either illegal or problematic.

The Vatican is now trying to implement damage control in Ireland by sending the Apostolic Visitation, a group of top clergymen from outside of Ireland, to investigate the abuse scandal, the training of priests and the running of parishes.

Fr. Sean McDonagh, a leader of the Association of Irish Priests, has suggested that the Vatican “should begin by scrutinizing Rome’s own handling of sex-abuse allegations.”

Rev. Donald Cozzens, an American priest and respected moderate voice on Catholic issues told the Times, “I’m not aware of any major diocese in the world that has not had a sexual abuse scandal, and I believe part of the problem lies with the very structures of the church. I don’t want to say change would require a different Pope or even a different culture, but it will require radical openness.

“We have to take an honest look at all the things that are in play. Is mandatory celibacy wise or even theologically sound?”

The two reports on abuse published in Ireland run to over 2,500 pages. The Ryan report examined the abuse which took place in institutions, while the Murphy report focused on the abuse that took place in the Diocese of Dublin. The details are graphic, violent and gruesome.
[Once again, the obvious failure to describe the actual extent of the abuses. And by the way, every act of sexual abuse is necessarily 'violent and gruesome' because it violates the human being in his/her most intimate, instills terror and horror in the victim, and often becomes physically depraved.]]

The Times article describes that parts of the reports “read like a cross between Charles Dickens and Dan Brown: ‘I was beaten and hospitalized by the head brother and not allowed to go to my father’s funeral in case my bruises were seen’ and ‘I was tied to a cross and raped while others masturbated at the side.””

Pope Benedict’s plan for rebuilding the Catholic Church in Ireland as well as the visitation from outside Ireland includes prayer, fasting and engaging in “Eucharistic adoration.” The Times article asks, “Do the church authorities get it?”
[It's the Times that does not get it that the Church uses spiritual as well as practical means to combat and redress evil!]

They illustrate this point through Marie Collins’ case. Collins was abused, during the 1960s, when she was 13-years-old while in hospital.

She said, “I had no idea what he was doing, but I knew it was wrong. He might abuse me one night, then give me communion in the morning.”

Now 64, she spent years dealing with depression, anxiety and agoraphobia. When she finally spoke out about the abuse in her late thirties she was told that “she may have tempted the other priest.”

She eventually wrote to the then Archbishop of Dublin Desmond Connell. She was told not to “ruin his life.”

With help from the police her abuser, a Father McGennis, was imprisoned. The publication of the Murphy Report proved that the church knew about McGennis’ behavior over the years. Collins wanted the church to be held accountable.

Last year it was revealed that Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Irish church, participated in the 1975 cover-up of the notorious Fr. Brendan Smyth. He was not forced to resign. Collins said, “That means the church here in Ireland is being led by a man who will not be accountable.”

Referring to Pope Benedict’s Pastoral letter and rebuilding the church she said, “Prayer and adoration of the eucharist is fine…but we have had the Pope on a number of occasions saying how shocked he is by revelations of abuse around the world. It’s hard to take that seriously when we know that as Cardinal Ratzinger, in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he saw the abuse reports.”

She continued, “I don’t practice as a Catholic anymore. It’s so hard to reconcile what the men at the top do with what Jesus preached.”

Here's my little effort for the day, tracking down relevant figures from Wikipedia (which footnotes the facts scrupulously):


There were actually three Irish government reports into abuses committed by priests and religious in Ireland.

All three reports 1)gathered information about complaints and the names of the alleged offenders, and 2) documented the response of the dioceses concerned to such abuses.

But investigation and substantiation of the charges was not part of their mandate, so their numbers only records the number of complaints made and the number and names of the accused.

The Ferns Report, 2005

It investigated abuses committed by priests and religious in the Diocese of Ferns. It has a current population of about 100,000, and 120 priests and religious serving the diocese. From 1962-2002 (40 years), 'more than 100 complaints' - which usually means over 100 but less than 110 - were presented against 21 priests, 6 of whom had been dead by the time they were accused.

If we assume that each of the complaints represents a different victim, 100 victims in a population of 100,000 does not seem 'significant', but 21 priests out of 120, if we assume the same number of priests over the 40-year study period, and that all 21 named priests were guilty of at least one offense, that's a pretty high rate of offenders - one-sixth of all priests in the diocese.

But the worst offense in the diocese was the attitude of its earlier bishops who were documented to be more concerned with the reputation of their priests than about the fact that they offended nor about making things right for the victims.

The report does acknowledge that the bishops' attitudes changed over the 40-year period as more information about pedophilia became available.

The Ryan Report, May 2009

This studied the record between 1914-2000 of 200 Catholic schools and reformatories run by Irish religious orders. Obviously because of age considerations (who would still be alive and able to take part), the study focused on the years between 1965-2000, during which these institutions were responsible for 25,000 wards.

1500 complaints were received, with 800 offenders named, but the offenders also included civilian personnel of the schools, not just priests. And of the 1500 complaints, only 800 abusers were named (so each abuser would have had to have offended at least twice).

Of the abuses, 391 were sexual (262 boys, 128 girls), 857 were physical (beatings, corporal punishment), and the rest, psychological abuse or neglect.

Not that other kinds of abuse are any less significant, but since the focus of all the news reports has been sexual abuse, we are left with 391 complaints of sexual abuse in a 35-year period.

The Murphy Report, November 2009

This is the Report that sparked all that outrage in the media. It looked at alleged sexual abuses committed by priests and religious in the Archdiocese of Dublin from the 1940s to 2004, at which time, altogether 2,800 priests and religious served in the archdiocese. During that period, 102 priests/religious were named in complaints received by the Commission.

Again because of age considerations, the investigation focused on the period from 1975 to 2004, during which 320 complaints were presented against 46 priests, of which 11 had confessed or been convicted, 1 was clearly a case of false accusation, and two were merely 'suspected' but not accused.

In a 30-year period, 320 complaints averages to 10.7 annually, committed by 43 priests (excluding the falsely accused one and the merely 'suspect'). out of a total clerical population of 2800 - and we arrive at a 1.5% rate of alleged offenses or accusations that is far lower than what it was in the United States (see below).

If we add together the complaints reported by the three government commissions in Ireland, we get a total of 100 from Ferns + 391 in the schools + 320 in Dublin = 811 complaints, not all of them necessarily true - alleged to have occurred between 1965-2004, over a 40-year period. 811 complaints in 40 years averages to about 20 complaints a year.

In other words, the media has simply been allowed to paint the sex abuse scandal as much much bigger than it actually is, and no one has bothered all these months to point it out. And that is the reason none of the reports ever mentions figures - because the figures show how much they have exaggerated the case against the Church.

The lower numbers do not in any way excuse what the rotten 1.5% of priests and religious have done, but to deliberately give the impression that 'thousands' have been victimized is just wrong and dishonest.DIM]

Sure, there should be zero complaints, but humans sin. We should be thankful there haven't been more. pray there will not be more, and not create mass hysteria over a deliberately inflated picture of the situation.

And Irish Catholics, in general - if we go by the alarmism of the New York Times report, and even by Cardinal O'Malley's' reported sense of the crisis - deserve our pity if not enough of them have the sense to look at the figures and not just swallow unquestioningly what their highly anti-Church media tells them.

And just for comparison, here are figures from the United States, which is a much stronger data base because it follows all reported complaints from initial reporting to final disposition in the courts. The study was commissioned by the US bishops in 2002. The figures probably reflect an idea of the extent of the problem in the countries most afflicted by the scourge of priestly pedophiles, with the US for now registering the worst scenario:

The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors
by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States -

the study commissioned in 2002 by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops "to provide the first-ever complete accounting, or census, of the number of priests, deacons and religious against whom allegations of child sexual abuse were made and of the incidents alleged to have occurred between 1950-2002."

The study was conducted by the John Jay College of Criminology in New York City. The full report can be found on

Some general data from the report:

195 dioceses and 140 religious communities were surveyed;
7 of the dioceses and 30 of the communities did not respond to the survey.

From the responses, a total of 4,392 priests, deacons and religious were identified to have been accused of such offenses.

They represented 3-6% of priests in the dioceses and 1-3% in the communities. The overall percentage of accused in terms of all priests and religious in the US was 4%.

75% of the alleged incidents took place between 1960-1984.

A report to the police resulted in an investigation in almost all cases. 384 of the 4,392 were criminally charged. Overall only 8.7% of those accused ended up being charged.

Of the 384 charged, 252 were convicted - a 66% conviction rate. Some of them had more than one conviction on different counts. Those convicted represented only 5.7% of the total that had been accused. [That number is very significant, because it indicates that some 94% of accusations were not actionable. (It tells us that the overwhelming majority of accusations cannot stand up enough to be prosecuted.]

As of 2002 (before all the massive costs since then imposed by subsequent court rulings), the cost to the dioceses and communities between 1950-2002 was estimated at about $573 million - $501 million for victim compensation and treatment, and the rest for priest treatment and legal fees.

Insurance paid about $289 million of the costs for victim compensation and treatment.

00Wednesday, February 16, 2011 7:14 PM
Here's one story about the Vatican that the Boston Globe approves of - after months of openly criticizing the Vatican for doing nothing to listen to the Massachusetts parishioners concerned!

Vatican overrules bishop's decision
and halts closing of 3 parishes

By Peter Schworm

February 16, 2011

In a rare victory for Catholics challenging parish closings, the Vatican has rejected an effort by the Diocese of Springfield to end worship at three churches in Western Massachusetts.

Church officials in Rome ruled that the Springfield Diocese did not adequately justify its decision to close two churches in Chicopee, St. Patrick and St. George, and a third in Adams, St. Stanislaus Kostka. In Adams, parishioners have held an around-the-clock vigil for more than two years.

The rulings are being closely examined in Greater Boston, where scores of Catholics have been occupying — and continuing to pray in — five closed parishes for as long as six years. The Springfield ruling follows similar Vatican rulings on church closings in Allentown, Pa.

“After seven years, we have scored a major win,’’ said Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes, which has contested church closings in the Boston area. “I believe this is a landmark ruling.’’

Neither church officials nor the aggrieved worshipers in Western Massachusetts were clear yesterday about what would happen next. The Vatican said that Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of Springfield acted appropriately in deciding to close or merge the parishes as legal units of the diocese, but not in converting the church buildings from religious to secular use.

Supporters of the closed parishes suggested that perhaps they could continue to pray in the church buildings, but the buildings could be overseen by other existing parishes or directly by the diocese.

Mark Dupont, a spokesman for the Springfield Diocese, said canon lawyers are reviewing the Adams decision, but had not received rulings regarding the two Chicopee parishes. He declined to comment on how church officials would proceed, or whether they would contest the decision with a Vatican appeals court.

In Chicopee and Adams, parishioners said they were thrilled by the decision.

“It’s marvelous,’’ said Margaret Page, a parishioner at St. Patrick Parish in Chicopee Falls. “We are all very happy with the decision and hope it leads to our parish reopening.’’

The church, where Page said some 4,000 families worshiped, was closed in November 2009. The appeal was filed last January.

In a press release, parishioners in Adams said the decision “overturns the decree that resulted in the canonical closing of our church,’’ but acknowledged that diocese officials had wide latitude in how to implement it.

“Over 200 parishioners of St. Stan’s have been in a 24/7 peaceful and prayerful vigil since Dec. 26, 2008,’’ said the statement, signed by Laurie Haas of Adams. “We look forward to a respectful dialogue with Bishop McDonnell in an effort to bring our vigil to a conclusion and to reopen St. Stan’s church in a manner that will best serve the interests of the Catholic Community of Adams, as well as the Diocese of Springfield.’’

The Diocese of Springfield has moved to consolidate the number of churches amid declining attendance and financial difficulties. The Vatican concluded that the diocese followed a thorough procedure in consolidating parishes, but did not provide the “necessary grave motivations’’ to close the church.

The ruling was so difficult to interpret that parishioners could not determine whether it had found in their favor until they consulted lawyers.

Rachel Bradford — a parishioner at St George in Chicopee, which closed in November 2009 — said she was thrilled by the decision, yet aware it did not guarantee that the church would return to the way it was.

“We’re very happy,’’ she said. “We’re realistic, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.’’

No matter what the outcome, she said the ruling proved that ordinary worshipers can have a direct say in church policy. “It’s an amazing thing that people’s voices were heard,’’ she said.

Borre said the ruling could influence the standard for future church closings.

