Saturday, November 30, 2013

German bishops say pope endorses divorcee Communion plan

Church officials in Germany have defended plans by the country’s bishops’ conference to allow some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, insisting they have the Pope’s endorsement.
Robert Eberle, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Freiburg: “We already have our own guidelines, and the Pope has now clearly signaled that certain things can be decided locally.

“We’re not the only archdiocese seeking helpful solutions to this problem, and we’ve had positive reactions from other dioceses in Germany and abroad, assuring us they already practice what’s written in our guidelines.”

Mr Eberle’s comments followed the disclosure by Bishop Gebhard Furst of Rottenburg-Stuttgart on November 23 that the bishops’ would adopt proposals on reinstating divorced and remarried parishioners as full members of the Church during their plenary in March.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, Mr Eberle said “many points” in the Pope’s apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) suggested the German Church was “moving in the right way” in its attitude toward remarried Catholics.

Uwe Renz, spokesman in the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, also defended the bishops’ stance. He said he believed the bishops were acting “in the spirit of the Pope’s teaching.”

“Our own dialogue process has shown this is a major issue for both lay Catholics and priests,” Mr Renz said.

“Pope Francis has called on bishops to exercise a wise and realistic pastoral discernment on such problems, and our bishops want divorced and remarried Catholics to be a full part of the church community, with full rights.”

Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reaffirmed in October Church teaching that prohibits divorced and remarried Catholics from receiving Communion without an annulment.

Archbishop Eamon Martin launches novel online Advent calendar to mark the Church’s new year Eamon Martin today launched a specially commissioned Advent calendar on the homepage of the Irish Catholic bishops’ website

Tomorrow is the first day of Advent which marks the beginning of the Catholic Church’s new year.

Archbishop Eamon said, “I am delighted to launch our new Advent calendar which today, and each day up to Christmas Eve, will reveal Advent information and prayer resources by clicking on a virtual numerical door in our online calendar. For many years we have provided online resources to assist with our Advent preparations, but this year we offer the faithful our novel online calendar for this purpose.

“Why is the Advent calendar useful? Preparation does not happen at once but over time. The season of Advent is a time of spiritual preparation for the Lord’s coming at Christmas. Advent also prepares us for the second coming of Christ at the end of time. As Christians, we must always be prepared for the coming of the Lord as reflected in today’s Gospel reading at Mass, ‘You must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do no not expect’ [Mt 24:37-44]. Taken together then, each day of Advent amounts to a period of time which allows us to journey and reflect on 'the joy of the Gospel'.

Archbishop Eamon continued, “As we begin our Catholic new year today, I invite everyone during the Advent season to visit and to enjoy the information provided on our online calendar, which will provide details on:

- Mass readings of the day;

- Pope Francis’s new Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), published on 26 November last, will be promoted using excerpts from it;

- Advent videos: blessing of the crib in the home, blessing of the advent wreath in the home, prayer when lighting the lights on the Christmas tree, family table prayer;

- Advent music;

- information on saints during the Advent such as Saint Nicholas on 6 December;

- video and text reflections from Pope Francis and Irish bishops (The Creed, The Liturgy etc)

- family prayers (mother and child, children, grandparents, parents and godparents);

- prayers for the season: for families in need, for those suffering neglect and violence, for Irish emigrants, for those in prison, for those who are sick, for those in difficulty;

- Tweets from individuals, parishes, Irish Church agencies and from the Vatican;

- resources for Advent and Christmas from Veritas;

- Trócaire Global Gifts for 2013 information campaign;

- Crosscare’s Dublin Food Bank appeal;

- work of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul; and

- Christmas messages from Irish bishops in preparation for the Nativity of our Lord.

Archbishop Eamon concluded, “As Advent is the season of preparation for the coming of our Lord, I encourage the faithful, notwithstanding our hectic schedule over the coming weeks, to make time to pray - alone and with loved ones - and by so doing to draw nearer to Christ.”

Project Rachel founder 'delighted' with new bishops' staff position

The founder of Project Rachel says she is extremely pleased by the U.S. bishops’ decision to create a full-time staff position to work with the post-abortion healing ministry.

“To oversee the ministry and keep on top of things that need to be done, you really need a full-time person,” Vicki Thorn told CNA Nov. 18. “I’m just delighted that they’re going to have one.”

