Friday, August 31, 2012

Cardinal Martini, a rare liberal who was a papal contender in 2005 conclave, dies at age 85

Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a rare liberal within the highly conservative Catholic Church hierarchy who was nevertheless long considered a papal contender in the last conclave, died Friday. He was 85.
Martini, a Jesuit and former archbishop of the important archdiocese of Milan, had been battling Parkinson’s disease for several years. His death was announced by the Milan archdiocese, which said his condition had worsened Thursday evening.

Martini frequently voiced openness to divisive issues for the church, such as using condoms to fight HIV/AIDS, priestly celibacy and homosexuality, which, while not at odds with church teaching, nevertheless showed his progressive bent. 

He was an intellectual and a noted biblical scholar, yet he nevertheless had a warm and personable style and seemed to connect with his flock like few high-ranking prelates.

And, despite his liberal views in a College of Cardinals that grew increasingly conservative under Pope John Paul II, he was considered a possible contender in the 2005 conclave that brought the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, to the papacy.

Martini was well known and well-liked by Italians, many of whom got to know him by his frequent contributions to leading daily Corriere della Sera, which for three years ran a popular column “Letters to Cardinal Martini,” in which Martini would respond directly to questions submitted by readers.

The topics covered everything from the clerical sex abuse scandal to whether it was morally acceptable for a Catholic to be cremated (”it’s possible and allowed,” he wrote). His responses were filled with Biblical citations and references to church teachings, but were accessible as well, written as if he were chatting with his reader rather than preaching.

But Martini was divisive as well.

In 2006, he raised eyebrows at the Vatican when he told the Italian weekly L’Espresso magazine that condoms could be considered a “lesser evil” in combatting AIDS, particularly for a married couple. 

Four years later, Benedict himself would come close to echoing the sentiment when he said a male prostitute who intends to use a condom might be taking a step toward a more responsible sexuality because he was looking out for the welfare of his partner.

In 2009, Martini insisted he was misquoted by a German publication as calling for a re-evaluation of priestly celibacy as a means to combat pedophilia among priests.

But he returned to the topic of priestly celibacy earlier this year— as well as a host of other thorny issues like artificial procreation, embryo donation and euthanasia — in his last book “Believe and Know,” a conversation with a left-leaning Italian politician and doctor who had been his same interviewer for the 2006 Espresso article.

As a result of his openness to discuss issues many cardinals would rather leave undisturbed, liberal Catholics had pinned their hopes on Martini going into the 2005 conclave, and some reports in the Italian media said he had received significant votes in the initial rounds of balloting.

But according to the most detailed account of the conclave to emerge — that of a purported diary kept by an unnamed cardinal — Martini was never really in the running. 

Instead, Ratzinger’s main challenger was another conservative, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio.

Martini retired as Milan archbishop in 2002 and moved to Jerusalem, where he hoped to devote himself to prayer and study. He had long established relations with the Jewish community, writing books and articles on the relations between Christianity and Judaism.
“Without a sincere feeling for the Jewish world, and a direct experience of it, one cannot fully understand Christianity,” he wrote in the book “Christianity and Judaism: A Historical and Theological Overview.” ‘’Jesus is fully Jewish, the apostles are Jewish, and one cannot doubt their attachment to the traditions of their forefathers.”

Born on Feb. 15, 1927, in Turin, Martini was ordained a priest in the Society of Jesus in 1952. He was named archbishop of Milan in 1979 and held the post until his retirement in 2002; within that time he was also head of the European Bishops’ Conference for six years, until 1993.

In a statement Friday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi paid tribute to his fellow Jesuit, saying his style as a pastor set him apart. He quoted Martini as writing in his book “The Bishop” that a bishop can’t guide his flock with decrees and prohibitions alone.

“Instead point to the interior formation, on the love and fascination with the Sacred Scripture, present the positive reasons for what we do according to the Gospel,” Martini wrote. “You will obtain much more than with rigid calls to observe norms.”

Despite his desire to spend his final years in Jerusalem, Martini returned to Italy a few years ago as his Parkinson’s worsened.

In June, he announced he could no longer continue with his Corriere della Sera Q&A column, saying “The time has come in which age and sickness have given me a clear signal that it’s time to resign from earthly things and prepare for the next coming of the Kingdom,” he wrote his readers. 

“I assure you of my prayers for all the questions that went unanswered.”

A funeral was scheduled for Monday in Milan’s cathedral, where bells tolled on Friday afternoon upon word of Martini’s death.

Cardinal Dolan plays at being Catholic Billy Graham

Cardinal Timothy Dolan's appearance at both the Republican and Democratic conventions is a sign Catholics have an important place in the US political process and shows Dolan can raise above partisan politics, according to a professor at a Catholic university, reports NCR Online.

"I think this is just a terrific sign about the importance of Catholics in American public life these days," said Stephen Schenk, a professor at The Catholic University of America and a national co-chair of "Catholics for Obama."

Dolan accepted an invitation from the Democratic National Convention, which runs September 4-6, to give the final benediction in Charlotte, North Carolina, after President Barack Obama accepts his party's nomination.

The cardinal also prayed at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. on Thursday after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney accepted his party's nomination.

While tradition suggests a local bishop, priest or religious would represent Catholicism at each party's convention, Dolan's decision to go to Tampa and Charlotte reinforces his place as the face of Catholicism in America, said Jesuit Fr Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

"Clearly, Cardinal Dolan is seen by the bishops as the spokesman for the US bishops in this country. In a sense, he's trying to be the Catholic Billy Graham," he said.

Reese told NCR that Dolan's praying with both parties projects the same "being above partisan politics" image Graham has broadcast for decades.

Dolan's appearances at the conventions are only part of his increasing presence in the political scene. He has been outspoken against a mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requiring employer health insurance plans to provide contraceptive coverage, going as far as suing the administration over the mandate.

But in recent weeks, he also gained national attention for inviting both the president and Romney to the annual Al Smith Dinner, a major fundraising event for Catholic Charities of New York, against objections from anti-Obama Catholics.

The cardinal has also sent letters to both candidates and their running mates, asking all to sign the "Civility in America" pledge created by Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, and focus on the issues in their campaigns.