“The precedent has been set,’’ he said. “In my view, Rome has spoken with clarity.’’

00Wednesday, February 16, 2011 8:12 PM
Consider the statistics reported hre in conjunction with John Allen's blog posted earlier on this page about the problems of the Church in the US in recruiting new members, and how much larger the Catholic bloc could be if there was significant recruitment....

Mainline Protestants decline,
wHile Catholics gain in the US

by Frank Lockwood
February 16, 2011

The Roman Catholic Church is growing, but most mainline and evangelical Protestant churches are losing members, according to the 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.

The figures, based on 2009 membership, were collected by the National Council of Churches and released Monday.

The United States now has 68.5 million Catholics, a jump of 0.6 percent from 2008.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also saw its membership climb 1.4 percent, to 6.1 million.

Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and two Pentecostal denominations — the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) — also saw numerical growth.

All six of these religious groups have enjoyed sustained growth during the past half-century.

Mainline Protestant churches, meanwhile, have being losing members for decades.

That trend continued in 2009 with United Methodists, American Baptists, Evangelical Lutherans, Episcopalians, the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Church of Christ all reporting membership losses.

But declines weren’t limited to mainline churches. Two leading evangelical denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, also shrunk.

This is the 79th annual edition of the yearbook.

The list of gainers and losers was somewhat predictable. “Churches, which have been increasing in membership in recent years, continue to grow and likewise, those churches which have been declining in recent years continue to decline,” writes Yearbook editor Eileen W. Lindner.

Mary Gautier, who tracks church statistics for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, says she’s not surprised by the American Catholic Church’s success.

“It’s been growing pretty consistently — around 1 percent per year — for the last 25 to 50 years,” said Gautier, a senior research associate.

Earlier in the 20th century, the Church’s annual growth rate in the United States was roughly 2 percent, she said.

Immigration has fueled much of the growth, Gautier said. “Most often, we see it in terms of growth from immigrants from the Spanish-speaking countries, but there’s also Asian Catholics coming from Vietnam, the Philippines, places like that [and] African Catholics coming from mostly French-speaking countries in Africa,” Gautier said.

“The immigrant population tends to be younger and more of child-bearing age” than native-born Americans, she said.

The Church is glad to be expanding. “Growth is always good news, but its also challenging. The church continues to grow but it also continues to get ever more diverse and ever more geographically distributed,” Gautier said.

The Yearbook’s top 10 largest churches are:

1. The Catholic Church 68,503,456
2. The Southern Baptist Convention 16,160,088
3. The United Methodist Church 7,774,931
4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 6,058,907
5. The Church of God in Christ 5,499,875
6. National Baptist Convention 5,000,000
7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 4,542,868
8. National Baptist Convention of America Inc. 3,500,000
9. Assemblies of God 2,914,669
10. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 2,770,730

00Monday, March 7, 2011 8:39 PM

So sorry I have been unable to keep up this thread lately as I should, but my recent Internet virus problems have set me back even more, and I still have not regained my stride, so to speak. Never easy to get used to a new computer and different settings, especially if it is the third one in the space of two months! Anyway, here is AP's 150th anniversary story on the OR, and since I have been doing a running critique of the OR - not that it matters to anyone except me and my journalistic scruples/standards - I won't bother to comment on this at all...

At 150 years,
the Pope's newspaper raises eyebrows


VATICAN CITY, March 4 (AP) - The headline was an eye-grabber: "Homer and Bart are Catholic."
That this homage to The Simpsons was splashed across the Vatican's newspaper was odder still, hinting that as it nears its 150th year of publication, L'Osservatore Romano was trying to be relevant, hip, even a bit controversial.

It wasn't always so, and the pope's newspaper still is full of dense treatises on obscure 15th century saints, papal discourses and appointments of bishops around the world - the stuff that makes L'Osservatore the Vatican's official newspaper of record.

But thanks to editor Giovanni Maria Vian who took over in 2007, the once sleepy, eight-page imprint has become a must-read for anyone curious about the papacy and its unique world view.

It always has been a newspaper not so much of news but ideas. As the future Pope Paul VI wrote in 1961 to mark L'Osservatore's centenary - "It's not enough to report the facts as they occurred: It wants to comment on them to show how they should have happened, or not."

The new popular slant, however, remains a radical departure from tradition.

And while circulation and advertising are up despite the global downward trend for newspapers, not everyone is pleased - especially on the other side of the Atlantic.

American Catholic conservatives have trashed L'Osservatore's editorial changes under Vian, saying the newspaper disserves the faithful.

"All the confusion fit to print," commentator Michael Novak wrote in the conservative National Review about what he said was the newspaper's ignorance of the abortion debate in the U.S. after its sympathetic coverage of President Obama's 2009 speech in which he asked for common ground on abortion.

Most recently it was L'Osservatore's handling of Pope Benedict XVI's book "Light of the World" that riled the American right.

In the book-length interview that came out in November, the pope said male prostitutes who use condoms to prevent HIV might be showing a first step toward a more moral sexuality because they're looking out for the welfare of another.

L'Osservatore ran excerpts of the book four days before the Vatican's own release date, sparking a media frenzy. It didn't help that translation errors made it seem like the pope was justifying condom use for heterosexual couples. He wasn't.

But it all outraged the right, which said the newspaper was trying so hard to be relevant that it was no longer serving its publisher: the pope.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver accused L'Osservatore of wronging Benedict by breaking the Vatican's own embargo and publishing the condom quotes without context or commentary.

Philip Lawler, editor of Catholic World News, called for Vian's resignation.

"In past months, L'Osservatore Romano has often embarrassed the Vatican, with puerile articles gushing about the merits of Michael Jackson, The Beatles and The Simpsons," he wrote. "But this editorial blunder is far more serious."

Even Edward Peters, the Vatican's expert witness in U.S. sex abuse cases and an adviser to the Holy See's high court, wrote: "If this media fiasco isn't enough to bring sweeping changes to L'OR than I don't know what ever will."

Vian, 58, dismisses the criticism and says Americans don't actually read the newspaper, but just media reports about it.

He acknowledged that L'Osservatore was in part to blame, because it's only a daily in Italian (it has weekly editions in English and seven other languages). But he said the paper did nothing wrong in running the excerpts.

"This is something I absolutely reject with great tranquility," Vian said in a recent interview inside L'Osservatore's newsroom, inside the walls of Vatican City. "It's a text that speaks for itself. You don't need any context. You understand that he's talking about the fight against AIDS."

He noted the controversy helped sales: The pope's American publisher said the first 30,000 English editions of the book sold out immediately and a second run of 30,000 is nearly gone.

And Vian's changes are paying off for L'Osservatore's own numbers: circulation for its weekly imprints is jumping from 350,000 to 400,000 this year thanks to a deal to include a weekly insert in an Italian paper.

Advertising in 2010 was up 68 percent from a year earlier for the Italian daily edition, which has a circulation of about 13,000 to 15,000, Vian said.

Like other Vatican-owned media such as Vatican Radio, L'Osservatore is a net drain on the Holy See's finances, though Vian said its losses were contained. In all, it employs about 90 people, lay and religious.

And Vian expressed no concern for his job. He comes from a family with solid Vatican connections: his father and grandfather were both friends of popes. His own credentials include historian, journalist and professor in the study of early Church writers at Rome's La Sapienza University.

As a result, Vian seems to have the trust both of Benedict and his No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to whom he reports. Vian said he had never once run an editorial by Bertone's office and had never been asked to submit an article for clearance.

He said he knew what his editorial limits were: L'Osservatore tends not to write much about the Catholic Church in China, for example. Too touchy. Yet it writes frequently about Pope Pius XII, the World War II-era pope criticized by Jews for having stayed too silent on the Holocaust.

The German-born Benedict has made clear he thinks Pius has gotten a bad rap and that history will prove he did everything possible to save Jews.

"We aim for confrontation, for debate, but always with moderate tones," Vian said of his editorial vision. "We don't fear polemics, but we don't look for them, either."

Vian said Benedict had asked for three things when he named him to the job in 2007: a more global outlook, greater attention to the Orthodox and churches of the eastern rite, and more space to women's issues and female writers.

For the first time, L'Osservatore has a woman on staff in its Italian daily edition, a culture writer. Women also make up the bulk of the staff for the English and Polish editions, and the German edition is headed by a woman.

"It's no mystery that if the pope had found the right person he would have named a woman as editor of L'Osservatore Romano," Vian said.

The new focus on popular culture responds to Benedict's express request that L'Osservatore be relevant to contemporary readers and show that there can be an "opening to God" even in secular, contemporary culture, he said.

"Certainly we're interested in Shakespeare and Gregorian chant," Vian said. But it's equally important to write about The Beatles, the Blues Brothers and, yes, The Simpsons since they too can have a Christian message.

The Simpsons headline, he acknowledged, was a bit over the top even though the story was legitimate: It described the recurring story lines in the cartoon of the Christian faith, religion and the question of God.

"We exaggerated it a bit," Vian said, breaking into English. "We 'sexed up' the news a bit. We had fun doing it. But the argument was not banal."

Hving fun at the expense of common sense does not excuse the Simpson lapse, in particular!

00Friday, March 11, 2011 8:45 PM

I do not understand this despicable toadying-to-Israel article by an Italian journalist whom I do not recall to have been so virulently anti-Vatican and pro-Israel before. He's perfectly within his rights, obviously, but as a journalist, he also has a duty to be honest and fair, which this thoroughly one-sided article is not!

Even worse, it fails to mention that Israel has been 'punishing' the Vatican for more than 14 years now by finding every reason not to move forward on implementing a 'fundamental agreement' with the Vatican. And yet, Israeli leaders openly declare that they count on the Pope to stand up for the nation's legitimacy in the court of world opinion - especially now when, for the first time, they have an American President who considers Israel almost expendable in his totally unproductive politics of accommodation with America's most rabid opponents!

The Church and Israel
by Giulio Meotti

Mqrch 11, 2011

Who killed Jesus two thousand years ago is simply not the question at hand. What is happening now is what matters.

Pope Ratzinger, in a new book, exonerates the Jews of allegations they were responsible for Jesus Christ’s death.

Israel’s relationship with the largest Christian group is different from Israel’s relationship with, say, Albania or Lesotho, because the Catholic Church has more than one billion adherents.

In 1948, the Vatican described Zionism as a “new Nazism”. This was a forerunner of the infamous UN resolution – “Zionism is Racism”. The repudiation of Israel after the Shoah is an everlasting stain on the Christian’s conscience. [I imagine a whole book can be written to point up the fallacy and falsehood in these statements.] Since then, the Holy See has taken positive steps toward Israel, like the formal recognition in 1993.

However, Ratzinger’s teaching on Christ sharply contrasts with the latest Vatican’s stances against the State of Israel. This is the real issue in the relations between the Church and the Jews. For example, the Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, appointed by the Pope in 2008, just joined a Christian-Muslim workshop in Doha.

The meeting of the Arab League was focussed on “interreligious conflict regarding Jerusalem”. No Jews were invited.

La Civiltà Cattolica is a very special Vatican magazine. Every one of its articles is reviewed by the Vatican Secretary of State before publication, so the magazine reflects his thoughts faithfully. [I doubt that Bertone himself personally reviews the articles, which may reflect the official diplomatic position of the Vatican or at least, other positions which the Vatican does not necessarily endorse or oppose.]

The January edition of this magazine opens with a large editorial on the Palestinian refugees. Adopting the Arab propagandist word Nakba, the magazine declares that the refugees are a consequence of “ethnic cleansing” by Israel and that “the Zionists were cleverly able to exploit the Western sense of guilt for the Shoah to lay the foundations of their own state”. [This statement reflects all that is objectionable about the open partisanship not just in favor of Palestine, but deliberately hostile to Israel, that is evident in some statements from the Vatican and among Catholic bishops in the Middle East.]

Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric rants on the Holocaust are not very different. “A recent Vatican Synod on the Middle East marked a great regression in attitudes towards Israel”, writes the historian Sergio Minerbi in the Jerusalem Report.

The Vatican’s instrumentum laboris, a document for the synod on the Mideast just hosted in Rome, blamed Israel as uniquely responsible for the Middle East crisis. The synod was carefully prepared for a year, and it produced a rash of anti-Jewish statements on both political and theological issues. [This is a totally biased and one-sided statement.]