“This is an important ministry of the Church,” she said, “and it is really key to the evangelization of our times.”

Thorn founded Project Rachel in 1984 as a healing ministry for those who have suffered the devastating consequences of abortion. The program is present in the majority of Catholic dioceses in the United States.

By a vote of 225-9, the U.S. bishops at their recent fall assembly approved the creation of a new full-time position to work with the ministry. 

The new staff person, who will be funded by the Knights of Columbus, will serve as a resource for diocesan directors who offer retreats, support groups, models and training resources for priests.

Project Rachel has always had a very “open” relationship with the bishops, Thorn said, explaining that it is designed to be a diocesan program, under the authority of a local bishop.

Post-abortion healing is vital, she said, pointing out that it was one of the major elements in the first Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities issued by the bishops' conference in 1975.

“The bishops had called for education on the sanctity of all human life, getting people involved in the legislative process, and pastoral care – first for those facing a crisis pregnancy and secondly a call for a ministry to help those who have had abortions,” she said.

Those who tend to be the strongest advocates for healing after abortion are bishops and priests “who are confessors,” because they have seen so much of the pain that comes with abortion, she added.

In addition to openly professing how harmful abortion is to men, women and children, pro-lifers must also work to make healing possible for those who have been wounded, Thorn stressed.

“Many women leave the Church or are away from the Church and have an abortion, and don’t know they can come home,” she said. “And when they do, there’s this incredible experience of God’s mercy.”

The Church must work to facilitate this healing, she explained, and Project Rachel helps to do that.

Thorn noted that Pope John Paul II accurately predicted the devastating aftermath of abortion in his 1960 work, Love and Responsibility.

Pope Benedict XVI later took these ideas one step further, she said, by admonishing the Church to fulfill its obligation to be a Good Samaritan and to “go and find the wounded and bring them to the Church for care.”

Now, she reflected, Pope Francis’ image of the Church working in the field hospital “really applies to this ministry.”

“We’re taking care of the walking wounded and enabling them to come to a new spiritual relationship with God to really encounter his mercy,” she said.

Alleged victim's anger as Vatican decide not to put disgraced Cardinal Keith O'Brien on trial

Keith O'BrienONE of Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s alleged victims yesterday voiced concern the Vatican is not to put him on trial after his resignation.

Scotland’s senior archbishop, Leo Cushley has revealed the Vatican believes O’Brien, who was ordered to leave Scotland, has been punished enough.

The man, who claims he left the priesthood after he was sexually targeted by the cardinal as a trainee priest, is pursuing a civil case against O’Brien and the Catholic Church.

The ex-seminarian, now in his 50s, broke a30-year long silence in March to allege he had been groped and kissed by Cardinal O’Brien in the 80s, at the college where he was studying.

He said the incident had not been a one-off, and his lawyer Cameron Fyfe last night spoke of his client’s sense of “betrayal” regarding the Vatican decision.

He said: “He will be bitterly disappointed at this news. One of the most upsetting things about Keith O’Brien’s behaviour was that throughout his church career, he railed against homosexual behaviour while appearing to indulge in that very same behaviour in his private life.”

The disgraced former Catholic Church leader, 75, who admitted he made sexual advances towards young priests, is still in exile abroad after he was ordered by Pope Francis to pay penance in a monastery.

Archbishop Cushley said it was unlikely O’Brien, formerly Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic, would return to the Scotland.

He added: “Nothing is a lifetime sentence, but it is a reasonable assumption that he will not be coming back in the near future.”

He said: “My impression is Rome has finished with this. They will look into it again after a certain period to see that things are going the way they ought to be going.”

A new biography of Pope Francis hailed in Argentina

Pope FrancisA new biography of Pope Francis, based on primary sources and testimonies, is being praised in Argentina by people who know him as the most complete and authoritative portrait of him in any language to-date.

Hundreds of people crowded into one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, the Ateneo Grand Splendid in the heart of Buenos Aires, on November 19, for the presentation of “Francisco: Vida y Revolucion” (Francis: life and revolution), the new biography of Pope Francis, written by Elisabetta Piqué, an Argentinean journalist who has known him since 2001. 

Her book is being hailed by many who knew Bergoglio here as the most complete and authoritative portrait of him in any language to-date.

