AP reports he did have sexual relations with that woman: Get Religion, December 10, 2013 December 11, 2013Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Associated Press, Daily Mail, Legion of Christ, Thomas Williams
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“Can a bad person be a good theologian,” asked Mark Oppenheimer in the lede of an October column on the scandals surrounding John Howard Yoder. Should private failings overshadow public achievement?
This question has been asked of prominent figures ranging from T.S. Eliot to Bill Clinton to Mike Tyson. Is the aesthetic value of the Wasteland diminished by Eliot’s anti-Semitism, or the former president’s accomplishments wiped away by his claim he “did not have sexual relations with that woman”? Does biting Evander Holyfield’s ear or being convicted of rape undo sporting achievements? Will Pete Rose ever be inducted into the baseball hall of fame?
Religious leaders are held to a different standard, Oppenheimer wrote:
All of us fall short of our ideals, of course. But there is a common-sense expectation that religious professionals should try to behave as they counsel others to behave. They may not be perfect, but they should not be louts or jerks.
By that standard, few have failed as egregiously as John Howard Yoder, America’s most influential pacifist theologian. In his teaching at Notre Dame and elsewhere, and in books like “The Politics of Jesus,” published in 1972, Mr. Yoder, a Mennonite Christian, helped thousands formulate their opposition to violence. Yet, as he admitted before his death in 1997, he groped many women or pressured them to have physical contact, although never sexual intercourse.
Oppenheimer does not cast stones, but he pulls no punches in discussing Yoder’s flaws. He does not call him a hypocrite, but asks whether interpretations of his work should be colored by personal failings. This week MennoMedia, the publishing agency for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, announced it will add a disclaimer to new editions of Yoder’s books that speak to his history of sexual harassment and abuse.
These musings on celebrity right and wrong were prompted by an Associated Press article reporting on the marriage of a former Catholic priest who left the Legion of Christ under a cloud. The article begins:
Thomas Williams, the onetime public face of the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order who left the priesthood after admitting he fathered a child, is getting married this weekend to the child’s mother, The Associated Press has learned. The bride is the daughter of former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, one of Pope Francis’ top advisers.
The second paragraph notes Glendon’s position as President of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and names his wife to be — Elizabeth Lev. It then moves back to Williams.
Williams, a moral theologian, author, lecturer and U.S. television personality, admitted last year that he had fathered a child several years earlier. At the time, Williams apologized for “this grave transgression” against his vows of celibacy and said he had stayed on as a priest because he hoped to move beyond “this sin in my past” to do good work for the church. …
Towards the end of the article the Legion of Christ scandals are recounted and Williams’ fall from grace is placed against the order’s larger problems. The article closes on a curious note, however.
The Legion said the numbers indicate that less than 1 percent of the 1,133 priests ordained in the 72-year history of the order had been found guilty by a church trial of abuse, and less than 4 percent had been abused. A Legion spokesman said he didn’t know what the percentage was for the current number of Legion priests.
One percent of priests are abusers and four percent have been the subject of abuse? And what is the unknown percentage, abusers or victims? Should “abused” in the second clause of the first sentence be “accused”, or is the AP setting the two numbers against each other?
That technical point aside, my discomfort with this story comes in the middle of the piece when it shifts style, moving from reporting to commentary.
Asked for comment Thursday, Lev confirmed the wedding plans in an email, adding: “We have no intention of ever discussing our personal life in this forum.”
She had initially denied an intimate relationship with Williams, though they frequently appeared together in American circles in Rome, particularly with visiting U.S. student and Catholic tour groups.
Their wedding closes a circle of sorts, even as it raises some uncomfortable questions: Who beyond Williams’ superior in the church knew about the child while the couple tried to cover it up? Was Williams already in a relationship with Lev when she became a regular contributor to the magazine he published? And did the family ties to Williams influence Glendon in her defense of the Legion and its disgraced founder despite credible reports that the founder was a pedophile?
Who is asking these questions? And for that matter, why the move to the “‘enquiring‘ minds want to know style”? While asking out loud these questions may titillate some readers, to me they speak to the reporter’s frustration of not being able to get past the “no comment” email.
There is no balance to this article. By that I do not mean a “yes he did, no he didn’t” exchange, but an appreciation of Williams’ work as a moral theologian. Was he a clerical hack and hypocrite, or did he produce valuable work? The article does not ask nor answer this question — leaving it the level of a “moral theologian” who was caught engaging in immoral practices.
The degree of vehemence in this piece may lead one to suspect personal animus. Why else would the AP omit the news that their child has Downs syndrome. The Daily Mail, which takes great delight in exposing the foibles of naughty clergy, found time in its piece to applaud Williams for having done the right thing in marrying the mother of his disabled child.
Yet the story the AP has reported is true. Where then is the line between a harsh but fair report and a hatchet job?
In this instance the back story of the scandals at the Legion of Christ do have a place, as does Williams’ personal fall. Yet a complete story would tell us about human failing and redemption.
There is no context in this story, only anger. Not moral outrage at a priest failing in his vows, but a cartoonish depiction of one man’s fall. There is no humanity, no decency in the tone and presentation of this story. It is a hatchet job.
First published in Get Religion
Viva la Eurorévolution: Get Religion, December 3, 2013 December 3, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Ukrainian Orthodox (Kiev Patriarchate), Ukrainian Orthodox (Moscow Patriarchate).
Tags: Guardian, Le Monde, Reuters, Ukraine
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The events unfolding across the Ukraine — protests against the government’s move away from Europe towards Russia — are not faith stories as defined by editorial desks in London and New York, but the clash of nationalism and politics in Eastern Europe cannot be understood without reference to religion.
The Guardian‘s reporter in Kiev has described the scene on Monday morning:
Throngs of anti-government protesters remained in control of parts of central Kiev on Monday morning, as police kept their distance and Viktor Yanukovych’s government pondered its next move. After huge protests on Sunday, during which several hundred thousand people took to the streets of Kiev to call for the president’s removal, protesters erected makeshift barricades around Independence Square – the hub of the 2004 Orange Revolution. Nearby, the main City Hall building was taken over by protesters without police resistance on Sunday evening.
Many of the windows were smashed and “Revolution HQ” was daubed in black paint on its stone Stalinist facade. Inside, hundreds of people milled around receiving refreshments; many who had travelled from the regions to Kiev were sleeping on the floor.
The independent Eastern European press has characterized the street protests as a revolution. Lviv’s Vissoki Zamok, stated that nine years after the Orange Revolution, “the Eurorevolution” was underway.
It is symbolic that on December 1, the anniversary of the referendum in favor of independence that took place 22 years ago, Ukraine was once again the theater of mass demonstrations in support of its sovereignty, the rights of its citizens and its European future.
Why is this happening? Protestors have taken to the streets to denounce President Viktor Yanukovych for refusing to sign an association and free-trade agreement with the European Union at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on November 29.
In a front page above-the-fold editorial on Monday the Parisian daily Le Monde stated:
Demonstrations of love for the European Union are sufficiently rare these days for them to be rather arresting. Absorbed by the debt crisis, the struggle for more growth and lower unemployment, the rise of populism and the management of its enlargement, the union has forgotten that it retains a formidable power of attraction. For people who do not benefit from the rule of law, Europe symbolizes the hope for freedom, democracy, and modernity.
This is the message sent to us by tens of thousands of Ukrainians who have been gathering day after day to protest on the squares of Kiev and the other cities of the country.
Reading Le Monde‘s editorial and related news coverage one might think les citoyens of Kiev were linked arm in arm marching to the seats of power singing La Marseillaise. But an American might well ask why a trade treaty would spark such an uproar. What is going on here?
It is in the secondary stories that we see glimpses of the religion ghosts. Reuters reports that when attacked by riot police, some protestors took refuge in an Orthodox cathedral and barricaded themselves inside a monastery.
Around 100 Ukrainian pro-EU protesters took refuge from police batons and biting cold on Saturday inside the walls of a central Kiev monastery. With a barricade of benches pushed up against a gate to keep police out, protesters – who had rallied against President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to reject a pact with the European Union – checked their wounds in the pre-dawn light.
Some attended a 6 a.m. service in the lilac and gold St. Michael’s Cathedral on the monastery grounds after which a group of bearded, black-robed monks approached protesters to hear of their encounters with police and urge them not to seek revenge. “They gave us tea to warm us up, told us to keep our spirits strong and told us not to fight evil with evil,” said Roman Tsado, 25, a native of Kiev, who said police beat him on his legs as they cleared the pro-EU rally.
Further down in the story Reuters tells us what sort of church it was that gave shelter to the protestors.
The Ukrainian Orthodox cathedral, where the faithful light candles before gilded icons of saints, was destroyed during the religious purges of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and rebuilt after independence.
What Reuters neglects to mention is which Ukrainian Orthodox church belongs to. St Michael’s belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchate — not the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate.
What of it you might well ask. There are three principal churches in the Ukraine. One under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church, or Moscow Patriarchate; an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church or the Kiev Patriarchate; and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
And the three churches have taken differing stands on the protests, with the Kiev Patriarchate and the Greek Catholics backing the country’s realignment towards Europe, while the Moscow Patriarchate backs the president’s alignment with Vladimir Putin’s regime in Moscow.
Speaking at the Heritage Foundation in Washington last month Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate) was reported to have said:
[T]he Ukrainian Churches would benefit from an Association Agreement. For one thing, it would place the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) in a new situation. With Ukraine committed to Europe and continued independence, that Church would have to decide which side it was on – that of Russia, or that of the Ukrainian people. By siding with Russia, the UOC-MP would assume the role of a fifth column for a hostile state. If, on the other hand, it sided with the Ukrainians, it would be obligated to unite with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) into a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church, independent of Moscow.
Statements released by the three churches in the wake of the uprising illustrate these religio-political calculations. The Kiev Patriarchate and the Greek Catholic Church have lent their support to the demonstrations — and as Reuters reports opened its churches to protestors as a safe haven from the police. The Moscow Patriarchate in Kiev has backed President Yanukovich — and its call for calm echoes the president’s public statements to date.
By raising these religion points, I am not stating the Eurorevolution is being driven by religion. I am arguing that a well rounded news report should touch upon the religion angles in this story — provide the context for a Western reader to understand. Not all of the protestors are motivated by religious fervor — but religion lies close below the surface of national politics east of the Oder and a good reporter should relate this information to his readers.
First printed in Get Religion
Ban on divorced/remarried Catholics from receiving Communion reaffirmed: The Church of England Newspaper, November 22, 2013 November 25, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Marriage, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau, Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Robert Zollitsch
Divorced and remarried Roman Catholics may not receive Holy Communion, the Vatican has told the German Catholic church.
In letter dated Oct 21, 2013, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller directed the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau to retract its pastoral guidelines that permitted priests to “respect” the wishes of divorced and remarried Catholics who chose to receive the Sacraments.
The new policy introduced following the retirement of Archbishop Robert Zollitsch on 17 September 2013, said if divorced and remarried Catholics had made a “responsible moral decision” to receive Communion, their consciences should be respected.
The new policy was contrary to church teaching and “would cause confusion among the faithful about the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage,” Archbishop Müller wrote in his letter, published in the German Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost on Nov 11, 2013.
However, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, told Die Tagespost Archbishop Müller’s letter was not the final word.
“The prefect of the Congregation cannot end the discussion,” Cardinal Marx said. “We will see that this is discussed further, but with what result, I do not know.”
St Peter’s relics to be placed on public display by the Vatican: Church of England Newspapaer, November 15, 2013 November 14, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: St Peter, Year of Faith
The Vatican will mark the conclusion of the “Year of Faith” with the first public exhibition of the the relics of St. Peter, the Apostle and first Bishop of Rome.
On 8 November 2013 Msgr. Rino Fisichella, president for the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, announced in an editorial published in the semi-official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano St. Peter’s relics will be removed from their grotto and placed on display to mark the close of the Year of Faith on 24 November.
The editorial did not offer further details, but announced the Year of Faith – a major evangelization initiative for the Roman Catholic Church – will conclude on Sunday the 24th with Pope Francis celebrating the Eucharist in St Peter’s Square.
The Boys from Buenos Aires?: Get Religion, November 14, 2013 November 14, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Judaism, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: anti-Semitism, Society of St Pius X, The Boys from Brazil
What is an ultra-conservative Catholic? A member of the Society of St Pius X? A faithful Sunday communicant? A Trappist monk? Or is it someone whose name appears on the subscription lists of both My Daily Visitor and The National Review?
There is nothing improper, from the perspective of good journalism, in describing someone as an ultra-conservative Catholic — newspapers make editorial assertions in their headlines and ledes all the time. It is what draws the reader into the story.
However, the main body of the story should define what the reporter means when labeling someone as an ultra-conservative Catholic. A report Tuesday in the Buenos Aires daily Clarín on disturbances at the city’s Roman Catholic cathedral illustrates the need to be precise with language and labels.
In an article entitled “Incidentes en la Catedral: un grupo ultracatólico quiso impedir un acto por el Holocausto judío”, a group of young people attempted to disrupt a service commemorating the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht — the night in 1938 when the Nazis burned destroyed hundreds of synagogues and thousands of Jewish owned shops throughout Germany, arresting tens of thousands of Jews. The “night of broken glass” presaged what was to come in 1942 — the Holocaust.
Un grupo ultraconservador católico trató de impedir esta noche, a los gritos y con insultos, una ceremonia ecuménica en la Catedral metropolitana al cumplirse el 75º aniversario de la “Noche de los cristales rotos”, considerada el inicio del Holocausto judío perpetrado por el nazismo.
A group ultraconservative Catholic tonight tried to stop with shouts and insults, an ecumenical ceremony in the Metropolitan Cathedral to mark the 75th anniversary of the “Night of Broken Glass”, considered the beginning of the Jewish Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis.
Let’s start with the basics. Who: ultra-conservative Catholics; What: disrupted Kristallnacht ceremony; Where: Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral; When: Nov. 11, 2013, Why: That we do not know yet.
The story continues:
Según contaron testigos del episodio a la agencia oficial Télam, cuando el arzobispo de Buenos Aires, Mario Poli, intentó comenzar la liturgia de conmemoración, un grupo de feligreses se puso de pie y comenzó a rezar a los gritos para impedir el desarrollo de la ceremonia.
According to eyewitness testimony gathered by the official Télam news agency, when the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Mario Poli, tried to start the memorial service, a group of worshipers stood and began to pray and cry out in an attempt to stop the ceremony.
Los manifestantes también repartieron volantes con las leyendas “Fuera adoradores de dioses falsos del templo santo” y “Los pastores que llevan a los hombres a confundir el Dios verdadero con dioses falsos son lobos”.
The protesters also handed out fliers with the motto “Not worshipers of false gods holy temple” and “Pastors who lead men to confuse the true God with false gods are wolves”.
El accionar intolerante del grupo, compuesto en su mayoría por jóvenes, generó de inmediato el repudio de las autoridades diplomáticas, funcionarios y representantes de la comunidad judía presentes en la Catedral, así como de miembros de organizaciones de derechos humanos y de los credos cristianos.
The intolerant actions of the group, composed mostly of young people, were immediately repudiated by diplomats, civil servants and representatives of the Jewish community in the Cathedral, as well as by members of human rights organizations and Christian denominations.
The article continues with an account of the archbishop’s reaction to the protest, the content of the service, and background on Kristallnacht. What we do not learn is who these protesters were and why they did it.
The only description given is that they were ultra-conservative Catholics. May we assume these are members of the SSPX? Their anger appears not to be racial but theological. Their protests, as evidenced by the content of their banners as reported by Clarín and in their chants shown in the video above indicate they were opposed to the participation of Jews in worship held in a Catholic Church — not in Jews being Jews, per se. (As if that were an excuse.) Leaders of the SSPX have made the news in recent years through outbursts of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
But what if were not the SSPX but Roman Catholics giving voice to views once propounded by the inquisition? Suspicion and hatred of conversos or Marranos? (Descendants of Jews who had converted to Christianity but suspected of secret adherence to Judaism.)
Or, are the fair skinned and some light haired youthful protestors (Argentinians of European descent) pictured in the video Dr. Mengele’s children? Descendants of Nazi exiles to Argentina who have come out in the open? Preposterous as this sounds, if I were the editor of a British red top tabloid I would go with that explanation. Hitler and Nazis are tabloid gold in Britain.
If you are curious about this story, the Associated Press added this titbit:
The Rev. Christian Bouchacourt, the South America leader of the Society of Saint Pius X, said Wednesday that the protesters belong to his organization and that they have a right to feel outraged when rabbis preside over a ceremony in a cathedral. “I recognize the authority of the pope, but he is not infallible and in this case, does things we cannot accept,” Bouchacourt said in an interview with Radio La Red.