This ungenerous expression was particular harsh, because whoever goes to Jerusalem sees it filled with crowds of pilgrims, processions, the religious faithful, ethnic groups and all faiths. Religious freedom, freedom of access and belief is total, as it has never been since the time of Islamic conquest. [That may be so, but why does Israel continue to restrict visas to Catholic priests sent to Israel on mission?]

At the synod, the archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros, a cleric chosen by Ratzinger to draft the synod’s conclusions, denied the Jewish people’s biblical right to the Promised Land. [A deliberate mis-statement of facts. Boutros was elected by the Synod not by the Pope, who does not make the minor appointments. And his controvesial statement was an expression of his personal opinion, which the Vatican underscored at the time, and is obviously not part of the Synod's conclusions, as Meotti maliciously implies.]

“We Christians cannot speak about the Promised Land for the Jewish people. There is no longer a chosen people”. Bustros revived the “replacement theology”, the most ancient calumny that says that because of their denial of the divinity of Christ, the Jews have forfeited G-d’s promises to them, which have been transferred to Christians.

This idea was reinforced in the synod’s final message, which argues that “recourse to theological and biblical positions, which use the Word of G-d to wrongly justify injustices, is not acceptable.” [While this statement, read in full, can be seen to refer more to Islamist misuse of God's name, it can be offensive to Israel as well, as are the following statements by various prelates, which I find objectionably and senselessly partisan:]

Edmond Farhat, a Maronite Apostolic Nuncio, described Israel’s place in the Middle East in terms of a rejected “foreign implant” which has no specialists “capable of healing it”.

The former patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, named by Benedict XVI to work on the conclusions of the synod in a Vatican-owned building run by the Custodian of the Holy Land, presented a document against Israel called “Kairos”. Among the signators are the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, Armenian Torkon Manougian and Copt Anba Abraham, as well as Lutheran Manib Yunan and Anglican Suheil Dawani.

The document says: “The military occupation is a sin against God and against man”, actually excommunicates Christian supporters of Israel, takes sides against the very presence of Israel, likens the defensive barrier that has blocked suicide terrorism to apartheid, attacks the Jewish settlements invoking the name of God and conceptually cancels the Jewish state. It even legitimizes terrorism when it talks about the “thousands of prisoners who languish in Israeli jails” and which are “part of the society around us”. In fact, “resistance to the evil of occupation is a Christian's right and duty".

At the synod, Monsignor Twal said that Israel should be replaced by a new state for Muslims, Jews and Christians, ignoring the problem that Arab refugees and birth rates might sweep away the Jews. Secondly, he said that "100%" of the reason that Palestinians are running away is Israeli occupation.

A century ago, Europe was the center of Jewish life. More than 80 percent of world Jewry lived there. In the near future, the same percentage of world Jewry will live in Israel. That is why the Vatican’s stance on the Jewish State is much more important for the fate of the Jewish people than the old hat question “Who killed Jesus?”.

Under atomic and Islamist existential threats, today the remnant of the Jewish people risks being liquidated before the centennial of Israel in 2048.

Six years ago, the Pope prayed for God to stop the “murderous hand” of terrorists, referred to the “abhorrent terrorist attacks” in Egypt, Britain, Turkey and Iraq, but left out the suicide bombing that had just killed five people in a shopping center in Netanya. [This was an unfortunate omission from a statement made by Benedict XVI at Angelus that then Vatican-spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, then about to step down, tried his best to explain.]

The future of the Jews doesn’t lie in the question on Jesus Christ, but on the fate of two best friends, Rachel Ben-Abu and Nofar Horowitz, both 16, both killed in Netanya during the terror attack that the Vatican “forgot” to mention.

Their funerals were punctuated by wails of “Why, God, why?”. Their graves covered with wreaths and flowers. This is the living cross that the tiny State of Israel has had to carry for the last fifteen years.
[Please spare the melodrama! The tragedy of Arab intolerance and fatal hostility towards Israel is bad enough. To accuse the Vatican of anti-Israeli intentions because of the regrettably partisan personal opinions of Catholic bishops sympathetic to the Arabs is, to say the least, not kosher.]

00Wednesday, March 16, 2011 5:05 PM

A martyr for the faith:
The Honorable Shahbaz Bhatti
(1968 – 2011)

by Raymond J. de Souza, S.J.

March 14, 2011

We have become familiar with Fr. De Souza for his insightfull commentaries in various publications. This,however, was a homily delivered at a St. Thomas More Society memorial Mass for assassinated Pakistani cabinet minister Shabaz Bhatti, held in Parliament Hill, Ottawa on March 7. He is the chaplain of the St. Thomas More's Society, which is an association of Catholic members in the Canadian Parliament.

We come today to pray for a righteous man, the Honorable Shahbaz Bhatti, who died early, at age 42. The words of the Book of Wisdom comfort us: “Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years.” He was “pleasing to the Lord [who] took him quickly from the midst of wickedness.”

There is much wickedness in Pakistan today. The Christian disciple is not asked to pretend otherwise. We pray with eyes wide open in the words of the Psalmist, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, no evil do I fear.” The Psalms teach us an ancient wisdom, namely that the righteous man is often opposed, and that in this world the wicked often prosper.

The martyr’s death of Shahbaz Bhatti is not something unique to our time or to his country. Christian disciples of every time and place have followed their Master to the Cross and shared in His passion and death.

A few months ago there was a ceremony to mark the twentieth anniversary of this Sean O’Sullivan Chapel, and Msgr. Liam Bergin, Rector of the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, gave an address. He spoke of two alumni of the Irish College. The first, Saint Oliver Plunkett, was Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. He was brought to Westminster Hall in London and tried for being a Roman Catholic, or treason as it was called then. He was hung, drawn and quartered on July 1, 1681—the last Catholic martyr to be executed in England. The second alumnus was Father Ragheed Ghanni, who graduated from the Irish College in 2003 as an international student, a native Iraqi. On June 3, 2007, after celebrating Mass at Holy Spirit Chaldean Church in Mosul, Iraq, he was murdered along with three subdeacons, killed in his car by a hail of gunfire.

Catholics are no longer killed by the British Crown. They are today killed by jihadists in Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and elsewhere. One day, God willing, that too will stop, but there will be others who hate Christ and His Church and will visit violence upon her. Between Oliver Plunkett in 1681 and Ragheed Ghanni in 2007 there were martyrs aplenty, especially the mountains of them piled up during the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. In just a few weeks we shall mark the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt on the soon-to-be Blessed John Paul II—a near martyrdom of the Successor of Saint Peter only yards away from the martyrdom of Saint Peter himself. The question of the Risen Christ to Saul on the road to Damascus never ceases to echo in the world: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Much later that same man, now Paul, the great evangelist of the nations, would write the words of our second reading: For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

The one who persecuted the Church reached the point of sacrificing himself to the end for that same Church. What changed the one who presided over the stoning of the Church’s first martyr, Saint Stephen, into the courageous witness who would suffer martyrdom himself? It was precisely the encounter with the Risen Christ.

In the face of death the Christian proclaims the truth of the Risen Christ. The Risen Christ was not an abstraction, or mere theological doctrine, to Shahbaz Bhatti. He knew that the Lord Jesus was at work in his life. He had a personal relationship with Him. He believed that his life was proceeding under the Lord’s Providence. He knew that the Risen Christ is the Lord of History. He knew that the time of his departure was close at hand; he knew that he had fought the good fight; he knew that his race was almost finished. He knew that his service in the cabinet would not be long; he knew that his enemies were already planning to send him to his grave. He knew all this, and yet faced it with serenity and courage. Why? Because he knew that the tomb does not have the final word, that the grave is not the final destination, that the Risen Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and that all who belong to Him will rise to eternal life.

He knew all this, and so on the day before his own assassination he was able to write the following to a friend: I personally believe that it is Jesus Christ who has once again bestowed unto me this responsibility and position with a special purpose and mission to serve suffering humanity, and I am determined to carry on defending the principles of religious freedom, human equality and the rights of minorities.

Yesterday in Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that this good Catholic died as a martyr for religious freedom, speaking of him by name: "I ask the Lord Jesus that the moving sacrifice of the life of the Pakistani minister Shahbaz Bhatti may arouse in people’s consciences the courage and commitment to defend the religious freedom of all men and, in this way, to promote their equal dignity".

The Church, even amid tears, rejoices in the courage and commitment of this latest martyr. Pakistan needs a government with this courage and commitment to defend religious liberty. The Muslim world desperately needs leaders with this courage and commitment, to listen to what every conscience must know, that to kill the innocent in the name of Islam is not only an offense against the sanctity of life but against the holiness of God.

We mourn Shahbaz Bhatti as a fellow Christian disciple, and for us Catholics, as a brother in the Church. You who serve in Parliament mourn too in a particular way for one who shared your vocation. To my friends who serve in public office I have said that the most important thing to decide—even when being sworn into office—is on what grounds you would resign. The politician who does not know his grounds for resignation has lost sight of what contribution he might make, what cause he might serve, what witness he might offer. The case of the martyred cabinet minister makes the point with solemn force: On what ground would you stand firm, if it were to cost you your life? The Christian disciple who does not know for what he would die cannot know for what he lives.

The patron saint of politicians is the sainted martyr Thomas More, the patron of our Society. Thomas More died under the law when the law became lawless; Shahbaz Bhatti died at the hands of lawless men for his efforts to establish religious liberty in law. The laws of men are meant to serve justice, but even at their best can only achieve it imperfectly. The laws of God are just indeed, and the justice of God will not be mocked. So we pray for that moment of which Saint John’s Gospel speaks: Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. We pray that the Lord will bring down His terrible, swift justice upon those who murdered Minister Bhatti, and that his blood be avenged.

Yet the same passage of Saint John’s Gospel teaches us that our justice is not divine justice; God’s answer to the shedding of blood is not to shed blood anew, but to offer the redeeming blood of His only Son: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.

The Lord Jesus speaks of the mystery of the Cross, and the mystery of the Cross was lived to its fullest by Shahbaz Bhatti last Wednesday. The Lord is on the Cross, and there also must be His servant. The grain of wheat has now died. It is planted in the ground along the other grains of wheat, from Paul of Tarsus to Oliver Plunkett, from Thomas More to Ragheed Ghanni.

The ground of Bhatti’s grave is now watered by the tears of his fellow Christians, and those who thirst for justice in Pakistan. Those who weep shed tears of sorrow and tears of fear. In God’s own time, and according to His Providence, the fruit will come. For us it remains to keep faith with the fallen. It remains for us to fight the good fight, for our race is not yet finished.

The Lord Jesus speaks of His death as the hour of glory, the manifestation of His love in the work of redemption. For Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian disciple, the hour of glory has come. We pray now that whatever sins he committed be forgiven him, that whatever purification remains be accomplished quickly, and that his eyes, which closed upon the violence of this world, may open upon the glory of the Crucified and Risen Jesus, in that special company of the saints reserved for the martyrs.

St. Thomas More, welcome him home.
St. Thomas More, pray for us.

00Friday, April 1, 2011 7:34 PM

Catholics and Jews discuss
the challenges of secularism

April 1, 2011

Representatives of the Holy See and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel issued a joint statement Thursday summarizing the contents of the meeting of the Bilateral Commission for Religious Relations with Jews held in Jerusalem March 29 to 31 between the two delegations led by Card. Jorge Mejia and Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen.

The Bilateral Commission of the delegations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews held its tenth meeting to discuss the Challenges of Faith and Religious Leadership in Secular Society. The meeting opened with a moment of silence in memory of Chief Rabbi Yosef Azran who had been a member of the Chief Rabbinate’s delegation for many years. Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, co-chairman of the Bilateral Commission, welcomed the participants and reaffirmed the historic nature and importance of these meetings. His counterpart Cardinal Jorge Mejia brought the greetings of the Cardinal Kurt Koch, recently appointed President of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, to the delegates. The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yona Metzger, graced the meeting and expressed his strong support and encouragement for the work of the Bilateral Commission, acknowledging its impact on the positive change in perceptions of Jewish-Christian relations in Israeli society.

Deliberations sought to define the challenges that modern secular society faces. In addition to its many benefits; rapid technological advancement, rampant consumerism, and a nihilistic ideology with an exaggerated focus on the individual at the expense of the community and collective wellbeing, have led to a moral crisis. Together with the benefits of emancipation, the last century has witnessed unparalleled violence and barbarity. Our modern world is substantially bereft of a sense of belonging, meaning and purpose.