Card. Amato to celebrate beatification of Fr. Gabriele M. Allegra, "St Jerome of China"

The Franciscan Curia and Vatican figures have confirmed the reports to AsiaNews that Fr. Gabriele Maria Allegra will be beatified Sept. 29 in Acireale by Card. Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

An Italian Franciscan, Fr. Allegra (1907-1976) was a missionary to China and Hong Kong and is still famous for his masteful translation of sacred texts. 

"But in addition to his relationship with China - said postulator, the Franciscan Fr. Giovangiuseppe Califano - his beatification takes into account his religious virtues."

"The Vatican - said the monk - are emphasizing his commitment as much as a biblical scholar and teacher of many young people, but they also recall his fidelity to the Franciscan rule, his charity to the poor, his devotion to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin ".

For now, the program of the ceremony is in its draft stages. The master of ceremonies Fr. Joseph Noto, Franciscan Provincial of Sicily, tells AsiaNews that "the beatification Mass, presided over by Card. Amato will be held at 10 am in the Cathedral of Acireale. During the liturgy, the Gospel will be read in Chinese, as well as some the intercessions. There will also be many pilgrims from Hong Kong, where Fr. Allegra lived for almost 30 years. "

The news of the beatification of Fr. Allegra has surprised the same experts. Fr. Califano says that it "was expected, but it was sudden."

In fact, the miracle attributed to Fr. Allegra - a requirement in the path toward beatification - was recognized in 2002. The most likely hypothesis is that the proclamation of the blessed was delayed because the still fresh wound from the violent campaign staged by the Patriotic Association and the government against the canonization of the Chinese martyrs in 2000.

Fr. Allegra's work is still the basis of biblical studies in mainland China, but also in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macao and Singapore. In 2008, Card. Joseph Zen, then Bishop of Hong Kong, pleaded the cause of beatification during the Synod on the Word of God, holding up Fr. Allegra as a holy biblical scholar, deserving the name of "St. Jerome of China." St. Jerome is the Father of the Church who first translated biblical texts into Latin.

Fr. Gabriele Allegra was born December 26, 1907 in St. Giovanni La Punta (Catania). In 1930 he became a Franciscan priest, in 1931, he left as a missionary to China and one of his aims was to translate the Bible into Chinese. 

After studying in Shanghai, in 1944 - together with some collaborators - he complete the translation of the Old Testament. One year later he founded the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Beijing dedicated to Duns Scotus. 

Because of the upheaval and war, he had to move to Hong Kong in 1949. In 1968 his dream came true and he published the entire Bible in Chinese. In 1971 he published a dictionary of the Bible in Chinese. He died in Hong Kong in 1976, appreciated by all as a man of great charity and wisdom.

The cause for the beatification of Fr. Allegra began in 1984. In 1994 he was declared "venerable".

I'm pro-choice says Quinn but Gilmore silent

Education Minister Ruairi QuinnEDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn has admitted he is pro-choice on abortion. 

While his party leader Eamon Gilmore is dodging questions on the issue, Mr Quinn has thrown the debate wide open.

His open stance on abortion is poised to rock the Coalition, which is trying to keep a lid on simmering differences between Fine Gael and Labour TDs.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was asked yesterday if he agreed with Senator Ivana Bacik that the party's official position on abortion was pro-choice, but he declined to outline his position.

However, Mr Quinn said he respects all voices in the debate but confirmed to the Herald that he is pro-choice.

"The Catholic Church has been consistent in their opposition to abortion because they hold the view that, and they are not alone in this, human life commences with conception," he told the Herald.

"There are many people who are no Catholic who believe this. It is not one with which I agree."

A significant number of Fine Gael TDs have already threatened a mutiny against Health Minister James Reilly if the issue is pushed too far.

Last month, 15 TDs said they would oppose legislation that paved the way for abortion. An expert group on abortion is to report to the Cabinet after the summer recess.

Earlier this week, Mr Quinn's colleague, Pat Rabbitte, said that Labour's position on the issue was clear.

"There's no secret about the position that where the life of the mother is deemed at risk, our position is clear," he said.

And last weekend he said it would be a retrograde step if the Church went back to dictating to elected representatives how to address the issue."

Mr Quinn said all parties would be welcome to the table.

"I think the Catholic Church and any other church is entitled to lobby in the debate like anybody else," he told the Herald.

Blatantly sectarian: Protestant church leaders blast loyalist parade lawbreakers

A band plays music in contravention of the Parades Commission ruling as it passes by St Patrick?s Church in Donegall Street Protestant church leaders have challenged the loyal orders to prove their Christian credentials and called on unionists to accept the findings of the Parades Commission. 

They branded the actions of loyalist bands who breached the law by playing music outside a Catholic church last Saturday as “sectarian”.

The unprecedented broadside from the Presbyterian Moderator Rev Roy Patton and Archbishop Alan Harper, the Church of Ireland Primate, has been greeted with incredulity by the DUP, which has refused to comment.

“We would be very clear as a Church that such behaviour is totally unacceptable and is not in keeping with the values the loyal orders espouse,” Rev Patton said.

The moderator added: “We recognise that the Parades Commission is a legally established body and that what they said should be accepted. Such behaviour is inconsistent with any profession of Christian faith.”

“I totally agree with that,” Archbishop Harper responded, describing the actions of the bands last Saturday as “blatant sectarianism”. He said: “It was totally unacceptable; it was unacceptable to me, it was unacceptable to the Church of Ireland.” 

He said it was “deplorable” that those involved had proceeded to St Anne’s Cathedral.

Asked if he would consider barring them in future, he replied: “I suppose that is a possibility but I think it’s better to stay in touch and try to influence people than to completely withdraw.”

He put the onus on the loyal orders “to ensure the bands behave in a proper fashion”.

Asked whether he thought the loyal orders were a sectarian organisation, he said: “There are certain aspects of what they hold that are anti-Catholic in the sense of anti the Catholic religion, but that doesn't mean you have to be anti-Catholic people and not respect other groups' dearly held beliefs and traditions. How can you expect your own cultural and religious beliefs to be respected if you don't respect those of others?”

On Wednesday Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor called for a code of conduct to control bands’ behaviour outside places of worship. 

