Sunday, February 28, 2010

Anti-Christian violence being rekindled, Vatican spokesman warns

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi reflected on current anti-Christian persecution in his recent appearance on a weekly television show.

Religious minorities, he said, suffer because of the "hate and violence" that religious extremism generates.

Thinking of recent examples of anti-Christian acts, particularly in Iraq and India, Fr. Lombardi reflected, "Again, in these days, violence against Christians is rekindled."

His comments came during his weekly editorial on the Vatican Television Center show "Octava Dies."

Fr. Lombardi reported that in the past he was shown flyers that were being "systematically” distributed to individual houses in Mosul.

The flyers contained "terrible threats" meant to convince Christians to abandon the city.

"The recent brutal homicides confirm the same systematic strategy, against which the local authorities don't seem capable of bringing effective remedies," he said.

"How will the Christian community be able to survive in these conditions?" he asked.

The Christians of Mosul, he said, are a part of the local community and culture and are a "vital component" of the region’s history.

Thus, he observed, "It is not hate of the West or of the foreign, but against the Christian community."

"Religious fundamentalism generates hate and violence, and the religious minorities - and Christianity is a minority in many parts of the world - pay for it," said Fr. Lombardi. He noted other cases of anti-Christian violence in some Indian states, Pakistan and parts of Asia and Africa.

Commenting on calls for international mobilization against these acts and citing "many forces" in the Western world that seek to "contest and demolish" the presence of Christians and their influence even where Christianity is, or historically has been, the majority.

"Is it realistic to expect an earnest defense where it is a minority and doesn't count much from the point of view of political or economic interests?" Fr. Lombardi asked.

Regardless, he said, "Christians - mindful of the fate of their Teacher - cannot be astonished at being persecuted, but justice and rights should be valid everywhere also for them."

Vatican Television Center's "Octava Dies" program offers weekly insights into activities, events and issues concerning Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican and the global Church.

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Methodists likely to merge with Church of England

The Methodist Church is on its way to rejoining the Church of England in a historic move.

The Methodist Church of Great Britain has just 265,000 members compared with the 960,000 who attend Sunday services each week in the Church of England.

However it owns a network of 5,800 chapels across Britain, including a particularly valuable asset in Westminster Central Hall, the large conference venue near Parliament.

The Rev David Gamble, president of the Methodist Conference, told General Synod, the Church of England’s governing body on Thursday: "We are prepared to go out of existence not because we are declining or failing in mission, but for the sake of mission.

"In other words, we are prepared to be changed and even to cease having a separate existence as a Church if that will serve the needs of the Kingdom."

Methodism developed in the 18th century through the radical and evangelical sermons of John Wesley, a Church of England priest, who preached to great crowds outdoors.

It split decisively from the national church after his death, in 1795.

Since then the two denominations have attempted to join forces but the move has been scuppered by divisions over the place of women in the church and the validity of their priestly orders.

There are no bishops in Methodism, while both men and women can be Chair of a District.

However in 2003 the churches signed a national Covenant including a commitment to work towards “organic unity”.

They have since set up a joint initiative called Fresh Expressions to find new ways of bringing people to church.

Plans for Anglican-Methodist unity developed after the Archbishop of Canterbury called for the non-conformists to introduce bishops in 1946.

But although the Methodist Conference approved total union, in 1972 opposition from Anglo-Catholics – who cannot accept women priests - led the General Synod of the Church of England to reject the move.

It is believed Methodists have now recovered from the hurt this caused, there are fewer grounds on which traditionalists in the Church of England can object to unity as it introduced female priests in 1994 and is likely to have women bishops by 2014.

Thursday’s address by Mr Gamble was the first by a Methodist President to Synod since 1993.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is due to address the Methodist Conference in June, while reports on the Covenant process will be made to both national assemblies next year.

But formal progress between merging the denominations is unlikely to take place until women bishops are introduced to the Church of England, in 2014 at the earliest.

The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Rev Christopher Coxworth, admitted there would be “culture clashes” ahead.

But he said: “That’s just the way we are. When two people get to know each other there’s a clash of culture. That’s the same as in a relationship – you learn a lot from each other.

“We need to be very cautious with the institutional process. It’s vital that we don’t fail because we can’t afford to fail again.”

He said the Methodist church's decision was consistent with its "radical commitment" to the Christian mission.

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Pope Having "Profound Experience" at Retreat

Benedict XVI's spiritual exercises this week have been a "profound experience" for the Pope, says a Vatican spokesman.

Father David Gutiérrez, director of Vatican Radio's Spanish programs, told ZENIT that "once again, the Pontiff gives the faithful the example of the attitude one must have in this particular time of prayer, reflection and conversion."

The Holy Father and members of the Curia will complete spiritual exercises Saturday, which are being preached by Salesian Father Enrico Dal Covolo.

Each day of the week constituted a specific framework from which to look at the vocation to the priesthood, in line with the Year for Priests convoked by Benedict XVI.

Monday was a day of "listening," Father Gutiérrez explained, centered on the "lectio divina" of a well-known biblical passage as paradigm of the vocational calling, God's calling to the prophet Samuel (1 Kings 19:1-21).

The preacher proposed several biblical figures as well as Fathers of the Church on this attitude of listening to the divine call, and especially the model of St. Augustine, a saint much loved by Benedict XVI.

Tuesday was dedicated to reflect on man's response to the divine call. According to the spokesman, the preacher reflected on "the response man gives to that call of God, reviewing some biblical stories, especially the one referred to in the Gospel according to St. Matthew where Jesus speaks about building on the sand of our interests or building on the Rock of God."

"A strong emphasis was made in the sense that the vocation and response are for the mission," he said. "This second day ended with a reflection on the priestly example of the Holy Curé d'Ars."

Wednesday was dedicated to penance, and according to Vatican Radio's commentator, the purpose was to reflect on "the human aspects that are involved in [the vocation call], especially those referring to what we can call the resistances that the human being presents in face of the will of God who calls."

"Temptations, doubts and resistances form part of our history, what generates the awareness that we are always sinners, but they also invite to openness to the grace of God who always forgives us," he explained. "It is the permanent attitude of conversion that the Church asks of her faithful in this season of Lent and that the Pope is living in a profound way with his Spiritual Exercises."

First followers

Following the tradition of the Church to consecrate Thursday to Eucharistic worship and the veneration of the ministerial priesthood, that day of this week was "Christological," that is, dedicated to reflect on the person of Jesus Christ, and the preacher reflected in depth on the call to the first disciples, said Father Gutiérrez.

"Both the lectio divina as well as the morning meditations followed this text to understand Jesus' role in the life of the one called, of each priest," he explained.

The priestly figure presented this day by Father Dal Covolo was that of Italian Salesian Giuseppe Quadri, whose priestly life was an example of humility and simplicity.

"His motto was 'I will try to be a saint.' This motto is the message left by the preacher of the Pope's Exercises: That all may be saints in the exercise of the priestly ministry," said Father Gutiérrez.

Today, the meditation centered on the Virgin Mary, model of response to the divine call. As Father Gutiérrez explained, "the Holy Father and his collaborators meditated, following the texts of the Magnificat and the Annunciation, both taken from the Gospel according to St. Luke, on the figure of our heavenly Mother, seeing in her the example of the confirmation of God when he calls one of his children."

"The preacher presented today for reflection the figure of Pope John Paul II," he added, "a person who lived his priestly, episcopal and Petrine ministry always trusting the Virgin."

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SIC: Zenit

The case for, and against, the canonization of Pope Pius XII

The road to sainthood is never speedy, but rarely is it as divisive as the campaign to canonize Pope Pius XII.

Just last week, a group of prominent Catholic scholars urged Pope Benedict to slow down the process in order to better assess contradictory evidence.