“This wasn’t a desire to make a rebellion, but to show our love to the Catholic Church, which was made for the Catholic faith,” Bouchacourt added. “A Mass isn’t celebrated in a synagogue, nor in a mosque. The Muslims don’t accept it. In the same way, we who are Catholics cannot accept the presence of another faith in our church.”
Would not this information been helpful — in fact necessary — for a reader to understand what was happening with this story? Using the catch all phrase “ultra-conservative” to describe what sort of Catholics were protesting tells the reader nothing.
First printed in Get Religion.
Catholic call to support the ordinariate: The Church of England Newspaper, September 27, 2013 October 15, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Keith Newton, Vincent Nichols
The Archbishop of Westminster has written a pastoral letter to English and Welsh Roman Catholics celebrating the “beauty” of Britain’s Anglican heritage and urging their support for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
In his letter of 22 September 2013, Archbishop Vincent Nichols stated: “The ordinariate is the canonical structure set up in 2011 as the result of a generous initiative of Pope Benedict XVI. Under this structure, Anglicans who wish to enter the full communion of the Catholic Church, bringing with them some of the traditions and beauty of the Anglican heritage in which they were nurtured, may do so.”
He urged Catholics to “welcome and support the clergy and faithful” of the Ordinariate “both for the part they play in the life and mission of the Catholic Church in this country and for the particular gifts they bring which add to our rich diversity.”
He also commended a second letter prepared by former Anglican bishop, Mgr. Keith Newton, the head of the ordinariate in England and Wales. It was “a small step towards healing one of the most damaging wounds of our history: the dividing of Christ’s Body, the Church in this land.”
The ordinariate had been an answer to prayer for some former Anglicans, but it had had a rough start.
“The ordinariate was a personal fulfilment of those prayers. It has been an incredible and uplifting journey for us all, full of grace, joy and blessings. Of course, we have experienced hardship and sacrifice as well. For many, especially those of our priests who are married with families, there has been great financial uncertainty; for us all it has meant leaving friends and familiar places of worship in the Church of England. We ask for your encouragement, your support and your prayers.”
Was Seamus Heaney a Catholic poet?: Get Religion, August 31, 2013 September 1, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Ireland, New York Times, poetry, Seamus Heaney
Religion’s never mentioned here,’ of course.
‘You know them by their eyes,’ and hold your tongue.
‘One side’s as bad as the other,’ never worse.
Christ, it’s near time that some small leak was sprung
In the great dykes the Dutchman made
To dam the dangerous tide that followed Seamus.
Yet for all this art and sedentary trade
I am incapable.
So begins Section III of Seamus Heaney’s “Whatever You Say Say Nothing”, found in his 1975 collection of poems North. In a 2000-word 30 Aug 2013obituary entitled “Seamus Heaney, Irish Poet of Soil and Strife, Dies at 74″, The New York Times offered an appraisal of his life and work, noting that:
In 1995, he became the fourth Irishman to win the Nobel in literature, following Yeats, who received it in 1923; George Bernard Shaw (1925); and Samuel Beckett (1969).
In describing Heaney’s place within literature, The Times obituary makes repeated reference to the poet’s Catholic identity and the religious language found in his work.
A Roman Catholic native of Northern Ireland, Mr. Heaney was renowned for work that powerfully evoked the beauty and blood that together have come to define the modern Irish condition. … Throughout his work, Mr. Heaney was consumed with morality. In his hands, a peat bog is not merely an emblematic feature of the Irish landscape; it is also a spiritual quagmire, evoking the deep ethical conundrums that have long pervaded the place. … Mr. Heaney was enraptured, as he once put it, by “words as bearers of history and mystery.” His poetry, which had an epiphanic quality, was suffused with references to pre-Christian myth — Celtic, of course, but also that of ancient Greece. His style, linguistically dazzling, was nonetheless lacking in the obscurity that can attend poetic pyrotechnics.
The obituary also notes Heaney’s close identification with Catholic Ireland.
Mr. Heaney was deeply self-identified as Irish, and much of his work overtly concerned the Troubles, as the long, violent sectarian conflict in late-20th-century Northern Ireland is known. But though he condemned British dominion in his homeland (he wrote: “Be advised, my passport’s green/No glass of ours was ever raised/To toast the Queen”), Mr. Heaney refused to disown British tradition — and especially British literature — altogether.
The Times also quotes a passage from his 1974 lecture, “Feeling into Words to describe his love of language, rhyme and alliteration.
“Maybe it was stirred by the beautiful sprung rhythms of the old BBC weather forecast: Dogger, Rockall, Malin, Shetland, Faroes, Finisterre; or with the gorgeous and inane phraseology of the catechism; or with the litany of the Blessed Virgin that was part of the enforced poetry in our household: Tower of Gold, Ark of the Covenant, Gate of Heaven, Morning Star, Health of the Sick, Refuge of Sinners, Comforter of the Afflicted.”
Does all this make Seamus Heaney a Catholic poet? While his work has long been associated with Catholicism, is this a sociological or religious description? There is no doubt that Heaney is a Catholic poet in a sociological sense. Writing in The Listener in 1975, Conor Cruise O’Brien argued that in North, Heaney was giving voice to a tribal Catholicism. It was “the tragedy of a people in a place: the Catholics of Northern Ireland.” While critic Edna Longley stated Heaney’s North concentrated on the “Catholic psyche as bound to immolation, and within that immolation, to savage tribal loyalties.”
Was Heaney’s Catholicism merely communal? An accident of his Northern Irish nationalist Catholic birth? Or was it informed by belief in the tenets of the Catholic faith? As a young man, Heaney spoke of his work as a “slow obstinate Papish burn’, but by 2002 he said that his Catholicism was more of a “‘sociological term than anything else.” In the 2002 book, In the Chair: Interviews with Poets from Northern Ireland (p 83) Heaney said:
‘Papish burn’, I’m sorry to say, caves in to that same old clichéd idiom. It doesn’t help. It’s not further language. Catholic is less conniving than Papish, but if you describe yourself as a Catholic in the North, it can still sound like a defiance or a provocation. In certain circles in the South, it might even be taken to mean that deep down you are unrepentant about child abuse by priests and not altogether against corporal punishment in orphanages. I exaggerate, I know, but only in order to emphasize the way the common mind tends to react when faced with the fact of religion and religious practice and religious value.
Which takes me back to The New York Times obituary. In what sense can Heaney be called a Catholic poet? He certainly was an Irish Catholic poet — in terms of sectarian identity. But should the sociological label — the ideological stance of nationalist and Catholic over against Protestant and loyalist — be applied to his faith life? I expect that in years to come academic monographs and dissertations will examine these questions, and I offer no dogmatic assertion that he was or was not a Catholic poet. Yet should not a newspaper be careful on this point — conflating ideology with faith?
Was The Times correct in leading its description of Heaney as “A Roman Catholic native of Northern Ireland” without inquiring into the content of his religious beliefs?
Or does the use of Catholic image, language and symbolism in his poetry enough to make him Catholic? Can we call him a Catholic poet though “Religion’s never mentioned here,” of course.
First printed in Get Religion.
Tags: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, New York Times, Timothy Dolan
”The question is, should this indictment have ever been brought? Which office do I go to to get my reputation back? Who will reimburse my company for the economic jail it has been in for two and a half years?”
So said former Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan to The New York Times following his acquittal on state charges of fraud and theft in 1987. Accused by the Bronx DA of attempting to defraud the New York City Transit Authority of $7.4 million on a subway construction project in the late 70′s, before he entered the Reagan Administration, Donovan and his co-defendants were found not guilty on all charges — with one jury telling the Times she believed the prosecution was politically motivated. While rejoicing in the not guilty verdict after his two year ordeal, Donovan lamented that it was not fair that the news of his being a decent man would receive far less publicity than the accusation he was a criminal.
What should a newspaper do in this situation? How can it restore the reputations of those falsely accused? Human nature being what it is, the news of an evil man is far more interesting than that of a good one. Critics often accuse newspapers of printing only bad news — senior church leaders upbraid me from time to time for focusing on scandal, corruption and hypocrisy and downplaying the good works performed by church. It does little good to respond that I dutifully report on the good news, but no one reads it. Stories of church sponsored campaigns to stop child marriage in Africa or of female genital mutilation, for example, are read by only a few, while a naughty vicar story is good for tens of thousands of hits, while an Al Gore in bed with the Church of England will get picked up by Drudge and crash the servers.
In the Donovan case The New York Times acted properly and professionally according to the dictates of the craft. They reported without bias, cant or agenda. To have done more would have been special pleading, engaging in propaganda to sway public opinion to think as our masters tell us.
What then should we make of The Times coverage of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee abuse lawsuit? On 1 July 2013 The Times printed a story entitled “Dolan Sought to Protect Church Assets, Files Show”. This was followed on 3 July 2013 with an editorial entitled “Cardinal Dolan and the Sexual Abuse Scandal” and a 6 July op-ed piece by Frank Bruni entitled “The Church’s Errant Shepherds”. Apart from a correction on 16 July The Times does not appear to have followed up on the story.
Which is curious as the first article starts off with a bang.
Files released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Monday reveal that in 2007, Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan, then the archbishop there, requested permission from the Vatican to move nearly $57 million into a cemetery trust fund to protect the assets from victims of clergy sexual abuse who were demanding compensation.
Cardinal Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, has emphatically denied seeking to shield church funds as the archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009. He reiterated in a statement Monday that these were “old and discredited attacks.”
However, the files contain a 2007 letter to the Vatican in which he explains that by transferring the assets, “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” The Vatican approved the request in five weeks, the files show.
The article continues in this vein, proffering evidence and arguments that while Archbishop of Milwaukee, Cardinal Dolan acted disreputably by moving church assets out of the reach of creditors. The Times editorial doubled-down on this assertion writing:
Tragic as the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church has been, it is shocking to discover that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, while archbishop of Milwaukee, moved $57 million off the archdiocesan books into a cemetery trust fund six years ago in order to protect the money from damage suits by victims of abuse by priests.
While not labeling him a crook, the editorial board was quite clear in its opinion the archbishop had engaged in shady dealings and had not lived up to the high moral standard The Times expected of the Cardinal Archbishop of New York. The censure of the op-ed pales in comparison to the rage that seethes through Frank Bruni’s piece. The underlying acts of abuse were bad enough, but the institution’s response has been worse.
I mean the evil that an entire institution can do, though it supposedly dedicates itself to good.
I mean the way that a religious organization can behave almost precisely as a corporation does, with fudged words, twisted logic and a transcendent instinct for self-protection that frequently trump the principled handling of a specific grievance or a particular victim.
However, Bruni’s column is a column. A reader may agree with his sentiments or find them unhinged. They are written to provide entertainment based on current events — they are not reporting in and of themselves. The Times‘ op-ed piece is also only the opinion of the editorial board. One either agrees with its sentiments or does not. The underlying news stories however, are what makes or breaks the newspaper’s reputation for reporting. And here the paper disappoints.
On 30 July the Associated Press and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that a Federal District Court had ruled that Cardinal Dolan and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee had acted properly — and morally — by shielding cemetery funds from creditors. The Journal Sentinel story entitled “In win for Milwaukee Archdiocese, judge shields cemetery funds from creditors” reported:
In a decision that could have far-reaching implications for religious institutions around the country,a federal judge has ruled against forcing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to tap its cemetery funds to pay sex abuse claims in its bankruptcy.
In issuing the ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa said including the funds would violate free exercise of religion under the First Amendment and a 1993 law aimed at protecting religious freedom. Randa cited the Catholic belief in the resurrection, which teaches that the body ultimately reunites with the soul, and the role of Catholic cemeteries in the exercise of that belief under canon law.
“The sacred nature of Catholic cemeteries — and compliance with the church’s historical and religious traditions and mandates requiring their perpetual care — are understood as a fundamental exercise of this core belief,” said Randa in overturning an earlier decision by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley.
Yet there has been nothing from The New York Times on this issue. When the ruling was handed down, I expected to see something. Perhaps another angry Bruni jeremiad on the courts protecting an evil institution, tut-tutting from the editorial board — but nothing. Perhaps it being August the staff are on holiday and no one was about to write this piece. Yet The Times has an AP subscription and could have run the wire service story.
What message is The New York Times sending by not reporting the court verdict, which as the Journal Sentinel story points out, stressed the judge’s decision that what Cardinal Dolan did was not only lawful, but was a moral act based upon the Catholic Church’s doctrines. Is The Times motivated by animus towards the Roman Catholic Church? Does it hate Cardinal Dolan?
I doubt the newspaper has a grudge against the archbishop. Life’s events are more often motivated by mistake and omission than deliberate aggression. Nevertheless, this does episode does not do credit to The New York Times.
Caveat: The New York Times may have reported this decision — if so, I have not seen it, nor been able to find it on their website. Times image courtesy of Shutterstock.
First printed in Get Religion.
Tags: Alexander Lukashenka, Belarus, New York Times, Patriarch Cyril, Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, Vladimir Putin
I would like to draw your attention to a 28 July 2013 piece in the New York Times entitled “Putin in Ukraine to Celebrate a Christian Anniversary”. The article reports on the interplay of religion, politics and culture in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Yet the mention of religion in a story does not necessarily mean the reporter “gets religion.”
The article opens by focusing on what the Times sees as the political significance of the event, and then moves to an appreciation of the interplay of religion with politics.
MOSCOW — In an apparent attempt to use shared history to make a case for closer ties, President Vladimir V. Putin attended religious ceremonies in the Ukrainian capital on Saturday to commemorate the 1,025th anniversary of events that brought Christianity to Ukraine and Russia. At a reception in Kiev, the capital, Mr. Putin spoke of the primacy of the two countries’ spiritual and historical bonds, regardless of political decisions that often divide them. Relations have been rocky in part because of attempts by Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, to formalize its political and economic ties with the European Union.
“We are all spiritual heirs of what happened here 1,025 years ago,” Mr. Putin told church hierarchs at the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev, one of the holiest sites of Orthodoxy, according to the RIA Novosti news agency. “And in this sense we are, without a doubt, one people.”
Mr. Putin’s trip was also the latest sign of the deepening ties and common agenda of the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church. The events last week commemorated Prince Vladimir of Kiev’s decision to convert to Christianity and baptize his subjects in 988, an event known as the Baptism of Rus, … The attention has also lent apparent endorsement to church criticism of Western democracy and secular culture, particularly homosexuality….
Patriarch Kirill invoked the concept of the Holy Rus, referring to Russia, Ukraine and Belarus as a unified spiritual expanse united under the faith. … The patriarch has sought to unify the faithful with warnings of the encroachment of secular values. He recently warned that legislative efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Europe posed a grave threat to Russia.
The article then looks at the church’s illiberal teachings, pulling quotes from Cyril made outside the Kiev celebrations.
The patriarch has sought to unify the faithful with warnings of the encroachment of secular values. He recently warned that legislative efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Europe posed a grave threat to Russia.
“This is a very dangerous apocalyptic symptom, and we must do everything so that sin is never validated by the laws of the state in the lands of Holy Rus, because this would mean that the people are starting on the path of self-destruction,” he said at a Moscow cathedral, according to the Web site of the Moscow Patriarchate. He previously said that such “blasphemous laws” could prove as dangerous to believers as the executioners of the Great Terror during the government of Stalin.
Before I move to an analysis of the distortions to the story caused by the particular worldview of the Times, let me say a word about nomenclature beginning with names. The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is called Kirill in this article and in other outlets is named Kyrill and Cyril. They are all the same name, but coming as I do out of an older style of journalism that anglicizes everything because that is how God intended it to be, I use Cyril — just as I call the pope Francis. And some regions of the world and nations are prefaced by “the” — the Sahara, the Arctic, the Sudan, the Ukraine — less frequently the Lebanon and the Yemen. I am not making a political statement when I call the host nation “the Ukraine”, implying it is a region rather than a nation state, or a mystical idealized place like la France of Charles de Gaulle, rather it is the style in which I was educated. That having been said …
The word “apparent” in the first line is problematic. It begs the question “apparent to whom?” The Times states this is Putin’s political goal and offers extracts from his speeches to illustrate this point, but spends little time in offering other views.
I am not saying the Times was incorrect in stating the trip for Putin was an opportunity to bring the Ukraine closer to Moscow. This theme was noted in the Russian press also. Moskovsky Komsomolets a Moscow-based daily with a circulation of approximately one million, called Putin’s Ukrainian visit “the second baptism of the Rus”, implying shared spiritual values make Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians “one people”.
The official text of Putin’s 27 July 2013 speech Putin makes this point clear.
The Baptism of Rus was a great event that defined Russia’s and Ukraine’s spiritual and cultural development for the centuries to come. We must remember this brotherhood and preserve our ancestors’ traditions. Together, they built a unique system of Orthodox values and strengthened themselves in their faith …
Putin then moves from spiritual unity to national economic solidarity, arguing the Ukraine’s strategic choice lies with the Eurasian and not the European integration project.
