Monday, March 31, 2008

An Focal Scóir - March 2008

We welcome the sun of Spring as we enter the month of Saint Joseph which this year now hosts both St Patrick's Day (as per usual) and Easter within a week of each other...

...and the month on CW opens with AB Martin of Dublin warning that RC schools are in danger of being deemed as elitist, Muslim difficulties become reality in Irish schools, Mass cancelled in Donegal due to shortage of priest, Fr Ted gets fitting tribute...

...1.31 billion RC in the world, Chaldean bishop abducted, more sex abuse allegations come to the fore, Vatican insists baptism performed using incorrect wording must be re-performed, Canada bishop says no communion to abortion-supporting politicians, Saint Patrick and the true story...

...vocations crisis in Ireland, death of RC bishop in UK at 57 (RIP), CSA accused priest re-installed in parish, Il Papa says no to feminine theology, tithing or not, nuns seek outside intervention in US diocese, Spanish RC bishop asks youth to stop texting for Lent...

...3rd Papal encyclical on way, Mothers Day 2008, Irish Government and RC bishops (no real difference there except by name) to challenge Europe on special status afforded to RC church in Ireland, AB of Tuam condemns House of Prayer...

...priest traumatised by sexually harassing parishioner, Il Papa says yes to 4 new saints, serving Irish priests admit breaking celibacy rule, Saint Padre Pio exhumed, Vatican apologises for Galileo affair with a statue...

...Protestants are proper churches, death a reality, Cross of Nails, German bishop leader promises liberal agenda (did he tell Il Papa?), WYD08 now costing double original estimate, Tedfest a success, Papal Primacy discussed...

...Moscow Patriarch says no to ecumenical prayers, confessional secrets, RC steps into Spanish political fray (yet again!!), permanent RC-Muslim forum approved by Il Papa, rehabilitation of Luther by Ratzinger (miracles happening again!! that a pig flying?)...

...last stand of St. Stanislaus parish, 20 years of the female touch in Finland, new priests forum in Ireland being planned, no vocations = no faith, AD Brisbane admits baptism blunder, English memories of JPII on release, Pauline year set to be busy...

...Bertone leaves Armenia for Azerbaijan, demonic possessions for exorcists only, new auxiliary bishop in Vienna, Irish slander from the pulpit, secularism worries Il Papa, Vatican-Sino relations up for discussion, stalked priest flees lover...

...WYD08 costing more than realised, Mormon vandalism publicised, Saint Padre Pio exhumed, nun awarded compensation for age discrimination, new 7 sins for modern world, year of vocations, rehab of Luther not happening, Irish bishops want no Sunday morning sports activities, clerical strife in Ireland...

...genocide priest gets life, 2 Spanish priests rapped for relativism, gay protest at papal visit to USA, AB of Mosul dead, RC bishop says gays are conspiring against RC church, Pope JPI brother dies, online confessionals...

...Chiara Lubich dies, lapsed generation of RC Irish parents, calls for bishop Braxton resignation, African Pope Arinze, solemnity of St Joseph, 1st RC church in Qatar, underground Iraqi church post-AB of Mosul murder, Irish marriage bureau still popular...

...Holy week begins with Palm Sunday, Spain-Vatican tensions continue, Latin service to new use new text on Jews, Sr Jeannine Gramick the unlikely rebel, Dalai Lama calls for genocide investigation, Lá Fhéile Pádraig 2008...

...priests told sex not ungodly, 17 move towards beatification and canonisation, Vatican silence on Tibet criticised, Vatican-Israeli relations move forward, online English testimonies required for cause of JPII, Jerusalem patriarch retiring...

...terna list in Killaloe Diocese drawn up, Spy Wednesday, papal vestment symbolism, parish overhaul in Irish parishes, priest fined for failure to pay taxes, Hans Kung turns 80...

...Holy Thursday = Holy Oils, crucifixion 'bad for health', German Jews accuse Il Papa of anti-Semitism, Il Papa refused to meet Rice, authors forced from Italy by Vatican, Good Friday...

...AB Martin declares Dublin as missionary territory, Latin Mass under fire, Il Papa accused by Osama of a crusade, Easter Sunday, Confession back in fashion, bishop not for stepping down, tax evasive curate avoids Easter ceremonies, AB Martin condemns violence, Sotto Voce Easter Message, Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia...

...Il Papa baptises Muslim, Irish bishop focuses on CSA for Easter message, St Peter NOT first pope, singing monks get record deal, Irish RC not in agreement with RC hierarchy on condoms, spiritual recommendation guide for priests, former AB Ncube silenced, the Irish Oskar Schindler, Irish RC bishops seeking education veto...

...Spe Salvi in Russian, House of Prayer warning again, Islam-Christian war(?), murder contract against Brazilian bishop, royal succession may be RC yet, 3 brothers join priesthood, late Pope John Paul II to be declared saint, Cork Cathedral new bells...

...Irish parents in middle of education debate, Latin Mass bearing fruit, decline of marriage harming education, RC in Scotland more powerful, Divine Mercy Sunday, Pius XII still classed as Hitler's Pope, tomb of JPII to be moved (?), Church & State debate continues, Il Papa to continue as king breaker...

...and therein is the month of March 2008.

Benedict the King-Breaker (Contribution)

Exactly one month ago, the Trumpet exposed the Vatican’s role in bringing down the government of Italy.

In January, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi was forced to resign after Clemente Mastella, the Catholic leader of Italy’s Udeur Christian Democrat Party, quit his post as justice minister.

His resignation undermined Prodi’s coalition government, causing it to lose its majority in the senate.

Mastella, long recognized as a Vatican rook, was operating on the instructions of church leaders who were frustrated by Prodi’s liberal tendencies. “Prodi’s government dared to challenge the ecclesiastical hierarchy for the second time and this time it has had its hands burned,” wrote Italian newspaper La Stampa. Vatican fingerprints were all over Prodi’s political corpse.

Is the prime minister of Spain next?

General elections in Spain are less than two weeks away (March 9), and the Vatican has been nearly as large a campaign figure in the tight election race as the politicians themselves. The church’s attention has been solely focused on undermining one man: Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, leader of the Socialist Party and the prime minister of Spain.

Zapatero was elected in 2004 thanks largely to a groundswell of public emotion after an 11th-hour train bombing by al Qaeda in Madrid. The leftist, morally vacuous, terrorist-appeasing socialist leader whom shell-shocked voters flocked to has long rankled Pope Benedict and Vatican minders in Spain. Since his fortuitous election, he has pushed for more liberal abortion laws, legalized homosexual marriage, made divorce easier, and tried, in vain, to negotiate a peace accord with the Basque terrorist group eta.

Zapatero runs against the grain of the church on nearly every issue. For four years, he has been a thorn in the Vatican’s side. That’s why Catholic leaders, with great ardor and very little subtlety, have been working tirelessly to prevent his re-election.