Some see the Pope, who reigned over the Roman Catholic Church during the Second World War, as a pro-Nazi collaborator and anti-Semite who went along with the Holocaust.

To others, including some prominent Jews, he was an anti-Nazi, who actively saved Jews, risking his own safety and that of the Church in defence of the persecuted.

To add to the complexity, many historians say Pius was neither a war criminal nor a saint, just a complicated individual caught in one of history’s most catastrophic conflicts.


The Nazi pope?

In 1963, The Deputy, by German playwright Rolf Hochhuth, began to play to packed theatres worldwide. It was an utter indictment of the pontiff’s wartime behaviour.

Though the historical basis for the accusations has always been questioned, it left a lasting impression, that persists to this day, of a man more concerned with protecting Vatican financial assets than saving lives, and as sympathetic to Nazi aims.

In the 1990s, Hitler’s Pope, by John Cornwell, added to the popular impression of a collaborating, Jew-hating pope.

However, in 2004, Mr. Cornwell later said he now found it “impossible to judge” Pius XII, “in light of the debates and evidence.”

Keeping quiet, saving lives

It is a fact that Pius did not offer a clear condemnation of the Nazi regime, but interpretations vary as to the motivation and outcome of that silence.

Robert Ventresca, a professor at University of Western Ontario who is researching a biography of Pius, offers this explanation, “Pius XII chose instead to avoid a public confrontation with the Hitler regime, counting instead on less obvious but practical activity on the part of his representatives and Catholic clergy and lay people on the ground. It is entirely legitimate to question the efficacy or wisdom of his approach.... But there is very strong evidence to support the view that his public restraint and diplomatic caution actually saved lives and thwarted some fundamental Nazi objectives.”

The esteemed British historian Sir Martin Gilbert believes Pius saved hundreds of thousands of lives by whispering rather than shouting.

A deafening silence

“Even if Pius hadn’t saved one person by going public, he would have protected the moral authority of the Church for future generations,” said Father John Pawlikowski of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

He is among those who judge the inaction more harshly because of the expectations of a pope as the greatest living moral authority.

Jewish praise

When Pius died in 1958, Golda Meir, the former prime minister of Israel, said, “When fearful martyrdom came to our people, the voice of the Pope was raised for its victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out about great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict.”

Sir Martin has argued that not only did Pius speak out but even the Nazis accused him of being “the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals.”

He points to the Pope personally saving three quarter’s of Rome’s Jews when deportations started after the German occupation.

American historian and rabbi David Dalin, author of The Myth of Hitler’s Pope, notes that Pius’ first encyclical was against Nazi racism.

The Allies dropped 88,000 copies of the document over Germany “in an effort to raise anti-Nazi sentiment.”


Actions, not words

Margherita Marchione, the author of 10 books defending Pius, said documents prove that he saved 5,000 Jews in Rome when the Nazis came in 1943.

“He did that by opening the doors of convents and monasteries. He told the bishops to save Jews either in the churches or in their own homes. The Holy Father sent trucks around supplying food. Pius spoke by actions, not words. He was the only leader in the world who helped save 5,000 Jews. What did Franklin Roosevelt do? He turned around a shipload of Jews and Jewish children from U.S. shores and sent them back to their death.”

Canada’s Mackenzie King also refused to let the ship dock.

The diplomat

Frank Coppa, a professor at St. John’s University in New York, who is writing a biography of Pius, suggests Pius was genuine in his belief that he was taking the right course of action. “But he was really frightened.”

At heart, he said, Pius was a diplomat and sometimes when you’re diplomatic “you can fail to see the moral dimensions of the issue.”

The great protector

Mr. Coppa said the Vatican sees Pius as a saint “because he made every effort to protect the faithful. He was very concerned about the Church in Germany. His motive on this was good. My own personal view was he underestimated the strength of the German Church. He felt it could not survive a massive persecution by Hitler.”


The struggle within

Becoming a pope is not an automatic pass into the communion of saints. Of the 265 popes who have led the Church, 76 have been canonized. Yet there seems a great sense of hurry to complete the cause for Pius XII.

Ms. Marchione said the Vatican is simply responding to the call of the faithful.

“Pius is already a saint; the Church is in the process of recognizing that.”

Fr. Pawlikowski thinks the push reflects a deeper political struggle within the Church “between a more progressive Vatican II orientation and a conservative orientation. Those conservatives who are pushing his canonization see it a justification of their position … The more progressive Catholics and Jews who are raising these issues will be put in their place by his canonization.”

Politics and saints

Sometimes sainthood is used by the Church to make a statement, according to James Carroll, author of Constantine’s Sword, a book about the history of Christian anti-Semitism.

For example, Thomas More, the Catholic martyr who died opposing King Henry VIII’s split with Rome, was made a saint in 1935, under Pius XI, who was vocally anti-Nazi. It was useful for the Church, Mr. Carroll said, to lift up a hero who would inspire Catholics to reject tyrants, whether it was Hitler, Stalin or Mussolini.

Similarly, he believes the Vatican wants to elevate Pius XII to make the point that the Church will not be bullied by its critics.

“If a pope could fail in the greatest moral test what does that say about the reliability of any pope’s moral leadership? Benedict is trying to shore up that authority.”

Saintly virtues

“You don’t have to believe Pius XII was some kind of war criminal to oppose canonization,” said Mr. Carroll.

“I have no doubt Pius XII loathed Hitler and if he could have found ways to help in the defeat of Hitler I have no doubt he would have. But canonization should be reserved for figures of historic and heroic virtue. He was not that.”

Why hurry?

Last week a group of Catholic scholars asked Pope Benedict to slow down the process of canonization to allow for further study.

Fr. Pawlikowski said there are a significant number of Catholic scholars who share the same concerns as many of Pius’ Jewish opponents.

If Pius is canonized before all the facts are in, “it will make it more difficult for Catholic historians to have a critical assessment of his papacy. It’s hard to critique a saint,” he said.

He stressed, however, that the opposition letter “was not intended to create a bandwagon against canonization.”

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Catholic Church election advice seen as endorsement for Tories

The Roman Catholic Church will this week present the Conservatives with an election boost by urging voters to consider the issues of marriage and the family when deciding which party to support.

In a controversial intervention in the political arena, bishops will publish a report warning that Britain has suffered from "increased family breakdown" in recent years, and that the cost to society has been "tragic".

While the Church's 10-page document, offering advice to the country's four million Catholics, is not explicitly partisan, it will be seen as critical of Labour and as supportive of the Tories who have put marriage at the centre of their campaigning.

In the report, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, the bishops argue for a "revitalising of politics", warn that religion should not be "reduced to devotional acts" and stress the need to protect the freedom to express belief.

It follows a series of high-profile clashes between Catholic leaders and the Government over the promotion of laws which critics say have threatened religious liberty in Britain.

The paper's emphasis on marriage will echo David Cameron's expressed support for married couples and is in contrast to Labour's claims that parents need not be wed to create happy families.

A church source said last night: "The document is very much in line with Tory policy and it will be open to that interpretation, although it is not intended to be explicitly political in either direction."

The advice could influence the outcome of the election in key marginal seats, particularly in north-west England where the Catholic Church is particularly strong.

The paper, which will be published on Wednesday for circulation to every diocese in England and Wales, is called Choosing the Common Good. The title is a nod to a similarly controversial 1996 document, titled simply Common Good, that was viewed as backing Labour ahead of the following year's election which swept Tony Blair to power.

The Church has refrained from stepping into election campaigns since then, but there has been growing disquiet at its highest levels over the direction the country has taken under Gordon Brown.