Competition on the global markets is very fierce today. Only by joining forces we can be competitive and stand a chance of winning in this tough environment. We have every reason too, to be confident that we should and can achieve this.
The stress placed on this point by the Times is not misplaced, but it is unbalanced. We are hearing only Putin and Cyril in this story — and what the New York Times thinks about them.
The article does not contrast Putin’s vision to the Ukrainian premier Viktor Yanukovych’s administration’s goal of Kiev assuming a leadership role in bringing not only the Ukraine, but also Russia and Belarus closer to Europe. It may well be the Moscow-based reporter’s job to write all-Putin all the time stories, yet the article’s emphasis on Putin clouds the issue.
The content of Putin’s speech is news as is the fact of the celebration of the anniversary of the Baptism of the East Slavs, but the significant event from a political and religious perspective is the boycott of the proceedings by the Premier of Belarus — a fact mentioned only by the omission of his name from the heads of state list given by the Times.
In other words, it is not new news the Russian Orthodox Church believes nationality, or Russianness is born from Orthodoxy. Nor is it news the Orthodox Church is opposed to gay marriage. Nor is it news that Putin is seeking to pull Kiev into Moscow’s orbit. Nor is the Times‘ comments about the rapprochement between church and state new news. Putin has been moving the state closer to the church for over a decade — and as the article states Putin revealed he had been baptized as an infant in the Leningrad during the Stalinist era. By focusing on the familiar — of how the ceremony relates to Putin, the Times missed in its coverage is the significance of the boycott of the ceremony by the Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenka.
Bishops downplay Palestinian terrorism in Middle East Statement: Anglican Ink, August 1, 2013 August 1, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Church of England, Israel, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Declan Lang, Michael Langrish
The Bishop of Exeter and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Clifton met last week with Israel’s Ambassador to the UK to share the churches’ concern over the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
In a statement released on 25 July 2013 that downplayed Israeli security concerns in the face of Palestinian terror attacks, the Rt. Rev Michael Langrish, the Church of England’s lead bishop on the Middle East Peace Process and the Rt Rev Declan Lang, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales department for international affairs, said in their meeting with Ambassador Daniel Taub they “discussed the grave problems confronting the peoples of the Holy Land, including the rise of extremism, settlement building and the impact of the separation barrier on communities.”
Read it all in Anglican Ink.
Anglican Unscripted Episode 77: July 31, 2013 July 31, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, Anglican.TV, Archbishop of Canterbury, Property Litigation, Roman Catholic Church, South Carolina.
Tags: Forward in Faith, Justin Welby, Pope Francis
Anglican Unscripted is the only video newscast in the Anglican Church. Every Week Kevin, George, Allan and Peter bring you news and prospective from around the globe.
Tags: Guardian, indulgences
The Guardian, the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory and the editorial board of the New York Times were the targets of my wit on Thursday’s Get Religion podcast. Crossroads host Todd Wilkens and I discussed the media coverage of the Vatican’s announcement that those who followed Pope Francis’ tweets from the World Youth Day celebrations in Brazil would be granted an indulgence.
My colleague Mollie Hemingway looked at this topic last week in a post entitled “Media: Pope says retweets spring the soul!” that focused on the Telegraph. Mollie seemed to be having so much fun with the topic that Todd and I decided to join the party and focus on the Guardian story “Vatican offers ‘time off purgatory’ to followers of Pope Francis tweets”. The subtitle was even better: “Papal court handling pardons for sins says contrite Catholics may win ‘indulgences’ by following World Youth Day on Twitter”.
Todd opened the program by asking my expectations and reactions to the story. I responded that the Guardian story was “wonderfully awful”. It played into the anti-Catholic animus that resides just below the surface of English life and would elicit a visceral response from some readers — the liberal secularist left would find comfort in reading about the latest foolishness from those enamored with sky pixies. The Little Englanders (who don’t normally take the Guardian as they place their full faith and credit in the Daily Mail) would respond with two words: “bloody papists”.
While the tone of the article was problematic, it was not in error. The Guardian did not make the mistake of conflating absolution and indulgences: forgiveness for sin over against the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin. But the article could have provided context, offering examples of indulgences granted for Bible reading, praying the rosary or adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
And, good Protestant that I am, I offered my view that indulgences were nonsense. And admitted to a liking for ridicule — stating this was part of my repertoire in reporting on Anglican affairs.
But in this instance, if you did not believe in Purgatory, indulgences could have no theological meaning. The disdain that was so close to the surface of the Guardian article, and animated my off the cuff remarks, had its roots in one of the significant divisions between Protestants and Catholics, Todd (a Lutheran) and I (an Episcopalian) observed.
Yet the misreporting of this story chronicled by Mollie Hemingway also had its roots in the lack of knowledge or interest in religion found in news rooms. I told Todd:
I would not be quick to say there is a vast left-wing conspiracy out there to smack down the Catholic Church. Where I think it comes from is an inveterate hostility found in 99% of news rooms against the Christian religion, against organized Christianity. You are going to find the greatest concentration atheists not in the Soviet Politburo but in the editorial offices of the New York Times. Their coverage is filtered through that worldview. So they don’t understand what is going on. They don’t understand the attraction of faith. They don’t understand the mystery of faith and frankly ridicule is the easy way out.
While the Politburo reference dates me — I believe this quip holds true.
Read it all in Get Religion.
CoE scholar awarded 2013 Ratzinger Prize: The Church of England Newspaper, June 30, 2013 p 6 July 2, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation, Richard Burridg
A Church of England clergyman is the first non-Roman Catholic to be awarded the Ratzinger Prize by the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation. On 21 June 2013 Vatican Information Service announced that the Rev. Dr. Richard Burridge, dean of King’s College London and Prof. Christian Schaller of Regensburg were this year’s winners.
Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the Foundation’s academic committee, stated Dr. Burridge “is definitely an eminent figure in the field of Biblical studies and not only of the English language. In particular, he has made a great contribution in that decisive area of the historical and theological recognition of the Gospels’ inseparable connection to Jesus of Nazareth.”
Prof. Schaller, deputy director of the Pope Benedict XVI Institute of Regensburg was honored “not only for his contribution to theological studies but also in recognition of the role he is carrying out in the publication of Joseph Ratzinger’s complete works.”
“The Foundation’s aim is to place the question of God at the heart of academic reflection,” according to the VIS report. “Its two principal activities are awarding scholarships to those pursuing doctorates in Theology and organizing conferences of high academic standard.” This year’s conference sponsored by the foundation will be held at the Pontifical Lateran University in October and will be titled, “The Gospels: History and Christology.”
Ghosts of Volhynia: Get Religion, June 30, 2013 July 1, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Ukrainian Orthodox (Kiev Patriarchate), Ukrainian Orthodox (Moscow Patriarchate).
Tags: Poland, Ukraine, Volhynia
L’Italia è fatta. Restano da fare gli italiani. … We have made Italy. Now we must make Italians.
Massimo d’Azeglio, Memoirs (1867).
When the Kingdom of Savoy created the modern Italian state in 1861, it also began the work of creating an Italian identity. Not since the fall of the Roman Empire had the whole peninsula been ruled as a single state — and its inhabitants saw themselves as Milanese, Neapolitans, Romans, Tuscans and so forth. It took a world war and Mussolini to solidify an Italian identity.
National identity has not been a problem East of the Danube. A Pole has long identified himself as a Pole. While there may be regional dialects and traditional customs, a Pole knew what he was not — a German or Ukrainian or Lithuanian or Russian or a Jew.
The Twentieth century was not kind to this corner of the world crushed between Hitler and Stalin. The Jews are gone — killed by the Nazis. The Germans are gone — driven West at the close of the Second World War — and the borderlands emptied of Poles, pushed West into former German lands by the Russians. This bloody history returned to center stage this weekend when Polish and Ukrainian church leaders issued a joint statement of apology and forgiveness commemorating the 1943-47 massacres in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia.
A comparison of the reporting from Warsaw and Kiev on this issue indicates the passions of the past remain alive. Religion and nationalism remain intertwined in the conscience of Eastern Europe. And, like the dog in the night, this story is all the more significant because of who is not barking — Moscow.
On 28 June 2013 the front page of Warsaw’s Gazeta Wyborcza reported that the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, had traveled to Warsaw to seek forgiveness from:
every Polish family who lost relatives from the hands of my compatriots.
Archbishop Józef Michalik of Przemysl, the President of the Polish Episcopal Conference, was quoted by the Warsaw daily as saying in response, the Ukrainian statement was a:
a sign of sound and brave patriotism, free of nationalist or backward thinking.
Radio Poland provided some background:
The appeal accompanies the 70th anniversary of the Volhynia massacres, which took place in a Nazi-occupied region that had been divided between Poland and the Soviet Union prior to the Second World War. After sporadic killings, a concerted action was launched on 11 July 1943, and from 1943 to 1945, it is estimated that 100,000 ethnic Poles were killed in the Volhynia area. Units of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), a guerilla force of Ukrainian nationalists, carried out the actions.
“We are aware that only the truth can set us free, the truth, which does not beautify and does not omit, which does not pass over in silence, but leads to forgiveness,” today’s statement reads.
Besides citing “the evil” that was done against ethnic Poles, the resolution also refers to Polish counter-attacks, and the partisan war that unfolded. It is estimated that about 2000-3000 Ukrainians were killed in Volhynia, and about 20,000 more when the fighting spread to other areas of south east Poland (1944-1947).
The agreed statement from the church leaders follows upon motion adopted last week by the Polish Senate calling the Volhynia massacres an “ethnic cleansing bearing the hallmarks of genocide,” Radio Poland reported.
Peering at this issue through a Polish lens, the story is one of Ukrainian contrition. Yet if you look at the Russian and Ukrainian newspapers we see a slightly different story — moral equivalence and inter-Orthodox rivalries. Ukrainska Pravda provides details about the agreement which was endorsed by the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Churches in Poland and the Ukraine remembers the events of 1943-1947 to be a
mutual ethnic cleansing of the Ukrainian and Polish population carried out by peasant self-defense units …
Ukrainska Pravda further noted the agreed statement had to be re-written after the head of the Roman Catholic Church said the first Greek Catholic draft that called on each side to forgive and ask forgiveness, implying a degree of moral equivalence between the two sides, was “nonsense”.
The Russian-language Ukrainian news portal Polemika headlined its story: “The Catholics of two countries have urged reconciliation between the people of the Ukraine and Poland”.
But while the agreement was between the Ukrainian uniate and Polish Catholic Churches this was not an all-Catholic affair as:
The request for forgiveness, [Archbishop Shevchuk] said, had been joined by the head of the Orthodox Church of Kiev, Patriarch Philaret, and the Volhynian Council of Christian Churches.
“What of it?”, you might ask. Poland and the Ukraine are very far away and Volhynia is the back of beyond of the back of beyond. I have not seen this story reported in the Western or English-language media, save for the Radio Poland English-language broadcast. Those unfamiliar with the intricacies of Orthodox-Catholic relations or with the players in this story may well pass this by as being a bit of religion news exotica.
Yet as the Balkan wars of the 1990s demonstrated religio-ethnic wars can return to Europe. I am not suggesting that will happen in this case, but a rapprochement between Kiev and Warsaw is not in the interests of Moscow. While Polemika reports Metropolitan Philaret backed the agreement, nothing was said about Metropolitan Vladimir. Philaret leads the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, which broke away from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the oversight of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church for nationalistic reasons. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, led by Metropolitan Vladimir (the larger of the two), issued its own statement commemorating the 70th anniversary of the massacres.
For Metropolitan Vladimir the causes of the “interethnic conflict” remain the subject of historical debate. However the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) has
… always supported the motherland and always cherished Christian patriotism. … Our love for our native land takes form “in protecting the homeland from the enemy, working for the good of the Fatherland, and caring for for people’s lives”
But Vladimir noted the church had
denounced the “sinful phenomena of aggressive nationalism, xenophobia, national exclusiveness, ethnic hatred” … The Volhynia tragedy was a sad example of just such a sinful distortion of national feeling. Christian patriotism is incompatible with violence against other people. Because the Orthodox Church unequivocally condemns ethnic hatred, as being contrary to Christian ethics.
Unfortunately, today we see how the different political forces try to use the sad anniversary of the Volhynia tragedy for social manipulation. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church unequivocally condemns any attempt to use the tragedy, which claimed many Polish and Ukrainian lives, for political speculation.
Is he talking about Ukrainian nationalists or the Polish Senate? As Vladimir follows the Moscow line, my assumption is that this will be heard in Warsaw as a rebuke of Poland.
He closes with the statement that:
Our peoples are neighbors. We have to build fraternal relations, overcoming the heavy burden of historical confrontations and conflicts. … The Orthodox Church has always tried to carry out the mission of reconciliation between nations involved in the feud. Today, we call on the Ukrainian and Polish nations to seek mutual forgiveness and reconciliation.
For Vladimir the terms of reference are those rejected already by the Catholic Church. I expect Moscow to weigh in at some point, but the grounds of dispute seem pretty clear. Religion, ethnicity and history still have a hold on the politics of the East.
First printed in Get Religion.
Cardinal backs gay civil unions over Vatican objections: The Church of England Newspaper, June 23, 2013, p 7. June 27, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Belgium, civil unions, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gay marriage, Godfried Danneels, Le Soir
Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, has broken ranks with the Vatican and given his support to legislation to create same sex unions.
In an interview with the Belgian newspaper Le Soir published on 4 June 2013 the cardinal said the Catholic Church “has never opposed the fact that there should exist a sort of ‘marriage’ between homosexuals, but one therefore speaks of a ‘sort of’ marriage, not of true marriage between a man and a woman, therefore another word must be found for the dictionary.”
“About the fact that this should be legal, that it should be made legitimate through a law, about this the Church has nothing to say,” the cardinal said.
A leader of the liberal wing of the Catholic Church in Europe, Cardinal Danneels was touted in the press as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II. His remarks follow similar comments made in recent months by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, and Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez, archbishop of Bogotà – who retracted his statement last November.
On 3 June 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) released a statement entitled: “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons”.
“The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions,” the statement said, released under the signature of then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger and given the imprimatur of Pope John Paul II.
The CDF held: “The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity.”
Cardinal Danneels’s comments follow a statement last month by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference in opposition to civil unions in Italy, “The family cannot be humiliated and weakened by similar representations that in a stealthy way constitute a progressive ‘vulnus’ on its specific identity, and that are not necessary to safeguard individual rights that to a large extent are already guaranteed by the law,” he said.
Pope Francis has yet to speak on the issue of civil unions in Italy or gay will marriage in England or France.
Tags: Pope Francis, Reuters. anti-Catholic bias
Pope Francis did not attend a musical gala last Saturday evening at the Vatican due to the press of work. This event prompted fierce speculation in the Italian press and a bout of papal Kremlinology from Reuters.
It may well be the pope’s absence from a concert given by the RAI symphony orchestra on 22 June 2013 was a deliberate snub — but the heavy breathing and speculation that stands in for factual reporting here does not engender confidence that that is necessarily so.
The article entitled “Pope ‘snub’ of concert stuns cardinals, sends signal” opens with a statement that is, simply stated, an assertion.
A last-minute no-show by Pope Francis at a concert where he was to have been the guest of honor has sent another clear signal that he is going to do things his way and does not like the Vatican high life.
Pope Francis did not attend the concert. That is clear enough — but was it a last-minute no-show? And to whom is it clear that this is a pointed message about the Vatican high life? And how do we know this? Where are the attribution clauses used by journalists?
Having made strong claims in the lede, Reuters should now deliver. The article continues:
The gala classical concert on Saturday was scheduled before his election in March. But the white papal armchair set up in the presumption that he would be there remained empty.
Was this a scheduling conflict? Was Pope Benedict XVI — a music lover — expected, or was it assumed Francis would take his place? Was this on the pope’s published agenda?
This detail leads to more questions. The assertions made in the lede are not in doubt, but Reuters better not wait too long before defending them.
Minutes before the concert was due to start, an archbishop told the crowd of cardinals and Italian dignitaries that an “urgent commitment that cannot be postponed” would prevent Francis from attending. The prelates, assured that health was not the reason for the no-show, looked disoriented, realizing that the message he wanted to send was that, with the Church in crisis, he — and perhaps they — had too much pastoral work to do to attend social events.
Which archbishop spoke? Papal secretary or a concert organizer? An observer might say the gathered prelates “looked disoriented”, but only a novelist (or a mind reader) could state that they shared a common thought. The story is starting to go under — but there is still time to save it.
An unnamed source is then produced to give support to the lede, and his comments will make or break the story — but all he says is:
“In Argentina, they probably knew not to arrange social events like concerts for him because he probably wouldn’t go,” said the source, who spoke anonymously because he is not authorized to discuss the issue.