Faith and religious leadership have a critical role in responding to these realities, in providing both hope and moral guidance derived from the awareness of the Divine Presence and the Divine Image in all human beings. Our respective traditions declare the importance of prayer, both as the expression of awareness of the Divine Presence, and as the way to affirm that awareness and its moral imperatives. In addition, the study of the Divine Word in Scripture offers the essential inspiration and direction for life. The Biblical description of Moses (Exodus 3:1-15) was presented as a paradigm of religious leadership who, through his encounter with God, responds to the Divine call with total faith, loving his people, declaring the Word of God without fear, embodying freedom and courage, and an authority that comes from obeying God always and unconditionally, and listening to all, ready for dialogue.

The responsibility of the faithful is accordingly to testify to the Divine Presence in our world, (Isaiah 43:10) while acknowledging our failures in the past to be true and full witnesses to this charge. Such testimony is also to be seen in education, focus on youth and effective engagement of the media. Similarly, in the establishment and operation of charitable institutions with special care for the vulnerable, sick and marginalized, in the spirit of ‘tikkun olam’ (healing the world). In addition, the religious commitment to justice and peace also requires an engagement between religious leadership and the institutions of civil law.
Modern secular society has brought with it many benefits. Indeed, if secular is understood in terms of a broad-based engagement of society at large, this is likely to provide for a society in which religion can flourish. Furthermore the abovementioned focus on the individual has brought much blessing and led to an overwhelming attention to the subject of civil rights. However, in order for such a focus to be sustainable, it needs to be rooted in a higher anthropological and spiritual framework that takes into account “the common good”, which finds its expression in the religious foundation of moral duties. Society’s affirmation of such human duties, serves to empower and enshrine the human rights of its constituents.

Resulting from the discussion on the practical implications for religious leadership in relationship to current issues, the Bilateral Commission expressed the hope that the outstanding matters in the negotiations between the Holy See and the State of Israel would soon be resolved, and bilateral agreements speedily ratified for the benefit of both communities.

The Catholic delegation took the opportunity to reiterate the historic teaching of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration Nostra Aetate (No.4) regarding the Divine Covenant with the Jewish People that “the Jews still remain most dear to God because of their Fathers, for He, does not repent of the gifts He makes, nor of the calls He issues (cf. Romans 11:28-29)”; and recalled the prayer for peace of Pope Benedict XVI when receiving the Bilateral Delegation in Rome on March 12 2009, quoting Psalm 125 “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people, from this time forth and for evermore.”

00Friday, April 1, 2011 10:28 PM

Veaakh is the major Buddhist holiday commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of Siddartha Gautama, the Supreme Buddha (enlightened one), born in Lumbini (Nepal) around 583 BC, and died in Kushinagar (India) at age 80 (463 BC). Vesakh is a moveable feast celebrated according to the full moon, generally in May. Japan and the countries adhering to the Theravada or Mahayana branches of Buddhism observe it on different days.

Extreme left icon shows all three events in one image, and the subsequent icons represent the events separately.


Here is the annual message written in all the official Vatican languages to Buddhists of the world

Dear Buddhist Friends,

1. On behalf of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue I am happy once again to offer heartfelt good wishes to all of you on the occasion of Vesakh/Hanamatsuri. I pray that this annual feast may bring serenity and joy to Buddhists throughout the world.

2. In the light of an exchange of mutual friendship, as in the past, I would like to share with you some of our convictions in the hope of strengthening relations between our communities. My thoughts turn first to the relationship between peace, truth and freedom.

In the pursuit of authentic peace, a commitment to seek truth is a necessary condition. All persons have a natural duty to seek truth, to follow it and freely to live their lives in accordance with it (Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, no. 1).

This human striving for truth offers a fruitful opportunity for the followers of the different religions to encounter one another in depth and to grow in appreciation of the gifts of each.

3. In today’s world, marked by forms of secularism and fundamentalism that are often inimical to true freedom and spiritual values, inter-religious dialogue can be the alternative choice by which we find the "golden way" to live in peace and work together for the good of all.

As Pope Benedict XVI has said, "for the Church, dialogue between the followers of the different religions represents an important means of cooperating with all religious communities for the common good" (Message for the World Day of Peace 2011, no. 11).

Such dialogue is also a powerful stimulus to respect for the fundamental human rights of freedom of conscience and freedom of worship. Wherever religious freedom is effectively acknowledged, the dignity of the human person is respected at its root; by the sincere search for what is true and good, moral conscience and civil institutions are strengthened; and justice and peace are firmly established (Cf. ibid., no. 5).

4. Dear Buddhist friends, we pray that your celebration of Vesakh will be a source of spiritual enrichment and an occasion to take up anew the quest of truth and goodness, to show compassion to all who suffer, and to strive to live together in harmony. Once again allow us to express our cordial greetings and to wish all of you a Happy Feast of Vesakh/Hanamatsuri.

Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran

Vesakh celebrations last year; below, colorful lanterns are part of Vesakh celebrations in Sri Lanka.

World religions at a glance (2010 estimates):

Isn't it shocking that the non-religious now make up the fourth largest group, and that thei rnumbers are more than double the Buddhists?

00Monday, April 4, 2011 4:40 PM

The truth about
the Spanish Inquisition

Thomas F. Madden

April 4, 2011

The article was first published in the September 2003 issue of Crisis magazine, but its information about one of the enduring Black Myths about Catholicism needs to be far better propagated and transmitted....

Because it was both professional and efficient, the Spanish Inquisition kept very good records. These documents are a goldmine for modern historians who have plunged greedily into them. Thus far, the fruits of that research have made one thing abundantly clear -- the myth of the Spanish Inquisition has nothing at all to do with the real thing.

The scene is a plain-looking room with a door to the left. A pleasant young man, pestered by tedious and irrelevant questions, exclaims in a frustrated tone, "I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition." Suddenly the door bursts open to reveal Cardinal Ximinez flanked by Cardinal Fang and Cardinal Biggles. "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Ximinez shouts. "Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope.... Our four...no.... Amongst our weapons...amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again."

Anyone not living under a rock for the past 30 years will likely recognize this famous scene from Monty Python's Flying Circus. In these sketches three scarlet-clad, inept inquisitors torture their victims with such instruments as pillows and comfy chairs. The whole thing is funny because the audience knows full well that the Spanish Inquisition was neither inept nor comfortable, but ruthless, intolerant, and deadly. One need not have read Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum to have heard of the dark dungeons, sadistic churchmen, and excruciating tortures of the Spanish Inquisition. The rack, the iron maiden, the bonfires on which the Catholic Church dumped its enemies by the millions: These are all familiar icons of the Spanish Inquisition set firmly into our culture.

This image of the Spanish Inquisition is a useful one for those who have little love for the Catholic Church. Anyone wishing to beat the Church about the head and shoulders will not tarry long before grabbing two favorite clubs: the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. I have dealt with the Crusades in "The Real History of the Crusades." Now on to the other club.

In order to understand the Spanish Inquisition, which began in the late 15th century, we must look briefly at its predecessor, the medieval Inquisition. Before we do, though, it's worth pointing out that the medieval world was not the modern world. For medieval people, religion was not something one just did at church. It was their science, their philosophy, their politics, their identity, and their hope for salvation. It was not a personal preference but an abiding and universal truth. Heresy, then, struck at the heart of that truth. It doomed the heretic, endangered those near him, and tore apart the fabric of community. Medieval Europeans were not alone in this view. It was shared by numerous cultures around the world. The modern practice of universal religious toleration is itself quite new and uniquely Western.

Secular and ecclesiastical leaders in medieval Europe approached heresy in different ways. Roman law equated heresy with treason. Why? Because kingship was God-given, thus making heresy an inherent challenge to royal authority. Heretics divided people, causing unrest and rebellion. No Christian doubted that God would punish a community that allowed heresy to take root and spread. Kings and commoners, therefore, had good reason to find and destroy heretics wherever they found them -- and they did so with gusto.

One of the most enduring myths of the Inquisition is that it was a tool of oppression imposed on unwilling Europeans by a power-hungry Church. Nothing could be more wrong. In truth, the Inquisition brought order, justice, and compassion to combat rampant secular and popular persecutions of heretics. When the people of a village rounded up a suspected heretic and brought him before the local lord, how was he to be judged? How could an illiterate layman determine if the accused's beliefs were heretical or not? And how were witnesses to be heard and examined?

The medieval Inquisition began in 1184 when Pope Lucius III sent a list of heresies to Europe's bishops and commanded them to take an active role in determining whether those accused of heresy were, in fact, guilty. Rather than relying on secular courts, local lords, or just mobs, bishops were to see to it that accused heretics in their dioceses were examined by knowledgeable churchmen using Roman laws of evidence. In other words, they were to "inquire" -- thus, the term "inquisition."

From the perspective of secular authorities, heretics were traitors to God and king and therefore deserved death. From the perspective of the Church, however, heretics were lost sheep that had strayed from the flock. As shepherds, the pope and bishops had a duty to bring those sheep back into the fold, just as the Good Shepherd had commanded them. So, while medieval secular leaders were trying to safeguard their kingdoms, the Church was trying to save souls. The Inquisition provided a means for heretics to escape death and return to the community.

Most people accused of heresy by the medieval Inquisition were either acquitted or their sentence suspended. Those found guilty of grave error were allowed to confess their sin, do penance, and be restored to the Body of Christ. The underlying assumption of the Inquisition was that, like lost sheep, heretics had simply strayed. If, however, an inquisitor determined that a particular sheep had purposely departed out of hostility to the flock, there was nothing more that could be done. Unrepentant or obstinate heretics were excommunicated and given over to the secular authorities. Despite popular myth, the Church did not burn heretics. It was the secular authorities that held heresy to be a capital offense. The simple fact is that the medieval Inquisition saved uncounted thousands of innocent (and even not-so-innocent) people who would otherwise have been roasted by secular lords or mob rule.

As the power of medieval popes grew, so too did the extent and sophistication of the Inquisition. The introduction of the Franciscans and Dominicans in the early 13th century provided the papacy with a corps of dedicated religious willing to devote their lives to the salvation of the world. Because their order had been created to debate with heretics and preach the Catholic faith, the Dominicans became especially active in the Inquisition. Following the most progressive law codes of the day, the Church in the 13th century formed inquisitorial tribunals answerable to Rome rather than local bishops. To ensure fairness and uniformity, manuals were written for inquisitorial officials. Bernard Gui, best known today as the fanatical and evil inquisitor in The Name of the Rose, wrote a particularly influential manual. There is no reason to believe that Gui was anything like his fictional portrayal.

By the 14th century, the Inquisition represented the best legal practices available. Inquisition officials were university-trained specialists in law and theology. The procedures were similar to those used in secular inquisitions (we call them "inquests" today, but it's the same word).

The power of kings rose dramatically in the late Middle Ages. Secular rulers strongly supported the Inquisition because they saw it as an efficient way to ensure the religious health of their kingdoms. If anything, kings faulted the Inquisition for being too lenient on heretics. As in other areas of ecclesiastical control, secular authorities in the late Middle Ages began to take over the Inquisition, removing it from papal oversight. In France, for example, royal officials assisted by legal scholars at the University of Paris assumed control of the French Inquisition. Kings justified this on the belief that they knew better than the faraway pope how best to deal with heresy in their own kingdoms.

These dynamics would help to form the Spanish Inquisition -- but there were others as well. Spain was in many ways quite different from the rest of Europe. Conquered by Muslim jihad in the eighth century, the Iberian peninsula had been a place of near constant warfare. Because borders between Muslim and Christian kingdoms shifted rapidly over the centuries, it was in most rulers' interest to practice a fair degree of tolerance for other religions. The ability of Muslims, Christians, and Jews to live together, called convivencia by the Spanish, was a rarity in the Middle Ages. Indeed, Spain was the most diverse and tolerant place in medieval Europe. England expelled all of its Jews in 1290. France did the same in 1306. Yet in Spain Jews thrived at every level of society.

But it was perhaps inevitable that the waves of anti-Semitism that swept across medieval Europe would eventually find their way into Spain. Envy, greed, and gullibility led to rising tensions between Christians and Jews in the 14th century. During the summer of 1391, urban mobs in Barcelona and other towns poured into Jewish quarters, rounded up Jews, and gave them a choice of baptism or death. Most took baptism. The king of Aragon, who had done his best to stop the attacks, later reminded his subjects of well-established Church doctrine on the matter of forced baptisms -- they don't count. He decreed that any Jews who accepted baptism to avoid death could return to their religion.