On December 31, hundreds of thousands (some reports said upward of 1.5 million) of people gathered, at the behest of Archbishop of Madrid Antonio María Rouco, in the city of Madrid to celebrate mass and signal their support of the traditional family. It didn’t take long before the pro-family rally evolved into an anti-government demonstration, fueled by a stream of veiled and not-so-veiled slanders against the Spanish prime minister by the Madrid cardinal, fellow Catholic leaders and celebrities.

Even the keynote speaker, Pope Benedict xvi, speaking via video-link, used the rally to take a jab at the Spanish government and influence voters toward conservative parties. Referring to traditional marriage, the pope reminded the crowd that marriage is “founded in the indissoluble union between man and woman,” and is the institution “in which human life is sheltered and protected from its beginning until its natural end.”

Other Catholic leaders were sharper and more direct in their criticism of the Zapatero government. Cardinal Rouco, a lightning rod for leftist criticism, told the crowd he was saddened by the Spanish government’s rejection of what are fundamentally human rights issues, and called for a “new juridical civilization.” Bishop Agustín García-Gasco, prelate of Valencia, warned that the attacks against the family during the Socialist government disrespected the 1978 Constitution, and pushed the nation toward the “dissolution of democracy.”

The massive assembly, defined by the spirited ridicule and political assassination of the Zapatero administration, was more in the spirit of an American-style political campaign than an innocent gathering of churchgoers in support of the traditional family. And it was sponsored by the archbishop of Madrid and more than 50 Catholic leaders!

A month later, the church took another stinging shot at the Zapatero campaign. On January 31, the Spanish Bishops Conference released an unambiguous paper effectively directing Spaniards to vote against the government and in favor of the conservative Popular Party (PP). With very little nuance, the communiqué informed voters that they should not vote for parties that support homosexual marriage or other social reforms that conflict with Catholic doctrine. The statement also warned against voting for parties that would negotiate with Basque terrorists.

Catholic Online cited the statement from the Bishops Conference: “Although it is true that Catholics can support and participate in various parties, not all programs are compatible with the faith and obligations of Christian life or with the aims and values Christians should promote in public life” (emphasis mine throughout).

The message to Spain’s 38 million Catholics was clear: If it doesn’t gel with the church’s beliefs, reject it.

Spain is 94 percent Catholic. And while it has gravitated toward secularism in recent years, religion remains an influential lever in the lives of millions of Spanish, especially the middle-aged and elderly.

That reality is not lost on Prime Minister Zapatero, who is enraged by Vatican efforts to manhandle Spanish politics. Liberal politicians and commentators in America complain incessantly about the influence of Christian leaders over conservative, evangelical voters. Forget Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen—the Spanish prime minister is being forced into the ring with Pope Benedict xvi and the whole government-shredding Vatican propaganda machine.

The Spanish government reacted with fury after the January 31 statement, accusing the bishops of wanting the nation to revert back to the conservative, Catholic-sponsored dictatorship of Generalissim Francisco Franco. Within three days of the January 31 statement, the Spanish ambassador to the Vatican had met with Vatican officials to lodge the government’s complaint against the church’s meddling.

“It’s unheard of,” said Zapatero (with little regard for Vatican history), referring to the church’s political strong-arming. He demanded “more respect” from the clergy when debating with Spain’s elected leader. In a veiled threat, he said that the possibility of reviewing agreements under which the church gets millions of euros a year in state funding “is always open.”

“This is one of the most visible confrontations between the church and the government in the past 30 years,” said José María Martinez Patino, a Jesuit priest and head of the Meeting Foundation, an independent research organization. Patino believes the Spanish church’s position stems directly from the conservative thinking of Pope Benedict.

Nearly every week, attacks are being waged on the Socialist incumbent by Catholic leaders and even the pope himself. On Tuesday, the archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, said that, “like it or not,” Spain’s memory and identity were forged by the Catholic Church. Addressing the question of whether the Spain of tomorrow will be Christian, the cardinal said, “She will be if she sticks to her roots, if she keeps her memory and her identity alive.”

Spain’s leftward shift has been so intense that it is now perceived as one of the most liberal societies in Europe. That reputation infuriates Catholic leaders, and they are working untiringly to return Spain to its historically staunch Catholic, conservative roots. The election race is tight. Zapatero’s lead over Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the conservative, Catholic-backed People’s Party, is narrow.

But with elections still nearly two weeks away, plenty of time remains for the conservative opposition parties, with support from the Vatican, to cut the lead of the incumbent. Don’t be surprised to see greater Catholic meddling over the next two weeks. It would hardly be surprising if some of Pope Benedict xvi’s own messages in that time are tailored to papal ambitions in Spain’s general election.

Between Vatican interference and the broader trend toward the right sweeping European governments, it would not be surprising to see the election of a right-wing, conservative, Catholic-compliant government in Spain on March 9.

European history provides heaps of evidence showing the Vatican’s role as Europe’s king-maker and king-breaker. The church has been the dominant force behind Europe’s greatest leaders and states since the time of Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. The Vatican has been Europe’s single greatest constant.

Every dark and sinister force that has ever emerged from the European landscape has been empowered, legitimized and exploited by the Vatican. Charlemagne, Napoleon, Garibaldi, Hitler—the imperialistic ambitions of each of these tyrants was fueled by or assisted in some way by backers in the Vatican.

Time after time, Vatican meddling, most of the time by proxy, has resulted in the death of tens of millions of people, destroyed entire states, and undermined the European balance of power. The Vatican’s meddling in Italy and Spain today is rooted in this jolting history.

No other source reveals the reality of the Vatican as deeply or as presciently as the Holy Bible. It is the most authoritative source of knowledge about the Catholic Church. It gives a thorough understanding of the history and prophecy of the Catholic Church. For more information, read Mystery of the Ages.

In the book of Revelation, God speaks at length about the Catholic Church. In Revelation 13:11, He employs a striking analogy to describe this great religious beast. Here, He says this church looks like a lamb, innocent, just and righteous in the eyes of most people. It even appears as if it’s the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. But it speaks like a dragon! Study European history. Read about Charlemagne, the Crusades and World War ii Ustashi death squads. Then ask yourself, is there a better analogy for the Catholic Church’s role in European history?

It looks like a lamb, but speaks like a dragon! And as the Bible says, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

The lessons of history can be among the hardest for the human mind to grasp. This is because history is mired in unspeakable brutality and unthinkable horror. Reconciling the past means admitting that the forces that made it inevitable are still prevalent today. Human nature is the one great constant. History teaches us that yesterday’s nightmares are tomorrow’s realities. Given the same or similar stimuli, the whole cycle of history will repeat itself.

That’s not something most people want to confront. So we continue to neglect to study and learn from the lessons of history.

But our failure to consider the past makes its future repetition no less inevitable.


No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

Father Fay gets his wish: No prison until May

After his lawyer said reporting to jail next week, as sentenced, would mean former St. John Roman Catholic Parish pastor Michael Jude Fay would die there, the U.S. Attorney’s office granted a delay.

But it was for six weeks, rather than the six month delay he requested. The priest convicted of stealing parishioners’ money was scheduled to report Wednesday, April 2, to federal prison.