The picture of the empty chair was used in many Italian papers, with Monday’s Corriere della Sera newspaper calling his decision “a show of force” to illustrate the simple style he wants Church officials to embrace.
And that’s it.
The remainder of the story is padded with background details to support the argument — but there is nothing here to allow this to be called a news story.
If Reuters took ownership of the editorial voice rather than push it off onto Corriere della Sera or an unnamed functionary this story would be an acceptable news analysis piece. Instead we have a story that feels like it was written in the back of a taxi on the way to the airport as deadline time fast approaches.
In the end, this story is an interesting example of what can be called Vatican Kremlinology. It seeks to divine meaning from symbolic acts. Who stands next to whom? What does a particular form of vestment signify? What does an empty white chair mean? Is it a sign of a purge? Semiotics may be great fun to graduate students, but reporters should stick to the presentation of facts.
Signs, symbolism and their meanings can play a role in explaining facts, but they should not be a substitute for facts in newspaper reporting.
First printed in Get Religion.
Archbishop of Canterbury to meet with Pope Francis in Rome: The Church of England Newspaper, June 16, 2013 p 6. June 20, 2013Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Justin Welby, Pope Francis
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will hold his first meeting with Pope Francis on 14 June 2013 at the Vatican.
The Archbishop’s official diary states he “will be travelling to Rome, accompanied by Mrs Welby, for a personal and fraternal visit to Pope Francis on 14 June. … A more extended visit, for Archbishop Justin to engage with various other Vatican officials, will happen later in the year.”
On 4 June 2013 Msgr. Mark Langham told Vatican Radio this would be “important” but “informal, brief courtesy visit” to Pope Francis. The meeting has been scheduled so that the heads of the two churches can “get to know each other better and more deeply,” he said.
A press release from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said the Friday meeting will be an “opportunity for the Archbishop and Pope Francis to review the present state of relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion.”
The statement said: “In particular, the interest shown by Archbishop Welby in global justice and the ethical regulation of financial markets so that they do not oppress men and women, is echoed in the constant teaching of the Holy Father. Ever since his experience as an executive in an oil company, Archbishop Welby has placed great emphasis on reconciliation, and has continued to press for the resolution of conflicts within the Church and society. This also evokes Pope Francis’ own call to build bridges between people of every nation, so that they may be seen not as rivals and threats, but as brothers and sisters.”
The statement added that the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, “will accompany the Archbishop of Canterbury on this visit” and that his presence is “a sign of their close relations”.
In addition to meeting the pope Archbishop Welby is scheduled to visit the Excavations beneath St Peter’s Basilica to pray at the tomb of St Peter, visit the tomb of John Paul II and lunch with Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity at Saint Martha’s, the lodging house for Vatican visitors where Francis lives.
Tags: gay lobby, New York Times
Where should the stress be placed in Pope Francis’ phrase the “gay lobby”? Upon the first word “gay” or the second, “lobby”?
This semantic game animated my discussion this week with Todd Wilken, the host of Lutheran Public Radio’s Issues, Etc. program. In our conversation broadcast on 18 June 2013, Todd and I contrasted The New York Times coverage of Pope Francis’s comments that a gay lobby existed at the Vatican to the coverage in the European and religion press.
Todd began to show by asking if this was new news? I was polite and responded that this is only 100 years or so old, which I admit was a misstatement on my part. But it would’ve been bad form to quote Pope Pius V on a Lutheran program.
In his Constitution Horrendum illud scelus of 30 August 1568, Pius stated:
In his That horrible crime, on account of which corrupt and obscene cities were destroyed by fire through divine condemnation, causes us most bitter sorrow and shocks our mind, impelling us to repress such a crime with the greatest possible zeal.
Quite opportunely the Fifth Lateran Council [1512-1517] issued this decree: “Let any member of the clergy caught in that vice against nature, given that the wrath of God falls over the sons of perfidy, be removed from the clerical order or forced to do penance in a monastery” (chap. 4, X, V, 31).
So that the contagion of such a grave offense may not advance with greater audacity by taking advantage of impunity, which is the greatest incitement to sin, and so as to more severely punish the clerics who are guilty of this nefarious crime and who are not frightened by the death of their souls, we determine that they should be handed over to the severity of the secular authority, which enforces civil law.
Therefore, wishing to pursue with greater rigor than we have exerted since the beginning of our pontificate, we establish that any priest or member of the clergy, either secular or regular, who commits such an execrable crime, by force of the present law be deprived of every clerical privilege, of every post, dignity and ecclesiastical benefit, and having been degraded by an ecclesiastical judge, let him be immediately delivered to the secular authority to be put to death, as mandated by law as the fitting punishment for laymen who have sunk into this abyss.
Pius did not mince words.
One can say that this is not new news, but Pope Francis’ discussion of the problem was new. But should the news reports stress the homosexuality angle or the clique? The New York Times emphasized the gay in their report unlike the European press which focused on the lobby. Is this the difference without significance? I would say no.
Had this been the first instance accusations have been raised about gay clique at the heart of the Catholic Church then the emphasis would best be placed on what members of the clique had in common. But as this is not new — apart from the Pope’s admission to the existence of such a problem — the better story is a discussion of the clique.
We need to step back however and recognize the “gay lobby” phrase is not a quote but a third-party summation of Francis’s words. In Spanish and later in the Italian reports the word translated into English as lobby has connotations of a Mafia or a cabal — not merely a political a pressure group. The European reporting highlighted the problem of priests having a higher loyalty to members of this Mafia then to their ecclesiastical superiors or to the discipline of the church.
While sex is always a good story — and homosexuality is a meme the New York Times cannot do without — the deeper story is the cleansing of the Curia of an old boys network.This story focuses on the gay old boys network, but there are other networks in the Curia who have stymied reform. And in this area, I told Todd it was my belief that the agenda of Popes Benedict and Francis are almost identical — Francis is not the anti-Benedict beloved of op-ed writers on this side of the Atlantic.
Well, that is what I wanted to say anyway. Listen and tell me what you think.
First printed at Get Religion.
Interview: Issues Etc., June 19, 2013 June 19, 2013Posted by geoconger in Issues Etc, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: gay lobby, New York Times
Here is an to an interview I gave to the Issues, Etc. show of Lutheran Public Radio broadcast on 18 June 2013.
Podcast: Download (Duration: 14:19 — 5.9MB)
Tags: Chicago Tribune, Guardian, Huffington Post, Justin Welby, La Stampa, Pope Francis, Rene Girard, Reuters
I know a maiden fair to see,
She can both false and friendly be,
Trust her not,
She is fooling thee!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s advice about women — especially blondes …
And she has hair of a golden hue,
And what she says, it is not true,
Trust her not,
She is fooling thee!
… is also good advice in reading headlines. As your GetReligionistas have stressed many times, seldom does a reporter get to write his own title. Yet when a sub-editor makes a mess of a headline the blame is laid at the reporter’s feet when the claim made in the title is not substantiated in the text. There have been times when stories I have written appear under a title that implies the opposite of what I reported.
Sometime back I was commissioned to write an article on a lecture given by the literary critic and philosopher René Girard at Oxford. I gave the story my all and … when I opened the paper after it came off the truck from the printer I found my article nicely displayed on page 5 with a beautiful photo of Girard scoring a goal in a World Cup match.
Too bad René Girard the philosopher and René Girard the soccer player are two different people. Perhaps my readers thought I was being droll, commenting on the élan vital of Girard’s latest book on mimesis by reference to the 1982 France v Poland match. Or they thought I was an idiot.
These meditations on my less than glorious moments in journalism are prompted by a Reuters article on the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s visit to Rome to meet with Pope Francis. The Huffington Post headlined the story: “Pope And Archbishop Of Canterbury Meet, Note Differences On Women Ordination, Gay Rights”.
While I was not in Rome for the press conference at the Venerable English College where Archbishop Welby and Vincent Nichols the Archbishop of Westminster gave a press conference at the end of their day at the Vatican, this headline indicated I missed a major event. Until now Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby held near identical views on gay rights, same-sex marriage, and civil liberties of persons with same-sex attractions. Oh to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting! What had they said to each other?
I dove into the Reuters story looking for details. But there was nothing there. I could quibble here and there with some of the language and editorial asides made by the author:
It was the boldest step by the Vatican to welcome back Anglicans since King Henry VIII broke with Rome and set himself up at the head of the new Church of England in 1534.
An Anglican would say Henry made himself Supreme Governor not head — the head of the church is Christ (there is a difference) and there was nothing “new” in a Church of England in 1534 — “new” implying a discontinuity between the pre and post 1534 church. A frightful papistical canard. Or:
In January this year, the Church of England lifted a ban on gay male clergy who live with their partners from becoming bishops on condition they pledge to stay celibate, deepening a rift in the Anglican community over homosexuality.
A celibate person is an unmarried person. A chaste person is someone who refrains from illicit sexual behavior. I assume Reuters meant to say chaste, meaning conforming to the church’s teaching that “in view of the teaching of scripture, [the Anglican Communion] upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage”. The working assumption is that clergy in civil partnerships are celibate, because they are unmarried, and chaste as they are to abstain from sexual relations outside of (traditional) marriage.
And it is the Anglican Communion, not community. Community implies an ashram in the woods somewhere, or a collection of sensibly dressed nuns in their cloister. (True there are such Anglican communities — religious with pearls and twin sets) but this is not what Reuters is likely to have in mind — but perhaps this is the “women” link to the headline?
The Church, struggling to remain relevant in modern Britain despite falling numbers of believers, published a plan in May to approve the ordination of women bishops by 2015, after the reform narrowly failed to pass last November.
It was the bishops — not the church — who published the plan. It still must be approved by the General Synod, which if the plan goes forward as currently written will likely be turned aside once more.
Anything about gays in the Reuters story? Nothing at all.
I looked about the web and found The Chicago Tribune had run the same item, but with a different title: “Pope Francis and new Anglican leader meet, note differences.” Rather a where’s Waldo headline — written for a bored seven year old. One is in purple, one in white. One has his wife with him (in the background) one has cardinals, etc.
I looked on the Reuters web page to see if the Huffington Post had shortened the article for space reasons, but found they had lengthened the title instead. The suggested title read: Pope Francis and new Anglican leader meet, note differences.” The gays and women bits came from the Huffington Post’s scribes — not Reuters.
Questioned whether he and Pope Francis had discussed the question of marriage and the debate over gay marriage, Archbishop Welby said “we are absolutely at one on the issues” by which he meant on the question of marriage (understood in the traditional Christian sense as between a man and a woman). He revealed that the Pope told him that he had read the speech he given recently to the House of Lords in which he opposed the British Government’s bill to introduce marriage between persons of the same sex.
Archbishop Welby added that he and Pope Francis are “equally at one in the condemnation of homophobic behavior” and “our sense that the essential dignity of the human being is where you start, and that is one of the absolute root foundations of all behavior, and the moment you start treating people as a category rather than as human beings with this essential dignity you have begun to lose the plot”.
What is the moral of the story?
Read the article, not just the headline. Though I will admit the Huffington Post editor who wrote this headline succeeded in his job, which is getting me to read the article. That is a different task than the reporter’s job of fairly presenting the news. Beware! You’ve been warned.
First printed in Get Religion.
Are gay blinkers distorting the New York Times reporting on the Vatican?: Get Religion, June 16, 2013 June 17, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Il Giornale, La Repubblica, National Catholic Register, New York Times, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, Rorate Caeli
The New York Times is shocked, shocked to hear Pope Francis say there is a gay lobby at the Vatican.
The suggestion that a gay mafia exists within the Curia has been a major news item in Italy and has generated stories round the world. The reactions have been diverse — and have reinforced the stereotypes of the major news outlets.
The New York Times‘ report is thorough, earnest and a bit dry, but misses the real story. Some of the Italian newspapers are having fits of joy in reporting on shadowy cabals of gay monsignori cavorting in the Vatican — I am waiting for Freemasons to enter the story any day now. However the Italian press, along with the religion press, appreciate this story is not about homosexuality but doctrine, discipline, and divided loyalties within the Vatican.
For those not in the know — the story so far:
In a 6 June 2013 meeting with members of the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious Pope Francis was purported to have said in a discussion of reforming the church’s administration: “In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people. But there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true. … The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there … We need to see what we can do.”
Why “purported”? Because the remarks were recorded in a summary of the meeting posted on a Chilean Web site, Reflection and Liberation, and later translated into English by the blog Rorate Caeli. The Milan newspaper Il Giornale reported that after Rorate Caeli released the transcript, Vatican reporters John Thavis and Marco Tosatti reported the news as did AFP and the Madrid newspaper El Mundo — and the world followed.
The Times begins its report by stating the suggestion there is a gay lobby is not shocking. What is shocking is that the pope would admit it.
For years, perhaps even centuries, it has been an open secret in Rome: That some prelates in the Vatican hierarchy are gay. But the whispers were amplified this week when Pope Francis himself, in a private audience, appears to have acknowledged what he called a “gay lobby” operating inside the Vatican, vying for power and influence.
The Times news account lays out the story in detail, offering context and diverse opinion as to the importance of the remarks. Yet for all its thoroughness the Times misses the bigger picture of clergy cliques and divided loyalties.
But never fear — on the op-ed pages of the Times compounds its misinterpretation of the facts as Frank Bruni savages the church for not being gay enough.
What was clearer was his acknowledgment — rare for a pope, and thus remarkable — of the church’s worst-kept secret: a priesthood populous with gay men, even at the zenith. And that underscored anew the mystery and madness of the church’s attitude about homosexuality. If homosexuality is no bar to serving as one of God’s emissaries and interpreters, if it’s no obstacle to being promoted to the upper rungs of the church’s hierarchy, how can it be so wrong? It doesn’t add up. There’s an error in the holy arithmetic.
It also offers this snippet of information:
The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit and an editor at large at the Catholic magazine America, told me that he’s seen thoughtful though not scientifically rigorous estimates that anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of Catholic priests are gay. His own best guess is 30 percent. That’s thousands and thousands of gay priests, some of whom must indeed be in the “deep-seated” end of the tendency pool. Martin believes that the vast majority of gay priests aren’t sexually active. But some are, and Rome is certainly one of the many theaters where the conflict between the church’s ethereal ideals and the real world play out.
Tags: Justin Welby, Pope Francis
Opinion presented as fact dominates several stories in the run up to today’s meeting of Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
Some of the stories are crafted as news analysis pieces. This BBC story begins with fact and then transitions into the analysis, using the phrase “our correspondent said” to demarcate the line between the two. The reader may choose to accept the reporter’s interpretation, or not.
Some stories like this report from the Religion News Service as printed by the Washington Post combine fact and opinion but do not disclose to the reader what they are reading is not news.
This is a problem of the contents of the package not matching the label. In this case the problem is compounded by false information and faulty analysis.
The lede in the RNS story reports this will be the first meeting between the new pope and the new archbishop before turning to a statement from the Vatican official overseeing that churches relations with Anglicans.
Welby’s visit to Rome will be “short but very significant,” said the Rev. Mark Langham, the Vatican’s point man on dialogue with Anglicans. While its primary purpose is to allow the two leaders to get to know each other, he noted that they share the same concerns about poverty and the global economic crisis.
I’m not familiar with all different stylebooks out there: Associated Press, Times of London, New York Times, etc., but I’m quite sure all would agree that on first reference a full title is provided. Mark Langham holds the rank or office of Monsignor. This difficulty with labeling extends to a description of the second person quoted in the story.
On the issue of an “economy for the people,” they have “many ideas in common,” said Archbishop David Moxon, the Anglican representative in Rome.
Archbishop Moxon, the former primate of the Anglican Church in Aoteroa, New Zealand and Polynesia, is not the Anglican representative in Rome. There is no such office. Archbishop Moxonn is the director of the Anglican Center in Rome and may have a quasi official/unofficial commission from the Archbishop of Canterbury to facilitate communication between the two churches, but he has no authority to speak on behalf of the Anglican Communion or does he hold a commission akin to a papal nuncio or ambassador.
The article then moves into opinion and gets into trouble. The question of labeling is merely a quibble and is excusable given the shorthand reporters must use to convey as much information into as small a space as they can. But the account of the troubles between Anglicans and Catholics offered by RNS places the blame on the Catholics.
With new leadership on both sides, the relationship between Anglicans and Catholics could be primed for a reset after several years of tension following Pope Benedict XVI’s controversial initiative to woo back disgruntled Anglicans. For years, the Catholic Church has been critical of the Anglicans’ decision to ordain women priests in the Church of England, and is unhappy over steps to allow women bishops. Relations between the two churches were strained in 2009 when the Vatican announced a special structure, called an “ordinariate,” to allow conservative Anglicans to convert to Catholicism while retaining bits of their Anglican tradition. When he was still in Argentina, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s Anglican counterpart recalled him saying that he thought the special structure for Anglicans was “unnecessary,” and that the Catholic Church “needs us as Anglicans.”