But most of these new converts, or conversos, decided to remain Catholic. There were many reasons for this. Some believed that apostasy made them unfit to be Jewish. Others worried that returning to Judaism would leave them vulnerable to future attacks. Still others saw their baptism as a way to avoid the increasing number of restrictions and taxes imposed on Jews. As time passed, the conversos settled into their new religion, becoming just as pious as other Catholics. Their children were baptized at birth and raised as Catholics. But they remained in a cultural netherworld. Although Christian, most conversos still spoke, dressed, and ate like Jews. Many continued to live in Jewish quarters so as to be near family members. The presence of conversos had the effect of Christianizing Spanish Judaism. This in turn led to a steady stream of voluntary conversions to Catholicism.

In 1414 a debate was held in Tortosa between Christian and Jewish leaders. Pope Benedict XIII himself attended. On the Christian side was the papal physician, Jerónimo de Santa Fe, who had recently converted from Judaism. The debate brought about a wave of new voluntary conversions. In Aragon alone, 3,000 Jews received baptism. All of this caused a good deal of tension between those who remained Jewish and those who became Catholic. Spanish rabbis after 1391 had considered conversos to be Jews, since they had been forced into baptism. Yet by 1414, rabbis repeatedly stressed that conversos were indeed true Christians, since they had voluntarily left Judaism.

By the mid-15th century, a whole new converso culture was flowering in Spain -- Jewish in ethnicity and culture, but Catholic in religion. Conversos, whether new converts themselves or the descendants of converts, took enormous pride in that culture. Some even asserted that they were better than the "Old Christians," since as Jews they were related by blood to Christ Himself. When the converso bishop of Burgos, Alonso de Cartagena, prayed the Hail Mary, he would say with pride, "Holy Mary, Mother of God and my blood relative, pray for us sinners…"

The expansion of converso wealth and power in Spain led to a backlash, particularly among aristocratic and middle-class Old Christians. They resented the arrogance of the conversos and envied their successes. Several tracts were written demonstrating that virtually every noble bloodline in Spain had been infiltrated by conversos . Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories abounded. The conversos, it was said, were part of an elaborate Jewish plot to take over the Spanish nobility and the Catholic Church, destroying both from within. The conversos, according to this logic, were not sincere Christians but secret Jews.

Modern scholarship has definitively shown that, like most conspiracy theories, this one was pure imagination. The vast majority of conversos were good Catholics who simply took pride in their Jewish heritage. Surprisingly, many modern authors -- indeed, many Jewish authors -- have embraced these anti-Semitic fantasies. It is common today to hear that the conversos really were secret Jews, struggling to keep their faith hidden under the tyranny of Catholicism. Even the American Heritage Dictionary describes "converso " as "a Spanish or Portuguese Jew who converted outwardly to Christianity in the late Middle Ages so as to avoid persecution or expulsion, though often continuing to practice Judaism in secret." This is simply false.

But the constant drumbeat of accusations convinced King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that the matter of secret Jews should at least be investigated. Responding to their request, Pope Sixtus IV issued a bull on November 1, 1478, allowing the crown to form an inquisitorial tribunal consisting of two or three priests over the age of 40. As was now the custom, the monarchs would have complete authority over the inquisitors and the inquisition. Ferdinand, who had many Jews and conversos in his court, was not at first overly enthusiastic about the whole thing. Two years elapsed before he finally appointed two men. Thus began the Spanish Inquisition.

King Ferdinand seems to have believed that the inquiry would turn up little. He was wrong. A tinderbox of resentment and hatred exploded across Spain as the enemies of conversos -- both Christian and Jewish -- came out of the woodwork to denounce them. Score-settling and opportunism were the primary motivators. Nevertheless, the sheer volume of accusations overwhelmed the inquisitors. They asked for and received more assistants, but the larger the Inquisition became, the more accusations it received. At last even Ferdinand was convinced that the problem of secret Jews was real.

In this early stage of the Spanish Inquisition, Old Christians and Jews used the tribunals as a weapon against their converso enemies. Since the Inquisition's sole purpose was to investigate conversos, the Old Christians had nothing to fear from it. Their fidelity to the Catholic faith was not under investigation (although it was far from pure). As for the Jews, they were immune to the Inquisition. Remember, the purpose of an inquisition was to find and correct the lost sheep of Christ's flock. It had no jurisdiction over other flocks. Those who get their history from Mel Brooks's History of the World, Part I will perhaps be surprised to learn that all of those Jews enduring various tortures in the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition are nothing more than a product of Brooks's fertile imagination. Spain's Jews had nothing to fear from the Spanish Inquisition.

In the early, rapidly expanding years, there was plenty of abuse and confusion. Most accused conversos were acquitted, but not all. Well-publicized burnings -- often because of blatantly false testimony -- justifiably frightened other conversos. Those with enemies often fled town before they could be denounced. Everywhere they looked, the inquisitors found more accusers. As the Inquisition expanded into Aragon, the hysteria levels reached new heights. Pope Sixtus IV attempted to put a stop to it. On April 18, 1482, he wrote to the bishops of Spain:
In Aragon, Valencia, Mallorca, and Catalonia the Inquisition has for some time been moved not by zeal for the faith and the salvation of souls but by lust for wealth. Many true and faithful Christians, on the testimony of enemies, rivals, slaves, and other lower and even less proper persons, have without any legitimate proof been thrust into secular prisons, tortured and condemned as relapsed heretics, deprived of their goods and property and handed over to the secular arm to be executed, to the peril of souls, setting a pernicious example, and causing disgust to many.
Sixtus ordered the bishops to take a direct role in all future tribunals. They were to ensure that the Church's well-established norms of justice were respected. The accused were to have legal counsel and the right to appeal their case to Rome.

In the Middle Ages, the pope's commands would have been obeyed. But those days were gone. King Ferdinand was outraged when he heard of the letter. He wrote to Sixtus, openly suggesting that the pope had been bribed with converso gold:
Things have been told me, Holy Father, which, if true, would seem to merit the greatest astonishment.… To these rumors, however, we have given no credence because they seem to be things which would in no way have been conceded by Your Holiness who has a duty to the Inquisition. But if by chance concessions have been made through the persistent and cunning persuasion of the conversos, I intend never to let them take effect. Take care therefore not to let the matter go further, and to revoke any concessions and entrust us with the care of this question.
That was the end of the papacy's role in the Spanish Inquisition. It would henceforth be an arm of the Spanish monarchy, separate from ecclesiastical authority. It is odd, then, that the Spanish Inquisition is so often today described as one of the Catholic Church's great sins. The Catholic Church as an institution had almost nothing to do with it.

In 1483 Ferdinand appointed Tomás de Torquemada as inquistor-general for most of Spain. It was Torquemada's job to establish rules of evidence and procedure for the Inquisition as well as to set up branches in major cities. Sixtus confirmed the appointment, hoping that it would bring some order to the situation.

Unfortunately, the problem only snowballed. This was a direct result of the methods employed by the early Spanish Inquisition, which strayed significantly from Church standards. When the inquisitors arrived in a particular area, they would announce an Edict of Grace. This was a 30-day period in which secret Jews could voluntarily come forward, confess their sin, and do penance. This was also a time for others with information about Christians practicing Judaism in secret to make it known to the tribunal. Those found guilty after the 30 days elapsed could be burned at the stake.

For conversos, then, the arrival of the Inquisition certainly focused the mind. They generally had plenty of enemies, any one of whom might decide to bear false witness. Or perhaps their cultural practices were sufficient for condemnation? Who knew? Most conversos, therefore, either fled or lined up to confess. Those who did neither risked an inquiry in which any kind of hearsay or evidence, no matter how old or suspicious, was acceptable.

Opposition in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to the Spanish Inquisition only increased. Many churchmen pointed out that it was contrary to all accepted practices for heretics to be burned without instruction in the Faith. If the conversos were guilty at all, it was merely of ignorance, not willful heresy. Numerous clergy at the highest levels complained to Ferdinand. Opposition to the Spanish Inquisition also continued in Rome. Sixtus's successor, Innocent VIII, wrote twice to the king asking for greater compassion, mercy, and leniency for the conversos -- but to no avail.

As the Spanish Inquisition picked up steam, those involved became increasingly convinced that Spain's Jews were actively seducing the conversos back into their old faith. It was a silly idea, no more real than the previous conspiracy theories. But Ferdinand and Isabella were influenced by it. Both of the monarchs had Jewish friends and confidants, but they also felt that their duty to their Christian subjects impelled them to remove the danger. Beginning in 1482, they expelled Jews from specific areas where the trouble seemed greatest. Over the next decade, though, they were under increasing pressure to remove the perceived threat. The Spanish Inquisition, it was argued, could never succeed in bringing the conversos back into the fold while the Jews undermined its work. Finally, on March 31, 1492, the monarchs issued an edict expelling all Jews from Spain.

Ferdinand and Isabella expected that their edict would result in the conversion of most of the remaining Jews in their kingdom. They were largely correct. Many Jews in high positions, including those in the royal court, accepted baptism immediately. In 1492 the Jewish population of Spain numbered about 80,000. About half were baptized and thereby kept their property and livelihoods. The rest departed, but many of them eventually returned to Spain, where they received baptism and had their property restored. As far as the Spanish Inquisition was concerned, the expulsion of the Jews meant that the caseload of conversos was now much greater.

The first 15 years of the Spanish Inquisition, under the direction of Torquemada, were the deadliest. Approximately 2,000 conversos were put to the flames. By 1500, however, the hysteria had calmed. Torquemada's successor, the cardinal archbishop of Toledo, Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, worked hard to reform the Inquisition, removing bad apples and reforming procedures. Each tribunal was given two Dominican inquisitors, a legal adviser, a constable, a prosecutor, and a large number of assistants. With the exception of the two Dominicans, all of these were royal lay officials. The Spanish Inquisition was largely funded by confiscations, but these were not frequent or great. Indeed, even at its peak the Inquisition was always just making ends meet.

After the reforms, the Spanish Inquisition had very few critics. Staffed by well-educated legal professionals, it was one of the most efficient and compassionate judicial bodies in Europe. No major court in Europe executed fewer people than the Spanish Inquisition. This was a time, after all, when damaging shrubs in a public garden in London carried the death penalty. Across Europe, executions were everyday events. But not so with the Spanish Inquisition. In its 350-year lifespan only about 4,000 people were put to the stake. Compare that with the witch-hunts that raged across the rest of Catholic and Protestant Europe, in which 60,000 people, mostly women, were roasted. Spain was spared this hysteria precisely because the Spanish Inquisition stopped it at the border. When the first accusations of witchcraft surfaced in northern Spain, the Inquisition sent its people to investigate. These trained legal scholars found no believable evidence for witches' Sabbaths, black magic, or baby roasting. It was also noted that those confessing to witchcraft had a curious inability to fly through keyholes. While Europeans were throwing women onto bonfires with abandon, the Spanish Inquisition slammed the door shut on this insanity. (For the record, the Roman Inquisition also kept the witch craze from infecting Italy.)

What about the dark dungeons and torture chambers? The Spanish Inquisition had jails, of course. But they were neither especially dark nor dungeon-like. Indeed, as far as prisons go, they were widely considered to be the best in Europe. There were even instances of criminals in Spain purposely blaspheming so as to be transferred to the Inquisition's prisons. Like all courts in Europe, the Spanish Inquisition used torture. But it did so much less often than other courts. Modern researchers have discovered that the Spanish Inquisition applied torture in only 2 percent of its cases. Each instance of torture was limited to a maximum of 15 minutes. In only 1 percent of the cases was torture applied twice and never for a third time.

The inescapable conclusion is that, by the standards of its time, the Spanish Inquisition was positively enlightened. That was the assessment of most Europeans until 1530. It was then that the Spanish Inquisition turned its attention away from the conversos and toward the new Protestant Reformation. The people of Spain and their monarchs were determined that Protestantism would not infiltrate their country as it had Germany and France. The Inquisition's methods did not change. Executions and torture remained rare. But its new target would forever change its image.