Since he succeeded Tony Blair as Prime Minister, Catholics have clashed with the Government over a number of proposals that have been seen to restrict religious freedom.

These have included the introduction of homosexual equality laws that resulted in the closure of Catholic adoption agencies, the passing of the Embryo Bill allowing the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos, and most recently attempts to establish further equality laws described by Pope Benedict XVI as "unjust". There have also been skirmishes over the law on abortion.

The document, produced by the Church's department for Christian responsibility and citizenship, urges Catholics to "reflect on what sort of society we live in" and how politics can be "revitalised".

In a section on marriage and family life which appears to echo Conservative warnings of a "Broken Britain", the bishops express deep concern at the "breakdown" of society and applauds efforts to support marriage.

"The tragic personal, social and economic costs of increased family breakdown are unmistakable," they say.

"Whilst we recognise and applaud the many parents who despite family breakdown provide a loving and stable home for their children, we have also as a society to accept that the promotion and encouragement of family stability must be a high priority if this trend, so damaging to the common good, is to be reversed."

The bishops call for a "more realistic view of married life to be encouraged" and argue that "families require financial as well as relation stability", adding: "At the heart of necessary policy initiatives to support the stability of couple relationships, it is essential to support marriage.

"Politicians of all parties should recognise and support marriage as a key building-block of a stable society."

The words come close to endorsing David Cameron's promise that a Tory government would change the tax system to benefit married couples.

Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, has argued that children's welfare is not necessarily best protected through marriage, but instead through 'stable and lasting relationships between parents'.

In further signals of frustration with the current Government, the bishops talk defiantly of the crucial role of religion in public life.

Senior Church leaders believe that secularism has been allowed to thrive under Labour while Christianity has become increasingly discriminated against.

"Care must be taken not to put obstacles in the way of religious belief and practice which reduce it to devotional acts," they say.

"Faith communities have a distinctive and active role in building up a society which fosters the flourishing of all."

The Church has fought a series of battles with Labour over the independence of faith schools, which the bishops claim to be one of the clearest examples of the Church contributing to society.

"Partnerships between Government and faith communities should be mutually respectful and permit these communities to act with integrity in the provision of public services for the common good."

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Why Dublin's Archbishop should resign

This is a fan letter to the heroic Irish victims of clerical abuse.

Your story has gone around the world. Your courage has rewritten the history of Ireland over the past 60 years.

You trashed the idea of the RC Church as a safe haven for women and children. It made the lives of many women a hell on earth.

And what would St Patrick or James Connolly think of all those tender childhoods it stole?

Your bewilderment over the meeting between the Pope and bishops was palpable. You couldn't believe you were excluded. You weren't even present in their thoughts. Strange, seeing that Christ's 'hierarchy' was made up exclusively of children and the poor.

That meeting was never about you or your years-long struggle for justice. It was called to restore the shattered prestige and authority of the Roman Church.

The Pope, who denied your existence for decades, even had the nerve to blame the "faithless" world for priest rapists and the antics of their episcopal pimps.

Does he blame it, too, for Cardinal Connell's lies?


Understand this.

You and your comrades are in a war.

Rome doesn't see you primarily as victims but as its enemy, the most formidable in decades.

You bared the cruel wounds your Church inflicted on you, whom Jesus charged it to protect.

You spoiled Rome's hilarious myth of a Holy Ireland with Pope, bishops and priests as knights in shining armour.

The marks on your bodies and souls reveal the endemic brutality at the core of its regime.

It secretly loathes you for betraying its dirty secrets. No wonder it keeps two-fingering you.

You will never be on its agenda and if you can't get justice from Rome who can?

It is here not to serve the broken but to rule with a rod of iron.

Stop listening to prelates who don't listen to you.

Do not seek their approval, only God's.

You are disappointed that Archbishop Martin wasn't able to help you. He must be disheartened, too.

He is the only bishop who shares your sense of betrayal.

The rest were hand-washing Pontius Pilates.

They beat their breast but they'd get more remorse out of a carpet.

Not one believes he's guilty of anything.

The entire system was corrupt but no one in charge was to blame, certainly not the top man with all the clout.

Diarmuid Martin was terribly naive.

He believed his passionate intervention would be taken seriously by the Vatican.

What a shock to find it was anathema to his peers and superiors.

Forget Bishop Drennan who has the gall to call your quest for justice "revenge".

You couldn't bang a nail in his heart or his head.

Instead, urge Dr Martin to do a prophetic thing: resign as Archbishop of Dublin and stand alongside the poorest of Christ's poor.

- Peter DeRosa

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Bishop: Kissing pope’s ring was embarrassing

THE Bishop of Kerry has admitted he was embarrassed as he stooped to kiss Pope Benedict’s ring during the visit of the Irish bishops to the Vatican.

Dr Bill Murphy said he was surprised with the protocol but he followed his fellow bishops who bowed to kiss the papal ring.

"When it came to my turn, the person before me did it and I kissed his ring as well even though I was rather embarrassed by it," Bishop Murphy remarked.

He said when he previously met Pope Benedict and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, he was greeted with a handshake.

Bishop Murphy said he was sure the pope would also have preferred to avoid the ancient kissing of the ring custom when he met the bishops in Rome.

"Some people still try to kiss a bishop’s ring but, obviously, it’s out of touch with modern thinking," Bishop Murphy stated.

The bishop, meanwhile, has rejected claims from abuse survivors that the meeting in Rome was nothing more than a charade.

He said the gathering was "very serious and significant" and he conceded the Catholic Church might have been at fault for not lowering the "exaggerated and unrealistic expectations" of the public in advance.

The bishop said he is confident that Pope Benedict will offer a very sincere and profound apology to abuse victims in a letter he expects will be received in Kerry within the next three weeks.

Bishop Murphy said the Irish bishops were shown a draft copy of the pope’s letter and had made several comments on it which will be taken into consideration by Pope Benedict as he finalises his letter.

Meanwhile, Kerry man John Prior, who was one of the main whistleblowers in the Church sex abuse scandal, has branded the Rome meeting "a junket and a smack in the face" for abuse survivors.

"I thought they had learned their lesson. I thought the Church had a great chance of survival but that has gone way back because people are sour about what happened," he told The Kingdom.

"It was glamorising the Church – it was like a catwalk. All they are doing is digging a deeper and deeper hole for themselves. It’s one big cover up after the next. It’s a catastrophe of the highest order," Tralee-based Mr Prior claimed.

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How Ireland Lost Its Faith

There was a time when Irish Catholics might have been delighted to see the pope lavishing attention on their bishops.

On Feb. 15 and 16, however, when Ireland's bishops were at the Vatican to discuss an ongoing child sex abuse scandal, Catholics back home were furious.

Catholics were already upset about Pope Benedict's refusal to apologize to the thousands of abuse victims in Ireland or even hint that he would meet with them, as some had requested.

But what really set them off seems to have been the images of their bishops kissing the pope's ring.

Photos of the traditional greeting were plastered across broadsheet front pages and TV broadcasts over the following days.

These, combined with images of the Vatican's opulent Apostolic Palace -- where the bishops met the pope and senior cardinals -- as well as the regalia of all those elderly men and the complete absence of lay people or any woman, had a profoundly negative effect.

The response was unqualified rage.

Andrew Madden, the first person in Ireland to go public about his abuse by a priest, described the meetings at the Vatican as "a complete waste of time" and the greatest act of window dressing he had ever seen.

Abuse survivor Marie Collins said it was an insult that the resignation of bishops didn't even make the agenda.

Additionally, she said it was deplorable that the pope's statement was "so far away from accepting that there was a policy of coverup."

Of course, it's not unusual for bishops to kiss the pope's ring, and the Vatican has always been heavily male and ornate.