But both Moxon and Langham stress that the tensions are now past, pointing out that an official dialogue between Anglicans and Catholics that had been suspended in 2007 over the ordination of an openly gay bishop by U.S. Episcopalians had been recently restarted.
In principle, I would prefer the Anglican or Episcopalian side to be presented in the best light. But the argument that the Catholic response to Anglican innovations in doctrine and discipline is the problem, not the changes themselves, is extraordinary. And the facts presented in support of this contention are incorrect.
Since the project began in 1969 there have been three sessions of the Anglican – Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC): 1970-1981, 1983-2005, 2009 to present. In the early days of ARCIC there was hope that a series of agreed statements would emerge which would uncover a common faith, on the basis of which corporate reunion might be possible. Statements on Ministry, Sacraments and other topics were produced but they were never officially accepted by the Vatican as being an adequate representation of Catholic belief.
Nor were other statements accepted by Anglicans. The second ARCIC commission studied the doctrine of salvation, communion, and the churches’ teaching authority and produced a paper on the role of Mary. I attended the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham in 2005 and recall the vociferous objections to the paper from evangelicals, who rejected the report out of hand.
The Anglican decision to ordain women further divided the churches, while the Anglican civil war over homosexuality has ended hopes for corporate reunion. A review of my notes and reporting from the 2008 Lambeth Conference — the every 10 year gathering of Anglican bishops — recorded Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect for the Congregation of the Evangelisation of Peoples, speculating the Anglican Communion was suffering from “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and was in danger of forgetting its apostolic roots as it followed the spirit of the age in determining doctrine and discipline.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster said there was little point in pursuing theological dialogue when Anglicans failed to live up to their side of the agreements. “If we are to make progress through dialogue we must be able to reach a solemn and binding agreement with our dialogue partners. And we want to see a deepening not a lessening of communion in their own ecclesial life.”
Anglicans must decide who they are and what they believe before any meaningful dialogue can take place, he argued as “these discussions are about the degree of unity in faith necessary for Christians to be in communion, not least so that they may be able to offer the Gospel confidently to the world. Our future dialogue will not be easy until such fundamental matters are resolved, with greater clarity,” I reported him as saying.
And Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity chastised the Anglican Communion for its disorder and lack of theological seriousness. He urged Anglicans to embark on a new “Oxford Movement” to revitalize the church, but he also warned that moves by the Church of England to introduce women bishops and its laxity over gay clergy had effectively ended the quest for Roman recognition of the validity of Anglican orders.
Contrary to the assertions made in the RNS piece, Pope Benedict’s formation of an Anglican Ordinariate did nothing to harm Anglican-Catholic relations, apart from embarrassing the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. And this embarrassment was due to his not having been in the know, not because a group of Anglicans were convinced of the truth claims of the Catholic Church. This embarrassment was not enough to derail the third round of ARCIC talks that began under their watch in 2009.
Anglican clergy who have entered the Catholic Church and have sought to be re-ordained as Catholic priests may have been horrified by Anglican events of recent years, but they became Catholics because they believed the truth claims of the Catholic Church. Gay bishops and blessings, women clergy and inclusive language liturgies may well have sharpened the mind, but the Catholic Church is not a girl picked up on the rebound from a bad break up.
I do not know what talks were suspended in 2007 as reported in the RNS piece — perhaps a local dialogue? — but there were no ARCIC talks to be suspended in 2007.
When RNS advances an argument that the Catholic recalcitrance to accept changes made by some Anglicans to the faith and order of their church is the cause of friction between Canterbury and Rome, that is called an editorial.
First printed at Get Religion.
Tags: Brazil, Catholic Charismatics, Pentecostalism, Tintin
The story so far … Intrepid reporter Tintin, accompanied by his faithful fox terrier Snowy, has travel to Brazil to report on the preparations for the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day celebrations in July. Upon his arrival Tintin finds the natives have abandoned their base communities and liberation theology for Catholic Pentecostalism. Who is behind this tragedy? Soviets, American gangsters, Jews? Can our hero rescue the church from the clutches of charismatics in Brazil?
I write in jest — this disclaimer is for the perpetually offended — nevertheless a recent story from AFP, Agency France Preses, entitled “Brazil Charismatic priests try to stem Catholic flight” could easily be transformed into a comic.
There is a cartoonish, condescending quality to this article that perpetuates anti-Catholic, anti-Pentecostal stereotypes. It does not rise to the level of Hergé’s ”Tintin in the Congo“, but that was merely an 80-year old comic — this is a news story that does a second rate job in reporting on one of the major religion news stories of modern times — the rise of and reaction to Pentecostalism.
The article begins with a soft focus:
AFP – In a scene out of a pop music concert, mass at Sao Paulo’s huge Mae de Deus (Mother of God) church features spirited singing, dancing and shouting led by priests of Brazil’s rising Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement. About 6,000 faithful are seated and thousands more are standing, all waiting for the master of ceremonies and face of the movement — 46-year-old rock star Catholic priest Marcelo Rossi. With his broad smile and movie-actor good looks, the 6’4″ (1m90) former gymnast and his musicians warm up the crowd.
The article moves on to a report on church statistics and then offers comments from those who like the “rock-star” priest and a description of a service:
“Father Marcelo is charismatic and humble. You come once and you keep on coming,” said 72-year-old Olga Ribeiro, who has been following him for the past six years. “It’s a modern, dynamic mass. I had stopped going to church because I was bored,” said 58-year-old Luis Fernando Camentori.
In the middle of the service, lights go off and candles are lit. Many of the faithful burst into tears. “God will turn your pain into joy,” Rossi tells the delirious crowd. The wildly popular Rossi has already sold millions of records and books. He has his own radio and television programs, has made movies and is very active on Twitter. He has just criss-crossed the country to promote his latest book “Kairos”. In less than a month, 500,000 copies were already sold.
At this stage we hear from the experts:
“The Church in Brazil has been in crisis since the 1990s with the decline of leftist liberation theology, and its churches are becoming empty,” said Magali Cunha, a theology professor at Sao Paulo Methodist University. … While it has so far failed to stop Brazil’s Catholic exodus, “without this type of spirituality, the Catholic Church would have lost even more members,” said Edin Abumansur, head of the religion sciences department at Sao Paulo Catholic University.
The AFP’s editorial voice emerges:
And Catholic Charismatic Renewal is resorting to an arsenal of gimmicks to lure followers, including raw emotionalism, masses for cures, blessings to secure jobs or corporal expressions of faith.
Followed by comments from Fr Rossi:
In frank language, Rossi conveys his message during mass, focusing on crime without mentioning the country’s social problems. “One should not mix religion and politics. The Church does not belong to any political party,” he said.
And we end with a damn with faint praise hook:
For years, the Catholic hierarchy kept the Charismatic movement at bay. Now it is lending support, although it has some concerns about its autonomy. “The Church tolerates rather than accepts these movements. They attract a lot of people, So what can it do?” said Abumansur. In 2007, Rossi was not allowed to sing for then pope Benedict XVI. Six years later, he will be able to do so for Pope Francis during World Youth Day in July.
What is the problem with this story? No balance — the article alleges the Catholic Church is in free fall but we do not hear from the church. Does it agree that the church is collapsing? Is it true that the Catholic Charismatic movement has stemmed its losses? What does the hierarchy say, or has it said? Where are the contrary voices? Is this a liturgical issue or a doctrinal challenge for the Catholic Church?
This is compounded by a lack of curiosity. Why has the Catholic Charismatic movement grown? Is it simply more entertaining than a regular mass — or are there theological, cultural, political or social reasons for the decline in church attendance or for the fall of liberation theology? What are the implications of Fr Rossi’s statement that the church should get out of politics? Is he saying man is a spiritual animal and not a political one?
And then there is the sneer — the opiate of the masses treatment of faith. “‘God will turn your pain into joy,’ Rossi tells the delirious crowd.” Or an “arsenal of gimmicks to lure followers, including raw emotionalism, masses for cures, blessings to secure jobs or corporal expressions of faith.”
Why are these called gimmicks? Is that fair or an honest appraisal of what is taking place? Calling petitionary prayer or healing prayer a gimmick connotes fraud on the part of Fr Rossi -”he doesn’t believe this stuff himself and is playing off of the credulity of his flock” or it is an editorial comment by AFP. If Fr Rossi is a Brazilian Elmer Gantry then AFP has a great story and should dig deeper. If this is merely an opinion voiced by the AFP’s reporter as he watches the weird rituals of Catholic Charismatics then it is libelous.
And — then there is the National Geographic approach to reporting on the simple natives who have abandoned political religion for a spiritual one. The anthropological approach can be seen in the “corporal expressions of faith” quip. I presume by this the author means dancing and other rituals that involve body movement. Or did he mean “corporeal expressions”? The author writes as if he was peering through the bushes watching the natives at worship. This is not merely detachment, but a distancing that seeks not to understand but to categorize — and condescend.
What do we learn from this article? Aside from the color commentary we have the who, some where, less when and no why.
First posted in Get Religion.
Tags: Justin Welby, Pope Francis
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will hold his first meeting with Pope Francis on 14 June 2013 at the Vatican. The Archbishop’s official diary states he “will be travelling to Rome, accompanied by Mrs Welby, for a personal and fraternal visit to Pope Francis on 14 June. … A more extended visit, for Archbishop Justin to engage with various other Vatican officials, will happen later in the year.”
On Tuesday Msgr. Mark Langham told Vatican Radio this would be “important” but “informal, brief courtesy visit” to Pope Francis.
Read it all in Anglican Ink.
Tags: immaculate conception, New York Daily News, original sin, virgin birth
Excitement is in the air in Gotham City this week following the introduction of a theology page in the Daily News. This is a welcome addition to the New York tabloid market, though I suspect the desire to inject high culture into the Daily News comes from the need for some gravitas to balance the reporting on the mayoral candidacy of Anthony Weiner — Oh the joy his election will bring to the scribes of New York!
The first installment in this new series began on 27 May 2013 and was entitled: “Mystery of anteater’s ‘Virgin birth’ solved.” It opened with a scientific riddle:
The mystery of how a female anteater fell pregnant despite being separated from her mate for more than 18 months is a step closer to being solved.
Speculation whether this was a unique example of mammalian asexual reproduction or parthenogenesis was set to one side however as the Daily News turned to answers from Catholic dogma.
Bosses at Connecticut’s LEO Zoological Conservation Center were left baffled after mom Armani gave birth to little Archie in April. The apparent “Virgin birth” stumped staff — as anteaters have a six-month gestation period and the critter had not been in contact with any males for more than triple that time. Workers wondered whether it was an immaculate anteater conception or if the male, Alf, had somehow sneaked into her pen sometime in October.
Deep questions here. The use of an upper case V in Virgin and the lower case b in birth doubtless refers to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Did God become flesh in the form of Archie the Anteater? Think this is but a playful use of half-remembered catechisms? Perhaps, but the discussion continues in a theological light by reference to the “immaculate anteater conception”. However science, not the Holy Spirit seems to have been responsible for the miracle, the paper reports.
But center director Marcella Leone now believes the newcomer was actually conceived through “embryonic diapause” — when a mother puts a fertilized egg on hold in her uterus. It happens when environmental conditions aren’t right, so the mother can keep the egg safe until they are. Armadillos and sloths are known to do it, but anteaters have never been observed doing so, reports Greenwich Time.
The Daily News is not so dumb as to believe the virgin birth is the same thing as the immaculate conception. The virgin birth of Jesus is the belief that Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit and born while Mary remained a virgin. This is an article of faith among Christians (save for the odd Episcopal bishop here and there and among members of a few sects) and is stated in the Apostles Creed which begins:
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary, …
The immaculate conception is a Catholic dogma that holds that Mary was born without the stain of original sin. This belief is not shared by all Christians. The catechism of the Catholic Church states on this point:
The Immaculate Conception
490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.”132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”.133 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.
491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God,134 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
The Daily News‘ use of the phrase ”immaculate anteater conception” I would argue is theologically correct in that no animal bears the stain of original sin — only mankind. All anteaters, aardvarks, elands and (heaven help us) even cats are immaculately conceived in that while they are affected by Adam’s fall, they do not share in his sin. Oxford theologian Andrew Linzey has noted, there is “an ambiguous tradition” about animals in Christianity. Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Fenelon and Kant and have held that animals do not have rational, hence immortal souls while Goethe, St John of the Cross, C.S. Lewis, Bishop Butler, John Wesley and Rick Warren believe animals will find a place in heaven.
In her book, Humanae Vitae: a generation later, Janet Smith writes that one of the differences between humans and animals is that while animals engage in reproductive sexual congress to create another member of the species, humans engage in procreative sexual intercourse “wherein they cooperate with God to bring into existence a new immortal being.”
The soul of man is immortal while the soul of an animal is mortal, she argues. Thomistic theology holds that animals possess sensate souls that can respond effectively to the environment around them. However, animals do not possess rational souls — in that they are not able to reason about reality. The sensate soul is mortal while the rational soul, created in the image of God, is immortal. And it is this distinction between mortal and immortal souls that prevents animals from going to heaven and incidentally prohibits contraception in Catholic moral teaching.
sterlization, abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization, and production of animals for “farming” of organs for transplantation are all permissible for animals. Yet the Church finds none 0f these actions permissible for Man. Again it is because of the nature of Man, not the nature of the biological processes per se, that Man must not interfere with these processes.
I am not fully persuaded by this argument, but I am encouraged to see the Daily News has raised the question, “What is man?” in its reporting on Archie the Anteater.
First printed in Get Religion.
Tags: clergy abuse scandal, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Der Spiegel, Der Taggespiegel, Green Party, Guardian, paedophilia, pedophilia, Stern
Absent a priestly predator is paedophilia a religion news story? In comments posted in response to my 24 April 2013 story “Paedophilia and the Radical Left of ’68″, Ira Rifkin questioned whether politics and paedophilia were properly within the ambit of GetReligion. Was I pushing too hard? Confusing the moral and ethical issues in the story I cited in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) — protests over public honors to a prominent politician who 30 years ago as one of the stars of the radical left wrote of his sexual encounters with children, which he now claims are fiction –with religion news?
Whatever his crimes and immoralities, Cohn-Bendit’s actions are in no way comparable to those of the Roman Catholic Church. The 60s are long over; history has moved on. The media’s faults, blind spots and assorted deficiencies are not always at their root worthy of GR’s attention. Agreed: ain’t no ghost here worth the commentary.
… The Cohn-Bendit story contains little if any grist for GR. As for Cohn-Bendit and the RC Church, it seems clear that the magnitude of the crimes Church leaders committed are far greater quantitatively, as well as qualitatively because of the Church’s unique position as a global religious/moral authority. Cohn-Bendit has far less reach. Whatever his personal responsibility, it cannot be compared to that of the Church. Bash the 60s if you like, even it’s values. But molestation – real or imagined – was not one of its identifiable hallmarks.
Some took issue with Mr. Rifkin’s comments, seeing religious ghosts in the story exhumed by GetReligion. Others noted that Daniel Cohn-Bendit is a prominent politician – – a public figure whose stock in trade has been lecturing Europe on how it should adopt his moral worldview on the environment, economics, immigration, foreign affairs, and social issues such as gay marriage. My observations focused on the different treatment accorded Mr. Cohn-Bendit and the Catholic Church by the media on the issue of paedophilia. I argued:
The opprobrium held by right thinking people against paedophilia in Europe does not apply, however to revolutionaries and left wing politicians. A report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on the fracas over the award of a prize to Daniel Cohn-Bendit suggests a double standard is being applied to paedophiles in Europe. Those who molest children out of lust are criminals and beyond the pale — those who molest children out of revolutionary fervor to bring down the capitalist regime really aren’t so bad.
The paedophilia and the left story has now moved back into the public eye in Europe with articles in Stern, Deutsche Wella, Der Tagesspiegel and other news outlets on protestations by Green Party leaders that their movement had not provided political respectability for pedophile activists.
Der Spiegel reported:
He is a boy, roughly 10 years old, with a pretty face, full lips, a straight nose and shoulder-length hair. The wings of an angel protrude from his narrow back, and a penis is drawn with thin lines on the front of his body. The 1986 image was printed in the newsletter of the Green Party’s national working group on “Gays, Pederasts and Transsexuals,” abbreviated as “BAG SchwuP.” It wasn’t just sent to a few scattered party members, but was addressed to Green Party members of the German parliament, as well as the party’s headquarters in Bonn.