“This book is based on solid research, and written from the heart”,  Father Mariano Fazio, former Rector of the Santa Croce (Opus Dei) university in Rome, told the large audience that included the Papal Nuncio to Argentina, Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig, who, the book reveals,  enjoyed a better relationship with Cardinal Bergoglio, than did his predecessor.  

Rich in testimonies from Jesuits and laity, including many poor people whom he helped, the 332 page book written by the Rome correspondent of La Nacion, one of Argentina’s main dailies, is being published simultaneously in Spanish (by El Ateneo) and Italian (by Lindau), and negotiations are under way for its release in other languages too.

Fazio said it communicates well “key aspects of Bergoglio’s spirituality” and “the humility of the man” who, in countless hitherto unknown ways, helped the most needy in society and saved many lives during the military dictatorship.  He was one of a panel of 5 that presented this page-turner book which offers many new insights into the personality of the first Jesuit Pope,  provides an accurate history of his life as a Jesuit and bishop, and reveals hitherto unknown information about the conclave that elected him, as well as reporting on the first six months of his pontificate.

On the panel with Fazio were Rabbi Abraham Skorka,  a close friend of Bergoglio who expects to travel with him to the Holy Land in 2014,  Professor Julio Barbaro, the renowned historian of Peronism, and Father Gustavo Carrara, the ‘vicar’ appointed by Cardinal Bergoglio to oversee the Church’s mission to the slum-dwellings of this metropolis of almost 12 million people.

“This very fine book has enriched me because even though I thought I knew Bergoglio and his spirituality, on reading it, I discovered many new things hitherto unknown to me”,  Rabbi Skorka said.  He praised the author for writing a highly readable book, “rich with testimonies” of  many people from different walks of life who knew him, which shows clearly  that he is “a man truly committed to dialogue.”  

“This is a biography marked by lucidity and passion”, Julio Barbaro told the overflow audience on the second floor of this magnificent former theatre and cinema. He highlighted the faith-centered leadership given by Bergoglio during the turbulent and bloody period in Argentina’s history immediately before and during the military dictatorship, and recalled how he rejected both ideologies and  repression, and showed that “the faith is stronger than ideology”.  

Barbaro, who was a friend of both Argentina’s former president - Nestor Kirchner, and Bergoglio, said “Kirchner’s problem was not with Bergoglio as such, it was with whatever he could not control”.  He praised the book for bringing out Bergoglio’s “striking spirituality” and his ‘revindication of faith over ideology”.

Father Gustavo Carrara warmly welcomed the new biography that devotes a whole chapter to Bergoglio’s inspiring and courageous ministry in the “villas miserias” or slum districts  of this metropolis where some 250,000 people live, 43 % of them under the age of 17.  He recalled Bergoglio as “a pilgrim bishop who walked among the people, especially among the most needy and the last in society”,  and called the city’s believing communities, including those in the slums, to be “a missionary Church”, and ‘go out to the existential peripheries”. 

Bergoglio highly valued ‘popular piety” and reminded everyone that frequently “people who are poor in this world are rich in faith”,  Carrara said. 

He recalled the intense emotion and rejoicing in the villas di miserias when he was elected Pope,  and the powerful impact on them when Francis appeared for the first time, dressed in white, on the central balcony of St Peter’s and humbly asked people to pray for their new bishop.  

Bergoglio always told his priests and people that “if you take the Gospel seriously, your life will become more complicated”, Carrara said, “And if we take Francis seriously, he will complicate our lives too!”

Responding to questions at the end of the book-presentation, Elisabetta Piquè confirmed that while Pope Francis knew she was writing the book, she had never involved him in any way in the project because she felt this was not proper, also given that she was touching such delicate questions as his relationship to the Roman Curia before becoming Pope.

US pastor outraged to see Bible classified as science fiction at Costco Kaltenbach will at the very least be changing supermarkets. 

A few days ago, Kaltenbach, who is a pastor at the nondenominational Discovery Church  went to do his shopping at US supermarket chain Costco in Simi Valley, California, and saw something that really did not sit well with him.

He came across a number of copies of the Bible in the supermarket’s science fiction section. 

“Each copy had a sticker that said: “$14.99 Fiction,” Kaltenbach said.