Rev Patton added: “They need to demonstrate that those Christian credentials are an accurate reflection of what they are as an organisation, and demonstrate that on the ground,” he said.

The senior clerics did not confine their comments to the bands and the loyal order; they criticised politicians who did not condemn the breaches of Parades Commission determinations.

“It doesn’t seem to me to be very clear political leadership. It seems to me to be avoiding the issue,” Rev Harper said.

Echoing the words of Terry Spence, chairman of the Police Federation, he said: “The Parades Commission is the only show in town. We need something that will help us to deal with the potentially contentious issue of parading and the Parades Commission has been put in place as the legal authority to do so.” 

However, Presbyterian minister Rev Mervyn Gibson, a chaplain to the Orange and Black institutions, pronounced himself “bemused” by the moderator’s comments. 

He stated: “If Roy is talking about the scuffle, or the guy walking through the protest or the police being injured, I also condemn that.”

However, he added: “If he is condemning a peaceful protest by a band playing a hymn, of course I wouldn’t condemn that.”

‘Boys will be boys,’ Bishop Finn purportedly said after being told of priest’s lewd photos

When confronted by the diocese’s computer director about her concerns over lewd images found on a priest’s laptop, Bishop Robert Finn replied that, “Sometimes priests do things they shouldn’t,” court papers filed Thursday alleged.

“Sometimes, boys will be boys,” the bishop is purported to have said, court records show.

Julie Creech, the director of management and information systems for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, described her meeting with the bishop during an Aug. 17 deposition in a Jackson County civil case. 

According to that lawsuit, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan abused a 9-year-old girl months after the diocese learned of the photos on his computer.

Finn and the diocese are scheduled for a criminal trial starting Sept. 24 on misdemeanor counts of failing to report Ratigan’s suspected abuse of children. 

Ratigan is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in federal court earlier this month to producing and attempting to produce child pornography.

State prosecutors have identified Creech as a witness in their case against Finn and the diocese. 

A prosecutor’s spokesman declined comment on the Creech deposition Thursday.

The diocese and lawyers representing Finn declined comment Thursday.

Rebecca Randles, the lawyer representing the girl and her parents who filed the lawsuit, also declined to comment.

Though Creech’s concerns in December 2010 about the contents of Ratigan’s laptop previously had been reported in a fact-finding study commissioned by the diocese, her meeting with Finn had not been disclosed publicly until today.

According to the study, prepared by former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, Creech examined Ratigan’s laptop on Dec. 16, 2010, and discovered hundreds of disturbing photographs of young children, primarily girls. 

That evening, Creech called vicar general Robert Murphy and advised him to call police, the study said. The diocese did not report the suspected abuse until May 2011.

In the Graves report, Finn said he didn’t see what was on the computer.

The civil motion filed Thursday quotes Creech as having been concerned when she heard that some at the diocese were saying that she had not found “lewd” photographs on the computer. 

In a partial deposition transcript included with the civil filings, Creech said she approached Finn about the diocese’s response to the Ratigan discoveries.

Finn, she noted, was not specific as to what actions the diocese would take.

“He did indicate that, you know, sometimes priests do things that they shouldn’t, and he said, you know, he said, ‘Sometimes boys will be boys,’ ” Creech said in the deposition.

Creech said she had no indication that Finn had ever seen any of the images from Ratigan’s computer and that the bishop never told her that he had.

Creech said in the deposition that she was “upset” during her meeting with Finn.

“I think I was upset in a different way than he was because of what I had seen,” Creech said.
Creech did not immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment.

Finn always has maintained that he never saw the images and that he had delegated the diocese’s initial response and management to his subordinates.

The civil lawsuit in which the deposition pages were filed Thursday alleges that Ratigan engaged a 9-year-old girl in sexually explicit conduct as late as May 2011 — about five months after the diocese learned of the pictures.

Tánaiste refuses to spell out Labour's position on abortion

TÁNAISTE EAMON Gilmore has refused to spell out Labour’s position on abortion before the Government-appointed expert group on the contentious issue reports next month.

Mr Gilmore declined to say if he agreed or disagreed with the Labour leader in the Seanad, Senator Ivana Bacik, who insisted recently her party’s official position on abortion was pro-choice.

He said yesterday it was “prudent” to wait for the expert group to report, when asked for Labour’s view. “We’ll wait and we’ll see what the decision or the recommendation of the expert group is first … I think it’s advisable that we await the report of that group and then … the Government will make a decision on it.”

Earlier this week Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said Labour’s position was well-established. “There’s no secret about the position that where the life of the mother is deemed at risk, our position is clear,” Mr Rabbitte said.

When Mr Gilmore was asked yesterday if he was resiling from that position, the Tánaiste reiterated that he was awaiting the report.

Meanwhile, some Fine Gael TDs opposed to abortion are pointing to a “letter of comfort” written before the general election by then director of elections Phil Hogan stating the party’s opposition to legalisation.

In the letter dated February 23rd, 2011, seen by The Irish Times, Mr Hogan said: “Fine Gael is opposed to the legalisation of abortion.” 

He also said the party was opposed to research conducted on human embryos.

But he stressed Fine Gael would establish an all-party Oireachtas committee, with access to medical and legal expertise, to consider the implications of a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling in relation to a woman who had cancer and was forced to travel abroad to get an abortion.

Fine Gael’s representatives, he wrote, would bring to the committee “a clear commitment that women in pregnancy will receive whatever treatments are necessary to safeguard their lives, and that the duty of care to preserve the life of the baby will also be upheld”.

A number of Fine Gael deputies have warned they will not support any legislation that could facilitate the carrying out of abortions in the State, while some Labour representatives have also expressed strong opposition to liberalisation.

Labour Senator John Whelan said there were a variety of views within the party. 

“Pat Rabbitte summed it up when he said there was a broad spectrum of views within the Labour Party. I was glad he did note there was not just a single viewpoint,” Mr Whelan said. 

“Some of us resent the characterisation that the Labour Party is, if you like, pro-abortion. We don’t agree with that.”

Mr Rabbitte acknowledged at the weekend that “pretty much all of the parties” in Leinster House had differing views within their ranks.