Fay’s attorney, Lawrence Hopkins, requested the delay for Fay to continue to receive his experimental cancer treatment, which can only be administered outside of prison, according to previous addendum filed by his attorney.

Hopkins previously filed a motion to delay the former pastor’s reporting to prison next week in order to continue the treatment. The U.S. District Attorney’s office required more evidence before making any decision.

“Fay has repeatedly tried to avoid any prison sentence for his six years of criminal conduct, stealing more than $1 million, not to mention the sacred trust, from the parishioners he was privileged to serve,” the response to Fay’s motion said.

The addendum says that Fay is being treated by an experimental drug called MDV 3100, because his previous FDA-approved treatment did nothing to improve his condition.

“His present experimental treatment is the only one available which shows any promise of prolonging his life,” the document reads.

The treatment is only offered at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and “is not available through the Bureau of Prisons.”

Hopkins’ addendum says that Fay has been responding to the treatment and that the delay is to effectively treat the cancer “to the extent that he could survive 37 months of incarceration.”

“Denial of this present treatment will virtually insure that he can not,” the addendum reads.

In an attached letter from Fay’s physician, Ethan Basch, the doctor recommends that Fay continue with the experimental treatment and confirms the positive response to the drug.

The U.S. Attorney’s office granted the motion to continue the surrender date “in part”, basing it on a discussion with Fay’s counsel on record on March 25. Fay also is required to provide a set of current medical records to the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, N.C., where he would be serving his jail time

Any further request of an extension of Fay’s surrender date will require a hearing, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

Fay, who is suffering from terminal prostate cancer, was sentenced in December to 37 months in federal prison for stealing parishioners’ money while serving as pastor of St. John’s.

Fay pleaded guilty in September to one count of interstate transportation of money obtained by fraud. He was facing up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

In May 2006, it was discovered that Fay had been using church money to support his lavish lifestyle, which included trips to Europe, the Caribbean and other parts of the United States.

A private investigation — prompted by another church priest and its bookkeeper — also discovered that Fay was in a romantic relationship with another man, a Philadelphia event planner.

Fay resigned from St. John’s shortly after the news broke.

An August 2006 independent audit commissioned by the Diocese of Bridgeport, reported that St. John Parish lost at least $1.4 million since 2000.

Fay became church pastor in 1991.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

US Presiding Bishop 'failed to follow rules' over bishop's trial

US PRESIDING Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori failed to follow the procedural rules governing the trial of Bishop William Cox for “abandonment of the Communion” of the Episcopal Church an investigation by The Church of England Newspaper has found.

In a March 12 press conference, Bishop Schori stated she had not followed rules governing the requirement that the 88-year-old retired bishop be granted a speedy trial, that he be informed of the charges against him in a timely fashion, and that the consent of the church’s senior bishops be solicited by the Presiding Bishop to suspend him from office pending trial.

A subsequent investigation by The Church of England Newspaper in conjunction with The Living Church magazine revealed an insufficient number of votes to convict were cast also.

The Bishop of Central Florida has called for a review of the proceedings, and the president of the church’s appellate court of review for the trial of bishops is understood to have agreed to look into the proceedings.

Elected suffragan bishop of Maryland in 1972, Bishop Cox was translated to Oklahoma in 1980 as assistant bishop and retired in 1988. In June 2005, Bishop Cox performed ordinations at Christ Church, Overland Park, Kansas on behalf of Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda.

Earlier that year Christ Church negotiated an amicable parting of the ways with the diocese of Kansas and had joined the Ugandan Church.

Bishop Cox returned the following month to Overland Park to perform confirmations on behalf of Archbishop Orombi.

The bishops of Kansas and Oklahoma filed a complaint against Bishop Cox for performing Episcopal acts without the permission of the local diocesan bishop.

In March 2006 the Church’s Title IV review committee found there was sufficient evidence to bring Bishop Cox to trial, however, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold declined to prosecute.

Following the 2006 election of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop the charges were resubmitted.

Bishop Cox, then 87 years of age, declined to contest the matter telling his attorney he was too old to fight, and by letter resigned his membership in the House of Bishops on March 28, 2007.

In his letter of resignation Bishop Cox said that although he was resigning his membership in the House of Bishops and was not resigning his orders and would be joining the Province of the Southern Cone and would continue his episcopal ministry in that branch of the Communion.

Bishop Schori forwarded the letter to the Title IV review committee asking it to determine whether by this letter, Bishop Cox had “abandoned the communion” of the Episcopal Church.

On May 29, 2007, the Title IV review committee issued its certificate and report under Title IV Canon 9 that Bishop Cox had “abandoned the communion.”

On Jan 8, 2008, she informed Bishop Cox that he had been determined to have abandoned the communion of this church.

She gave him 60 days to recant, or else he would be brought before the next house of bishops meeting and be deposed. Offering no defence, Bishop Cox was deposed on a voice vote of bishops attending the final day of the meeting.

The procedures laid out in Title IV, Canon 9, sections 1 and 2 (the abandonment canon) to depose a bishop state that after the Title IV review committee issues a certificate of abandonment the Presiding Bishop “shall” “forthwith” notify the accused.

The Presiding Bishop then “shall” seek the consent of the three senior bishops with jurisdiction to inhibit the accused bishop, and trial “shall” take place at the “next” meeting of the House of Bishops.

At a March 12 press conference Bishop Schori outlined the procedural history surrounding the Cox case. She said the Title IV review committee had “certified [Bishop Cox] several years ago. … before her time.” She added, however, that “it was never brought to the House of Bishops for action.”

She then said she “did not send it to the three senior bishops” and the House of Bishops “did not consider it in September” at their meeting in New Orleans with the Archbishop of Canterbury due to the “the press of other business.”

Several minutes later, Bishop Schori said she wanted to “clarify” her earlier statements. She said she had been “unable to get the consent of the three senior bishops last spring. That’s why we didn’t bring it to the September meeting” of the House of Bishops.

Contacted after the press conference, one of the three senior bishops, who declined to be named, stated he had never been asked by Bishop Schori to consent to Bishop Cox’s suspension.

The Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor, Mr David Booth Beers, declined to address the issues surrounding Bishop Cox’s case in a March 15 statement released through the Episcopal Church’s press office.

However, he stated that his “position” was that there had been a legal quorum to depose the two bishops on March 12.

Canon lawyer, retired Bishop William Wantland of Eau Claire told Religious Intelligence the deposition of Bishop Cox was “void” for failing to achieve the required “majority vote of all bishops entitled to vote” and because the “canonical procedure was simply not followed.”

In defence of the proceedings against Bishop Cox, Indianapolis Bishop Catherine Waynick wrote that while the “canons may need to be clarified, what does not seem to need clarifying” was that “William Cox willfully violated the canons by functioning where he had been specifically asked not to.”

However, the charge brought against Bishop Cox was not violating diocesan boundaries. In 2006 Bishop Griswold dropped the charges proffered against Bishop Cox for the Kansas ordination, raising the question whether the bishops convicted him of a crime not before the bishops for adjudication.