The pastor claims he made several attempts to speak with the store managers but had no luck. He decided to take a photo and publish it on Twitter.
“People are pretty shocked and upset,” Kaltenbach said. “We are supposed to be living in an era of tolerance, but what Costco did doesn’t seem too tolerant.” 

The pastor added that no one is forcing Costco staff to believe but they should respect those who do. The book could have been labelled as “religion”.
Kaltenbach said the store never apologised and its executives did not wish to comment on the incident. They just put it down to a “human error at the warehouse.”

Pope Francis echoes Pope Benedict, underlines continuity of Council of Trent, Vatican II Francis has embraced the ‘hermeneutic of reform’ that Pope Benedict XVI proposed as the key to interpreting the teachings of Vatican II.

In a letter dated November 19 and released November 23, the Pope appointed Cardinal Walter Brandmüller as his special envoy to the December celebration of the 450th anniversary of the conclusion of the Council of Trent (1545-63), the nineteenth of the Church’s 21 ecumenical councils.

Cardinal Brandmüller, 84, is the president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences.

“It is appropriate that the Church recall with a more prompt and attentive zeal the very fruitful doctrine that came to pass from that Council held in the Tyrolean region,” Pope Francis said in his Latin-language letter, as translated in a literal (if stilted) manner. 

“Indeed, not without reason has the Church already for a long time directed such concern to that Council’s decrees and counsels that ought to be commemorated and observed, since, when very grave matters and questions appeared at that time, the Council Fathers applied all diligence, that the Catholic faith might appear distinctly and be better perceived.”

“Indeed, with the Holy Spirit inspiring and prompting, it concerned them chiefly that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine not only be guarded but also shine forth more clearly, that the salvific work of the Lord be spread through the whole world and that the Gospel be extended to all the earth,” Pope Francis added.

“Heeding indeed the same Spirit, Holy Church of this age even now revives and reflects upon the most glorious Tridentine doctrine,” he continued. “As a matter of fact, the ‘hermeneutic of reform,’ which Our Predecessor Benedict XVI set forth in the year 2005 in the presence of the Roman Curia, relates not less to the Tridentine than to the Vatican Council.”

Quoting Pope Benedict’s 2005 address, Pope Francis added, “In fact, this manner of interpreting places under a brighter light one evident property of the Church that the Lord Himself bestows on her: ‘she is clearly one ‘subject’ which, with the hastening ages, grows and is increased; nevertheless, she always remains the same. And so she is the one subject of the sojourning People of God.’”

Pope Francis’s letter on the Council of Trent follows a letter, dated October 7 and released November 12, in which he said that “the best hermeneutics of the Second Vatican Council” has been done by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto.

“You have manifested this love [for the Church] in many ways, including correcting an error or imprecision on my part – for which I thank you from my heart –but above all it is manifest in all its purity in studies done on the Second Vatican Council,” Pope Francis added in that letter.

In its description of Archbishop Marchetto’s The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council: A Counterpoint for the History of the Council, published in English in 2010, the University of Chicago Press states:
This important study by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto makes a significant contribution to the debate that surrounds the interpretation of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Archbishop Marchetto critiques the Bologna School, which, he suggests, presents the Council as a kind of “Copernican revolution,” a transformation to “another Catholicism.” Instead Marchetto invites readers to reconsider the Council directly, through its official documents, commentaries, and histories.
In a recent essay published in L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, wrote that the interpretation of the Council offered by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto is more relevant than ever. 

Archbishop Marchetto, wrote Cardinal Koch, has “taken up and deepened the hermeneutic of reform supported by Pope Benedict XVI.”

Birmingham axes Nativity trail, which was once infamously accused of trying to replace Christmas with a non-religious “Winterval”, is to drop a Nativity trail that has been staged in the city’s art gallery for the past eight years.

Billed as illustrating the Christmas story through the eyes of some of the world’s greatest artists, the trail used to run from the end of November until Christmas Eve.

It covered 10 paintings in seven of its galleries, including the largest watercolour in the world, The Star of Bethlehem, painted between 1887 and 1891, by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, a triptych from the early sixteenth century by Adriaen Isenbrandt and The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, painted around 1620 by Orazio Gentileschi.

The trail was supported by Christian leaders in the city, and last year’s formal opening was attended by civil and faith leaders. 

The Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, told them the trail and the traditional nativity scene in the square outside the gallery was “a little sign of what it means to believe in Jesus in the market place”.

Archbishop Longley emphasised that the leaders of other faiths in Birmingham all supported and respected the Nativity trail and the Christmas crib, as Christians of various traditions respected the faiths and festivals of others. 

A spokeswoman for the independent trust that last year took control of the art gallery and museums from Birmingham City Council blamed a lack of funding for the decision to halt what had been a very popular event.

The spokeswoman said: “We are not holding the nativity trail at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery this year, as we are currently reviewing all programming across Birmingham Museums sites in light of changing resources.”

No one was available for comment at the Birmingham archdiocese.

Advert asking Christians’ tales of workplace discrimination banned

The Court of Appeal has upheld a ban on an advert which asked Christians to report experiences of marginalisation in the workplace.

Premier Christian Radio, via its two companies, challenged a 2011 decision by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to ban the advert after the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre claimed it had a political objective.

The original advert – which was published in The Daily Telegraph last Wednesday – asked for Christians to share their experience of marginalisation in the workplace so that the magazine arm of Premier could compile accurate data on the matter.

Paris mayoral rivals pledge work on rundown churches two main candidates in the Paris mayoral election next March have pledged to step up repair work on the capital's historic churches after architectural associations sounded the alarm at the state of disrepair of some well-known houses of prayer.

The city owns 85 Catholic and nine Protestant churches as well as two synagogues - all taken over in 1905 at the separation of Church and state - and it is responsible for their upkeep. 

The US-based World Monuments Fund recently placed two Paris churches on its global list of endangered monuments. Local associations published a list of the 10 most rundown churches.

When city councillors from the conservative opposition brought up the issue, the city’s Socialist administration said it had spent 11 million euros per year on church repairs since 2001 (when the current mayor Bartrand Delanoe was first elected), more, they said, than the previous conservative administration (of Jean Tiberi).

Socialist mayoral candidate Anne Hidalgo promised to boost city spending on church upkeep if she wins the elections scheduled for next March, while conservative candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said she would also seek private funds to help expand the maintenance programme.

Danger of 'Christian extinction'

More Christians risk being persecuted for their faith in the 21st Century than in the early history of the Church Pope Francis has said.

His stark warning comes as the highest-ranking Muslim in the British government called on European governments to do more to protect besieged Christian minorities across the world, particularly in the Holy Land where they are now seen as ‘outsiders’.

Pope Francis appealed to believers in the West to show solidarity with the many Christians undergoing persecution throughout the world, praising their courage and testimony.

He urged prayers for “our many Christian brothers and sisters who suffer persecution because of their faith.

“There are so many of them. Maybe, many more than in the early centuries,” he said.

Meanwhile, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Britain’s minister for faith and the first Muslim member of a British cabinet, said religious freedom is a proxy for human rights and must not be an “add-on” to foreign policy.

“A mass exodus is taking place, on a biblical scale,” she said in a speech at Georgetown University.

“In some places, there is a real danger that Christianity will become extinct.”

Baroness Warsi said Christian minorities in war-torn regions of Egypt, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere are threatened by Muslim majorities in the very places that gave rise to Christianity.

“What concerns me is that these communities…are now being seen as outsiders”.

She warned that too often “the local Christian community is fair game, and somehow collective punishment can be meted out against these communities for what they see as the perceived actions of their co-religionists” abroad.

New confraternity formed to support Catholic priests newly established confraternity for Irish clergy hopes to support clerics in their lives and ministry, the group’s chairman has said.

Established during a meeting of priests in Knock, Co. Mayo in late October, the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy is based on successful bodies already working for the wellbeing of priests in Australia, the United States, and Britain.

Well received 

Speaking to The Irish Catholic, group chairman Fr Gerard Deighan said the formulation of the confraternity had been well received by priests from across Ireland who very often work alone in their respective parishes.

“I myself feel the need to meet other priests for prayer and for ongoing faith formation,” Fr Deighan said.

He went on to explain that the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy aims to offer this “mutual support and encouragement”.

The confraternity, he added, hopes to further assist clergy through conferences and lectures locally and nationally.