Documents like this have become a problem for the Greens today. Some 33 years after the party was founded, it is now being haunted by a chapter in its history that many would have preferred to forget. No political group in Germany promoted the interests of men with pedophile tendencies as staunchly as the environmental party. For a period of time in the mid-1980s, it practically served as the parliamentary arm of the pedophile movement. A look at its archives reveals numerous traces of the pedophiles’ flirtation with the Green Party. They appear in motions, party resolutions, memos and even reports by the party treasurer. That is because at times the party not only supported its now forgotten fellow campaigners politically, but also more tangibly, in the form of financial support.
The protests over Cohn-Bendit have led to an internal party investigation. the Guardian reported:
Germany’s Green party is to launch an investigation into its active promotion in the 80s of paedophile groups who lobbied for the legalisation of sex with children. The party’s leadership has said it will commission an independent researcher to investigate “for how long and to what extent” such groups had an influence. The party’s chief whip, Jürgen Trittin, said the initiative aimed to take a close look at the “totally unacceptable demand” in the 80s that sex with children should be made legal. He admitted that the party had made wrong decisions about paedophilia.
In an interview with Der Spiegel, the Guardian wrote Mr. Cohn-Bendit conceded his confessions were lies, prompted by a desire to shock.
“It was a type of manifesto against the bourgeois society,” he said. … He said he had written the descriptions of his time in the kindergarten in an attempt to “appear to be more dangerous than I was”, and admitted they had been “irresponsible”.
Germany’s tabloids and conservative political parties are not likely to let this story die. But is Ira Rifkin correct in saying this is the a political story, not a religion story.
Like Lord Copper, he is right up to a point. All social interaction, all life is based upon choices. Making a choice implies using moral judgment. It could be argued that the political pedophile scandal is a story about the moral failings of Daniel Cohn-Bendit and the Green party.
Here I agree with Mr. Rifkin. This is a political story that has moral and ethical overtones. But what makes this a Get Religion story is a comparison to the reporting by the Guardian, Der Spiegel and other European newspapers on the Catholic clergy abuse scandal. The perspective these newspapers have brought to the Catholic scandal is that the institution is tarnished by the actions of pedophiles within the clergy ranks. The perspective in these articles is that the institution is to be applauded for examining its historical support for pedophiles within the party’s ranks.
What makes this a Get Religion story is the context of the European press environment. I am not defending or excusing the Catholic Church. I am however pointing out inconsistencies and double standards in media coverage.
First printed in Get Religion.
Tags: Anthony Musaala, clerical celibacy, Los Angeles Times, Uganda Martyrs
Bishop: “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad egg, Mr Jones”
Curate: “Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!”
There is much to praise in the Los Angeles Times article “Uganda priest ostracized for publicizing sexual abuse”. The May 4 article addresses the question of sexual misconduct by Roman Catholic clergy in Africa – – child abuse and violations of the vow of celibacy. And it does so through the voice of Fr Anthony Musaala, an Ugandan priest suspended in March by his Archbishop for having brought the church into disrepute for exposing these problems.
I also like the article because it “gets Africa”. It understands the culture of shame that often manifests itself as cover up and denial, and makes reporting about the African scene so difficult. But there is also curate’s egg quality to the piece. Parts of it are quite good yet there is a bit that is off.
It is a mistake to conflate the sexual abuse of children scandal with the question of clerical celibacy. In this case while the African church is loathe to talk about child abuse it is not correct to say that they are silent on the question of celibacy. The article would also have been helped by addressing the question “why” — Why the homosexual abuse of young boys prompts such a visceral reaction by the church in Uganda.
The article begins:
He is a celebrity across eastern and central Africa, a gospel music star known to many as the “Dancing Priest.” But for years he also was a keeper of painful secrets — his own and many others’. In going public, Anthony Musaala has forced the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda to confront a problem it had insisted didn’t exist. And he may stir a debate far beyond Africa’s most Catholic of countries.
The Ugandan priest has been suspended indefinitely by the archbishop of Kampala for exposing what he calls an open secret: Sex abuse in the Catholic Church is a problem in Africa as well as in Western Europe and North America. The African Catholic Church is fast-growing, pious and traditional. As the church elsewhere forks out billions of dollars to compensate the child sex abuse victims of priests, few African Catholics have questioned the assumption, voiced recently by Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson that the African church is purer than its counterpart in the West, which is regarded as secular and permissive.
It’s not more pure, says Musaala. He says he has the evidence to prove it. “The Vatican turns a blind eye because it doesn’t want to be embarrassed about this blooming church. But I think it’s time we had the truth,” Musaala says.
The article reports that in March Fr Musaala wrote Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga “about priests who fathered children, kept secret wives or abused girls or boys, and called for a debate on marriage for priests” and stated that as a young boy he too had been abused. It said:
The letter was leaked to the news media. And in response, Lwanga suspended Musaala, saying his statements stirred up contempt for the Catholic Church and damaged the morale of believers. Later in the month, Lwanga acknowledged that abuses had taken place, apologized to victims and set up an internal inquiry. But he did not backtrack on Musaala’s unpaid suspension.
This account conflicts with other press reports. All agree that Fr Musaala was suspended, but the Ugandan press reported this was an open letter given to them and to the Archbishop. It would also have helped this story if the LA Times had unpacked the religious context. The Catholic and Anglican churches in Uganda, who account for 80% of the population, celebrate the feast of the Martyrs of Uganda. As an aside if you should ever want evidence as to why you should not trust Wikipedia compare the politically correct and false version on Wikipedia with the story told on the website of the shrine to the martyrs.
The first martyr to die was King’s major domo and leader of all Christians, Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, on 15th November 1885. He was killed because he had pleaded to King Mwanga to abandon the vice of homosexuality and not to kill Bishop Hannington, an Anglican missionary who had entered Buganda from Busoga (the backdoor of Buganda kingdom). From that time he became angry with all Christians as they all refused to give in to his sinful demands and were persuading all other pages to do the same. On 25th May, 1886, King Mwanga ordered for a number of Christians to be brought before him and he passed on them the death penalty. 20 of the 22 martyrs were killed between 26th May 1886 and 3rd June 1886.
The Ugandan martyrs died because they refused to countenance the king’s homosexual advances because their Christian faith taught them that sodomy was a sin. Omitting this historical context — one of the defining sagas of the Catholic Church in Uganda leave the story untold.
Would the story have been helped by mention of the Ugandan Martyrs? Or by mention of Fr Musaala’s on-going fight with the archbishop in the press? Does it make a difference to the denouement of the piece if the letter was leaked to the press or given to the press by Fr Musaala?
The linkage between abuse and clerical celibacy was also unfortunate, as the Church has been far from silent on this point. The 2009 Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of Africa convened by Pope Benedict discussed the question and problems of priestly celibacy for the African church. In the neighboring Central African Republic an archbishop was suspended for having families, while a number of clergy in Kenya have quit the church over mandatory celibacy. Silence over celibacy and its challenges for the clergy is not a problem — silence over abuse is.
First printed in Get Religion.
Tags: Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, paedophilia
“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come”
– Matt: 12:31-32
Is there an unforgivable sin in politics?
American voters, and not just those of Louisiana, have returned to office politicians of dubious moral and legal character. Wilbur Mills, Alcee Hastings, Buddy Cianci and Marion Barry were not punished at the polls (and I won’t open the door to discussing Bill Clinton). We will soon see if South Carolina’s First Congressional District has it in its heart to forgive Mark Sanford.
Bribery, adultery, perjury, corruption, drug and alcohol abuse, and violence have not barred a return to office for some politicians or for some church leaders and prominent pastors. My own denomination (The Episcopal Church) has even ordained a convicted murderer to the priesthood. But the unpardonable sin — in churches, politics and in just about every walk of life — has been paedophilia.
The Catholic Church has suffered its handling of the scandal, but is not alone in having experienced incidents of abuse by clergy and church workers committed against children. On Monday the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne told a Parliamentary committee that his church at one time had a culture of denial and cover-up concerning allegations of abuse. The Catholic Church in Europe has been particularly hard hit and has been excoriated by the press and rights activists for its handling of the scandal.
The opprobrium held by right thinking people against paedophilia in Europe does not apply, however to revolutionaries and left wing politicians. A report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on the fracas over the award of a prize to Daniel Cohn-Bendit suggests a double standard is being applied to paedophiles in Europe. Those who molest children out of lust are criminals and beyond the pale — those who molest children out of revolutionary fervor to bring down the capitalist regime really aren’t so bad.
But first, who is Daniel Cohn-Bendit? A leader of the ’68 student uprising in Paris, Dany le Rouge has been a prominent left-wing politician and cultural warrior in France and Germany for the past forty years and presently leads the Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament. The Turtle Bay and Beyond blog notes:
Cohn-Bendit has for many years aspired to a role similar to that played by Maximilien de Robespierre during the French Revolution, holding everyone accountable for everything – including Czech President Vaclav Klaus for his Euroscepticism, or Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for having given to his country a new Constitution that protects the family, defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and (the worst of all imaginable actions against “European values”) mentions God!
The FAZ reports that the 68-year old Cohn-Bendit was given a award this week by the Theodor-Heuss-Foundation for his political achievements. However the awards ceremony was picketed by protesters and boycotted by the President of the German Constitutional Court Andreas Vosskuhle who declined to add his voice to those honoring the Green Party leader.
The report from Stuttgart from the FAZ opened with some local color.
Es spielen sich ziemlich unschöne Szenen auf dem Stuttgarter Schlossplatz ab, der guten Stube der baden-württembergischen Landeshauptstadt. Die Theodor-Heuss-Stiftung hat ins Neue Schloss geladen. Daniel Cohn-Bendit soll im Weißen Saal mit dem nach dem ersten Bundespräsidenten benannten Preis ausgezeichnet werden. Als er aus dem Taxi steigt, rufen einige der etwa siebzig Demonstranten: „Schämt euch!“ Die Junge Union und Missbrauchsorganisationen haben zu dieser Demonstration aufgerufen.
Roughly translated as:
An ugly scene unfolded on the Schlossplatz in Stuttgart, the Baden-Württemberg state capital, when Daniel Cohn-Bendit arrived at the Neue Schloss. The Theodor Heuss Foundation had invited him to receive an award in the White Hall named for the former German president. As he got out of the taxi he was greeted by approximately 70 demonstrators from the Youth Union and anti-abuse organizations. “Shame on you!”
The reason for the outcry? According to the FAZ it was Cohn-Bendit’s accounts of his adventures in paedophilia while working in a pre-school.
In his 1975 book “Le Grand Bazar,” Cohn-Bendit justified pedophilia as a form of sexual liberation. “It’s happened to me several times that some children have opened my fly [Hosenlatz] and started to caress me.”
According to the FAZ, in a 1978 magazine article Cohn-Bendit stated:
„Letztes Jahr hat mich ein 6jähriges Genossenmädchen verführt. Es war eines der schönsten und sprachlosesten Erlebnisse, die ich je hatte. Vielleicht war es so schön, weil es so sprachlos war. Es war das einzige Mal, wo es mir nicht zu früh kam. Aber das war nicht wichtig in dem Moment, und es ist auch jetzt nicht wichtig, ein Traktat über das Für und Wider von Päderastie zu schreiben“, heißt es in der Zeitschrift.
“Last year I seduced a willing 6-year girl. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had and left me speechless. Maybe it was so wonderful because it was so speechless. … But that was not important at the moment, and it’s not important right now to write a treatise on the pros and cons of pederasty.”
The FAZ reports that Cohn-Bendit has since claimed these confessions were fictional and asks that he be judged not on what he said but what he did. The article states that in 2001 the Green Party cleared Cohn-Bendit of misconduct after a parent wrote a letter clearing the radical leader. However, the FAZ reported that its investigation found the parent exculpating Cohn-Bendit who wrote the letter did so out of political solidarity with “poor Dany” and did not have a child in his class.
The judge said he would not attend the ceremony saying that he did not want to create the impression that the Constitutional Court approved of Mr. Cohn-Bendit’s utterances regarding paedophilia. However other political and cultural leaders who honored Cohn-Bendit sad they would not judge him.
Kretschmann, de Weck und Heuss begründen, warum sie Cohn-Bendit trotz allem für preiswürdig halten. Der Ministerpräsident sagt, es habe während der Achtundsechziger-Zeit Tabubrüche gegeben, die richtig gewesen seien. „Früher war Homosexualität strafbar“, heute seien bekennende Schwule Bundesminister und Ministerpräsidenten. Doch: „Bei Sex mit Kindern hört der Tabubruch auf.“ Es sei ein „elementarer Unterschied“, ob Cohn-Bendits Irrtümer verbaler Natur seien oder tatsächlich stattgefunden hätten.
In spite of everything, Kretschmann, de Weck and Heuss continue to justify their support for the award to Cohn-Bendit. The Prime Minister said that in 1968 many taboos were being challenged. “In the past, homosexuality was punishable,” but today there were gay political leaders. But: “sex with children, that taboo has not changed.” But there was, he said. a “fundamental difference” between Cohn-Bendit”s committing the acts and his writing about them.
Is there a distinction between bragging about having molested children and not having done so — and actually having done the deed? Is breaking the taboos of bourgeois society an excuse for molesting a child? Given the torrent of invective heaped on the church by the press and political leaders over its child abuse crimes — does not the tolerance, nay the celebration of Daniel Cohn-Bendit speak to a bigotry and hypocrisy among the European elite?
This is simply extraordinary. Yet, the rules of civil society do not seem to apply to the 68ers and their moral and political enablers. Hypocrisy — the war on terror — is rife in America too. Kathy Boudin can take part in a act of terrorism where a bank guard is killed and today teaches at Columbia. How is Cohn-Bendit’s conduct worse?
First printed in GetReligion.
Master of my Domain: Get Religion, April 23, 2013 April 24, 2013Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: abortion, Gazeta Wyborcza, masturbation, Poland, Religion Dispatches
… (T)he best persuaded of himself, so cramm’d, as he thinks, with excellencies that it is his grounds of faith that all that look on him love him.
Twelfth Night, 2.3.150-152 (1623)
The counterrevolution has begun.
The press is pushing back against its critics over the Kermit Gosnell affair. Stung by the criticisms and the hypocrisies detailed by Mollie Hemingway on this website, Kirsten Powers at USA Today and other outlets, some have begun reporting on the murder trial of the Philadelphia abortionist. Other outlets in their op-ed sections havedefended their non-coverage or sought to deflect criticisms – – the New York Times‘ Tiller editorial is classic sleight-of-hand, substituting one story for another. “Nothing here to see folks. Move along.”
A few have embarked upon the high road. Writing in Religion Dispatches Diane Winston argues in “The Myth of News Media as Secularist Conspiracy” there has never been a golden era when reporters
provided smart, in-depth, contextualized coverage of religious leaders, issues, ideas, and communities.
In support of this contention, the article offers historical examples purporting to show the press has always done a poor job — missing stories, printing pablum in place of news or voicing prejudice such as H.L. Menken’s critique of Fundamentalism in his account of the Scope’s “monkey” trial or the “anti-Hindu coverage that ran through Western newspapers in the 1910s and 1920s.” The crux of her argument is that the problem is not a lack of:
trained religion reporters, but rather Americans’ widespread ignorance about religion. Religion is absent from many high school curricula and university classrooms, and many of us barely know the religious history of our own country much less the role of religion worldwide.
But her argument then pivots, stating:
Yet, I’m not convinced that improving the American educational system is really at the heart of Cannon’s plaint about religion coverage and his subsequent post on Kermit Gosnell.
Making more Americans aware of religion and historical incidents like an anti-Hindu press — a history of which I was not aware — would not have mattered in the Gosnell story as:
The Gosnell story is not a religion story, it’s a crime story. People with religious convictions may read their passions into it, but Gosnell did not seem to be motivated one way or the other by a faith commitment. Yet cultural religionists imply that the absence of religious commitment in the nation’s newsrooms—and consequent acceptance of baby-killing, oops abortion, is among the reasons that the Gosnell story was overlooked.
The notion that the news media is a secularist cabal ignoring stories that challenge its shibboleths is wrongheaded.
I do not agree. There is just a hint of Coriolanus going before the plebs here. That large sections of the media believe an abortionist charged with multiple counts of murder is a crime story without significant religious or moral overtones speaks to the failings and biases of the press, not readers. (One need only look to the loss of market share and trust the mainstream media have experienced to know that all is not well — or the studies and monographs on the triumph of ideology over reporting in major American newspapers.)Nor does she show a logical connection between her observations about ignorance of the audience and the silence about Gosnell.
Criticisms voiced by GetReligion have nothing to do with the private conscience of reporters who write about religion but about their ignorance of the topics they are covering coupled with a self-satisfied, complacent, high opinion of their own importance and disdain for views that conflict with their own. Large sections of the American press are like Mr. Podsnap who “stood very high in Mr. Podsnap’s opinion,” — they see religion reporting through the lens of anthropology and institutions, not through the culture and belief of people.