The charge was “Abandonment of Communion,” Bishop Wantland said. The punishment for violation of diocesan boundaries “is a totally different charge. In my opinion, this is what he should have been charged with, and the procedure under Canon IV. 9. 2 was totally inappropriate and without any justification,” he said.

On March 15, Central Florida Bishop John W Howe urged the Episcopal Church’s three senior bishops to review the case, saying he was under “no illusions that the outcome of the despicable vote to depose John-David [Schofield] and William [Cox] will be reversed, but at least we might want to obey the canons.”

On Maundy Thursday, Bishop Howe repeated his call for justice to those falsely condemned, noting “I recall that another person of influence washed his hands of a difficult matter on this same weekend some years ago.”

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

The proper place of the Church in debates of state (Contribution)

Anglicanism and Islam were both founded by men who wielded total power.

Under Henry VIII, politics swallowed religion.

Under Muhammad, religion swallowed politics.

Consequently, Anglicans struggle to defend their religious identity against a political agenda and Muslims struggle to defend their political rights against a religious agenda.

Roman Catholics believe that the boundary between religion and politics is no less essential than the bridge.

In his first encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice ... cannot prevail and prosper.”

The State has sovereign authority in the temporal sphere.

The Church has sovereign authority in the spiritual sphere.

The Church, as a body, realises that she must not identify herself with a political party, or devote herself to any political programme.

Christianity cannot be an ideology. But while Church and State are autonomous, they remain interconnected because the most fundamental influence shaping every human culture is its understanding of God.

Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine. Thus in His person, Christ carries the absolute truth about God and Man.

The Church's mission is to proclaim Christ, and non-Catholics are mistaken if they think the Church will be silent about intrinsically related issues.

Thus the Church must testify on abortion, which is the destruction of a person made in the image of God. And on the sanctity of marriage the Church must also testify, for marriage is an image of the Holy Trinity.

On international relations, slavery, war, the Church must testify, as all violence is a lie about Man, the antithesis of truth and of love.

So on what grounds have spiritual Luddites objected to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's invitation in December last year to some 60 MPs to discuss the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill?

And why has the Bishop of Lancaster, the Right Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, been lambasted for ensuring that in his diocese Catholic schools will teach Catholic beliefs? Europe is prey to the same folly.

Before its recent re-election, the Spanish Government protested against the right of Catholics to hold rallies.

And in January, professors and students of La Sapienza University in Rome blocked the Pope from delivering a speech.

Yet atheists and believers do not have to be locked in destructive political combat. Politicians listen to scientists, to the military, even to economists. If politics is to play its role in overcoming evil, then it must also listen to the Church.

For 2,000 years the Church has grown as an “expert in humanity”, notably thanks to her patient listening in the confessional, in her apostolate with the sick and the poor, and in her experience of persecution.

Therefore if politics would truly serve Man, and is to be an agent in reaching the common good, then politics has to open its ears to the Church.

This is not a lost cause. We can look to someone with vast political experience: Tony Blair. I do not refer to his personal choice to become a Catholic, about which too much has been said.

But his decision to establish a Judaeo-Christian-Islamic foundation for dialogue is a public project about which too little has been said.

Peace in the Holy Land is one of the greatest prizes held out to mankind.

He understands that the supreme goods in the world, such as peace, cannot be achieved by politics alone, nor by religion alone, but only through a fruitful collaboration of both.


No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

Vatican envoy hopes for China-Tibet talks

The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, expressed on Sunday the hope that China and Tibet would begin ''a dialogue on peace'' in a spirit of ''brotherhood and mutual trust''.

''The situation in Tibet is a major concern because it is a country rich in traditions and neighbour to the big power, China,'' the cardinal said after celebrating mass in a Rome church, according to a news agency.

''We hope that relations'' between China and Tibet improve and foster ''a dialogue on peace'' and relations that allow for ''brotherhood and mutual trust'', the agency quoted the No 2 official at the Vatican as saying.

Last week on Easter Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI called for ''solutions which will safeguard the peace and prosperity'' of Tibet.

A few days before, on March 19, the pope had broken his silence on the crisis in Tibet, calling for an end to violence there and urging ''dialogue and tolerance''.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

Muslim convert baptized by the Pope to marry in the Church

The Muslim journalist Magdi Allam, who was received into the Church during the Easter Vigil by Pope Benedict XVI, plans to marry Valentina Colombo in the Church on April 22, according to the Italian daily Libero.

The couple’s son, Davide, who is nine months old, was baptized a month ago, when Allam’s journey to the Catholic faith was in its final phase.

Allam is 55 and is associate director of the newspaper Il Corriere della Sera. During the last five years he has lived under police protection due to death threats over his conversion to Christianity and his positions against Islamic fundamentalism.

During the interview, Allam said he is not afraid of death and that he will continue moving “forward” on “the road of truth, freedom and affirmation of life.”

His baptism has been criticized by both Islamic fundamentalists and Islamic moderates, including the Muslim intellectuals who attended a meeting at the Vatican this month to promote inter-religious dialogue.

The director of L’Osservatore Romano, Gian Maria Vian, said yesterday in an editorial that Magdi Allam’s baptism was “not intended to be hostile towards the great Islamic religion.”

Allam took this step “after a long personal search and the necessary preparation for taking this step,” Vian said.

“Benedict XVI’s gesture has important meaning because it affirms religious freedom in a humble and clear way” and shows that “anyone who requests baptism without constrictions has the right to receive it,” he emphasized.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

Vatican: No decision yet on whether John Paul II's tomb will be moved

The Vatican said Sunday that it had made no decisions yet on whether to move Pope John Paul II's tomb from the grottos underneath St. Peter's Basilica to the basilica itself.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement that "any decision on the matter would not be made until the beatification."

John Paul died April 2, 2005, after a nearly 27-year pontificate. Shortly afterward, Pope Benedict XVI put him on the fast track for possible sainthood, waiving the customary five-year waiting period.

Beatification is the last major step before possible sainthood.

Italian newspaper La Stampa and other media reported that John Paul's body would be put on display and his tomb moved from the grottos to the interior of the basilica itself.

La Stampa said the plan had been readied by a commission headed by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica. It said the transfer plan had also involved the Vatican police force.

But these details were denied by the Vatican.

"I can decisively deny that there has been any such commission headed by Cardinal Comastri and that any decision on the matter has been made," Lombardi said in a statement. "It is equally groundless to speak of any involvement by the Vatican (police force)."

Lombardi said that discussion of any hypothesis was premature.

As the third anniversary of John Paul's death approaches, Benedict remembered his predecessor during a public prayer Sunday.

Benedict will mark the anniversary Wednesday by presiding over a morning Mass in John Paul's memory.


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The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

Should Pope John Paul II Be Know as "The Great"

In many circles today, there is a debate taking place on whether or not to attach the honorific of "great" to Pope John Paul II.

It goes without saying that for now, any label given is strictly done so by movement of a large body of the faithful.