Pointing out that the group utilises the term ‘clergy’ in its name, Fr Deighan insisted the confraternity is open to deacons and bishops as well as priests.

Any clergy interested in the work of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy can email the group at

Shatter’s attack on the family (Opinion)

Philomena, starring Judy Dench is currently playing in cinemas and has been getting plenty of play on RTÉ’s Liveline. 

It is the tale of how a mother was separated from her son when her son was still very young and the son was raised by adoptive parents.

It is the tale of how both mother and son went looking for one another and eventually succeeded. It is a tale of how important the natural ties are to us. 

We want to know who we are and where we come from and a big part of this is knowing all about our natural ties.

It’s what explains the appeal of programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? and also the appeal of The Gathering which brought together extended families who could tell who their first, second, third and fourth cousins were because they could draw their family trees.


It is one thing to have the tie to your natural family cut by circumstance. 

Maybe you weren’t in a position to raise your child and had to give the child up for adoption. 

Adoption is a good and necessary institution, but adopted children who grow up in loving, caring families still often go looking for their natural parents because they want to see who they look like, act like and where they are from.

Natural tie 

But its another thing entirely when the natural tie is cut deliberately without any thought at all for the rights of the child. 

However, it appears this is what Justice Minister Alan Shatter, and the Government generally, are planning to do via a new law set to be published next month.

The law, to be called the Children and Family Relationships Act looks set to be the most far-reaching attack on the natural rights of children this country has seen in a very long time.

Minister Shatter’s planned reform of Irish family law is ultra-radical. It will permit the deliberate creation of motherless or fatherless children, and the deliberate cutting of the natural ties between children and their parents.

It will allow cohabiting heterosexual couples and same-sex couples to have children via egg donors and sperm donors and surrogate mothers with the full approval and blessing of the State. It is not clear yet whether it will give single men and single women the same rights.

A child who is brought into the world by a single man, a single woman or a same-sex couple will by definition lack the care of either a mother or a father.

This should go without saying. 

A single man can be a father to a child, but not a mother. 

A lesbian couple cannot give a child a father, nor a homosexual couple a mother. 

These children will deliberately lack the love of either a mother or a father and to that extent will be motherless or fatherless. 

The State will give this its full support.


The vast majority of couples who use IVF use their own egg and sperm, that is the child they will have will be genetically and biologically their own.

But when a same-sex couple wish to have a child via IVF, they must use someone else’s egg or someone else’s sperm. That is, the child will be the biological child of only one member of the couple. 

Either the mother (that is, the egg donor) or the father (that is, the sperm donor) will be missing.

That is to say, the natural tie to either the mother or the father will be cut deliberately, not through circumstance.

What are we going to say to these children in years to come when they appear on radio or television and demand to know why society allowed the tie to at least one of their natural parents to cut?

What are we going to say when they ask why did we let them be deliberately deprived of either a mother’s love or a father’s love?

Do we think it’s going to cut any ice if we say we did it out of a desire to be ‘modern’ or ‘tolerant’, or that we were trying to destroy the last remains of old, traditional Ireland?

At least in the case of adopted children we can tell them that we didn’t cut the natural tie, that circumstance did that. 

But in the case of children produced via egg or sperm donors we will have no such excuse. 

We will have authorised and approved the deliberate cutting of the natural tie.


As it is, there are already thousands of children of egg and sperm donors grown into adulthood who are looking for their natural parents and are extremely angry that they will never know them.

What will Alan Shatter and Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore say to these people in the future? 

They will have long passed from the scene by then and so won’t have to answer for what they are about to do.

But a future generation of politicians will have to explain what happened. 

They will have to explain the kind of Ireland that permitted the deliberate creation of motherless or fatherless children. 

They will have to explain how we ever justified the deliberate sundering of the natural ties.

And Ireland of the future will look back on Ireland of the present and wonder why it didn’t defend the rights of children when those rights came under such strong and far-reaching attack by the Government of Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore.

Al-Azhar officials hoping to restart stalled talks with Vatican
Officials at Egypt's Al-Azhar University said they are eagerly awaiting a message from the Vatican that could jump-start their stalled talks.

Their dialogue faltered and was eventually suspended altogether by Al-Azhar in 2011 after a series of remarks made by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI.