The difference now is that Irish Catholics, after decades of alienation from the church, are finally nearing a breaking point.

Not so very long ago and for the great majority of Irish people, their Catholicism was synonymous with their national identity. To be Irish was to be Catholic. It was something of which most Irish were very proud.

In the latter part of the 19th century, the church grew to become the most powerful civic institution on the island, controlling most of Ireland's schools and the greater number of its hospitals.

This allowed the church unparalleled influence throughout most of the 20th century in what is now known as the Republic of Ireland.

That continued to be the case until the latter decades of the last century when its influence began to wane due to increased affluence and a better-educated population.

With the events of the last few years, church leaders can no longer ignore the extent to which they've lost control of Irish society.

The most recent scandal has centered on a series of damning government reports into the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of children by clergy members.

The Murphy Commission report, published last November, found that in Dublin's Catholic archdiocese, by far Ireland's largest, "clerical child sex abuse was covered up" by church authorities from 1975 to 2004.

It also found that all four archbishops of Dublin over that period investigated sexual abuse complaints and that many of the auxiliary bishops handled these complaints badly.

None of the four archbishops reported their knowledge of abuse to the police "throughout the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s."

The report also found that church authorities used the concept of "mental reservation," which allows clergy to mislead people without being guilty -- in the church's eyes -- of lying, and that, though some courageous priests had brought complaints to their superiors' attention, in general there was a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on the issue.

The Murphy report was been the most widely publicized investigation of sex abuse in Ireland, but it wasn't the first, and it won't be the last.

The first notorious sex-abuse case in Ireland hit the headlines in 1994, when it was disclosed that church authorities had dealt with a serial abuser, Father Brendan Smyth, by moving him from parish to parish in Ireland, Scotland, and the United States -- over a period of 40 years.

The attorney general's mishandling of an arrest warrant for Smyth eventually led to the collapse of the Irish government.

More recently, the Ryan Commission report, published last May, found that thousands of children suffered physical and sexual abuse over several decades in residential institutions run by 18 religious congregations during the last century.

To date, almost 14,000 of those victims have been compensated by the Irish state.

And the Murphy Commission is currently investigating the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in Cloyne diocese and will publish its results by the end of this year.

Not surprisingly, the combined effects of these sex scandals have driven Irish Catholics away from the church at a time when many were already drifting away.

For instance, according to recent surveys, 43 percent of Irish Catholics attend weekly Mass, a drop of 52 percent since 1973, though still about twice the average for most Catholic countries in Europe.

Meanwhile, fewer and fewer young men are entering the priesthood.

For people of a certain age, the very idea of an Ireland without Catholic priests is truly beyond imagination.

The bishop of Killaloe, Willie Walsh, recently recalled that of the 50 students in his Leaving Cert class (equivalent to the U.S. 12th grade) in 1952, 20 went on for the priesthood.

In 1961, Pope John XXIII even said: "Any Christian country will produce a greater or lesser number of priests. But Ireland, that beloved country, is the most fruitful of mothers in this respect."

Almost 50 years later the situation is dramatically different. The archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has said his archdiocese will soon have barely enough priests to serve its 199 parishes.

"We have 46 priests over 80 and only two less than 35 years of age. In a very short time we will just have the bare number of priests required to have one active priest for each of our 199 parishes," he said in November.

The average age of Irish Catholic priests today is 63.

Members of religious congregations have an average age in the early 70s.

Each priest must retire at 75.

As the Americans say, you do the math!

But even the lack of priests does not completely explain the falling away in religious practice.

That began as far back as the 1960s, when two events heralded the death knell for what has been referred to many times as "the long 19th century of the Irish Catholic Church."

Those were the Second Vatican Council, when things apparently immutable for all time were seemingly changed overnight, and the introduction of free second-level education as well as the introduction of state university grants in 1967.

Both produced skeptical Irish Catholics, less credulous than previous generations and demanding more sophisticated answers to age-old questions. Those answers were not always forthcoming.

In a 2003 article for the Irish Times, Father Vincent Twomey, a retired professor of moral theology at St. Patrick's College who studied with Pope Benedict himself at a postgraduate program in Germany, wrote, "Irish writers in the early part of the 20th century ... sensed that something was seriously wrong with 'traditional Irish Catholicism'. They saw it as narrow-minded, anti-intellectual and rigorist on morality. They were right."

In the 1960s, cultural influences also came into play -- television for instance. Irish state television, RTE, began broadcasting in 1961.

Later in that decade, Oliver Flanagan, a well-known and outspoken politician, stated that "there was no sex in Ireland before television."

The cultural revolutions of the second half of the 20th century hit Ireland just as hard as they did every other Western country, and so began Ireland's culture wars, known as Ireland's "moral civil war" and fought between younger liberal elements and the Catholic Church over contraceptives, divorce, and abortion, among other social issues.

Ireland's younger and more-educated Catholics began to assert independence from Rome's teaching on sexuality, particularly following Pope Paul VI's "Humanae Vitae" encyclical in 1968, which banned all artificial means of contraception.

Many Irish Catholic women ignored "Humanae Vitae." They took contraceptive pills and found that the heavens didn't fall.

Doctors got around Irish law, often with the tacit approval of priests, by prescribing the pill as a regulator for the menstrual cycle rather than as a contraceptive.

In 1979, contraception finally became legally available in Ireland, but only to married couples and on prescription.

It was 1992 before contraceptives became freely available to everyone.

That same year, coincidentally, the church had its first major sex scandal when it was revealed that the bishop of Galway, Eamonn Casey, had a 17-year-old son; a favorite T-shirt at the time featured a condom and the caption, "Just in Casey."

Divorce was also an extremely pivotal issue, not becoming legal until 1995. Abortion remains banned in Ireland despite referendums in 1983, 1992, and 2002.

Although opinion poll after opinion poll over recent years has indicated a great majority now favor legalizing it, Ireland's politicians run scared from yet another bitter and divisive abortion referendum campaign.

With Irish society largely lost to it, the church's final frontier may be the primary-school system, of which it controls 92 percent.

But now, the child sex abuse scandals, along with substantial immigration into Ireland over the past 10 years, have significantly increased pressure toward more pluralist control of primary education, something which -- to the surprise of many -- the Catholic bishops now say they favor.

Archbishop Martin even called the Catholic control of schools a "historical hangover that doesn't reflect the realities of the times and is, in addition, in many ways detrimental to the possibility of maintaining a true Catholic identity in Catholic schools."

If this is the case, it seems the last great battle of Ireland's moral civil wars -- that over control of education -- may be avoided.

And the Catholic Church in Ireland will continue its retreat from a position of unquestioned dominance in society for more than a century and a half, to a more humble role on its margins.

"In the painful solitude of the desert, the church must learn how to return to its fundamental mission," Archbishop Martin has said.

Some might suggest that is exactly where it belongs.

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Neighbours thwart nuns' bid to build apartment blocks

PLANS by nuns for a €30m redevelopment in Rathmines have been ditched following massive opposition.

The Sisters of St Louis had applied to Dublin City Council to redevelop the 3.5-acre site of their convent school in Dublin 6.

However, the application has now been withdrawn. Residents opposed the plan because they were concerned about its "excessive scale".

The order, which runs St Louis High School, had lodged the plans before Christmas. The scheme would have included 86 apartments in blocks up to five storeys high on its playing fields.

The development would also have included the demolition of a Victorian house, No 1 Grosvenor Road, as well as a former chapel.

A new four-storey convent building, with the relocation of the St Louis grotto relocated, formed part of the plans.

A new two-storey sports hall, a new basketball court, 83-car parking spaces and a public park at the corner of Charleville Road would have been built as well.