No official statement has been made by the Church in this regard. Fr. Koterski of Fordham University once noted: "Something like that would take it to another level…(referring to a statement by the Church) This title comes by acclamation by the church. People are already using it. It now must stand the test of time."

Perhaps it has already happened! Pope Benedict XVI, in his first address as Pope, uttered these words: "After the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in the Lord's vineyard."

In addition, this same "honorific" has been attached to John Paul by such high ranking Ecclesial Cardinals as Cormac Murphy O’Connor and Angelo Sodono (in writing), and not to mention further, L’Osservatore Romano (regarded by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as the "genuine face of the Church"), and the larger sphere of Catholic faithful.

Pope John Paul, as the chief teacher of the faith and guided by the Holy Spirit issued the New Catechism, the revised Code of Canon Law, and the revised Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches; he wrote 39 major teachings covering the whole spectrum of doctrine, morals and spirituality; and he gave countless other addresses and speeches.

He wrote 14 crucial encyclicals, not to mention his larger work of the theology of the body, which many argue makes up more than 70% of the Church’s Teaching on the sexual identity of the human person.

Pope John Paul II emphasized the universal call to holiness and thereby the sacramental life which begins at baptism. He went to weekly confession urged others to open themselves to the infinite mercy of God in the sacrament of penance.

In his last encyclical on the Holy Eucharist, "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," he encouraged devotion to our Lord truly present in the Blessed Sacrament and the reverential offering of the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Pope John Paul was a staunch defender of Christian morality: He unequivocally taught the sanctity of life from conception until natural death, the dignity of the person and the sacredness of marriage and marital love- even when speaking out against national leaders in their very presence. It can be well argued that he laid the groundwork and foundation for Summorum Pontificum.

As the successor of St. Peter, he sought unity in the body of the Church, making 104 pastoral visits outside of Italy. He canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,342 blesseds, knowing we need examples of holiness to inspire us.

Pope John Pal II was devoted to the Blessed Mother whom he mentioned at the close of each encyclical and to whom he entrusted his life, having the motto, Totus tuus after being shot in the abdomen due to his prolific role against communism.

Many attribute his work to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe through his incitation of a peaceful revolution in Poland.

In his life, he taught us how to live and die with Jesus. One can, and should rightfully call him, Pope John Paul II, the Great.

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Sotto Voce

Signs Point Toward Pope’s Celebration of Pre-Vatican II Mass

The permission to celebrate the Mass of Blessed John XXIII without any restrictions is a celebrated reality in the Catholic Church.

Since Benedict XVI announced the unfettered permission for the restored celebration of this liturgy as the Extraordinary form for the celebration of the Eucharist there has been no celebration of this form by the Holy Father at Saint Peters in Vatican City.

There are always media reports about how well this permission has been received by Catholics throughout the world. Many consider this movement as one that restores a sense of Catholic identity and unity throughout the world.

Well, with that being said: Holy Father celebrate this rite at the Papal Altar in Saint Peters.

There can be no better illustration of the continuity of the sacred liturgy than to have the Bishop of Rome celebrate the Mass of Blessed John XXIII within the center of Catholic worship and government.

Celebration of the Extraordinary form of the Holy Eucharist by the Holy Father would clearly indicate his approval for celebrating the liturgy. It would also be a clear message to anyone group that offers opposition to the proper implementation of the axiom, “Lex orandi, lex credendi!”

Papal permission for the Extraordinary seems to be rooted in an attempt by Benedict XVI to provide a liturgical bridge for the entire Church that unites us in a consistent liturgical tradition that developed from the Second Vatican Council. Since the close of the council, there have obviously been components of the liturgical movement that have not always gone very well, nor have they been implemented smoothly. Benedict’s celebration of the Mass of Blessed John XXIII over the tomb of the Apostle Peter would go a long way to indicate a new age of Catholic healing and liturgical consistency.

With all of the thoughts recently devoted to the Papal visit to the United States, things like the secular and the religious press often overlook the celebration of different liturgical rites. By virtue of his office, the Bishop of Rome always reserves the option to himself to celebrate the liturgy in whatever rite he chooses. Papal prerogative to celebrate the Mass of Blessed John XXIII is of course within the legitimate options for the Pope’s liturgies.

Careful observance of papal events and statements over the past few months, provides a number of clues that the Holy See might indeed be leading up to such an observance of the pre-Vatican II liturgy.

Over the past year, we have seen the return of Roman style vestments, the usage of the winter and Easter mozzetta, the revival of the ancient pallium, and rochets coming out of liturgical closets all over the world. It seems only logical that Benedict through his new liturgist is staging the return of some sort of papal celebration of the pre-Vatican II rite.

One clear indication of the papal inclination towards the traditional liturgy is the reemergence of the usage of Cardinal-Deacons at papal Masses.

In addition to the Deacons of the Word and the Deacons of the Eucharist, Benedict has multiple times recently drafted Cardinal-Deacons to flank him at liturgical celebrations. This is a welcome restoration of papal pomp and ceremony.

When one starts to understand the historical nature of various papal ceremonies, the ancient heritage of Catholicism is appreciated by the observation of how we indeed offer solemn prayer.

There is also speculation that the Holy Father has initiated new sets of vestments for papal ceremonies that will include the Roman form of chasubles, dalmatics and tunics. While there should be no expectation that the Papal tiara will come out of retirement, such revival of historical signs and symbols of our Catholic liturgical history are long overdue and very welcome.

One aspect of the Benedictine Renaissance that is critical to understand about the Holy Father is that he is not intent on sending the Church into a retrograde motion towards liturgical antiquity.

He is just making the most effective use of all of the ceremonial options available to the world’s Catholic faithful people.

Advocates are quick to note that these options towards the usage of Latin and the pre-Vatican II form were never abrogated.

Benedict XVI is showing the world that Catholic prayer and ritual indeed has relevance to all Catholic peoples…because it is a legitimate part of our Catholic heritage.

It is most appropriate Benedict XVI make a real gesture of continuity and celebrates the Mass of Blessed John XXIII publicly for the benefit of all Catholics to appreciate and prayerfully worship in the ritual form of our Fathers.

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Sotto Voce

Religious to discuss roles of authority in Latin Church

Leaders of various religious communities are planning to gather during the second week of April for a conference on how authority is exercised in their different orders.

The Faculty of Canon Law of Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, the "Angelicum", will host the congress on the theme: "Various models of authority in the religious life of the Latin Church".

The event has been organized to mark the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law.

Officials at the "Angelicum" explain that during the congress, which will be held on April 9, participants will present "the specific model of authority of the Order to which they belong (both at a personal and collegial level as well as at the various levels of General, Provincial and Local Superior), as it appears from a reading of history", concentrating especially on "Rules and Constitutions revised since 1983".

Some of the topics to be discussed are: "The abbot vicar of Christ: authority in monastic life"; "Religious authority in the Friars Preachers as a mendicant order"; "Religious authority in the Society of Jesus"; and "Authority and government in modern congregations".