And it is this failure of intelligence, relevance and imagination that lies behind the Gosnell fracas. The personal views of reporters are irrelevant — it is their professional competence at issue.
Let me offer an example of good religion journalism to illustrate my argument of ideology free competent reporting. In a front page story Warsaw’s Gazeta Wyborczalast week reported on a paper released by the Polish Bishops’ Conference (Konferencja Episkopatu Polski) objecting to in vitro fertilization, abortion, euthanasia, and contraception, arguing they were a threat to humanity.
begins with masturbation… All doubts in the field of human existence should be resolved in favor of life. We must also stand firmly against all kinds of action that are a threat to humans. Even the loftiest purpose does not justify actions that put human life in danger,” reads the document written by the Bishops’ Bioethics Expert Team.
“A Christian must care about the truth. This is why he or she should uncover lies, one of which is the particularly harmful suggestion that in vitro fertilization is a treatment for infertility. It does not treat anything. Infertile people stay infertile. They entrust the production of children to strangers,” the bishops write.
According to the authors of the document, in vitro is the poorly-fulfilled desire of infertile couples, who wish to be parents. The church authorities believe that it gives permission “to sacrifice a few human beings” in order to have a child. This refers to the embryos that are destroyed during in vitro trials. “The sperm is obtained from a father through masturbation, the mother’s body is repeatedly manipulated, meaning that the child becomes a product,” the document reads.
These quotes are a gift. When reporters dream, unlike other men (and women), they dream dreams of bishops condemning masturbation. The possibilities for displaying smutty lowbrow humor are endless. Yet given this set up, the Gazeta Wyborcza plays it straight giving the bishops space to explain their views — to paraphrase my colleague TMatt, they allow people not just paper to speak.
Archbishop [Henryk] Hoser is the main author of the paper. Trained as a physician, he is one of the Episcopal Commission on Bioethics’ experts. Yesterday he said: “The prenatal human is viewed more as a thing, not as a human being [by those who support IVF]. Many lives are lost in a procedure intended to produce a sole survivor. …
[The Church] opposes the creation of extra embryos produced to be frozen and considers this tantamount to killing them. “Most frozen and thawed embryos die in the process or are otherwise unable to continue healthy growth. Yet the embryo is a person and each embryo turns out to be a helpless member of the human family,whose dignity and rights are ruthlessly trampled.”
Against these comments Gazeta Wyborcza sets contradictory medical opinion.
“Not true. Medicine is moving forward. Maybe 20-25 years ago you could propound this thesis, but not today. … [If properly stored the rate of success of frozen embryos] in implantation in the uterus is the same, or even greater than in the case of embryos transferred without freezing,” argues Prof. Waldemar Kuczynski, Chairman of the Section of Fertility and Infertility of the Polish Gynecological Society and consultant to the government program … The bishops’ arguments are “biased and unfair”.
The article also points to what it believes to be an inconsistency in the bishops’ argument.
The hierarchy also criticized contraception and abortion … “Claiming the right to abortion is an expression of a highly unworthy conduct …”. Anti-abortion rhetoric is heard more often in the church, but in the 90s the bishops approved the so-called Compromise Law that allowed abortion in three cases: rape, danger to life or health of the mother, and severe irreversible damage to the fetus.
Why is this a good article? It is a straight forward summary of the report with comments from critics. First off, the article pulled quotes from the report that would excite its readers, while also providing quotes that placed the controversial statements in context. Both sides can hear their points of view expressed clearly, the article provides the key quotes from the report, places them in context and allows the church to explain why it said what it said. It also wrote this story with its audience — not against it. There is no mockery (that I could see) as it takes its audience’s faith seriously — it understands these are moral questions not merely “health news”.
But this is not a pro-church puff piece. The criticisms are given a full airing and the newspaper’s skepticism of the absolutist position on abortion is made clear by reference to the church’s tolerance for some abortions.
Ask yourself if you believe the New York Times would have printed this story? Which takes me back to the defense of the non-reporting on the Gosnell trial. Perhaps it is old news, a local crime story that would upset readers with the testimony of savagery and barbarity worthy of Auschwitz? Or then again could there be a “secularist cabal ignoring stories that challenge its shibboleths”?
Whatever you may decide, what the press has done (returning once more to Maria’s description of Malvolio in Twelfth Night) is that it has shown itself to be an “affection’d ass”.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
First printed in GetReligion.
Interview: Issues, Etc.: March 21, 2013 March 24, 2013Posted by geoconger in Issues Etc, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Pope Francis
Here is a link to an interview I gave to the Issues, Etc. show of Lutheran Public Radio broadcast on 21 March 2013
Benedict’s abdication “demystifies” the papacy: The Church of England Newspaper, February 24, 2013 p 6. March 23, 2013Posted by geoconger in Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI, Rowan Williams
The abdication of Pope Benedict XVI will modernize the papacy, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams believes, and will invigorate the call to service to the church and the world for the occupant of the chair of St Peter.
In an interview broadcast on 12 Feb 2013 Lord Williams, the Master of Magdalene College Cambridge, stated Benedict’s resignation may “demystify the papacy,” challenging the view the “pope is not like a sort of God King who goes on to the very end.”
The “ministry of service that the Bishop of Rome exercises is just that, a ministry of service and it’s therefore reasonable to ask if there is a moment when somebody else should take that baton in hand,” he said. Benedict’s decision serves to remind the Christian world of the “primitive position of the bishop of Rome as the servant of the unity of the Church, of the bishop who convenes, mediates between, manages the fellowship of the bishops, that slightly more functional, slightly less theologically top heavy picture, that may be one of the things that emerges from this.”
While the process to appoint a new Archbishop of Canterbury took almost six months, the Catholic Church’s Apostolic Constitution calls for a Conclave of Cardinals to begin within 20 days but not before 15 days, following the declaration the chair of St Peter was “sede vacante”. However, Vatican press spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said last week the Conclave could start within ten days of the date of the pope’s formal resignation – 28 Feb in light of the unusual circumstances of the pope’s abdication.
As of 28 Jan, 118 cardinals were eligible to vote for the next pope – 62 Europeans, 19 South Americans, 14 North Americans, 11 Africans, 11 Asians and 1 from the Pacific. The largest national group of cardinals is Italy with 28, followed by the US with 11, Germany with 6 and Spain and Brazil with 5.
Lord Williams said the announcement “wasn’t a total surprise, I think because in our last conversation I was very conscious that he was recognising his own frailty and it did cross my mind to wonder whether this was a step he might think about.”
In retirement he hoped Benedict would return to writing. “We look for some more profound and reflective theology from him, of the kind that’s made his encyclicals so wonderfully fruitful as a resource for the whole Christian family.”
He added that he had shared with Benedict his plans to retire before the news was shared with the Anglican Communion. “I’d spoken to him before I’d announced my resignation earlier in the year, so we shared some reflections on the pressures of office and, yes, we spoke about the promise of being able to do a bit more thinking, and praying…because by the grace of God we’ve enjoyed a warm relationship, so it was possible for me to share that with him earlier in the year.”
Lord Williams agreed Benedict’s resignation might well further the call made by John Paul II in Ut Unum Sint to rethink the papacy in the service of unity for all Christians. “It will be very interesting to see,” he told Vatican Radio, adding “I think we have yet to work through all the implications of Ut Unum Sint and if this is a stimulus to do some more work on that, I’d say well and good.”
Tags: Christina Kirchner, Der Standard, ORF, Pope Francis
And now for something completely different in the coverage of the election of Pope Francis — complaints from Viennese newspaper Der Standard that some coverage was unfair to atheists.
In an editorial discussing the press coverage of the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as the 226th Bishop of Rome the left liberal daily took the state TV broadcaster ORF to task for its one-sided and uncritical reporting.
Im ORF wurden in den verschiedensten Nachrichten-Formaten die Bilder gezeigt, wie sich der Papst bei Argentiniens Staatspräsidentin Cristina Kirchner für ein Präsent mit einem Wangenküsschen bedankt, was angesichts des gespannten Verhältnisses zwischen den beiden zwar eine Nachricht wert ist. Die Nachrichtenzeit wurde aber lieber für das tapsige Auspacken von Kirchners Mitbringsel verwendet, anstatt auf die Hintergründe der Anspannungen zwischen den beiden hinzuweisen, die unter anderem in der Gegnerschaft Bergoglios für Rechte von Lesben und Schwulen liegen. Mag sein, dass ein Verhütungsverbot, die Dämonisierung von gleichgeschlechtlicher Liebe oder die Kontrolle über den Körper von Frauen für Päpste, Kardinäle, Bischöfe und auch für viele gläubige KatholikInnen normal sind. Für sehr viele BürgerInnen ist es das aber nicht. Das Ereignis Papst-Wahl verleitete viele Medien dazu, zu vergessen, dass nicht nur religiöse Gefühle verletzt werden können, sondern auch atheistische.
[Austrian state TV broadcaster] ORF showed the pope thanking the Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner for a gift with a kiss on the cheek, which considering the tense relations between the two was certainly newsworthy. But instead of going into the background of the tensions between the two, which arise among other things from Bergoglio’s opposition to rights for gays and lesbians, the report followed the clumsy unwrapping of Kirchner’s present. It may be that a ban on contraception, the demonization of homosexual love and exercising control over women’s bodies are normal things for cardinals, bishops and many faithful Catholics. But for many citizens they aren’t. The papal election’s status as a major event has led many media to forget that not just religious feelings can be hurt, but atheistic ones too.
I’ve taken to task on the pages of GetReligion some American newspapers and broadcasters for their hypercritical reporting on Pope Francis. The argument put forward by Der Standard, however, can be distinguished from my criticisms of CNN, et al.
Raising the issue of Pope Francis’ conduct during the “dirty war”, when he served a superior of the Argentine Society of Jesus province, is a proper journalistic endeavor. I contrasted the French reporting on this issue which laid out the facts and noted the denials and strength of evidence to CNN’s coverage which framed the issue against Francis. CNN took as gospel the accusations but was skeptical of the defense.
That is a different argument from automatically rejecting out of hand any harsh words about the new Pope. Der Standard has a point. The exchange between both Francis and Pres. Kirchner, hitherto fierce political rivals in Argentina’s culture wars, should have been put in context. I am not persuaded by the editorial’s argument that this was a disservice to atheists. But I agree this fell short as journalism.
First printed in GetReligion.
Tags: Huffington Post
In this age of citizen journalism, blogger news, free content and PR driven stories there still remains a place for professional religion writers — reporters who know the topic they are covering and understand the rules of the journalistic craft.
This story from the Huffington Post highlights the journalistic shortcomings of the new media. Entitled: “Catholic Church, Facing U.S. Priest Shortage, Now Using Anglican Converts To Serve Parishes” begins with a false assumption that distorts the story, while missing the real news taking place.
The article begins:
Facing a priest shortage, the Catholic Church in the United States has started turning to former Anglican leaders to fill empty parishes.
The number of Roman Catholic priests in the U.S. has dropped by about 20,000 since 1975, while the number of Catholics has increased by 17 million, CBS reports.
The shortage was stretching thin the abilities of Catholic priests, and the Catholic Church was “supersizing” as it tried to accommodate more Catholics at a dwindling number of parishes, according to a 2011 study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate for the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership project.
Allowing converted Anglican priests to join the church was seen as a way to solve this shortage problem.
If the first and fourth sentences of this story are true, this is a major scoop for the Huffington Post as the assertion the Anglican Ordinariate is a scheme to replenish the ranks of the clergy has been hotly denied by the Vatican. The reasons given by Pope Benedict for creating the Ordinariate, to create a home for former Anglicans within the Roman Catholic Church while preserving liturgical patrimony, have never included clergy recruitment. If this were the true reason, it would paint Pope Benedict as being disingenuous — what the British press would call being “not entirely straightforward”—e.g., a flaming liar.
And the evidence of this presented by the Huffington Post– the killer quote that blows this tory wide open — there is none. The Huffington Post makes an assumption and treats it as fact. The remainder of the article collects an assortment of quotes and statements from other newspapers but offers nothing else.
Coincidentally, the Ordinariate has been in the news following comments published in the church press and the Telegraph reporting that Pope Francis is not a friend of the Ordinariate. In the Church of England Newspaper and on Anglican Ink I reported the Anglican Bishop of Argentina, Gregory Venables said Cardinal Bergoglio “called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans.”
The report from Bishop Venables sparked some controversy in the British press and speculation Francis might adopt a different tone than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. A spokesman for the English Ordinariate denied any change was in the offing telling the Telegraph the comments were Bishop Venables’ not the Pope’s. Whether it meant to or not the Huffington Post story paints Pope Benedict as an opportunist and a bit of a fraud. The years of dialogue and the theological work that led to the reunion of some Anglicans with the Catholic Church is reduced to a form of clergy sheep-stealing. The article does not get religion doesn’t even seem to want to try to understand religion.
The bottom line is that this is a cut-and-paste job topped off with an unsubstantiated assertion (that happens to be untrue). And if you are going to do a cut and paste job at least try to be up to speed on the story. It may well be a consequence of the 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus is that former Anglican clergy re-ordained as Catholic clergy may help alleviate the shortage of priests in the US and UK – but a consequence is not a cause.
First published in GetReligion.
Francis and the “Hand of God”: Get Religion, March 15, 2013 March 15, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Bild. The Mirror, Diego Maradona, Pope Francis, soccer
Europe’s tabloid press has added its bit to the wall-to-wall press coverage of Pope Francis. Crowding out the semi-nude girls, horse racing results, horoscopes and celebrity tattle the details of the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires to the chair of St. Peter have received page 1 treatment across the continent.
Two newspapers have been especially clever. The Mirror in London and Germany’s Bild used the same photo of Francis on the balcony at St. Peter’s and the same caption “The new hand of God” (Die neue Hand Gottes).
For American audience this title is fairly benign. But for soccer crazy Europeans and Argentinians the phrase is a clever play on one of the most famous incidents in World Cup play.
Before a crowd of 120,000 in Mexico City on 22 June 1986 (and only four years after the Falklands War) Argentina played England in the quarter finals of the 1986 FIFA World Cup. Beating England 2-1, Argentine captain Diego Maradona scored two of the most famous goals in soccer history. Fifty-one minutes into the match Maradona used his hand to knock the ball into the goal out of the sight of the referee.
His second, after fifty-four minutes, saw him dribble past five England players to score. In 2002 this was voted Goal of the Century by FIFA.com voters. The first became known as the “hand of God goal” after Maradona told reporters the ball had been helped with
“a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.
To help the dimmer members amongst its readers (and foreigners like me) The Mirror inserted a photo next to the new pope’s hand showing the “Hand of God goal”. It is possible to read a little too much into this. While The Mirror and Bild are generally unsympathetic to the Catholic Church, I believe this is just an example of a copy editor’s cleverness. Nothing more. This is the view of the LA Times also.
What say you GetReligion readers, is this fun or is there something more?
First printed in GetReligion.
Tags: gay marriage, Guardian, hypocrisy, Keith O'Brien, Salon
The downfall of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s senior Roman Catholic cleric, has not shown the press at its best. While the Observer, the Guardian newspaper’ Sunday edition, deserves high praise for breaking the story of the cardinal’s misconduct, a number of stories have adopted a gleeful and sanctimonious tone. Sex and religion sells newspapers – – but coupled with sloppy language and malicious hyperbole good reporting can be squeezed out of a story.
On 3 March 2013 Cardinal O’Brien admitted “there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.”
The Guardian reported that Cardinal O’Brien:
… who was forced to resign by the pope last week, has made a dramatic admission that he was guilty of sexual misconduct throughout his career in the Roman Catholic church. … The former archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, and until recently the most senior Catholic in Britain, apologised and asked for forgiveness from those he had “offended” and from the entire church.
… O’Brien’s resignation was remarkable in its speed; his apology is all but unprecedented in its frankness. Many sexual scandals or allegations of misconduct against individuals or the wider church have dragged on for years.
A second story by the Guardian commented that the cardinal’s real sin was not his abuse, but his hypocrisy.
In purely human terms, the story of Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation is tragic. He had spent a lifetime reaching the upper echelons of his church, but after allegations of inappropriate behaviour made in the Observer last Sunday his fall from grace took just 36 hours. Not one of the four complainants takes any satisfaction from that. This is not about the exposure of one man’s alleged foibles. It is about the exposure of a church official who publicly issues a moral blueprint for others’ lives that he is not prepared to live out himself. Homosexuality is not the issue; hypocrisy is. The cardinal consistently condemned homosexuality during his reign, vociferously opposing gay adoption and same-sex marriage. The church cannot face in two directions like a grotesque two-headed monster: one face for public, the other for private.