Among the objectors was the Belgrave Residents' Association, which said the existing open space was an important feature of the school.

It said the proposed development would not have been "consistent with the sustainable development of the area".

The reduction of the "already confined school site to provide for a five-storey residential development... is not appropriate and should be turned down".

The association added: "The development would undermine the longstanding and positive relationship between the school and the community it serves..."


Another objector, who lives on Charleville Road, said most of his neighbours were opposed to the plan as they were considered "excessive".

He said they were also concerned about the traffic and parking implications of the scheme.

The Sisters of St Louis had been considering development options for part of the convent school site for some time.

It is understood the development was to be built in order to provide accommodation for sisters returning from foreign missions.

About 20pc of the apartments would have been provided to Dublin City Council for allocation as social and affordable homes.

The Green Party had also objected to the plans.

The Dublin South East branch said that the apartments would have been "utterly out of character" with the area.

The party pointed out green space in urban areas acts as a means to soak up floodwaters.

"We have seen recently the damage that flooding can cause," it added.

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C-FAM pledges to counter 'radical feminist' agenda at UN conference

Pro-life supporters from around the world will “give a witness to life” on Monday in New York when they protest at the annual U.N. Conference on the Status of Women.

The yearly gathering will be attended by delegates who made a strong push for international abortion rights 15 years ago at the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women.

“On Monday morning, 6,000 radical feminists will descend on New York City,” Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) told CNA.

“They are also celebrating what they call Beijing +15, which is the 15th anniversary of the huge women’s conference in Beijing during the Clinton years."

Ruse noted that Hillary Clinton led the U.S. delegation to the Beijing conference, and that “they tried mightily to get an explicit international right to abortion.”

However, a coalition of pro-lifers from around the world who worked closely with the Vatican and Muslim countries defeated the abortion provision.

“But they’ve never given up,” Ruse said.

Throughout the last 15 years, the pro-abortion lobby has tried again and again to make legalized abortion an international priority.

It is expected that Monday's conference will see another attempt to do the same.

However, on Monday, “they will be met by a determined group, a small group but a determined group, of pro-lifers from the United States, Europe, Africa, Latin America,” said Ruse.

“And we will be there to give witness to life and family as it is properly understood.”

Ruse also told CNA that the group “Catholics for Free Choice” will be at the conference and that they will be circulating a petition calling on Christians “to complain to the government of Nicaragua,” a government which has just eliminated all legal forms of abortion in their country.

“But we will be there to meet them too,” Ruse added.

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Raymond Arroyo delves into Mother Angelica's prayer life in new book

In his fourth and most likely final book on Mother Angelica, noted author and EWTN news anchor Raymond Arroyo highlights some of the devotions and prayers of the 86-year-old nun, many of which are borne from her personal sufferings.

In an exclusive interview with CNA, Arroyo spoke about his motivation behind writing the new book and detailed some of the lesser known facts surrounding Mother Angelica's early life, including her painful disability and being raised in an impoverished, broken home. Mother Angelica, he said, is “no stranger to pain.”

“The Prayers and Personal Devotions of Mother Angelica,” is set to be released on March 2 and contains not only meditations and prayers written by Mother Angelica but traditional favorites of hers as well. According to Arroyo, readers will be able to “'listen in' on her private, and very human, conversations with God.”

Explaining how he came up with idea for his latest book, Arroyo said, “When I read these prayers, both those composed by her and the time tested variety, I thought: people should really see this. Taken as a whole these prayers give readers a marvelous example of how we are to approach God. And if anyone knows how to speak to God and listen to His promptings, it is Mother Angelica. It's a real treasure of a book.”

In addition to founding EWTN, a non-profit, multi-million dollar Catholic media company, Mother Angelica heads a flourishing convent in Alabama, that attracts thousands of tourists every year.

“Mother Angelica has affected the lives of literally millions and millions of people around the world,” Arroyo continued. “And one of the hallmarks of her life has been this constant prayer that she maintains even in the midst of business and personal trials. It is truly the foundation of all she has done and of the great fruit she is responsible for.”

Discussing the nun's troubled childhood, Arroyo told CNA that “Mother Angelica's father abandoned her at five. Her birth mother had emotional problems and was probably manically depressed. They were very poor and worked hard to keep themselves clothed and fed. So this girl tasted pain early on. Angelica was also born with a spinal defect. She had repeated back surgeries and for years walked with the help of braces and crutches.”

“She was no stranger to pain, and in this new book there are prayers she composed specifically for those suffering or in pain,” explained Arroyo. “Mother was always very attentive to those who were suffering – probably because she intimately knew what they were going through, and the spiritual power of suffering.”

“These prayers are so practical that I think they'll have wide appeal. There are prayers to say when in a financial crisis, prayers for easing a transition in your life, prayers for drawing us closer to God's Will. The diversity of the prayers here and their beauty is striking.”

Arroyo also mentioned that a section of the book deals expressly with a difficult time in Mother Angelica's adult life.

“One of the unique features of this book is the Dark Night of The Soul prayer diary. Mother went through a very difficult period in the 1984. She lost her birth mother and her network was on shaky financial footing. In the depth of darkness she writes these very stark, impassioned pleas to God – searching for answers and light. I think people will be touched by this. And more, it will give them hope when they encounter their own darkness and remind them that darkness is sometimes permitted by God as a path to greater light.”

Arroyo, who has worked alongside Mother Angelica at EWTN, spoke on what he finds to be most inspiring about the nun. “Her deep faith is clearly the most inspiring thing about her life,” he reflected. “She was never distracted from God, no matter the circumstances. Mother went through hell to raise this beacon of hope for so many (EWTN). In the biography people can see the effects of her faith and the challenges she overcame – but with this book they have an opportunity to experience the foundation of her life: her spirituality and the actual prayers she uttered.”

Arroyo's previous three books on the life and work of Mother Angelica have all made the New York Times bestseller list. When asked about his upcoming book, the author said “In some ways I think this book could be the most successful of the canon.”

“It is the fourth book in my Mother Angelica cycle (as I like to call it) and likely the last. It seemed right to offer readers something that was practical and uplifting, like the woman herself.”

Commenting on his previous works on the nun, Arroyo explained that “The biography covered the details of her life, the 'Little Book of Life Lessons' contained some of her spiritual wisdom, 'The Private and Pithy Lessons From The Scriptures' was a collection of her Bible lessons, and this book is the last word on her prayer life – more than a prayer book it is an intimate spiritual portrait of Mother. The whole collection can be read independently or as a whole.”

“For those who have read the biography, I think this book will deepen the experience and prolong the spiritual effects,” he added. “ At least that's what I hope.”

“I thought people should have this deeply personal reminder of a woman who is so dear to the world,” Arroyo concluded. “When you read this book, you will hear a woman worshiping God, begging Him for light, jubilating and suffering. We all go through those seasons and Mother Angelica provides a powerful spiritual example that I think we can all benefit from.”

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Decriminalise prostitution to end abuses, say Sisters

Nuns who work with prostitutes and trafficked women have called for the selling of sex to be decriminalised.

Sister Lynda Dearlove, who was awarded an MBE this year, said the law kept women “locked” into prostitution.

Her comments were backed by Sister Ann Teresa, founder of the Medaille Trust, which runs one of Britain’s only safe houses for trafficked women.

Both Sisters say they are against the legalisation of prostitution because it would effectively “turn the state into a pimp”, with the state taxing the earnings of prostitutes.

Sister Lynda, founder of the Women@theWell project in King’s Cross, London, which helps women escape prostitution, said a conviction for a sex offence stayed permanently on a woman’s record, making it much more difficult to find work.