The morning session will be presided by Cardinal Franc Rode C.M., prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, while the afternoon meeting will be held under the presidency of Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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Sotto Voce

Anglican priest rewrites biblical stories making Goliath a drunkard, Eve a sex fiend

An Anglican vicar has tried to make Bible stories more “accessible” to modern readers by rewriting them to portray Goliath as a celebrity binge drinker, Eve as a sex addict, and Noah’s wife as a woman with murderous intentions towards her husband.

Reverend Robert Harrison’s book, titled “Must Know Stories," retells ten Bible stories.

In the story of the Nativity, Jesus is born in an overcrowded house instead of a stable.

Harrison’s story goes on to portray family conflict as Joseph’s aunt deals with the marital state of Joseph and Mary, who in Harrison’s retelling are unmarried.

Harrison said he wrote the book to encourage people to read stories "that are so utterly part of our culture.”

He said people should know the stories not as a matter of religion but as a matter of cultural education."

"I wanted to write a book that tells the most important Bible stories in a way that relishes them rather than tries to make any particular religious point.”

Rev. Harrison added, "After all, who knows what the point is?”

"What is more important to me is that people are getting to know the stories,” he said.

Harrison, who preaches at a West London church, said, "It's better to tell the story controversially than not at all."

A Church of England spokesman said Harrison was “simply drawing parallels” between biblical stories and modern situations. "It doesn't change the original stories," the spokesman said.

Others disagreed with Harrison's approach.

"It sounds to me as if it's gone much too far,” said Catholic MP Ann Widdecombe, “It is one thing to give a biblical story a modern application and something quite different to distort all the facts."

Dr. Justin Thacker, the head of theology at the Evangelical Alliance, said, "In trying to communicate the stories to a contemporary audience some of the essential features and message may have been lost."

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Sotto Voce

Diversity of faiths is changing Ireland (Contribution)

The clerk behind the desk at my hotel in this historic capital of Ireland had a Polish accent.

My waiter was from Egypt and the chambermaid was Chinese.

The cab driver who took me to the Dublin airport was from Nigeria and fittingly used a GPS to find his way.

It takes only a few minutes in Ireland these days to realize that the country is changing rapidly. It is not just Catholics and Protestants anymore.

There are Nigerian Baptists, Polish Catholics and Russian Orthodox. There are Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists from India, and Muslims from all over the world.

An estimated 10% of the country is made up of immigrants and they've brought their voices, their foods, their music and their faiths with them.

And while most of the adult immigrants have accents from foreign lands, their children - the next generation - are speaking with perfect Irish brogues even as they perform religious rituals quite alien to most Irish.

I was in Dublin to lead a group of my students from Columbia University on a study-tour to look at the changing nature of religion in Ireland.

The tables have turned. For more than 100 years, Ireland was a country people wanted to escape from. More than a million Irish, driven by famine and conflict, left for America and other lands.

But today, Ireland - with its economy booming and its internecine "troubles" in the past - is a destination for immigrants.

All this diversity has been good for new religions in Ireland, especially at a time when traditional Irish religious institutions are in decline.

Many people have turned away from the Catholic Church, especially in the wake of revelations its higherups stood silently by while some priests sexually abused youngsters in their care.

Church attendance has gone from 90% in the 1970s to just over 40% today.

Many historic Irish Catholic church buildings have now been taken over by Catholics from Poland and Hungary.

An old Church of Ireland sanctuary in Dublin now houses a Russian Orthodox congregation. In Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, a Protestant church has become a Hindu temple.

On Friday, we attended the Islamic Cultural Center of Ireland, which drew more than 1,000 worshipers to its massive domed mosque in the south of Dublin. My teaching colleague, Niall O'Dowd, who grew up in Ireland but has lived in New York for decades, said that the mosque visit was the most striking indication of change.

"I lived in Dublin 10 years," he said. "I never met a Muslim. Today, I saw 1,000. The diversity is incredible."

Some native Irish want to learn more about the faiths of the new immigrants. At the Jampa Ling Tibetan Buddhist Center in the heart of the Irish countryside, the lectures of the chief lama, who is from Tibet, draw 30 people a week, twice the number that came 10 years ago.

Buddhism is taking root in Ireland, said Ani La, one of the nuns at the center. "Maybe in 50 years, we'll be wearing green robes," she joked.

Of course, there are also Christians who are reclaiming their faith. One we met in Northern Ireland was Alan McMullan, who had been a member of a violent paramilitary organization that was hellbent on keeping the north, known as Ulster, part of Great Britain.

After a few days in prison, McMullan said he had a conversion experience, renounced violence and is now a "born-again" Christian.

"I went from working for 'God and Ulster' to working for God," he said.


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Sotto Voce

History has unfairly tagged Pius XII as Hitler's pope (Contribution)

One benefit of an open society is the chance to engage in debate, and on that score, my Easter column on atheism set off a small flurry of responses.

While it's impossible to properly address all matters here, one in particular is worth revisiting -- the notion Adolf Hitler was Catholic, along with the idea that the Second World War-era pope, Pius XII, was "Hitler's Pope."

That accusation, the title of a book a few years back, was repeated by Richard Dawkins in his latest polemic against religion, The God Delusion.

On Hitler's alleged Catholicism, William Shirer, author of the 1960 classic The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, notes Hitler's nominal Catholic upbringing. Other historians have also reprinted Nazi party statements that seem to indicate Hitler was sympathetic to Christianity.

Except, as Shirer points out, the young Austrian also made clear in Mein Kampf that he thought the mistake of earlier German nationalist movements was their opposition to the churches. He thought it a tactical mistake. Tellingly, as Shirer notes, Hitler disliked the Catholicism of a certain Austrian politician, Dr. Karl Lueger, but admired how Lueger dealt with the Catholic church politically.

"His policy was fashioned with infinite shrewdness," wrote Hitler.

Hitler also said nice things about Protestants and union members, and killed them anyway. Anyone who thinks Hitler was sincere in his professions toward religion or anything else errs, as did British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who took Hitler's promises of peace at face value. If Hitler believed anything mystical, it was in ancient German pagan myths.

On the allegation that Pope Pius XII was sympathetic to or craven toward Hitler, the popular belief is wrong.

Yes, there were plenty of Nazi sympathizers in German Catholic and Protestant circles and historically, Martin Luther's anti-Semitism didn't help. But there were plenty of the same who actively opposed Hitler, including the Vatican in Rome.

Despite the Vatican's concordat with the Nazi government in 1933 (actually an action to protect Catholics, although unwise in retrospect as the diplomatic agreement gave Hitler an initial measure of respectability), it didn't mean the papal secretary of state, Monsignor Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII, was soft on Hitler.

In his 2005 book, The Myth of Hitler's Pope, Rabbi David G. Dalum demolishes this

assertion that first popped up in a 1963 play from a left-wing writer in Germany, and which later became conventional wisdom.

In 1964, Livia Rothkirchen, then of Israel's Holocaust museum, wrote a scathing review of a book which alleged Pope Pius XII was sympathetic to the Nazis.