By the mid-16th century, Spain was the wealthiest and most powerful country in Europe. King Philip II saw himself and his countrymen as faithful defenders of the Catholic Church. Less wealthy and less powerful were Europe's Protestant areas, including the Netherlands, northern Germany, and England. But they did have a potent new weapon: the printing press. Although the Spanish defeated Protestants on the battlefield, they would lose the propaganda war. These were the years when the famous "Black Legend" of Spain was forged. Innumerable books and pamphlets poured from northern presses accusing the Spanish Empire of inhuman depravity and horrible atrocities in the New World. Opulent Spain was cast as a place of darkness, ignorance, and evil. Although modern scholars have long ago discarded the Black Legend, it still remains very much alive today. Quick: Think of a good conquistador.

Protestant propaganda that took aim at the Spanish Inquisition drew liberally from the Black Legend. But it had other sources as well. From the beginning of the Reformation, Protestants had difficulty explaining the 15-century gap between Christ's institution of His Church and the founding of the Protestant churches. Catholics naturally pointed out this problem, accusing Protestants of having created a new church separate from that of Christ. Protestants countered that their church was the one created by Christ but that it had been forced underground by the Catholic Church. Thus, just as the Roman Empire had persecuted Christians, so its successor, the Roman Catholic Church, continued to persecute them throughout the Middle Ages. Inconveniently, there were no Protestants in the Middle Ages, yet Protestant authors found them anyway in the guise of various medieval heresies. (They were underground, after all.)

In this light, the medieval Inquisition was nothing more than an attempt to crush the hidden, true church. The Spanish Inquisition, still active and extremely efficient at keeping Protestants out of Spain, was for Protestant writers merely the latest version of this persecution. Mix liberally with the Black Legend, and you have everything you need to produce tract after tract about the hideous and cruel Spanish Inquisition. And so they did.

The Spanish people loved their Inquisition. That is why it lasted for so long. It stood guard against error and heresy, protecting the faith of Spain and ensuring the favor of God. But the world was changing. In time, Spain's empire faded away. Wealth and power shifted to the north, in particular to France and England.

By the late 17th century, new ideas of religious tolerance were bubbling across the coffeehouses and salons of Europe. Inquisitions, both Catholic and Protestant, withered. The Spanish stubbornly held on to theirs, and for that, they were ridiculed. French philosophers like Voltaire saw in Spain a model of the Middle Ages: weak, barbaric, superstitious.

The Spanish Inquisition, already established as a bloodthirsty tool of religious persecution, was derided by Enlightenment thinkers as a brutal weapon of intolerance and ignorance. A new, fictional Spanish Inquisition had been constructed, designed by the enemies of Spain and the Catholic Church.
00Friday, September 2, 2011 7:18 PM
Our Culture Is Saturated In Negativity And Cynicism
The Irish Times - Friday, August 26, 2011

By John Waters

THE THEME of the 32nd Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples is the concept of certainty, as conveyed in the provocative title: “And Existence Becomes an Immense Certainty”. Since Italy has so recently joined us in the economic doghouse, I had half-expected to encounter here an unravelling similar to that experienced by Ireland since 2008. I have been surprised.

Here in Rimini, in harmony with the challenge of that uncompromising title, there is a recognition that a crisis is under way, but no sense of fatalism, no acceptance that what is happening is definitive for human aspiration or hope. Life is a process tangentially related to economic prospects, not married to them. Life goes on.

At the meeting this week, thousands of people have been turning out for all kinds of encounters: to hear philosophers and scientists speak about the nature of certainty; to peer at the exhibits depicting the extraordinary life of Blessed John Henry Newman; to learn about the thinking that led generations of physicists to gaze into the atom; to engage with journalists in discussion of the future of the printed word; and to attend some of the innumerable events marking 150 years of Italian unity. The Rimini meeting is essentially a creation of Catholicism, yet acknowledges no bounds within the conventional understandings summoned up by the word “religion”.

So removed are such phenomena from anything that might be imagined for the mainstream of Irish life that it is difficult to avoid the sense that some quite shocking impoverishment has descended on our own culture, and that this has arisen from the collapse of the religious dimension.

We live in an age when the desire for certainty seems to exist in inverse to its availability. But, instead of risking more to know more, we reduce the terms and ratchet down the framework of potential understanding so as to make it appear that we have come to know almost everything. Thus, present uncertainties seem to accompany an almost overwhelming desire that all matters be settled once and for all. And the more intense becomes our preoccupation with pinning everything down, the more the uncertainty grows.

One of the insights that surfaced again and again this week in Rimini is that human certainty is not what our cultures have decided: a definitive clarity concerning facts and meanings. Rather, it has to do with the determination of the stride along a particular path. Every understanding, every discovery, is contingent. Several leading scientists, including Lucio Rossi, who worked on the Large Hadron Collider, and John Polkinghorne, former president of Queens’ College, Cambridge, spoke about the tentative nature of scientific voyaging. Because science constantly contradicts itself, they seemed to agree, it is not possible to “arrive” anywhere, but only to move forward with a confidence that supplies its own, provisional, certitude.

If asked to put one word on the mood of Ireland, I might until this week have proffered “rage”. Now I glimpse that the point is really that the dominant emotion is reactive and negative rather than creative or constructive. What, for example, has been the most acclaimed political speech of the past year? Not some visionary call-to-arms or invocation of the Irish spirit, but the Taoiseach’s denunciation of the pope and the Vatican last month. The urge is to denounce everything rather than announce anything.

This goes a long way towards explaining the difficulty we experience throwing up a plausible successor to President Mary McAleese, who wowed the Rimini meeting this time last year. Our culture is too saturated in negativity and cynicism to yield a “leader” other than one who represents a two-fingers to itself.

I believe these deficiencies of Irish culture arise overwhelmingly from the nature of two key edifices of our culture: education and journalism.

The neglect of philosophy in our schools is one dimension of the problem. More serious is that our education system works on the development of retention rather than reason. The fragmented nature of what we call education, as Cardinal Newman diagnosed 150 years ago, imparts packets of information under various headings with no overarching code by which to join things up.

Journalism, itself the product of the stunted mode of education, reduces everything a little further so as to confine the description of reality within its control.

Dictating and informing the daily menu of mainstream thinking, our media commentary is overwhelmingly shallow, reactive and driven by simplistic and unacknowledged ideologies that work off citizens’ negative emotions to promote a sense of destination that is a mirage. Scepticism, the most vital element of a healthy journalism, has gone out of control, so that the dominant energies tend towards demolition rather than construction.

The culture thus nurtured is angry at, and uncomprehending of, its disintegration, but, lacking any solid ground to stand on, cannot summon up a coherent response directed at saving itself. Patriotism is inexpressible other than as a sideways attack on the unpatriotic actions of others; “values” means the denunciation of inherited ideals; “hope” is a circular sentimentality, expected to generate itself out of nothing.

Everything unravels, while the commentary implies a certain progress.



You can check out more of his opinion pieces on the Irish Times website. Click on the link below.

Irish Times Archive - By John Waters
00Friday, September 9, 2011 3:52 AM
Very interesting item but very peripheral to Benedict XVI, since it concerns events long before his time at the Vatican, even if it has to do with Fr. Maciel, so I am posting it on this thread...

Connecticut judge upholds key elements
of a lawsuit against the Legionaries by man
claiming to be Fr. Maciel's illegitimate son

The Hartford Courant
Sertp. 7, 2011

A state judge has upheld key elements of a lawsuit claiming that for years the Vatican ignored allegations of child sexual abuse by a priest who founded the Legionaries of Christ, a secretive Catholic order based in Connecticut.

The suit is being pressed by Jose Raul Gonzalez Lara, a Mexican who claims that he is the illegitimate son of his abuser, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado.

In one of the odder twists in the still-emerging story of Maciel, Gonzalez claims that he was one of two children Maciel fathered with a woman in Mexico. Gonzalez said that Maciel was known to his family in Mexico as Raul Rivas and claimed to be a CIA agent and oil executive,

Gonzalez has said he did not learn that his father was a priest until 1997, when he was about 17. He said his abuse by Maciel began when he was 7 and continued for nine years. The victim was 30 when he filed the suit in June 2010. Maciel died in 2008.

In the legal decision last week, Superior Court Judge Grant Miller rejected arguments by the Legionaries and its affiliated organizations to dismiss the suit in its entirety.

Miller dismissed counts in the suit that claimed that the Legionaries knew or should have known of Maciel's abuse. But the judge let stand counts in which Gonzalez claims that negligence by the order contributed to his abuse by Maciel.

New Haven lawyer Joel Faxon, who represents Gonzalez, said that he will issue subpoenas for senior Vatican officials in an effort to support the negligence case.

The suit claims that Maciel's sexual abuse of children was widely known in the church for decades, beginning in the 1940s and '50s, but was not stopped.

[The suit is against the order, not the Vatican, so why does this Jeffrey-Anderson copycat wish to subpoena Vatican officials? If, as the suit claims, the reports ignored by the Vatican were made in the 1950s-1970s, what is the likelihood that any responsible official at the time is still in office, or even alive? This is sheer grandstanding, and the judge a willing participant in it.]

In 1976 alone, according to the suit, the Legionaries' national director accused Maciel by letter of abusing 20 seminarians, and a U.S. bishop reported Maciel to the Vatican and Pope Paul VI, but no action was taken. Another complaint was made to the Vatican two years later, according to the suit, but there was no response.

Craig Raabe, the lawyer representing the Legionaries, had no immediate response Wednesday to the decision in court. Previously, the Legionaries have declined to discuss the suit.

The Legionaries operate the Legion of Christ College in Cheshire and the Legion of Christ in Hamden.

00Monday, September 26, 2011 8:00 PM
Our vision for the Catholic Voices Academy
23 September 2011 - University of Notre Dame in London

by Austen Ivereigh

The Catholic Voices Academy, which we’re proudly launching tonight, honoured and encouraged by the presence of His Grace, the Archbishop of Westminster, takes seriously two of Pope Benedict XVI’s most emphatic invitations on his historic visit last year.

The first was made at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, when he spoke of evangelising our culture at a time when there is an active movement to exclude religious belief from public discourse or to privatise it in the name of equality and freedom. “I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful,” he said, “to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum”; and he told us not to be afraid to take up this service. In that same passage he also spoke of the need for “clear voices” which “propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility”.

Perhaps because of use of the word “voices”, it seemed to us at the time - I think we were in the press centre in Parliament Square - that this was an invitation being addressed very directly to us, one that suggested a path to follow after his historic visit. It suggested that Catholic Voices could be not just about equipping Catholics to put their case effectively in the fast-flowing environment of 24-hour news, but about helping Catholics to develop a new public language, one that could bring the depth of insight of church teaching to bear on contemporary questions.

The other moment when the idea for the Academy took root was next day, when I was in Westminster Hall to hear Pope Benedict address parliamentarians and civic leaders. Something happened that day in that great place which is hard to name; it was as if the message that the Pope had come to bring - a call for reason and the public square to open to faith - actually occurred, even before he arrived. It was not just that the myth of the British nation-state as Protestant had died: after all, here was the entire British political establishment sitting waiting patiently to be addressed by the Successor of St Peter. It was also that a new kind of a space in British public life had been opened up. It was fleeting, it was a glimpse. And you might say we’ve seen no more of it since then. But I came away convinced that it was real, and that, as a Church, we must help make it so.

In that Westminster Hall speech, just as in Pope Benedict’s thrilling address to the Bundestag yesterday, was the genesis of what I want to dare to call a new Christian humanism – one that breathes the insights of our faith into the national public conversation, to bolster what the Pope called “the ethical foundations of civil discourse”. In what is the most widely-quoted part of his Westminster Hall speech, Pope Benedict described the benefits of political thought and faith entering into dialogue – benefits not just for reason, but also for faith. “This is why”, he said, “I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilisation”.[1]

This fruitful exchange – which is the direct opposite, of course, of the secularist ambition of excluding or privatising faith as an individual matter of personal belief – is the best way, the only way, of overcoming the temptations to sectarianism and fundamentalism, whether of religion or of political creeds; and it is the foundation of authentic pluralism. Only when we as Catholics have developed a clearer understanding of what is necessary for true pluralism - namely, religious freedom, the foundation of all our other freedoms - can we make a compelling, universal case against gay marriage, assisted suicide, or whatever the news issue of the moment is that brings us into the studios. For at stake in these questions is not what we, as Catholics, believe, as one group among many in society; it is about what is good for the whole of society – the common good. We, as Catholics, need to be part of that discernment of that common good.