“If you apply for a job as a cleaner and a CRB [Criminal Records Bureau] check is done, then that offence will come up – you can’t ever get out of it,” she said. “It didn’t use to matter so much but now more and more jobs involve a CRB check.”

Sister Lynda, whose charity helped 270 women last year, pointed out that prostitution per se was not illegal. “What is illegal is loitering and soliciting on a street corner – not selling sex from a hotel. There’s one law for the rich and one for the poor,” she said.

But she said she would not want prostitution to be legalised. In some European countries, she said, “there is evidence that women have been sent to work in prostitution by the job centre”.

Sister Lynda also criticised the double standard that made it more acceptable for men to use prostitutes than for women to sell their bodies. Most of these men, she said, were drawn “out of the ranks of middle England”. At King’s Cross “the majority of people wandering round the streets [looking for prostitutes] are people in business suits with briefcases. They are people with money,” she said.

The Sister said British prostitutes faced an altogether different stigma compared to trafficked women even though the forces that drove them into the work were often identical.

“It’s poverty, women not having control over their life, lack of education and opportunity,” added Sister Lynda. “No one is making an active free choice to do it.” Sister Lynda said prostitution was likely to increase sharply in London because of the 2012 Olympic Games. After the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, she said, there was a huge rise in sexually transmitted diseases as well as rape and sexual assault.

Sister Ann Teresa, whose charity, the Medaille Trust, was forced to close one of its two refuges last month because of a lack of funding, said she had always believed that prostitution should be decriminalised.

She said: “[The law] should punish those who try to pay for sex. I don’t believe we should punish the victims, which is the situation at the moment.”

But she condemned the idea that prostitution should be legalised. “In countries like Australia and the Netherlands, which have gone down that route, trafficking has flourished,” she said. “It’s like legalising abuse.”

Dr Christine Newman, president of the National Board of Catholic Women, said: “Women forced into prostitution through any form of coercion should not be criminalised.”

Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth caused controversy two years ago when he appeared to back the legalisation of brothels. He told Portsmouth News that he supported a proposal by the Hampshire Women’s Institute for brothels to be licensed.

The bishop said: “If you are going to take a pragmatic view and say prostitution happens, I think there is a need to make sure it’s as well regulated as possible for the health of people involved and for the safety of the ladies themselves.”

He added: “That’s not to say I approve of prostitution in any way. I would be very much happier if there was no prostitution in Portsmouth.”

The latest UN figures show that prostitution is increasing globally.

An estimated seven per cent of men use prostitutes in Britain, compared to 73 per cent in Thailand, 39 per cent in Spain, and 37 per cent in Japan.

According to the Catechism, prostitution “does injury to the dignity of the person who engages in it, reducing the person to an instrument of sexual pleasure”.

It adds: “While it is always gravely sinful to engage in prostitution, the imputability of the offence can be attenuated by destitution, blackmail, or social pressure.”

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Archbishop Dolan: No honors for pro-abortion Catholic politicians

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York has told a New York television station that pro-abortion Catholic politicians will not receive honors at events like the Al Smith dinner.

“Everybody's welcome,” said Archbishop Dolan. “There's a difference between being welcome and providing someone who is dramatically, radically, publicly at odds with the Church on a particularly given issue to have a place of prominence and receive an award.”

Commenting on the scandals surrounding New York Governor David Paterson - a pro-abortion Catholic -Archbishop Dolan added, “There's something to be said for our American way of doing things, that character, integrity, personality have something to say and that the American people expect their elected officers, and by the way their church leaders, so we are not immune to it either, to be people of integrity, of justice, of fairness and of good character.”

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European theologians begin church unity study project

Four theologians began discussions in Geneva, Switzerland this week to define the guidelines of a new project promoted from within the Conference of European Churches.

The initiative hopes to study how the different Churches understand unity.

According to a statement released by the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the project is investigating church unity as it relates to church identity at the theological, theoretical level as well as in church practices.

The four theologians taking part in the discussion are British Anglican Dr. Paul M. Collins from the University of Chichester, German Catholic Dr. Myriam Wijlens from University of Erfurt, Finnish Dr. Minna Hietamaki from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and Orthodox Dr. Viorel Ionita from the CEC's Churches in Dialogue Commission.

The project originated with these four theologians last October in Crete at the World Council of Churches Plenary Commission on Faith and Order, according to the statement.

It is connected with the network on "Ecclesiological Investigations."

The first meeting of the four theologians was hosted by the CEC's Churches in Dialogue Commission (CiD) in Geneva, Switzerland on Feb. 22.

In what Dr. Ionita called a "very dynamic and constructive" meeting, the participants discussed aims, working methodology, partners and timing.

Each of the theologians also presented a paper on unity from his or her respective theological tradition.

"The four theological traditions represented were presented in a complementary way and we hope that in the future other theological traditions could be included such as those from a free-church background," Dr. Ionita stated at the conclusion of the first session.

Meetings for this study on unity will continue until Sept. 2012 and will be highlighted by European and international presentations in several forums including the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion.

A comprehensive publication offering "all of the findings" along the course of the study will be published at their conclusion "in order to promote the search for the Church unity worldwide," reads the CEC's statement.

Founded in 1959, the Conference of European Churches offers a forum for dialogue for 120 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Catholic Churches and 40 associated organizations representing every country in Europe who seek to pursue understanding, grow in fellowship and make a common contribution to the mission of the Church, to the safeguarding of life and the well-being of all humankind.

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The Roman Catholic Church Now Faces A New Reformation

A newly released book alleges the Roman Catholic Church today faces its greatest threat since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century splintered Christianity.

The book, Illicit Celibacy and the Deposit of Faith, asserts an unorthodox papal change in Christ’s original teaching now requires sexual abstinence for priests and bishops who prove incapable of living celibate lives.

This ancient papal requirement of celibacy for priests is now determined by independent Catholic historians and theologians to be illicit, and the source of today’s clerical sex abuse scandals.

Since 2002 the news media has exposed coordinated efforts of Catholic bishops to conceal sexual crimes committed against young boys; but it is largely unreported that world wide sexual abuse of adult women and young girls are even more prevalent.

Nearly all of these crimes were known of by bishops, who are charged by the Vatican with concealing Church scandal from public knowledge, under threat of being deposed.

Dominican priest Fr. Tom Doyle first warned the Vatican of a coming sex abuse scandal in 1984. He was subsequently deposed.

Frank Keating, former FBI agent and Governor of Oklahoma, resigned his appointed position on the Bishop’s Review Committee after comparing the actions of Catholic bishops to those of a secretive criminal organization.

Despite mandatory celibacy requirements, 90% of Catholic priests are sexually active - 50% continuously and 40% periodically - casting suspicion on faithful priests.

This has led to suicide, broken lives, threatened and bribed victims, loss of faith and billions of dollars from Church coffers paid by the vanishing Catholic faithful.

All of these crimes are committed by men who have vowed to live a life of chastity in service of Christ, but who live a lie.

From these scandals another more serious threat to Catholicism has now arisen, that of papal heresy.

A new examination of ancient Vatican documents reveals Christ’s original teaching that priests are allowed the Sacramental grace of matrimony has been intentionally altered.

For centuries Church laws, pseudo-infallible doctrines, and conflicting papal decrees have knowingly nullified infallible Catholic doctrines established by Christ.

Such unorthodox changes are defined in Church literature as heresy. If true, all Church claims of God given infallibility when teaching the Gospel are untrue, of no more theological authority than the preaching of Billy Graham.

Illicit Celibacy and the Deposit of Faith challenges the law of celibacy.

It begins with Catholicism’s first priests, who were married Jewish men, and explains how long forgotten Vatican documents now demonstrate Jesus’ unchangeable teachings were later altered.