Mahmoud Azab, adviser on dialogue to Al-Azhar's grand imam, Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, told Catholic News Service that Fr. Rafic Greiche, spokesman for Egypt's Catholic church, informed them a Vatican envoy would visit Dec. 3.

"We are going to receive him, and we are very open and very ready to re-establish dialogue," Azab told CNS in his Cairo office in mid-November.

Greiche, reached by telephone, confirmed he had recently paid a visit to Al-Azhar, considered the world's highest authority on Sunni Islam, but declined to give further details.

However, a highly placed Catholic official in Cairo, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to CNS that Comboni Fr. Miguel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, would be in Egypt in December "to meet the imam and see if he will go back to the dialogue."

Cordial ties between Al-Azhar and the Vatican started to fray in 2006, after Pope Benedict gave a speech in Regensburg, Germany, which Al-Azhar officials and millions of Muslims said linked Islam to violence.

At the time, Al-Azhar asked for clarification and a retraction, but the Vatican and many Catholic officials responded that Pope Benedict had been citing a 14th-century Byzantine text, that his words were taken out of context and that they had been misunderstood.

"The straw that broke the camel's back," Azab said, was Pope Benedict's statement five years later about anti-Christian violence in Egypt and the need to protect religious minorities there following a Christmas Eve bombing of a Coptic Orthodox Church in the Egyptian seaport city of Alexandria.

He said Al-Azhar considered the remarks biased at a time when many of the Middle East's people, Muslims and Christians alike, were suffering due to war and other hardships.

"We responded that we expected from His Holiness solidarity with all the people of the Orient who are living in a difficult period," especially the Palestinians whose situation, Azab said, was "the heart and source of the violence" in the region.

"So we said, 'Since dialogue is not advancing, we are suspending it, and when we find more fertile ground for dialogue, we will continue,' " Azab said.

Almost immediately after Pope Francis' election in March, Al-Azhar expressed hope for "reassuring and productive signs so that dialogue can resume" with the Vatican, Azab said, adding that a week later the grand imam had also sent a letter of congratulations to the new pontiff.

In return, the grand imam received a letter of thanks from the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, which al-Azhar rejected, Azab said.

"We said, 'No, it is the pope who counts for us,' and (the Vatican) responded 'No, the pope doesn't usually do this,' so we said 'Please make an exception because there is only one grand imam and one Al-Azhar in the world,' " Azab said.

"A bit later ... it was magnificent. We got a letter signed by the new pope," Azab said. "His Holiness said, 'I put a lot of importance on working together to realize a good understanding among our people,' " Azab quoted Pope Francis' letter as saying.

Azab said despite the suspension of talks with the Vatican, Al-Azhar had "never stopped dialoging" with local and international churches and their members.

He said under the auspices of Al-Azhar, Egyptian education experts, including some trained in the United States, were now plying through all of Egypt's primary- and secondary-school textbooks to locate and "rectify ... anything that could incite hatred."

He said another Al-Azhar initiative was engaged in gathering sheiks and priests around the country at two- and three-day retreats to learn more about each other's communities and promote understanding.

A wave of violence following the Egyptian army's July 3 removal of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi led to the looting and destruction of at least 40 churches around the predominantly Muslim country.

Azab blamed the violence, which also included attacks on government buildings and police, on "fanatics," who did not understand the true nature of Islam, or who were using Islam "as a tool."

"Things are advancing very well here inside Egypt, despite what you hear of the violence (and) despite the angle taken by some Western media and channels," he added.

Al-Azhar fully supported the military's takeover because it had come at the behest of "34 million Egyptians," and had prevented "civil war," Azab said.

"For us, it was not a coup d'etat ... it was a true revolution of the people, supported by the army to maintain peace," he said.

He said the 2011 revolution that ended the decades-long rule of former President Hosni Mubarak had been a call for social as well as political change, and that Al-Azhar had since come up with a document emphasizing that it did not support theocratic or autocratic forms of leadership.

The document outlined four basic principles it said any new Egyptian government must ensure: freedom of belief, freedom of opinion, freedom of scientific research, and freedom of creativity.

Women priests 'delighted' by Google, Vatican catacombs tour

Thanks to collaboration between Google Street View and the Vatican, Rome's catacombs are now accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

However, the move has created controversy for what some say the catacombs hold.