Last year, when the Pope left us those precious, challenging words in Westminster Hall, they seemed prophetic. Now, a year later, they have taken on a sudden urgency, especially in the wake of the eruption of disorder in early August, which lifted in the veil on chronic unemployment, alienation, family breakdown and criminality among vast numbers of people who are poor, purposeless, and angry, while the rest of Britain has enjoyed unprecedented wealth. The riots, coming in the wake of scandals in banking, journalism and politics, have led to call for a way of “re-moralising” society with values and virtues. What we are living through is, in essence, a crisis of the liberal project. Britain’s liberalism has long shown itself capable of managing and reconciling different interests. But the respect for autonomy which is the cornerstone of this philosophy is unable to meet the very different challenge of this new time, which is essentially cultural: it is the culture on which politics, economics and society depend which has proved deficient. The liberal project, so successful in expanding the freedom of some, often at the expense of many, has reached its limits; it cannot generate the virtues and values necessary for a healthy democracy and economy. A society will break down when progress is defined as the endless expansion of opportunities for the exercise of personal autonomy.

Who can generate sobriety, frugality, and self-restraint? Who can muster the energies for a common purpose of social regeneration? Culture needs scrutiny according to ethical criteria which are not of its own making, criteria based on a coherent philosophical overview, on universal tenets accessible to reason, that can supply its own answers to questions of human motivation and human destiny. Answering such questions has always been the business of the major faiths. The renewal of culture has to come from civil society, not the market and the state; and it was for us as Catholics among other faiths to be allowed to do so that the Pope appealed in Westminster Hall. It was a twin appeal: to the public square to open up, and to Catholics to take their place in the national conversation.

We have, after all, great gifts to share: the tremendous body of Catholic social teaching, culminating in Caritas in Veritate, and the witness and experience, here in England and Wales, of the Catholic charitable sector – especially through Caritas and Cafod; we have the Pope’s own very deep thinking about religious freedom, laid out in his historic speech in January this year; and, of course, the many teaching documents of our bishops –the tradition and witness of our Church, the depth of its teaching, and her institutional presence among all races and classes, which makes her the most significant actor in civil society across the world today.

As Catholics, we do not “possess” this tradition. Andrew Brown, editor of the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ site, who is here tonight, is a Protestant atheist; he gave many reasons in a recent piece entitled ‘Why I am not a Catholic’. But he said that “Catholic social teaching, and the attempts to produce an economics centred around the needs of humans, rather than of money, look like the only thought-through alternatives to unbridled market capitalism – and certainly the only ones which have a chance of widespread popular support.” It is striking, in fact, that among the most influential channels of Catholic Social Teaching in Britain today are non-Catholics. The Government’s Big Society idea owes much to Phillip Blond’s immersion in Catholic social teaching via Professor John Milbank, just as some of the most interesting new thinking in the Labour Party is the result of Lord Glasman’s own insights from that same tradition. We have all learned much from London Citizens and CitizensUK, under the leadership of Neil Jameson, also here tonight, which puts into practice the politics of civil society called for in Catholic social teaching, and in which Catholic schools and congregations here in London play a key role. Phillip Blond is Anglican; Lord Glasman, Jewish; Neil Jameson, a Quaker. So while the Catholic Voices Academy will be a place for unwrapping the Church’s gifts and insights, we will find that some of the best teachers of those insights will be from other traditions.

Providentially, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales are celebrating the papal visit anniversary by launching a five-year plan to help Catholics be more courageous and confident in expressing their faith. They want us to grasp that at the root of what they call a “truly human, just and free society” is the Gospel and the core moral truths about human beings – truths that respect what Pope Benedict in his address to the German Parliament yesterday described as a “human ecology”. The bishops invite us, a year on from his visit, to be inspired by Pope Benedict’s model of confidence combined with gentleness; and we’d like to think that was an excellent description of the Catholic Voices approach. In both of the books being launched tonight you will find our “10 Catholic Voices principles of good communication”, at the end of which we note how the Pope never falls into the role of persecuted victim. We write: “What did he do, after landing in Scotland? He praised Britain, gave thanks for the hospitality, kissed babies and melted hearts. He had strong words – scandalous words – for his listeners; but they were words of reason, compassion and conviction. He did not command, but appealed. He showed compassion, empathy and real love. And because he had first witnessed, the British people were ready to listen. That was his victory, and it is the only kind we should seek.”

What we developed last year in Catholic Voices– although we didn’t perhaps realise it at first -- was an approach, a method, a language for putting the Church’s case, one that was appropriate to the media and the public square, a language that was universal and accessible, confident but not aggressive. We did this, as you’ll see from the books we’re publishing tonight, by developing techniques and habits of preparation, tips and principles such as you’ll read about, and a certain mindset. These emerged from the Briefings we held every two weeks over the six months before Pope Benedict arrived; the Catholic Voices who did all those interviews last year, and continue to, say it was the thinking-through time in those sessions which gave them the chance to make their case effectively – by understanding the values behind the criticism, by understanding the need quickly to undermine the preconceptions of the Catholic position imposed by the existing frame. Our “white book”[2] is the fruit of all those sessions – taking each “neuralgic issue” and working it through, so that, we hope, ordinary Catholics need no longer pray for the ground to swallow them up when a dinner party freezes over.

The Academy seeks to continue, and widen, that thinking-through space, with the aim not just of preparing for interviews, but with the broader ambition of equipping lay Catholics to evangelise our culture. We might think of the Academy as the means by which we translate the wisdom and insights of our Church into the language of the public square. So our links with church organisations and many experts and intellectuals will, of course, be vital. We are delighted to be assisting the Margaret Beaufort Institute in Cambridge, for example, in the lectures they are putting together on Catholic social teaching next year. It has been great to be part of the meetings organised by Caritas and the bishops on deepening social engagement. The Catholic Voices book is, of course, fruit of so many people who helped us last year and I hope will support the Academy by continuing to make available to us their skills in distilling and applying the gifts of our tradition to contemporary questions.

The Academy is being launched at an exciting and propitious time - a time of crisis in the liberal project, a time of a national search for values and virtues capable of revitalising civic life. It has happened before. As the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has been pointing out in many articles since August, this current time has great similarities to the early nineteenth century, an era of tremendous dislocation, grotesque inequality, social violence, egotism and greed – a high noon, as now, of liberal individualism. Yet the late nineteenth century saw a rapid growth in charities, schools, associations, political campaigns – most of it driven by faith. Within a single generation, crime rates came down, social order was restored, and politics was revitalised by great moral campaigns against slavery, child labour, and so on; what has been done before can be done again. The energy and vision then came from civil society; and the principal engine of civil society, then as now, is faith. The Pope calls us to take our place, in other words, just at the moment when history begs us to.

When we talk of the Academy developing a new ‘Christian humanism’, this is not an attempt to develop an ideology, still less any kind of political or parliamentary movement. Professor Vera Negri Zamagni, professor at Bologna and wife of Stefano Zamagni, one of the principal thinkers who contributed to Caritas in Veritate, has argued that European Catholics have spent too long focussed on the state and political parties. The same could be said of Catholics here. Zamagni says that Catholics need to come together to develop common ideas, rethinking from scratch the application of Catholic social teaching, and to form what she calls a “critical mass”, creating forums outside and across parties, and exerting pressure on politics from civil society – in other words, holding state and market to account to civil society.[3]

The first step in that direction, then, is the creation of a forum, a zone of friendship, as John Allen has kindly described[4] Catholic Voices, where Catholics of different tendencies - with others outside the Church who can articulate our own tradition sometimes better than we can - come together with the shared purpose of developing common responses to the challenges of our time. It is a space for bringing to bear the gifts of the Church on major contemporary questions. Over time, if it is fruitful, and it may take years, Catholics disappointed with what is currently on offer from our spent ideologies, whether of left and right – all variants of an exhausted liberalism – can look to the Academy, and the new Catholic humanism which has emerged from it, for inspiration, and say: “yes, this is what I believe”. I was looking for that, as a young Catholic, and did not see it around me – only abroad, or in history. Our contact with young Catholics through Catholic Voices suggests that they, too, are looking for it.

That set of beliefs and principles, that habit of thinking, we are calling “Catholic humanism”, because it is about criteria for all, for the common good, rather than merely a defence of a minority view. The term will remind some of you of the phrase “integral humanism” associated with Jacques Maritain and Emmanuel Mounier and others in 1940s France, and which would prove so influential on the creation of postwar Christian democracy.[5] But the term is not fixed; it may change; perhaps we should call it Christian humanism or spiritual humanism, or a specific Catholic contribution to the emergence of these. But for now, it is a useful shorthand for what we think could be a major long-term fruit of the Catholic Voices Academy.

This, then, is the vision. The practical questions of format and membership are not as clear; we want to leave room for the Holy Spirit to act. We have booked three meetings in the next few months – all here at Notre Dame. The first, on 13 October, will consider the topic: “How the Church can help mend broken Britain”. There will be a panel of speakers, who will speak for 10 minutes each; we will grill them; and we will deduce from this some ideas and principles, which will then be shared. Future Academy events may be lectures, or debates. Between now and Christmas, there will be no formal membership or fees to pay; we will supply the wine, and the venue - -which you’ll see downstairs. And by Christmas, we hope, we will have some clearer idea of how to organise these sessions; and how to give it some more permanent footing.

I want to give the last word to Pope Benedict, in his address yesterday to the German Parliament:

The conviction that there is a Creator God is what gave rise to the idea of human rights, the idea of the equality of all people before the law, the recognition of the inviolability of human dignity in every single person and the awareness of people’s responsibility for their actions. Our cultural memory is shaped by these rational insights. To ignore it or dismiss it as a thing of the past would be to dismember our culture totally and to rob it of its completeness. The culture of Europe arose from the encounter between Jerusalem, Athens and Rome – from the encounter between Israel’s monotheism, the philosophical reason of the Greeks and Roman law. This three-way encounter has shaped the inner identity of Europe. In the awareness of man’s responsibility before God and in the acknowledgment of the inviolable dignity of every single human person, it has established criteria of law: it is these criteria that we are called to defend at this moment in our history.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, ‘Address to politicians, diplomats, academics and business leaders’, 17 September 2010.

[2] Austen Ivereigh & Kathleen Griffith, Catholic Voices: putting the case for the Church in an era of 24-hour news (Darton, Longman & Todd), available from Amazon and all good bookshops.

[3] Vera Negri Zamagni, ‘The political and economic impact of CST since 1891: Christian Democracy and Christian Labour Unions in Europe’, in Daniel K. Finn (ed.), The True Wealth of Nations: Catholic social thought and economic life (Oxford UP 2010) pp 109-110.

[4] John Allen, ‘Thoughts on post-tribal Catholicism’, www.ncronline.org/blogs/all-things-catholic/thoughts-post-tribal-cathol... (15 April 2011)

[5] Jacques Maritain, Integral Humanism (1936).


00Wednesday, October 19, 2011 12:08 AM

Ukrainian patriarch discusses
Church situation in the Ukraine



Last March a bishop who had not yet reached his 41st birthday was appointed head of the largest Eastern-rite Church in communion with Rome. Only recently appointed a bishop to serve the South American Ukrainian Catholic faithful, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, was elected major archbishop of Kiev-Halychna, thus taking the helm of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, who had already served three years past normal retirement age.

With some 10 million faithful worldwide, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church holds a unique position within the Catholic Church. It bridges Eastern and Western Christianity, tracing its roots to the Church in Kiev, which broke with Rome during the Great Schism but reunited with her in 1595.

Acknowledging papal authority and learning from the Western Church, it also retains the Byzantine liturgy and the spiritual heritage of Orthodoxy. Within this rite, the Church truly breathes “with both lungs,” as Pope John Paul II was wont to say: the tendency toward reason in the Latin Church coalescing quite naturally with the Orthodox emphasis upon faith, so often manifested in mysticism.

Archbishop Shevchuk (center) with Bishop Richard Seminack of the Chicago Eparchy (left) and Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, at a Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Chicago last Sunday, Oct. 16.

Register correspondent Matthew A. Rarey spoke with Archbishop Shevchuk during his visit to Chicago last month to preside at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Eparchy of St. Nicholas, a diocese of the Ukrainian Church which has jurisdiction over the entire western United States, all of the Midwest (except Ohio), Alaska and Hawaii.