These changes occurred more than 900 years ago when most Catholics were illiterate, often denied access to the Bible, and excommunicated should they challenge papal authority.

Since 1139 Catholic theologians and apologists who are aware of these changes have refused to confront evidence presented in this revealing book.

For nearly 2000 years the Catholic Church has proclaimed Church laws and doctrines intended to more clearly explain the teachings of Christ. But remarkably, while history reveals that Jesus selected only married men to serve as His apostles, the Church today forbids priestly marriage.

Also, today the Catholic Church is the only Christian denomination experiencing world wide condemnation from “scandalous” allegations of sex abuse committed against women and children by priests and bishops.

Historically, scandals similar to these are known to have appeared only after mandatory celibacy laws were first instituted, centuries after Christ. Why were these changes made?

As children Catholics are taught that Jesus’ apostles ceased sexual contact with their wives in order to “Act in the person of Jesus”, by adopting His celibate lifestyle and devoting their lives to spreading the Gospel unencumbered by family responsibilities.

But history reveals a different story, a story unknown by faithful Catholics.

Today the law of mandatory celibacy for priests has exposed a telling historical problem. If priests freely accepted celibacy in the beginning why did marriage later begin, and what authority today permits the Church to deny priestly marriage that Jesus permitted?

The answer can be found in historical events beginning around 366AD when a new and different explanation of our first priestly traditions began to appear. This event changed Catholic history.

So historically, how and why did mandatory celibacy come into the Church? In order to answer this question we must return to the time of Jesus, and our first Catholic traditions.

In The Beginning

Jesus made few changes in existing Jewish law for His followers. But among the most important changes He instituted were those concerning marriage for Christians. Jewish men of the time were allowed to have more than one wife as well as concubines; Jesus forbade polygamy.

They were allowed to divorce; Jesus prohibited divorce (Matthew 19:9).

And most importantly, Jewish law required all Jews, including priests, to marry by age 20 (Genesis 1:28), but Jesus allowed Christians to remain unmarried if they freely chose to do so (Matthew 19:12).

And, contrary to current myth, Jesus did not require His apostles to take a vow of celibacy or to abstain from marital sex in order to imitate His lifestyle; Christ allowed His apostles to freely choose either marriage or celibacy.

For these reasons the question of Jesus’ celibacy is pointless as justification for modern celibacy laws that entered the Church centuries later.

As Jesus left the Church, an individual’s free choice to marry and propagate or to remain unmarried was permitted, and no restriction against future marriage by unmarried priests existed.

Today many Catholic traditionalists have begun anew to examine these teachings of Jesus and to compare them to the modern law of mandatory celibacy, a law that did not exist in the beginning.


In order to understand the origins of mandatory celibacy modern Catholics must first come to understand the origin and misleading influence that apocryphal non-Biblical writings had on Jesus’ teaching before the New Testament was first identified as the only legitimate source of Christian Scripture, c.350AD, and their continuing influence on the Church today.

Catholics do not tend to turn to the Bible as a historical document in order to understand the foundational teachings of our faith.

Those who cite New Testament scripture in support of beliefs that may question Church teaching are immediately accused of Protestant sympathies, and of denying Catholic tradition. Such accusations are ad hominem, because scripture and Catholic tradition cannot be separated.

Catholics are taught about the Bible’s importance but are instructed to consult the Catechism for explanations of our first traditions (history), or to consult our priests for answers that will lead to the complete truth.

They alone, we are taught, are divinely ordained by God to teach the infallible Gospel of Christ without error. Catholics are not permitted to challenge Church teaching.

Today, Church explanations of mandatory celibacy pose a great problem because it is acknowledged by all that apostles and priests during the earliest generations were married.

More to the point, in the New Testament St. Paul specifically required bishops and deacons be married fathers, “capable of managing their families” (1Timothy 3).

Even more damaging to the idea of a required vow of celibacy, St. Paul specifically preached against newly converted Christian-Gnostics who brought with them a belief that all priests must reject desires of the flesh in order to successfully mediate between God and man.

This ascetic and dualistic belief of conflict between flesh and soul was first taught by Plato c.428BC and spread across the western world with Alexander the Great before 300BC.

By Christ’s time it had made its way into all religions’ beliefs other than Orthodox Judaism and Christianity, who were unique among all beliefs.

In defense of married priests St. Paul confronted this new Christian-Gnostic belief. He strongly condemned mandatory celibacy and his teaching was continually supported by later popes who excommunicated Christian-Gnostic converts for their persistent support of mandatory celibacy.

“The Spirit has explicitly said that during the last times there will be some who will desert the faith and choose to listed to deceitful spirits and doctrines that come from devils; and the cause of this will be lies told by hypocrites…they will say marriage is forbidden, and lay down rules about abstaining from food which God has created to be accepted with thanksgiving by all who believe and who know the truth.” (1Timothy 4:1).

It is important here for Catholics to understand that all New Testament scripture such as this, from either Jesus or His Apostles, are declared by the Church to be the “Deposit of Faith”, which ended c.98AD.

These teachings are unchangeable, immutable, and any “new doctrine” that would change the Deposit of Faith after that time is forbidden.

In theological speak the Deposit of Faith is the original Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.

Absence of Mandatory Celibacy

Evidence is abundant that mandatory celibacy was a late entry into Christianity, and did not exist in the second or third centuries.

As a matter of fact, the Church today acknowledges that “no law of celibacy as we know it today existed in the beginning”.

More enlightening, we have witness in ancient Church literature from Apostolic Fathers such as Bishops St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp of Smyrna, they were ‘hearers’ of St. John the apostle. As married bishops and disciples of St. John, they realized that Jesus permitted men to remain celibate if they freely chose to do so, but viewed them with caution.

Priests of the time were married men who also worked to support their families when celibate pagan converts began to appear in large cities, often resulting in conflict. Many celibate priests believed their ascetic chastity elevated them spiritually in the eyes of God to a superior spiritual plane, even superior to married bishops.

In his letter, 110AD, Ignatius asks Polycarp to instruct priests and their wives thusly: “Speak to my sisters [wives] that they love the Lord and be content with their husbands [priests] both in the flesh and in soul. In like manner exhort my brothers [priests] in the name of Jesus Christ to love their wives as the Lord loved the Church. If anyone is able to remain celibate…let him remain so without boasting. If he boasts about it he is undone, and if he seeks to be more esteemed than the bishop he is corrupted.”

This was an important event in the second century. From such ancient records we find that after the Deposit of Faith, as it was left by Jesus and His apostles, priests continued to choose either marriage or celibacy and that mandatory celibacy did not exist. So, when and how did things change?

An examination of ancient changes in Church teaching during the second and third centuries reveals similar changes in Jesus’ original teachings also began to appear in some areas as Christianity quickly spread throughout the Roman world.

Many brilliant scholars and philosophers from pagan religions became fascinated with the resurrected Christ and converted, becoming influential Christian teachers who believed priests should not despoil themselves with sex.

These converts are known as Patristic Fathers, and while they were good and pious men, they also brought with them non-Christian philosophies that would forever affect the relationships of men and women, and marriage.

Little did they understand that Christianity initially expanded via House-churches, with priests supported by their wives as teachers (1Corinthians 16:19)

Defeating paganism and gaining pagan converts were important goals for the growing Christian Church. This is where the story of mandatory celibacy really begins.

It is a story of change shrouded in the midst of a time before 350 AD, when pseudo-Christian writings were considered to be a legitimate source of Christian scripture, and popes were unchallengeable when claiming to speak ad hoc for Christ.

For this reason Christianity’s first tradition of married priests was quite different from what the Church teaches today.

The first 14 popes were married men, but to understand later changes denying clerical marriage we must again return to the beginning.