TDs and Senators have told The Irish Times they are receiving regular “orchestrated and organised” emails and text messages from pro-life organisations.

Gospel singers to strike a chord at inaugural festival

Hundreds of gospel singers from home and abroad will descend on Kilkenny this weekend to take part in the first international choral festival of its kind.

Among those travelling to take part is a man described as one of America’s top gospel rappers, Adrian ‘Fro’ Johnson, who will give workshops to students as well as perform during the festival.

The International Gospel Choir Festival is running until Sunday in various venues throughout Kilkenny and is expected to provide a boost to the tourism sector at the end of the summer season.

Visitors are being encouraged to attend several events, including a free gospel performance at 2.30pm today in Castle-comer Discovery Park, when choirs will sing for the public in the Estate Yard.

Music lovers are also invited to attend a unique festival finale concert on Sunday evening at St Mary’s Cathedral in the city when all the visiting choirs will perform their music in unison, alongside some high-profile guest artists.

Award-winning Irish singer-songwriter Don Mescall and his long-term co-writing collaborator Chris Pelcer have composed an exclusive official anthem for the International Gospel Choir Festival.

Don will sing the specially-penned gospel song, Faith and Friendship, publicly for the first time with support from the gospel singers at the St Mary’s concert.

The popular singer said the anthem was "a joy to write" for the festival.

"For me, music feeds the soul, lifts the spirit and makes you feel better about the world.

"I am really looking forward to hearing all of these amazing choirs sing this song together. I think it will be a momentous occasion and I’m really excited to be part of that," he said.

Festival founder and Kilkenny gospel choir director Fr Willie Purcell said they were "excited" to reveal the new song and to be part of its official recording.

"This festival is a first for all involved and we have some very exciting guests from the US involved, whom we are delighted to welcome to Kilkenny."

The choirs will participate in three days of musical and cultural activities with a variety of concerts and performances planned for various venues across Kilkenny.

* See for more information.

Gilmore: Church has right to lobby on abortion

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore says the Church has "every right" to lobby politicians on abortion — and steadfastly refused to spell out his own party’s position on the issue.

The Labour leader, who in a 2007 interview said he was "pro-choice", stayed noticeably silent yesterday amid deepening signs of division in the Coalition on the issue.

Asked if Labour was a pro-choice party, he said the Government had set up an expert group due to report next month and a decision would be made when the report was filed.

Asked several times to spell out his party’s position, he said: "We’ll wait and we’ll see what the decision, or the recommendation, of the expert group is first… I think it is prudent that we await the report."

Labour’s longstanding position is that Ireland should legislate for the X case — but he refused to even reiterate this much yesterday.

The Government established the expert group to consider the ramifications of a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling. It found a woman’s rights had been breached due to Ireland’s failure to provide a regulatory or legislative procedure by which she could establish if she qualified for a lawful abortion here.

The Supreme Court had ruled in the 1992 X case that abortion was permissible in Ireland in cases where the mother’s life was at risk, including risk of suicide. However, successive governments failed to introduce legislation to clarify the instances where a life was deemed to be at risk, leading to the ECHR’s ruling.

On Sunday, Cardinal Seán Brady indicated the Church would oppose such legislation and lobby politicians on the issue. In response, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said he did not welcome the cardinal "promising to engage in the political campaign" and that it would be regressive step if there was a return to the Church dictating to politicians.

Asked if he agreed with his Labour colleague that the Church should refrain from lobbying politicians, Mr Gilmore said: "I think what he said was that we shouldn’t return to the situation in the past where the Church was dictating to the State. I agree with him on that, but of course, the Church and individual Church people as citizens have every right to lobby whoever they want to lobby."

Christmas arrives early at Limerick department store

Three year old, Charlie Collins, Caherconlish at the opening of the Christmas market in Brown Thomas             PICTURE: Adrian ButlerChristmas has come early to one shop in Limerick after Brown Thomas officially unveiled the first Christmas shop to open in the city so far this year.

While some schools have not yet welcomed back their students, the iconic O’Connell Street store officially open its ‘Christmas Market’ in preparation for the next 117 shopping days.

“The demand is there to open this early,” explained Brown Thomas living division manager Verette Gabbett, who added that a Christmas market has been a central part to Brown Thomas for over 50 years.

“We will begin to trade from the day we open and by November most of our Christmas trees will be gone. Many parents will begin their Christmas preparations once the kids have gone back to school. There is a lot of organisation and stress involved in Christmas planning so it really helps to be organised,” she said.

“We stock a lot of unusual hanging decorations which are the types of things you hand down from one generation to the next,” added Verette

However, one customer who saw the display said that it was putting pressure on people to begin thinking about Christmas already. 

“I do think August is a bit too soon for a Christmas shop to be opening to be honest considering that there isn’t a lot of money around at the moment and I think the last thing people are thinking about right now is Christmas,” said Ciara Clancy from Patrickswell.

A second customer agreed saying that it was too soon as schools have only just opened. 

“I think that its probably too early for it to be open as kids have just gone back to school but I’m sure it will be packed and there’ll be plenty of people going in already,” said Suzanne Costello from Pallasgreen.

However one person who was delighted to see the first signs of Christmas was three year old Charlie Collins from Caherconlish who says he already has his Christmas list made.

“I’m asking Santa for a Shipwreck Thomas this year,” he said happily.

Ex-priest ties the knot with childhood pal

A PRIEST who quit the Church after falling in love has married a mother of one in a civil ceremony. 

Ian Kennedy (42) stunned the people of Ballinafad, Co Sligo, last Christmas after quitting the priesthood.

Now he has gone one step further by tying the knot with girlfriend Maria Cunningham (41).

He wed childhood friend Maria at a luxury spa hotel in Sligo last Wednesday, a few miles from the parish he once served. His new wife has a nine-month-old baby boy.

Friends say Mr Kennedy said "I do" in front of a handful of friends at Cromleach Lodge Spa Hotel.

The happy couple then hosted an informal lunch before spending two nights at the hotel, overlooking Lough Arrow, before returning to the home they share in the tiny hamlet of Ballinacarrow.

The new Mrs Kennedy's young son was born last December at Sligo General Hospital.