Especially given your age, one is reminded of two of your 20th-century predecessors: Andrei Sheptytsky and Josef Slipyj. Both became head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church when they were young, and both led the Church through difficult years: World War II, Soviet occupation and Stalin’s brutal clampdown on the Church, which was forced to function underground as the so-called “Church of the Catacombs.” What challenges do you face, and do they in any way compare with theirs?
I think the biggest challenge our Church faces now is her existence as a global Church. Our center is in Ukraine, throughout its different parts, but we have eparchies and parishes throughout the world. The challenge is how to be one Church in different countries and cultures: how to maintain our internal unity and be pastorally efficient in very different contexts.

The second challenge — or perhaps I should say: main task of each parish — is how to be efficient in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. This is especially true in Ukraine, a post-communist country. Church life can be very intensive in one part of our country and in another part completely absent.

How to fulfill this important task of preaching the Gospel, sharing our faith with all those people who need to be evangelized? — that is a primary challenge right now.

What is the general state of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church today?
The Church has been experiencing a big explosion ever since the fall of the communists and our Church coming out from her underground existence in 1989. We are restoring our structures: from parishes to creating new eparchies. And now we are creating the patriarchal structures which can provide the head of the Church the possibility to have a special care for the Ukrainian Catholics in and outside Ukraine. The Church is developing herself.

We also are focusing on creating new Church structures in central and eastern Ukraine, first of all because a lot of our faithful live there, whereas they might not have lived there in the past. Today, we have three exarchates in those territories.

What is an exarchate?
It is like an embryonic eparchy: the basic structures needed to provide good and efficient care to all of our faithful. So we are developing our presence in different parts of Ukraine.

[The majority of Ukrainian Catholics have long resided in the western third of Ukraine, which was ruled by westward-looking Poland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the long Soviet occupation of 1946 to 1991. The eastern two-thirds, on the other hand, were long ruled by Russia, which enforced Orthodoxy, and then the Soviet Union, which enforced Russification in order to undermine Ukrainian national identity. The result is that much of Ukraine is virtually missionary country for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.]

But besides building Church structures, I think it is important to emphasize that we still have many vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

There was an influx of seminarians in those first exciting years after the Church emerged from underground. Some, however, may have been inspired by religious and patriotic ardor rather than a true calling.

And, evidently, some men have chosen the priesthood for reasons that don’t exist in America: The priesthood in Ukraine carries social status and offers a good income upon which to support a family in a country whose economy is far from stable. (In the Eastern Churches, married men can be ordained priests, but married priests cannot become bishops.)

What is the seminarian situation in Ukraine today?
It’s a very difficult question. Because when a young man asks to be received into the seminary, it is hard to say what kind of motivation he has. But I would say, as a former seminary rector, that we have very authentic vocations. Maybe some 2% or 3% leave after the first year. Thank God we have really good, authentic vocations among the overwhelming majority of seminarians.

Approximately how many Ukrainian Catholic priests and seminarians are there in Ukraine? Are there enough to serve the faithful?
We are experiencing a shortage of priests. Right now, in Ukraine, we have 2,500 faithful per priest. It’s too much for a priest to give proper personal care. And we have 2,300 priests serving the faithful. Before the Second World War and the destruction of our Church, however, we had 3,200 priests. So, 20 years after the liberation of the Church, we have not achieved pre-persecution levels.

Right now in Ukraine, we have five seminaries. Just recently, we opened one in Kiev, just beside my residence. [In 2004 the archepiscopal see of the Church moved from Lviv, the Church’s cultural capital in western Ukraine, to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine and historic center of Ukrainian Christianity.]

In all, we have about 600 seminarians. We are happy for this, but it is still not enough. In Ukraine we have nine seminarians per 100,000 faithful. But compared to Spain, for example, which has 4.2 per 100,000, we still have a good number of vocations. And a certain percentage of potential seminarians are still being turned away — not accepted for various reasons. Even though we need more vocations, it is not possible to receive everybody.

Taras Antoshevsky, director of the Religious Information Service of Ukraine, told me that “the status of religious freedom in Ukraine has changed for the worse” under President Viktor Yanukovych (elected in February 2009). According to Antoshevsky, the president “sympathizes only with the UOC-MP” [the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, versus the Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church centered in Kiev], and he has “found no time to meet with the members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations,” to which the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church belongs. Have things become harder for your Church under an administration viewed as pro-Russian, perhaps in religion as well as politics?
Right now we are in a different situation than maybe two years ago. Is it worse or better? It’s hard to say. Definitely our president has declared himself to be a faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate.

We [religious leaders] used to have common prayers in the past, especially on the anniversary of Ukraine’s freedom. This year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of an independent Ukraine. All the leaders of the different churches and denominations asked for the possibility to pray together for Ukraine [at an official government function]. It was not allowed.

What role does the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in particular play in the life of Ukraine, all Ukrainian churches, in general? And is their job hard, given Ukraine’s long national nightmare under communism, which produced a secularized society with rampant atheism and false ideologies?
In Ukraine the largest part of society is not evangelized. Right now the Church — or Churches — present a unique social structure which has credibility in society. No one among the politicians or political parties has that same credibility.

In today’s society, the Churches play an important role as the moral authority. We have an organization called the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations. For over a year the president [Yanukovych] would not meet with its leaders. Finally, this past Holy Thursday, he met with us for the first time.

But this council plays a very important role in society. When we make a declaration on a specific issue in social life, it has very big repercussions — more than any governmental structure. It’s why we all together are playing a very important role.

Maybe some politicians don’t know how to deal with the moral authority of the Church. Many people would predict that some political parties or governmental structures will try to discredit the moral authority of the Church: inventing false reports, for example — a new form of persecution toward the Churches in Ukraine.

What would be the motivation to discredit the Church or Churches? And can you give an example of this discrediting, what we would call a smear tactic?
The goal may be to eliminate those Churches who would not be easily manipulated by the government, obeying its directives. Those Churches who want to have the freedom to pronounce the truth publicly would be under threat of political persecution.

For example, recently there have been TV shows that have tried to represent the “true lives” of religious leaders to discredit them in the minds of the faithful. Of course, some of these representations might be true. We’re just humans. But some of them have been done falsely, simply to discredit the Church.

Ukraine’s birthrate of 1.2 children per woman is one of the lowest in the world. If it persists, the country’s population of 47 million will be cut in half by 2050. What is the Church doing to restore a culture of life?
There is a whole bloc of activities the Church is promoting. Generally speaking, the Church is trying to protect family values and promote social morality. For example, we have a special Church program to prepare young couples for the sacrament of marriage: to educate them about the Church’s pro-life positions against abortion and contraception. We also have different movements of young Christian couples.

It is interesting that those parents who were well prepared for the sacrament of marriage — they ask the pastors to help with the program after they are married. Those young people, they themselves are developing this culture of life, sharing their own family values.

Technically speaking, the government is doing some very positive things regarding the family: supporting the family when a child is born, such as by giving financial support. But, generally speaking, the economic situation in Ukraine is not so favorable for young families.

Sadly, we are witnessing the destruction of the middle class in Ukraine. There are different reasons why this has happened. Politicians say that the country will become more happy and wealthy if more reforms take place, but the last reforms they did have, they only created more problems; people lost their jobs, their savings; small businesses went under. It’s not so easy today for young couples to rear children.

Rome recognizes the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church as a “major archbishop,” despite granting him all the prerogatives of an Eastern patriarch as head of a self-governing Church in full communion with Rome. Is this lack of formal titular recognition motivated by Rome’s concern not to rile relations with the Orthodox, especially the Moscow Patriarchate?
The whole issue of the patriarchate is not a political issue, though, very often, journalists like to speak of it as such. It’s an issue of Church life. I would like to move this issue from the field of politics to the field of pastoral care. I would say that I, as the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, have the same rights as each Eastern patriarch, but I do not have the honorific title. I think the most important thing is the growth of the Ukrainian Church, which definitely is growing toward patriarchal dignity. Right now we do live in a [de facto] patriarchal Church, however.

[The question was rather petty and I am glad Archbishop Shevchuk answered it well. Not having the formal title of Patriarch never seemed to bother Cardinal Husar, who was even considered papabile in the last two conclaves. In any case, chances are Archbishop Shevchuk will be named a cardinal sooner of later.]

Please explain that.
Let me explain by giving an example of a patriarchal Church in action. A few weeks ago we had a patriarchal sabor in Brazil: that is, a general assembly of the whole Ukrainian Catholic Church, with representatives of all the eparchies throughout the world, including monks, nuns and laymen. Not a synod, which would only include all the bishops, but a patriarchal gathering of the whole Ukrainian Catholic Church.

This is the sign of an existing patriarchal Church. Why? Because this sabor gathered people not only from Ukraine, but from Ukrainian Catholic communities throughout the world, in order to discuss matters important to the whole Church, not just the Church within Ukraine. This is the way of existing for a patriarchal Church.

Your predecessor, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, stressed the need for a unified Church in Ukraine, erasing the Orthodox divide. Is that your focus as well? And have relations with Russia improved under Kirill, the new patriarch of Moscow?
To answer your first question, there are two different levels of unity: unity of action and unity of structure. I think the latter is not an imminent goal. Cardinal Husar understands very well that we do not presume to create a unified structure for all the different Churches in Ukraine. First of all, we must have communion [i.e., unity in action]. It is very important to distinguish.

Maybe it is not imminent, but would you envision a “unified Church in Ukraine” as one being in communion with Rome? Is that the ultimate goal?
Unifying the Church doesn’t mean uniformity of Church: building a unique structure under the Pope. It’s not like that. Christ’s Church is the communion of the different local Churches. That communion doesn’t mean the dissolution of one Church inside of another.

From our point of view, we need to restore the life of the Church of the first millennium of Christianity: one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Not a uniform, unifying Church, but one in communion with Rome — and also restoring regional ways of being Christians.

Before the division of the Great Schism in the 11th century, the Church of Kiev had double communion — with the See of Constantinople and the Pope of Rome — so it was united with East and West. The Church of Kiev, you see, existed before that division.

So, in order to restore the communion with the Churches in Ukraine, we don’t have to invent something strange or different, but restore the original unity of the Church of Christ.

And this process, this ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox: Is it easier now when the Patriarch of Moscow is Kirill? That is hard to say. I would say it is different, because he is a different person. But we are trying, first of all, to restore this unity of action, not the unity in structure.

Unity of action meaning …?
The common Christian witness of traditional values in today’s society. There is so much that Orthodox and Catholics can do together to restore a society so in need of Christ. That is why I am speaking mostly about strategic alliance now: stressing unity of action, not unity of structure.

This very terminology [an Orthodox/Catholic strategic alliance on social issues] was announced by the Russian Orthodox Church. I think it can be easily adopted in Ukraine as well. We have to be Christian in today’s secularized world. Orthodox and Catholics, first of all, have to be Christian and commonly witness for Christ and preach the Gospel.

Does the Russian Orthodox Church continue to view the Ukrainian Catholic Church with suspicion: as an arm of Rome, reaching in to proselytize Orthodox territory?
There is a lot of prejudice among Orthodox, but also among Catholics: You mention only one of them. I think that developing these simple relationships between the Churches can help overcome these prejudices.

Prejudices born of history, born of communist ideology and the ideology of the Russia in the time of the czars. It’s something that came from the past. It has nothing to do with the present. I think we need to liberate ourselves from those prejudices of the past.

Is there still the problem of the Orthodox refusing to return to Ukrainian Catholics the churches that were put under Moscow’s control when Stalin banned the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1946? Does that continue to be a sticking point in Catholic/Orthodox relations?
It’s not a problem, because today in western Ukraine we use those churches which we built, that belong to us. I think the biggest problem for the Russian Orthodox Church is the fact that many Ukrainians who belonged to it have decided to return to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Understandably, Abp. Shevchuk downplays the political exploitation of the Ukrainian situation by the Patriarchate of Moscow as their perennial and most persistent excuse - among many others - for ruling out any possibility of a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch 'until all these problems' are resolved. The Russians claim two main 'problems': 1) They want properties now held by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to revert to the Moscow-backed Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the ground that the properties belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church before the Greek Orthodox 'Uniates' professed their union with Rome in modern times. 2) Abp. Shevchuk referred to the other problem - Moscow resents that these Orthodox Christians chose to be joined to Rome rather than Moscow, and has constantly accused the Roman Catholic Church - in Russia as in the Ukraine - of 'proselytizing' among the Orthodox.
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