Google Street View on Tuesday unveiled a "see-inside" option to explore nearly the entire 8-mile complex of catacombs below Rome, including the art-filled Catacombs of Priscilla, according to Catholic News Service. 

Google has started to create virtual self-guided tours of famous locations, like the Eiffel Tower and the Great Barrier Reef, using special 360-degree cameras that people wear like a backpack.

"If you can find catacombs, if you can find frescos, if you can find museums online, then you will be willing to know more," Georgia Albetino of Google's Italian public policy team told Catholic News Agency on Tuesday.

A group of Catholics say people will certainly know more after taking the Google catacomb tour: They say the catacombs hold evidence of ancient women priests.

"We are delighted that the Vatican has restored these frescoes of women priests celebrating Eucharist in the Catacomb of St. Priscilla's in Rome," Bridget Mary Meehan, a bishop ordained through the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

The frescoes in the Catacombs of Priscilla were recently restored, so the Google Street View images reveal paintings that look fresh and richly colored, even though they date back to the first few centuries. 

Moving virtually through the Catacombs of Priscilla's winding passageways, one can find not only the oldest known depiction of the Madonna and child, but also biblical scenes, including Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and paintings of Saints Peter and Paul.

Now that anyone can tour the catacombs and see these frescoes via Google, members of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests say they have let the media know they have written about and believe that two frescoes in the Catacombs of Priscilla provide evidence of an ancient tradition of women deacons, priests and even bishops.

Not all accept that assertion.

"This is an elaboration that has no foundation in reality," Barbara Mazzei of the Pontifical Commission on Sacred Archaeology told Reuters.

Meehan wrote an article in 2008, "There Have Always Been Women Priests," for the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. 

In the article, Meehan describes ancient frescoes, including two in the Catacombs of Priscilla, portraying what she says are women in liturgical roles and vestments.

The first Catacombs of Priscilla fresco Meehan mentions "depicts a woman deacon in the center vested in a dalmatic, her arms raised in the orans position for public worship."

In the same painting, Meehan says there is also "a woman being ordained a priest by a bishop seated in a chair. She is vested in an alb, chasuble, and amice, and holding a gospel scroll."

The third woman in the painting "is wearing the same robe as the bishop on the left and is sitting in the same type of chair," Meehan wrote.

In her article, Meehan also quotes archeologist and theologian Dorothy Irvin, who said she found another fresco in the Catacombs of Priscilla of women "conducting a Eucharistic banquet."

"This is a fairy tale, a legend," Fabrizio Bisconti, superintendent of religious heritage archeological sites owned by the Vatican, told Reuters. He said any talk of women in liturgical roles was "sensationalist and absolutely not reliable."

The Associated Press, however, wrote Tuesday that one of the Priscilla frescoes "features a group of women celebrating a banquet, said to be the banquet of the Eucharist," and the other "features a woman, dressed in a dalmatic -- a cassock-like robe -- with her hands up in the position used by priests for public worship."

Sr. Chris Schenk, founder of FutureChurch, has led pilgrimages to the Priscilla catacombs many times. She told NCR the Catacombs of Priscilla, compared to other catacombs she has visited, are woman-centered, a place where ancient women went to pray and where females are depicted in many frescoes.

Of the three-woman fresco, Schenk said, "You really can't say that the one woman is being ordained into the priesthood because what the priesthood meant in the second or first century was not very clear."

"It does appear that the woman is being celebrated, consecrated, blessed for some kind of leadership role," Schenk said.

The fresco of the women at the banquet is labeled by the Catacombs of Priscilla guidebook as "a banquet of the Holy Eucharist," Schenk said, whereas Bisconti told AP it was "a funeral banquet."

Schenk said funeral banquets were raucous affairs, and people depicted in those paintings were falling off their couches in drunkenness.

Instead, the women at this banquet "are serious-looking people. There are no toasting messages above them. You can see clearly the goblet, as well as the fish and the seven bread baskets, referring to the story of the loaves and fishes, which historically is a eucharistic motif," Schenk said.

She also told NCR ancient women were chastised by the church for leading early eucharistic banquets, so a depiction of one isn't "a fairy tale" like Bisconti said.

"I think we shouldn't be so critical, even if people are making speculative interpretations," Schenk said. "Everyone has bias."