Mr Kennedy stood down from his ministry at Ballinafad a few weeks later.

The simple civic ceremony was performed by Louise Mulchahy, a registered solemniser with the HSE in Sligo.

"It was very intimate and very private," said a friend, "Ian and Maria didn't want any fuss."

Witnesses at the ceremony included Sean Tansy, a close friend of Mr Kennedy and a schoolteacher from Boyle, Co Roscommon, and the bride's sister Noelle O'Carroll.

Mr Kennedy has become a teacher since leaving the priesthood. His new wife works as a civil servant with the Department of Social Welfare.

Neighbours refused to talk about the couple, with one only saying: "They are very private people and keep themselves to themselves."

Former parishioners in the village of Ballinafad said they were delighted he had found love. 

"They make a lovely couple," one mother added.

The bride and groom first met as children in Cartron, Sligo Town, where they grew up.

Church that values two-way process should consider stance of faithful

OPINION: RECENT PAPAL inquiries into the doctrinal orthodoxy of well-known Irish priests and the pope’s letter to the German Catholic bishops’ conference insisting that they, too, change the Eucharistic prayer to state that Christ died “for the many”, rather than “for all”, raise serious questions.

(1) What is the context of these moves? 

(2) What is the authority of a pope in relation to the documents of a council? 

(3) What do these church political decisions mean for Catholics and church life? 

(4) How is authority to be understood in the post-Constantinian era of a pluralist democracy co-founded by diverse traditions?

1. The wider context is the theological dispute of the last quarter century on the implementation of the Second Vatican Council’s renewed understanding of faith.

More recently, there have been moves towards the reintegration of the Society of Pius X, founded by the late archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who was excommunicated for breaking canon law by ordaining his own bishops. The society is being welcomed back like the prodigal son. What were the issues that drove it away from the Vatican II church?

The central cause of division is the Vatican II Declaration on Religious Freedom. It epitomises the Catholic Church’s acceptance of the modern history of freedom in contrast to the position taken by Popes Pius IX and X in the anti-modernist struggle which held that “error has no right”.

Vatican II moved from this objectivist view to the insight that truth, especially in religion, can only be the truth of the person called by God to respond on the basis of their own free will.

2. What changes have occurred where the Society of Pius X is concerned such that they are now being considered for readmission to the Catholic Church – leaving aside the outcry, followed by the pope’s apology, for not having known about the society’s Bishop Richard Williamson’s Holocaust denial?

One core point is the acceptance signed by Marcel Lefebvre after negotiations with Cardinal Ratzinger in 1988 of one passage in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, No. 25, concerning acceptance of the magisterium.

Of the entirety of the council’s documents, and all the breakthroughs contained in them, one specific passage is selected.

It asserts the centralist pole, and has to be read in conjunction with its counterbalance, the collegiality of the bishops who stand for the local churches.

At issue is whether a pope has the authority to suspend what the church’s highest level, a council, has agreed on. How can the claim to speak for the whole church be legitimated by an administration that makes these documents optional?

3. The priority given by the Vatican to reconciliation with anti-modern, breakaway factions implies an unstated ranking regarding the new forms of parish life, celebration of sacraments, and shared initiatives with civil society. These developed as a result of the Second Vatican Council’s move away from a post-Reformation and post- revolution self-enclosure towards a critical support of modernity.

The effort spent on traditionalists treats ordinary church life with contempt, and regiments its expressions of faith.

The new literal translation of the missal imposed by Rome, with a prayer over the Eucharistic gifts that puts in doubt the universal scope of God’s salvific will for all humanity, alienates the faithful who understand God’s truth as unrestricted. As recipients of a recent encyclical entitled Caritas in Veritate, they would like to see how both charity and truth can be safeguarded, instead of merely invoked.

4. Surveys over the last 10 years on the sensus fidelium (faithful) show 75 per cent of Irish Roman Catholics disagree with Rome’s refusal to ordain women and to lift the celibacy rule, and with the minority position it espoused in 1968 in its document on contraception.

A church that values learning as a two-way activity would stop to consider, not prohibit, such reflections. Authority cannot be claimed – it has to be earned, both by leaders of the state and of churches.

Pope John Paul II championed religious freedom, and the sixth century Benedictine rule inaugurated the election of abbots. Ample precedent for a tradition-conscious papacy!

Maureen Junker-Kenny is professor of theology at Trinity College Dublin

Panama to build world's tallest statue of Virgin President of Panama, Ricard Martinelli, has promised to build the world's tallest statue of the Virgin Mary, reports The Tablet.

The statue of Santa Maria la Antigua, due to be unveiled in Panama City next year to mark the creation of the first South American diocese by Pope Leo X on September 9, 1513, will reach a height of 100m, "taller than the Statue of Liberty", the President declared.

President Martinelli said: "It will be an icon of this city for the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the South Sea and for the first Catholic church on land."

The President said that both public and private funds would be used to finance the project.

Zambian bishops: “We shouldn't call ourselves a Christian nation in the new Constitution”

For the Catholic Church in Europe, the refusal to include a reference to Europe’s “Jewish-Christian roots” in the preamble of the European Constitution - which was later scrapped - remains an open wound.

But Zambia’s bishops have taken a diametrally opposite stance to this controversial matter.

"In the preamble, the declaration that Zambia is a Christian nation should be omitted," the bishops state in the document sent to the Technical Committee in charge of writing the new Constitution. 
The reason for this to some extent controversial refusal is simple: “a Country cannot practice the values and precepts of Christianity, by a mere declaration,” prelates explain in their declaration.
Furthermore, given that the Church believes “the principle of separation between State and Religion must not be lost,” to define Zambia as a “Christian nation” would be to contradict the recognised fact that “Zambia is a multi-religious Country” - a fact that was recognized in the preamble of the first draft of the Technical Committee.
Bishops reminded that today in Zambia abortion is permitted albeit in certain limited cases and so is the death penalty. 

“Under no circumstances should the Constitution contain any clauses defending the death penalty, abortion or euthanasia,” prelates stressed.
Bishops also asked for new citizenship regulations and more stringent controls on the exploitation of the country’s natural resources. 
Zambia - where Christianity is practiced by the majority (85-95%) of the population depending on the sources consulted – has been trying to create a new Constitution for years. 