In 1967, Israeli diplomat Pinchas Lapide argued that Pius XII "was instrumental in saving at least 700,000 but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands."

Michael Tagliacozzo, a survivor of the Nazi roundup of Jews in Rome, staunchly defended Pius's role during the Nazi occupation.

Tagliacozzo notes that at the Pope's instruction, 5,000 Roman Jews were sheltered in monasteries and convents in Rome; 3,000 other Italian Jews were hid at the papal summer retreat, Castel Gandolfo.

On the German side, in 1939, Josef Goebbels wrote in his diary that the Nazi leadership believed that as pope, Pacelli would continue the "pro-Jewish" policy he had followed as Vatican secretary of state.

"We should not forget that in the long run the pope in Rome is a greater enemy of National Socialism than Churchill or Roosevelt," said high-ranking Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich in a recorded exchange between himself and associates in the middle of the war.

The feeling was mutual. In his first encyclical, in 1939, Pius XII explicitly condemned and rejected Nazism; the New York Times gave it a Page 1 headline.

On Pius's supposed later silence, Dalum quotes one Jewish survivor who argued such silence was exactly what Jewish leaders in Nazi-occupied countries advised; they thought open papal criticism would incite the Nazis to further atrocities.

Still, the Pope managed to communicate enough displeasure that in October 1942, the London Times praised Pius for his condemnation of Nazism and his public support for the Jewish victims.

As Rabbi Dalin writes, "for Jewish leaders of the postwar generation, the idea that Pope Pius XII could be smeared as 'Hitler's Pope' would have been shocking."

He points out the pontiff was acclaimed by Albert Einstein, Israel's first president Chaim Weizman, Israeli prime ministers Golda Meir and Moshe Sharett, the chief rabbi of Israel Rabbi Isaac Herzog and Dr. Alexander Safran, the chief rabbi of Romania.

Why does any of this matter? Because for all its faults or those of its adherents -- and on this atheists are no exception to mankind's tendencies -- religion has a positive side. Honest atheists -- of whom, yes, I count many as my friends -- know this.

It's the missionary atheists such as Richard Dawkins who seem unable to grasp that truth.


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Sotto Voce

Spanish bishops: No Catholic can support abortion, euthanasia or research with embryos

The subcommittee on the Family and the Defense of Life of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference reiterated this week that “no Catholic, either in private or public life, can support practices such as abortion, euthanasia or the creation, freezing and manipulation of human embryos in any case.”

In a recent statement entitled, “Life is Always a Good,” the Spanish bishops underscored that “human life is a sacred value which we all must respect and which the laws must protect” from “its beginnings in fertilization until its natural end.”

Released on the occasion of the 7th Pro-Life Day, which will be observed on March 31, the statement rebuffed the argument that Catholics can reject abortion but that it should be made available to non-Catholics, saying abortion is a matter of human rights and not of religion.

Christians are called to continuously confront the many attacks on human life, the bishops stressed, and their efforts can find strong basis in natural law. “Therefore, they can be shared by all people of upright conscience,” they noted.

“Just like all of us, the Son of God began his human life in the womb of his Mother,” the bishops continued, stressing that all human life deserves to be accepted, respected and loved, especially when that life “is fragile and needs attention and care, whether before birth or in its final stages.”

Recently, they went on, Spanish society was disturbed by the cases of abortion mills that were killing babies who were in their eighth month and by their ghastly actions to cover it up. “This reality, which the bishops have been denouncing for years, has brought to the forefront against the debate over abortion in our society,” they said.

“While the end of illegal abortions is a significant step, the genuinely moral and humane thing to do would be to completely abolish the ‘abortion law,’ which is an unjust law,” the bishops asserted.

“The abortion law should be abolished, while at the same time women should be given support, especially when they are mothers, thus creating a new culture in which families welcome and promote life,” they said.

“Adoption is an important alternative. Thousands of couples have to endure long and tiresome processes to adopt while in Spain more than 100,000 babies died from abortion during 2006,” the bishops emphasized. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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Sotto Voce

Men in black will fight till end to control education (Contribution)

SO THE Roman Catholic Church is to be denied a veto on the appointment of religion teachers in new multi-denomination primary schools in Ireland.

The teachers have insisted; the Minister for Education has emphasised it; and the Catholic bishops have welcomed the new model.

A new era has dawned.

Or has it? A colleague who is fairly tolerant in matters of religion, although a non-believer, said last week, "We can't turn back the clock, even if our homegrown mullahs are learning from their Eastern brethren."

And somehow, when you reflect on the details of the new plans, his remark seems a lot closer to reality than the politically correct "all together now, smile for the camera" approach of those in authority over the educational future of our children.

Or, as Paul Roe, chief executive of Educate Together, put it: "the documents will leave the suspicion in people's minds that the model is being configured primarily to facilitate the withdrawal of the Catholic Church from the management of primary schools while bestowing on it a privileged position in the new model."

Or, as I'd be inclined to put it myself: power without responsibility, effort or expenditure.

The documents referred to by Paul Roe were released to the Irish Independent last week, and include a note of a meeting held in April last year between the Department of Education and the Episcopal Commission, in which the Commission set out a series of "protocols" concerning the religious structures it would demand in the schools from which it is withdrawing.

These include a requirement that parish clergy will have "visiting rights" and that religious instruction would be a minimum non-negotiable requirement.

The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (a synonym for the parish priests who currently own and control the schools, although the schools don't receive a penny of Church money, and are supposedly entirely funded by the taxpayer) state that without this religious instruction during school hours, and controlled by the Church, the schools would be "non-denominational primary schools operating a moral education programme that would not be a denominational faith-based religious instruction and formation programme."

In other words, you can have inter-denominational schools provided they're Roman Catholic inter-denominational schools. And get back in your pagan immoral box if you're suggesting that any other denomination can provide a proper moral code for life.

Further, religion teachers will have to be approved personally by the men in black. The VECs who will now run and own the inter-denominational schools will draw up a list of the people they propose to employ as religion teachers, and submit it to the clergy, who will then approve it . . . or not, as the case may be. And the VECS will respectfully comply. But that's not a veto; it's merely pastoral care.

A spokesman for the Episcopal Commission on Education explained all this when interviewed by Sean O'Rourke on RTE's News at One last week. It was theology at its finest: with the word "veto" flying around our minds as the holy bishop spelled out the "non-negotiable demands", and Sean O'Rourke suggesting "a veto, then?" as he translated his Canonical language for us. Of course, it wasn't a veto.

This seemingly minor educational development is actually the first real challenge to the overwhelming power of the Catholic Church since the foundation of the State.

The Church still controls the health system, with our hospitals either owned and therefore subject to a Catholic ethos enforced by the religious orders, or run under strict Catholic control by ethics committees controlled by the hierarchy.

The planned introduction of a few primary schools under the control of the VEC (that is, the State) rather than the Church is the first time in our history that we have attempted to put something of prime importance in our lives and futures completely outside the control of the Church.

And the Church, despite its Canonical language, doesn't like it.

The "special position" of the Catholic Church was removed from the Constitution in the Seventies.