The Myth Of Apostolic Continence

By 135 AD, Rome had decimated Jerusalem and its great Jewish Temple, causing both Jews and Christians to flee into the Roman world where Gnostic-Christian beliefs had already begun to appear.

New pseudo-Christian writings claimed Gnosis (New, secret, knowledge) of Jesus and His apostles, knowledge not contained in the Deposit of Faith that ended in the previous century.

For example, writings such as the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas and stories upon which the Da Vinci Code is based are Gnostic.

Gnostic attempts to promote the superiority of celibacy and explain away the apostles’ wives that St. Paul spoke of (1Corinthians 9-5), when he complained that he too should marry “just like the other apostles and Jesus’ brothers”, a myth was created, a myth that had no basis in Christianity.

This legend was first introduced in apocryphal writings proposing that the apostles had abandoned sex with their wives in order to imitate Jesus.

Before 200 AD, these writings supported the new teachings of Patristic Fathers such as St. Justin, St. Clement of Alexandria, and Anti-Pope Hippolytus. All were celibate pagans before converting.

But priests continued to marry until things began to change the following century, when Popes would come to see an advantage in supporting this new celibacy movement, believing it would somehow diminish the esteem of celibate pagan priests who remained highly revered across the Roman Empire.

These new apocryphal Gnostic stories suggesting Jesus’ apostles embraced the ‘discipline’ of marital continence then became a powerful influence for change.

In 306 AD, the first recorded attempt by a local Church Council to mandate celibacy for priests occurred in the far western reaches of Christianity, in Elvira, Spain - three hundred years after Jesus.

Failing in that attempt, these Spanish Gnostic-Christians continued to promote their celibacy movement 19 years later at Constantine’s great Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, but failed once more.

They were defeated when bishops agreed that “Too heavy a yoke ought not to be laid upon the clergy; that marriage and married intercourse are of themselves honorable and undefiled.” The issue was settled, priests could freely choose either marriage or celibacy.

But the celibacy movement did not die. Only 40 years later, ca. 366 AD, two popes, Damasus and Siricius, would again cite these apocryphal stories of apostles ceasing marital intercourse.

Pope Damasus, the son of a priest, then introduced for the first time in Catholic history a new term, the Rule of Continence.

According to this new rule, priests were required to cease carnal intercourse with their wives, but no vow was sought as it is today – it was demanded.

Damasus’ successor Siricius, a married bishop who abandoned his wife and children to assume the papacy, continued to institute this new rule.

Tragically, these popes failed to recognize that denial of sex by either spouse violates the Sacrament of Matrimony as taught by St. Paul (1Corinthians 7:3-6).

Today, all married Catholics know they must accept intercourse for a valid marriage to exist.

Fortunately, Rome did not exercise authority over all dioceses across the Empire in those days, and other areas continued to allow priestly marriage throughout the medieval period.

The Medieval Papacy

For more than 700 years after Constantine, Roman Emperors and later European monarchs controlled papal elections and personally appointed bishops and abbots who served at their discretion, not the Pope’s.

Monasteries and dioceses brought great wealth to these secular lords through Simony, although little accrued to Rome.

During all that time bishops and priests were married and Churches became Sacramental filling stations owned by mercenary clerics who willed them to family heirs, who then often bought and sold these valuable offices.

The Church had a strong need to curb priestly heirs’ power and corruption, and this problem was solved when Popes submitted to the Emperor’s secular authority, with agreement that Cardinals alone would elect future popes.

Finally, after a 700-year struggle, and desiring to eliminate future loss of wealth and control over married clerics, mandatory celibacy laws preventing future heirs were finally instituted. Again, no vow was sought as it is today, it was demanded.

Failed Vatican efforts to end priestly marriage had continued sporadically until 1139 AD, and Pope Innocent II’s desire to seize clerical wealth and property.

Then, asserting that apostolic continence was the first priestly tradition, Innocent II reached back 700 years to Popes Damasus’ and Siricius’ use of Gnostic-Christian legend in support of his new effort to subdue the priesthood.

Previously, three councils in the 11th century had failed to end priestly marriage by selling wives and children of priests into slavery, with proceeds accruing to the Vatican treasury.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux correctly prophesied in 1135 AD, “Take from the Church an honorable marriage bed, and do you not fill it with concubineage, incest, homosexuality, and every kind of uncleanness?”

But Pope Gregory VII stated, “The Church cannot escape from the laity unless priests first escape the clutches of their wives.”

Doctrine vs. Discipline

To justify modern papal demands for priestly celibacy, the Church today denies celibacy is a Church doctrine, claiming it is merely an ancient discipline freely initiated by the apostles.

This defense arose only after Vatican Council I in 1870, when the Church infallibly declared that “some new doctrine” may not be added to the Deposit of Faith.

Prior to that time the law was taught as a doctrine because all Church teachings that are claimed to be from the apostles are doctrines.

But, in order to retain control over the priesthood, the Church now denies the law of mandatory celibacy is a Church doctrine that changes Christ’s Sacramental doctrine of priestly matrimony, thus denying the Sacramental grace of matrimony originally given to them by Jesus.

This new terminology was necessary in order to obscure the reality that mandatory celibacy actually alters Jesus’ teaching.

At this point it is important for Catholics to understand the Church’s definition of ‘heretic’: “One who, having accepted the faith of Christ, corrupts its Doctrine.”

Today Christ’s original doctrine, allowing priests to marry and propagate, has been changed.

All popes from Innocent II until Benedictine XVI have knowingly supported this law and are therefore partakers of heresy.

Today St. Peter could not become a priest, because he was married.

The ‘discipline’ of apostolic continence is historically false. There is absolutely no evidence from the Deposit of Faith, none.

Church authorities today can produce no legitimate evidence of its truth. It is myth disguised as doctrine.

It is a doctrinal impediment that intentionally alters Christ’s infallible teaching, it denies a Sacramental grace from God, a sanctifying grace given to Christians by the Son of God, and thus voids all Church claims of infallible teaching authority.

Consequences For Today

Our problem today is not new and the Church knows it. From the earliest days of Christianity, celibate priests have been a cause for concern by men such as St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp.

Before the New Testament was written, a Christian book of instruction, the Didache, stated “Thou shalt not seduce young boys.”

In 306 AD, the Council of Elvira, Spain, declared, “To defilers of boys, communion is not to be given even at death.”

In 1049,- St. Peter Damian’s Book of Gomorrah recorded a debauched and failing priesthood similar to today’s and pleaded with Pope Leo IX to excommunicate priests guilty of “Incestuous relations with their spiritual children.”

Other councils issued similar anathemas for abuse of women, and securing abortions, and absolving themselves of mortal sin.

These sins of the flesh are repeatedly forgiven today, but commit matrimony only once and a priest is out. Think of Miami, FL priest, Fr. Alberto Cutie.

Former Benedictine Monk and retired psychologist, Richard Sipe, is a therapist who taught at two seminaries and during a period of 30 years treated over 1,500 sexually dysfunctional priests and their victims; all were referred to him by Church authorities for treatment.

He and his colleagues provide the following estimates of priestly formation today. His credentials are impeccable. (

Only ten percent of all priests and bishops successfully abstain from sex during their priesthood.

Ninety percent engage in sex, 50 percent continuously and 40 percent periodically.

Of those, 30-50 percent are homosexually oriented and their sexual activity is comparable to heterosexual priests and bishops.

Similar studies from Spain, Switzerland, South Africa, and the Philippines produced similar numbers.

In areas of South America and Africa more than half of all priests have wives/mistresses.

A major problem that goes unreported by the media is priestly sex abuse of women and young girls.

Female abuse statistics are comparable to male pedophilia abuse.

This is the sad state of our priesthood today.

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