This is currently its third attempt to write a Charter of fundamental rights which everyone in the country agrees with.
The first attempt was made in 1996 when the then president, Frederick Chiluba, a former Communist who converted to evangelical Christianity, had tried to include a reference to the country’s Christian roots in the Constitution. 

On that occasion too, Catholic bishops were firmly against the idea.

New Vatican candor brings welcome results

"Be careful what you wish for," as the saying goes, "because you will surely get it."

In light of a couple of recent Vatican stories, the corollary also seems to apply: Be careful what you try to avoid, because it might actually be good for you.

A stringent European money laundering exam in July and a federal court ruling in Oregon this week both make the point.

Earlier this year, the Vatican faced secular scrutiny of its financial operations for the first time with a review by Moneyval, Europe's anti-money-laundering agency. 

The Vatican submitted voluntarily, a somewhat surprising choice given its long history of fighting off such perceived incursions on its autonomy tooth and nail. 

The truth, however, is it didn't have much choice. If the Vatican is perceived as a suspect financial player, it risks higher transaction costs and being shut out of important markets.

July's verdict was a mixed bag, raising questions such as whether regulation of the Vatican Bank is sufficiently strong. 

Yet on the whole, Moneyval concluded the Vatican "has come a long way in a very short period of time" toward transparency, and "there is no empirical evidence of corruption." 

Those findings undercut conspiracy theories about Vatican finances, and, to some extent, they also offset perceptions of Benedict XVI's papacy as an administrative train wreck.

Taking its medicine, in other words, did the Vatican some good.

Something similar happened Monday, with a ruling in a federal district court in Oregon on a sex abuse lawsuit. In a nutshell, the judge held that the Vatican is not the "employer" of Catholic priests and dismissed it from the case.

Judge Michael Mosman compared policies for priests set in Rome to the sort of control a state bar association wields over lawyers -- important, sure, but not tantamount to an employer/employee relationship.

Before explaining why that experience was healthy, too, a bit of background.

The Oregon case

The ruling Monday came in the case of John Doe v. Holy See, filed in 2002 on behalf of a man allegedly abused in 1965-66 by a onetime Irish Servite priest named Andrew Ronan, who was laicized in 1966 and who died in 1992.

Correspondence released in the case shows that Ronan was transferred to the United States in 1959 in the wake of admitting to homosexual contact with seminarians at a Servite priory in Benburb, Ireland. He arrived first in Chicago, moving to Portland, Ore., in 1965 as a retreat director. 

The lawsuit named the Vatican, the archdioceses of Chicago and Portland, and the Servites as defendants, asserting that policies of secrecy put the alleged victim in harm's way. 

Since the two archdioceses were already dropped, the new ruling leaves only the religious order.

As in other instances in which it's been sued in American courts, the Vatican fought back tenaciously.

In 2009, the Vatican asked the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss it from the case on the grounds of sovereign immunity, drawing support from the Obama administration in the form of a brief jointly signed by the Office of the Solicitor General, the attorney general and the State Department. 

In June 2010, however, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, sending it back to Oregon.

(As a footnote, the Oregon case thus produced a rather juicy irony: The allegedly anti-Catholic Obama administration stood with the Vatican, while all those Catholic justices on the Supreme Court didn't give Rome what it wanted.)

In August 2011, the Vatican released what it claimed were all the documents about Ronan in its possession. They included a 1953 note of permission for Ronan to serve as a novice master despite being below the age then established in church law as well as several documents related to his 1966 laicization. 

Among them is a February 1966 letter from Ronan, acknowledging "my repeated, admitted, documented homosexual tendencies and acts against the vow of chastity and celibacy."

Notably, there was no document suggesting the Vatican approved, or even knew about, Ronan's 1959 transfer. Vatican lawyers say the paper trail proves the Vatican didn't become aware of Ronan's problems until 1966 and laicized him within weeks.

This chain of events culminated in Mosman's ruling Monday, which was read aloud by the judge from the bench.

How it helps

While the Vatican never wanted things to go this far, perhaps it ought to be glad they did.

First of all, the Vatican has always made sovereign immunity its first line of defense in sex abuse litigation. Given public outrage over the scandals, however, it was inevitable that, sooner or later, it would have to take a stand on the merits. 

Technically, the Aug. 20 ruling was still focused on immunity. One of the few exceptions to the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act is if a foreign state acts as an employer in America. 

By finding that the Vatican doesn't employ priests, the judge effectively held that its immunity still applies. 

Nevertheless, the ruling cut closer than any previous case to the substantive issue of whether the Vatican was actually responsible for supervising abuser priests, and it's probably healthy to face that question head-on.

For Catholics everywhere, there's a broader take-away.

Insiders have long been frustrated with perceptions that the church is rigidly centralized and tightly controlled from the top. In truth, Catholicism is top-down only on faith and morals. 

In terms of administration, it's mostly horizontal, with key calls on personnel and finance made by diocesan bishops. On most everything else, such as new spiritual initiatives, new intellectual vision, and new pastoral and apostolic models, it's largely bottom-up.

While that might be reality, Catholics haven't had much luck communicating it, so the myth endures that nothing happens without somebody in Rome flipping a switch. 

Now, however, we have an American judge with no dog in Catholic fights -- for the record, Mosman is a Mormon -- who took an objective look at the relationship between the Vatican and Catholic priests and concluded that the Vatican isn't their boss.

In a flash, Mosman might have done more to explain Catholic ecclesiology to the outside world than a whole rafter of paid church spokespersons has accomplished since, well, the dawn of time.

In terms of church politics, the ruling could also act as a firebreak against attempted micro-management from Rome. In the future, if somebody in the Vatican tries to push a priest around, he'd be well advised to reply: "Didn't you guys swear to an American judge that I don't work for you?"

In some ways, it's too bad other cases raising similar questions haven't moved further down the pipeline. 

For instance, a lawsuit filed in Kentucky in 2004 charged that Catholic bishops, rather than priests, are "agents" or "employees" of the Vatican. In response, Vatican lawyers filed two lengthy memoranda from canonist Edward Peters of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, forcefully defending the autonomy of the local bishop. To assert that bishops are no more than Vatican employees is "contrary to basic principles underlying the structure of the church," Peters wrote.