The Church expressed itself perfectly happy that it was no longer the State religion, allowing people to believe that they really never had lived under the thumbs of the men in black.

But the Church knew better: it was still in control of education, and along with health, that was all that mattered.

The Jesuits say if they are given a child for its first seven years, that child is theirs for life. Give a child to the Church in the early years of its education, and it is fixed for life. Many parents want that; and they have a right to choose it. But there are others who do not; and they should never fool themselves into thinking that their children are getting anything other than a completely orthodox Roman Catholic set of values in the primary schools of this State.

Now there is a move to loosen the grip of the Church on primary-level education, the most vital element in the future formation of our citizens.

The Church will fight that to the death, and despite the protestations of the minister, it seems likely it will win: Canonical language will ensure that few people, least of all Ms Hanafin, will realise how fundamental this battle is. She is a practising Catholic and would be genuinely puzzled that anybody would find Catholic educational principles offensive.

The same is true of the Taoiseach, a regular Mass-goer, who has described secularism as "aggressive".

So nobody had better hold their breaths in the hopes of seeing primary schools with a secular humanist ethos being established in this country.

The Constitution guarantees the right of parents to have their children educated according to their beliefs. But that doesn't apply if you want your children to be given a strict moral code unrelated to religion.

And if the Catholic Church has its way, even the miserably few schools that are planned with a "multi-denominational" ethos will have the Catholic ethos built into their blood, bone and classrooms.

All that's being suggested under the new scheme is that children should still receive religious indoctrination, but by teachers employed by the State rather than the churches. And even that is a step too far for the Catholic Church.

That they have even dared to make their arrogant demands is proof enough that neither the Government nor the VECs have the foresight to realise just how historically important this particular battle is.

But the Church does.


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Sotto Voce

Cardinal Keith O'Brien to meet with scientists to discuss embryonic stem cell research

The leader of Scotland's Catholic Church has agreed to meet scientists involved in stem-cell research following his outspoken attack on the government's embryology laws.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who described plans to create hybrid human-animal embryos for research as "monstrous", said he would be "only too happy" to attend such a meeting.

He also called for religious heads from other faiths to be involved, and urged the setting up of a body to advise the government on complex ethical issues.

At a public meeting in Kirkcaldy last night, Cardinal O'Brien said: "I see the way ahead through bringing together the churches and peoples of all faiths, along with scientists who are involved with the potential production of these human- animal hybrid embryos.

"I have been approached by MPs and asked by others in the media to consider meeting leading scientists who are currently involved in this area. I would be only too happy to agree to such a meeting and I am sure other church representatives and leaders of other faiths would also agree."

He added: "My only condition would be that the scientists were also willing to accept instruction from our Churches and peoples of faith on basic morality, on what human life really is, on the purpose of our life on earth and so on."

The Cardinal had claimed proposals in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill could lead to experiments of "Frankenstein proportions".

Last Tuesday, amid mounting objections from senior Cabinet members and church leaders, Gordon Brown bowed to pressure for a free vote on crucial elements of the bill.

Supporters of the Bill argue that the use of hybrid embryos could lead to cures for diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease.

Scientists and politicians welcomed the cardinal's offer to discuss the issue, and Labour MP Jim Devine suggested a meeting could take place within weeks.

Professor Colin Blakemore, former head of the Medical Research Council, said he was "delighted" at the prospect of a meeting.

"I hope we can all enter into this dialogue with a shared willingness to listen to each other," he said.

"I hope the Church will accept that even scientists that do no profess religious beliefs do still have a strong moral compass - indeed it is exactly what drives many of us to search for treatments for incurable diseases."

Dr Stephen Minger, director of the stem cell biology laboratory at King's College London, said: "This is great news. We, as a scientific community, are keen to engage with all perspectives on this work to encourage the discussions to move forwards.

"We would like to see an ongoing dialogue that is based on an open exchange of ideas."

Cardinal O'Brien was speaking in the hall at St Bryce Kirk in Kirkcaldy, the church where Prime Minister Gordon Brown's father, a Church of Scotland minister, used to preach.

Mr Devine, who supports the Bill, had written to the Cardinal, calling on him to meet the scientists involved.

He said: "I'm delighted the Cardinal has decided to take this opportunity to meet scientists."


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Sotto Voce

Catholic Evangelization of Muslims Based Upon Gospel of Christ

There is news from the Vatican that the number of Islamic faithful in the world has surpassed the number of practicing Catholics for he first time in history.

According to the Vatican yearbook of statistics, the number of the worlds population that are Muslims is 19.2%, with the number of Catholics trailing behind at 17.4 %.

The Holy See’s notes the reason for such a rise in Islamic followers is due to the increased birth rate in Islamic countries.

Regardless of the reason for the increase, the campaign by Benedict XVI to intensify a dialogue between Islam and Christianity takes on a new significance after the release of this information. While there are some observers that report the Islamic rate of conversion is slowing, the prolific birthrate of “cradle Moslems,” requires an entirely new Catholic evangelization of Islamic adults to ensure future Catholic stability in these areas of the world.

Benedict XVI recently has indicated the true need of all Catholic believers to more strongly integrate the Catholic principles and lifestyle into a strong global presence.

Obviously, with the increasing number of Islamic believers Catholic evangelization among Islamic countries needs strong attention, with a concentrated effort to stabilize and maintain already existing Catholics in their faith.

The announcement of these demographic figures comes at a time when a relationship between Islamic and Catholic faiths is on the precipice of a new emerging global relationship. The Church with over a billion followers constitutes a large presence of Catholic believers in the world. With slightly larger numbers, the billion plus Moslems that follow the precepts of the monotheistic based Islam are not only appropriate candidates for Catholic evangelization, but also theological competitors for religious membership.

One point the Catholic Church needs to make obviously clear is that the Catholic faith, like Islam is seeking to convert believers to the faith of Jesus Christ. Critically present in our conversion and evangelization methods is the Gospel teachings of love of God, love of neighbor and love of self.

In contrast, the Islamic method of religious conversion has spread throughout the world through militant and violent social and political unrest that has no tolerance for Catholic or other religions.

With this in mind, the Catholic Church’s theological destination is the emergence of a new religious Kingdom of God, based on religious and social harmony. Islam by accounts of its past and present activities seems committed to evangelization by fear, violence and intimidation.

The world’s religions, competitive ideologies and lifestyles all offer believers an avenue to worship God freely with a religious conviction of choice. Catholics need to appreciate and understand the complex dimensions that are inherent among all of the world’s religions. That statement works the same for other religions as well in their relationships with Christianity.

Methodology and practical applications of religious beliefs cannot be motivated by violence, turmoil and social injustices. We are in the midst of a shifting global religious consciousness with the increased spread of Islam.

Catholics should view this as an opportunity to spread our religious convictions through Catholic examples of Gospel love and social integration.

If we continue the correct applications of the teachings of the Church through actions and sacraments, Catholic presence in the world will surpass and draw Islamic converts back to the true faith of Christ.

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