The judge was never forced to rule because in 2010, the plaintiff's lawyers abandoned the case. It would have been fascinating to see what he made of Peters' argument.

The Vatican's undesired teaching moment may not be over yet, since the plaintiff's lawyer in Oregon, Jeffrey Anderson, has vowed to appeal. No doubt, the Vatican will once again try to fight it off. 

As with Moneyval and Mosman's ruling, however, the Vatican may find that sometimes developments you worry about the most also give you the most help.

Liverpool commissions lay men and women to lead funeral people will start to conduct funeral services in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, The Tablet can reveal.

Twenty-two Lay Funeral Ministers, men and women, have been commissioned to lead funeral services where there is no Requiem Mass and no priest available.

The move, which comes into effect in the autumn, is due to the declining number of priests and the large number of funerals that take place in parts of the archdiocese.

A leaflet issued by the archdiocese, "Planning a Catholic Funeral", explains that a lay funeral minister can lead the prayer vigil service before a funeral, a funeral service, and the committal, the prayers at the graveside. Lay ministers will only lead a funeral service if there is no priest available.

A spokesman for the archdiocese said the lay ministers were "specifically trained to lead funeral services with an appropriate liturgy of the word, readings and prayers."

Secret Bible in which ‘Jesus predicts coming of Prophet Muhammad’ unearthed in Turkey
A secret Bible in which Jesus is believed to predict the coming of the Prophet Muhammad to Earth has sparked serious interest from the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI is claimed to want to see the 1,500-year-old book, which many say is the Gospel of Barnabas, that has been hidden by the Turkish state for the last 12 years.

The £14million handwritten gold lettered tome, penned in Jesus’ native Aramaic language, is said to contain his early teachings and a prediction of the Prophet’s coming.

The leather-bound text, written on animal hide, was discovered by Turkish police during an anti-smuggling operation in 2000.

It was closely guarded until 2010, when it was finally handed over to the Ankara Ethnography Museum, and will soon be put back on public display following a minor restoration.

A photocopy of a single page from the handwritten ancient manuscript is thought to be worth £1.5million.

Turkish culture and tourism minister Ertugrul Gunay said the book could be an authentic version of the Gospel, which was suppressed by the Christian Church for its strong parallels with the Islamic view of Jesus.

He also said the Vatican had made an official request to see the scripture – a controversial text which Muslims claim is an addition to the original gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.

In line with Islamic belief, the Gospel treats Jesus as a human being and not a God.

It rejects the ideas of the Holy Trinity and the Crucifixion and reveals that Jesus predicted the coming of the Prophet Muhammad.

In one version of the gospel, he is said to have told a priest: ‘How shall the Messiah be called? Muhammad is his blessed name’.

And in another Jesus denied being the Messiah, claiming that he or she would be Ishmaelite, the term used for an Arab.

Despite the interest in the newly re-discovered book, some believe it is a fake and only dates back to the 16th century.

The oldest copies of the book date back to that time, and are written in Spanish and Italian.

Protestant pastor İhsan Özbek said it was unlikely to be authentic.

This is because St Barnabas lived in the first century and was one of the Apostles of Jesus, in contrast to this version which is said to come from the fifth or sixth century.
He told the Today Zaman newspaper: ‘The copy in Ankara might have been written by one of the followers of St Barnabas. Since there is around 500 years in between St Barnabas and the writing of the Bible copy, Muslims may be disappointed to see that this copy does not include things they would like to see. It might have no relation with the content of the Gospel of Barnabas.’
Theology professor Ömer Faruk Harman said a scientific scan of the bible may be the only way to reveal how old it really is.

'Priestless parishes' plans 'not applicable' on Sundays

PriestRadical plans for "priestless parishes" will not apply to Sunday services, a diocese of Down and Connor spokesman has said.

Speaking to BBC's Good Morning Ulster, Father Edward McGee, said certain liturgical celebrations could take place in the absence of a priest.

Fr McGee said bishops were looking at pastoral situations during the week when priests would be unavailable.

He said plans were due to "a changing scene".

"The bishops are looking at guidelines to establish maybe the training of people to assist the priest in these situations and try to follow the norms already in place within the church and how these should be carried out," he said.

Fr McGee added that it was not an entirely new concept as lay people already assisted priests.

He said a priest would still be present during mass on a Sunday.

"The centrality of the celebration of the mass on a Sunday and the obligation to go along and celebrate as a community in the celebration of mass is fundamental and quite central to our belief," he said.

The Irish Catholic newspaper has reported that a discussion document on the matter would be discussed at a meeting of the hierarchy in October.

Galway parish priest criticises Sunday road closures - again

A Galway City parish priest has expressed concern that forthcoming Sunday Road closures in Galway City to facilitate the Ironman race in the city next month is denying local Catholics their right to Sunday worship.

Fr Gerry Jennings, parish priest of Salthill parish, criticised Galway city Council for facilitating the road closures on Sunday September 2, that he says effectively closes off his church to vehicular access. 

In a message to his parishioners in his Sunday newsletter, Fr Jennings said he is, “disturbed,” that the local authority can, “arbitrarily deny people the traditional right to worship in their local church on a Sunday as they have done for decades.” 

He said closing most of the thoroughfare in Salthill to vehicles for up to ten hours, “to facilitate a private commercial company to run a race [and which is] is unfair, wrong and disproportionate.” 

He concluded his newsletter comments by saying that the Ironman competition is welcome in Galway City, “but not to the extent that it totally disrupts daily life.”

Speaking to Galway Bay FM later in the week Fr Jennings went further.  

He said, “If people can't get to church, what's the point in having a service? We need balance and fairness. I believe people are entitled to worship on a Sunday. We would have more people attending Mass than are taking part in this race. It is the same as last year when people were denied their right to worship. I'm not able to hold baptisms or weddings on that day either.”

A spokesperson for the Ironman accepted that about six churches in Galway City, including those in Claddagh, Salthill, Busypark, Oughterard and Moycullen, face disruption as a result of the event. 

He said that an action plan for each individual church is in place to minimise disruption to mass-goers. 

The spokesperson added that while he was aware of Fr Jennings views that there still would be full pedestrian access to the church on Sunday September 2. 

New partnership agreement signed between Irish and US Catholic colleges

Ireland's largest Catholic third level university and one of America's largest Catholic colleges have signed a partnership agreement.  

Mary Immaculate College in Limerick and the Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut signed an agreement to exchange students each semester for study abroad programmes, and have agreed to explore the opportunity for faculty and staff exchanges in the future.

In a statement issued by Mary Immaculate College (MIC), they said, “Sacred Heart University is the second largest Catholic University in New England. It provides its students with a comprehensive, hands-on education rooted in the liberal arts and Catholic intellectual tradition. Indeed its ethos is very much in common with that of Mary Immaculate College, in terms of encouraging great thinking, innovative proposals, a supportive community and a strong belief in diversity, including religious diversity across its campus. Areas of special interest for both institutions are theology, religious studies and education.”

It added, “It is expected that the opportunity to study at Sacred Heart University will be particularly appealing to MIC's Bachelor of Arts students when deciding where to go on their off-campus placements. The off-campus placement programme, which takes place in third years of the BA in Liberal arts at Mart Immaculate College, enables students to expand their knowledge and skills through study abroad and/or work placements. Students undertake either one yearlong placement or two placements of a semester's duration.”

Speaking about the new partnership between the two Catholic universities, the President of Mary Immaculate Fr Michael Hayes said, “I am delighted to be signing a Memorandum of Agreement with Sacred Heart University. This will provide yet another wonderful opportunity for both our students and staff to have International experiences. This agreement is part of our growing international development and also provides Mary Immaculate College with an additional platform for International collaboration on research projects in the areas of education and the liberal arts.”  

Commenting on the visit to Mary Immaculate College Dean of Arts and Sciences at Sacred Heart University Dr Seamus Carey said, “As Dean of the Colleges Arts and Sciences, I think there is great promise for building a relationship between our two institutions.”

Women bishops: a lot of ground for the Synod to make up (Contribution)

CONSULTATIONS over have been progressing slowly, it emerged this week.

Legislation to permit women to enter the episcopate is due to return to the General Synod at an extraordinary meeting in November. 

Before then, the House of Bishops has to decide what provision for traditionalists it will put in the final draft legislation, if any.

Last month ( News, 27 July), the steering committee proposed seven possible options in relation to clause 5(1)(c), the amendment inserted into the legislation by the House of Bishops in May, which prompted angry protests and led to the adjournment of a final decision when the General Synod met in York earlier in July.

Today is the deadline for responses to a consultation document about the options, which was circulated to Synod members by the secretary-general, William Fittall.

By Wednesday, only about one member in ten had responded. 

The General Synod Office reported "more than 50" submissions, the "great majority" from Synod members, but also some "from individuals and others from groups". There are 477 Synod members.

Such a low response will make it difficult for the House of Bishops to ascertain the mind of the Synod when it meets to discuss the Measure on 12 September, although several dioceses are planning their own consultations later.

This week, Synod members expressed preferences for four of the seven options.

Keith Malcouronne (Guildford) said that the diocese's representatives had met earlier in the month and had "collectively recognised that Option 2", simply deleting clause 5(1)(c), "was a non-starter if we wish to see the legislation finally approved in November".

A majority of the diocesan representatives favoured Option 1 (retaining the clause) "as providing the most provision of the options now open at this late stage of the process", he said. 

He cited the speech by the Archbishop of Canterbury in July, in which Dr Williams explained that referring solely to the maleness of the bishop and no other criteria could suggest a willingness to accommodate misogny. 

Mr Malcouronne, and others within the diocese, have suggested additional changes.

The Archdeacon of Nottingham, the Ven. Peter Hill (Southwell & Nottingham), said that the Bishop had arranged to meet representatives in late August to discuss the paper. 

Archdeacon Hill was "desperate to see women in the episcopate as soon as possible, but also to keep everyone on the C of E bus in some sort of comfortable seat". 

He believed that Option 7, which suggests that the Code of Practice would give guidance on the procedure of selection, is "the most deliverable route politically . . . largely because it knocks out theological conviction in favour of pastoral and sacramental practice".

Christina Rees (St Albans), who formerly chaired the campaign group WATCH, said that a meeting with her diocesan was planned for 4 September. Her preference was Option 2, deleting 5(1)(c). The clause "opens the door to endless wrangling", and "puts a very dark cloud over women's ordination".

A "silver bullet" could not be found, she suggested, because there is "nothing that can bridge the gap between those who think either women shouldn't or cannot be ordained . . . with the views of people who say 'of course women can be ordained'."

Option 2 is also favoured by GRAS. On Monday of last week, it warned: "The Church of England risks finding itself in a position where people who long to see women and men as bishops together will vote against the Measure, because the compromises it makes would be too damaging to the Church and to our theology of the place of men and women in creation."

A Chester Synod member, Canon David Felix, expressed unhappiness that no meeting had been convened with his diocesan bishop. He said that the introduction of 5(1)(c) constituted a "constitutional crisis". The adjournment in July had given the Bishops a "bloody nose", but "they still can't accept the bloody nose they have been given." Not producing a code of practice until the legislation was decided was "politically . . . a disaster".

The Canon Chancellor of Exeter Cathedral, the Revd Andrew Godsall (Exeter), said that he had invited all General Synod representatives, including the Bishop, to a meeting in early September. There was a "real willingness from people to speak across different traditions", he said.

As a member of WATCH, his preference was for Option 2; but he also had a "certain amount of sympathy" for Option 5, which would build into the provision a reference to the "suitability" or "appropriateness" of the person selected to exercise ministry. It would also refer to the process of selection, involving consultation with the PCC. He is "very optimistic" about the Measure's being passed - "but not at any price".

Emma Forward (Exeter) supported Option 1. "We should ask the Bishops to stand firm on clause 5(1)(c), especially the understanding of 'theological convictions' contained within it. Surely we all want an outcome that will honour those of a traditional integrity, so that future generations can thrive. The Church of England is always better together."