Other outlets took up the theme of hypocrisy with Salon offering the most over-the-top piece that I have seen so far. Under the title, “Cardinal ‘Tyranny of tolerance’ O’Brien is a hypocrite of the worst order”, Salon published a puerile screed that began:
He was a homosexuality-condemning cardinal who is now embroiled in a tale involving his alleged “drunken fumblings” and unwanted advances toward other men. Well, at least this one’s a Catholic Church scandal that doesn’t involve children. Progress, maybe?
Standing outside of the issue of the cardinal’s misconduct, the journalistic question I would question in these reports is the assertion that Cardinal O’Brien is a hypocrite.
Hypocrisy is saying one thing and doing another. Here the cardinal is accused of hypocrisy for promoting traditional Christian moral virtues while having failed to live up to them in his private life. An example of hypocrisy familiar to most GetReligion readers would be the scene from the movie Casablanca. Ordered by the Germans to close Rick’s Café, Capt. Renault states he is shocked to find that gambling is taking place in the club. Gambling is illegal Capt. Renault states just as he is handed his winnings from the croupier.
Hypocrisy is different, however, from failing to practice a virtue that one preaches. In Rambler No. 14 Samuel Johnson distinguished between hypocrisy and moral failing.
Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for those virtues which he neglects to practice; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions, without having yet obtained the victory, as a man may be confident of the advantages of a voyage, or a journey, without having courage or industry to undertake it, and may honestly recommend to others, those attempts which he neglects himself.
If the cardinal were engaging in homosexual activities today while preaching the necessity of upholding traditional moral standards, he would be a hypocrite. However, no evidence has been presented that the cardinal has done this. My colleague, Peter Ould, wrote about this scandal:
If Keith O’Brien was publicly teaching one thing and privately practising another, then that’s hypocrisy. If on the other hand he sinned in the past, repented and then taught that such behaviour he had engaged in was sinful, that’s not hypocrisy, that’s grace.
And it is this distinction the secondary reports in the Guardian, Salon and other newspapers do not seem to comprehend. I do not know the full story but before I would accuse the cardinal of hypocrisy I would want to make sure that he was the being a hypocrite. Did he repent? Did he seek absolution for his sin? Or is he a reprobate who did not see his conduct as having been wrong — until his story was printed in the Observer? These questions need be asked before the assertion of hypocrisy is made.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien has committed a thought crime — he teaches that homosexual conduct is immoral while being subject to sexual temptation himself. He has fallen short — but does he teach something he does not believe?
First printed in GetReligion.
Tags: Argentina, Cristina Fernández Kirchner, Francis I, gay marriage, Gregory Venables
The Bishop of Argentina and former primate of the Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur (Anglican Church of the Southern Cone), the Most Rev. Greg Venables, has applauded the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio saying the Argentine Archbishop is a devout Christian and friend to Anglicans, who has stood in solidarity with the poor against government corruption and social engineering.
In a note released after the election of the new Pope, Francis I, on March 13 Bishop Venables wrote:
“Many are asking me what Jorge Bergoglio is really like. He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary. He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans. I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him.”
Read it all in Anglican Ink.
Tags: Francis I, Justin Welby, Katharine Jefferts Schori
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has offered his congratulations to Francis I, the first Latin American and first Jesuit pope.
Francis’ election is “of great significance to Christians everywhere, not least among Anglicans. We have long since recognised—and often reaffirmed—that our churches hold a special place for one another. I look forward to meeting Pope Francis, and to walking and working together to build on the consistent legacy of our predecessors. May the love of Christ unite us, and intensify our service in a genuine and fruitful ecumenism that can be a blessing for the Body of Christ throughout the world,” Archbishop Welby said.
The presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Katharine Jefferts Schori was less effusive. “The Episcopal Church will pray for the new Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis I, and for the possibility of constructive dialogue and cooperation between our Churches.”
Read it all in Anglican Ink.
Mixed reaction to pope’s retirement announcement: The Church of England Newspaper, February 17, 2013 p 7. February 22, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Anglican Centre in Rome, Benedict XVI, David Richardson, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Olav Fykse Tveit
The news of the announcement of the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI has drawn mixed reactions across the globe. Ecumenical, Orthodox and Anglican leaders have praised released statements praising the pontiff. However, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church noted that while he understood the reasons for the retirement, it nonetheless left him uncomfortable.
The Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, the Rev. Canon David Richardson told The Church of England Newspaper he was “at first shocked by the news but, after a few moments reflection, it occurred to me that one should not really be totally surprised.”
“I had read last year the interview ‘Luce del Mondo’ and noted the Pope’s statement there that ‘when one has a clear awareness that one does not possess the physical, mental and spiritual strength to continue one has the right, and in some cases the duty, to step down.’ Therefore one might say that the highest authority, Pope Benedict himself, had already served notice of the possibility of today’s events,” he observed.
Canon Richardson stated that “each time I have seen the Pope recently – and the last time was 25th January when I mentioned to him that I myself am to retire in April – I have been conscious of his increasing physical frailty.”
“It is however of course an unprecedented step that he is taking and for that one can only admire the strength and the courage of the Holy Father. I am sure that Pope Benedict will value the opportunity and the space to study, to write and to pray that this decision will afford him. His scholarship has arguably always been his greatest gift to the Church and after 28th February he, like that other great Christian leader and theologian, Rowan Williams, who laid down the office of the Archbishopric of Canterbury only five weeks ago, will have the opportunity in new ways to put that gift at the service of the Church.”
It remains to be seen what the announcement will mean for Anglican-Catholic relations, Canon Richardson added. ARCIC III is “proceeding well” and Benedict’s support for the Anglican Ordinariate shows “how much common ground there is between us.”
“All that said, a great deal obviously will depend on Pope Benedict’s successor,” Canon Richardson said.
The Moscow Patriarchate’s head of the Department of External Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, told the ITAR-TASS news agency: “Really, there have been no precedents of this kind in the modern history of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II remained in office to the end despite his serious health problems.
However, Hilarion added that being pope is “not a ceremonial office. If one’s age and health prove to be an obstacle for effective work, the head of a Church may decide to retire. In recent years, the Catholic Church has come to face very serious challenges which require new incentives to come from the See of Rome. Perhaps, precisely this has made the pope to give way to a younger and more dynamic prelate to be elected by the conclave of cardinals. The Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to leave his office in the present situation may be seen as an act of personal courage and humbleness.”
Former Daily Mirror editor and television commentator, Piers Morgan, scoffed at the news of the retirement, writing: “As a Catholic, I’m not buying this. Popes don’t just quit because they’re tired. What’s going on here??”
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit released a statement saying “we have to respect fully the decision of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to resign.”
“With deep respect I have seen how he has carried the responsibility and burdens of his ministry in his advanced age, in a very demanding time for the church,” Dr. Tveit said in New York, asking for prayer that “God bless him in this moment and this phase of his life, and that God will guide and bless the Roman Catholic Church in a very important time of transition.”
Catholic yes to yoga?: Get Religion, February 21, 2013 February 21, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Albert Mohler, Associated Press, La Stampa, New York Times, Raffaello Martinelli, seperation of church and state, yoga
I have been waiting for the American press to pick up an article found in Saturday’s edition of La Stampa, the Turin-based Italian daily, on the Catholic Church and yoga. But as five days have passed with no mention of Bishop Raffaello Martinelli I expect we will not be seeing anything for the moment.
This is shame really as the the intersection of yoga and state, as GR’s editor TMatt has described it, is a live issue. My colleague, Mollie Hemingway, has written about the intersection of yoga and American culture — noting the consternation Hindus feel when its non-Hindu devotees reject claims they are appropriating a spiritual exercise of their faith.
Last December the New York Times ran a detailed article on a dispute in a California school system that had introduced yoga classes for students. On 20 Feb 2013 the Associated Press reported the dispute had now become a law suit with parents suing the school district saying their children are being taught religious doctrine by public school teachers. The school district’s response to the lawsuit is to deny that yoga is religious and that the ends justify the means.
Superintendent Timothy B. Baird said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not directly comment on it, but he defended the district’s decision to integrate yoga into its curriculum this year. The district is believed to be the first in the country to have full-time yoga teachers at every one of its schools. The lessons are funded by a $533,000, three-year grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes Asthanga yoga. Since the district started the classes at its nine schools in January, Baird said teachers and parents have noticed students are calmer, using the breathing practices to release stress before tests.
“We’re not teaching religion,” he said. “We teach a very mainstream physical fitness program that happens to incorporate yoga into it. It’s part of our overall wellness program. The vast majority of students and parents support it.”
The kids are calmer after practicing yoga and therefore it is a good thing. Would the superintendent have been willing to accept money from a Catholic charity to hire someone for each school to teach kids Christian meditation? Or if the issue is movement of the body, would it have engaged a Falung Gong instructor to teach Dharma Wheel Practice if the group had put up the cash?
Into this mix comes Saturday’s La Stampa article entitled “Vescovo Italiano apre a Yoga” ["Italian bishop open to Yoga"]
The lede states:
Un vescovo italiano, Mons. Raffaello Martinelli (consacrato vescovo il 2 luglio 2009), che è stato per un lungo periodo collaboratore di Joseph Ratzinger quando era Prefetto della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede, “apre” a forme di meditazione orientale, da utilizzare in un quadro di spiritualità cristiana.
Which I translate as:
An Italian Catholic bishop states he is “open” to the use of Eastern meditation by Catholics in their prayer life. However, Msgr. Raffaello Martinelli, the Bishop of Frascati, (consecrated 2 July 2009), who served as an aide to Pope Benedict XVI when the pope was the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, said these practices must be used in the framework of Christian spirituality.
The article goes on to say that Msgr. Martinelli in December 2010 published a catechesis that is being sold in Catholic book stores in Italy that says meditation practices from non-Christian religions such as Zen and yoga “can be a suitable means for the faithful to stand before God.”
The explanation the bishop offers is that:
Since the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions [Nostra Aetate, 2], a Catholic should not be prejudiced against controlled breathing, mantras and other Eastern practices as being non-Christian. The Catholic can, however, take from them what is useful, provided he does not lose sight of the Christian conception of prayer, its logic and its needs since it is within the Christian spiritual sphere these practices must be employed.
Quite a strong statement from the bishop — and if it finds a way into the yoga and state debate in the U.S. will likely need to be clarified by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Newspaper articles about Catholic parishes refusing to rent space to yoga classes appear from time to time, but the question has not been definitely addressed for Catholics by the Magisterium.
When he was an aide to the then Cardinal Ratzinger, Msgr. Martinelli was involved in the preparation for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation which warned against syncretism. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue’s Jesus Christ, The Bearer of the Water of Life also argues that there must be a complete separation of a yoga exercises from their Hindu religious or philosophical roots — and Southern Baptist commentator Albert Mohler has argued Christians should not practice yoga at all due to the dangers of syncretism.
I do hope we will see some quality reporting in this area — there is an abundance of material for the journalist covering the story to find.
Anglican Unscripted Episode 65: February 20, 2013 February 21, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican.TV, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Ashes to go, Benedict XVI, Gafcon II, Justin Welby
This week Kevin and George tackle the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI — bantering about the fallout from the press and his decade of achievements. Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury had his first week at Lambeth Palace and your Hosts bring you insider perspectives and remark on his first three achievements. In response to your questions and prompting we tackle Gafcon II and the lack of intel available and AU65 finishes with a frank discussion about Ashes-2-Go. Comments to AnglicanUnscripted@gmail.com #AU65 http://www.anglican.tv
Guardian wins week one of the 2013 All-England Pope-Bashing Contest: Get Religion, February 19, 2013 February 19, 2013Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: anti-Catholic media bias, BBC, Benedict XVI, Guardian
The year’s at the spring, And day’s at the morn; Morning’s at seven; The hill-side’s dew-pearled; The lark’s on the wing; The snail’s on the thorn; God’s in His heaven—All’s right with the world!
Robert Browning, Pippa Passes (1841)
It’s a wonderful life. My heart has been singing songs of joy every morning as I take up my newspapers and survey the latest news on the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI. For a critic of religion reporting these are the good times — no slogging through continental newspapers to find a story to review for this blog. I am spoiled for choice just by reading the British press. Some of the stories have been so silly and wrong-headed as to be bizarre.
But there have been quite a few good stories from the religion reporters at the Times, Telegraph, Guardian, BBC and Independent in addition to the speciality church press (Catholic and Anglican) on this issue — but outside the specialist reporters the quality falls off sharply in the secular press. There is also an undercurrent of hostility towards the Catholic Church that few media outlets bother to hide — or appear to recognize.
A typical example came in BBC Radio 4?s Any Questions program. Members of the audience are asked to submit written questions on topical issues for discussion by a panel of speakers that ostensibly will provide a balance of views. The producers of the show pick the panel and the questions — and on Friday’s broadcast 23:45 minutes into the show (after questions on the food standards in the wake of the horse meat in hamburgers scandal) the question was put to the panel: “Is now the time for a black, woman pope?”
The first speaker, Ruth Davis, chief policy adviser for Greenpeace sidestepped the question, but said she did believe it was the duty of the next pope to “reconcile” the church with “the values most people hold” in Britain. Liberal Democrat MP Nick Harvey MP said to a roar of applause from the audience the Catholic Church “should be dragged into the 21st century,” and that it should update its teachings to “connect” with the values of the modern world. He and Labour MP Margaret Hodge urged the church to permit women clergy and and bring its moral ethic in conformance with those of the British establishment.
Mrs. Hodge — who was head of the Islington Council when that London Borough was responsible for the oversight of local care homes where investigators uncovered evidence of sexual abuse (Hodge refused to investigate the charges at the time as it would have cost too much) raised the issue of child sexual abuse. She argued the Catholic Church had been lax in addressing the sexual abuse scandal and observed that child sexual abuse and pedophilia were “rampant in the Catholic Church”. Only Environment Minister John Hayes declined to attack the church noting that he was not black, not a woman and not Catholic so he felt disqualified in offering an opinion on the propriety of a black woman pope.
Let me say that Any Questions is a serious, highly respected news program. The discussions of the other topics were measured — and somewhat dry. It was when the topic turned to the Catholic Church common sense flew out the door.
However, it was the Guardian that took the prize for week one in the All-England pope-bashing contest. The news article entitled “A black pope could result in mixed message over priestly celibacy” informs British readers that Africans are cretinous sex-maniacs whose Catholicism is skin deep and that the priesthood is a haven for gay men seeking meaning for their pitiful lives. This strange piece begins with an unfavorable comparison between Benedict and John Paul to John XXIII.
When Pope Benedict addressed the clergy of Rome on Thursday, he chose to talk to them about the Second Vatican Council, perhaps the central event of his life. He is among the last people alive to have taken part in that momentous gathering and it is a privilege of the long-lived to rewrite history. The then Joseph Ratzinger played a leading role in the revolutionary changes brought about by what Catholics call Vatican Two, but then did a theological U-turn after witnessing with horror the more secular upheaval of 1968. He and his predecessor, John Paul II, have step-by-step reoriented the Catholic church to the point that it is nowadays an institution which might dismay the pope who convoked the Council, John XXIII, and reassure his austere predecessor Pius XII.
Get that — Benedict has sought to reverse the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. And the evidence for this assertion? Well there is none, but we do get another outlandish assertion.
The change of direction has created a smaller, but more homogenous, church. Millions of the laity in Europe may have drifted away in despair at the gap between their lives and the Catholicism preached by the Vatican; priestly vocations in Europe may have fallen off a cliff, but those who remain – worshipers and clerics alike – are proud to belong to a conservative institution at odds with the times.
The article states the decline in church attendance and the fall of priestly vocations in Europe is not a phenomena of liberalism and secularism but the ultramontane (reactionary) policies of the last two popes. Evidence for this extraordinary assertion? Again, there is none. But at this stage we do move into the meat of the story.
So the election to the papacy of a conservative African or Asian prelate would, in principle, be welcome to large sections of the church in Europe and the United States. Even for the dwindling minority of liberals, it would be a reminder to the world that, overall, Catholicism is growing, and at a faster rate than the global population. But traditionally-minded Catholics might see one major change resulting from an African pope; the tradition of priestly celibacy.
Because of that tradition, combined with the contemporary intolerance of the laity towards unmarried relationships between priests and their “housekeepers”, it would appear that the number of gay men in the Catholic priesthood has increased.
How’s that for a plot twist — bet you didn’t see that one coming. Because the church no longer lets priests fool around with their housekeepers the clergy are now gayer. In support of this assertion we have a comment by the chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (a minister of the Metropolitan Community Church) that the Catholic priesthood is a haven for those who cannot answer the question “Why aren’t you married yet?”
It is unlikely an African or Asian cardinal would be elected pope because they would crack down on the gay subculture of the European Catholic Church, the article states, and because they would be more likely to end priestly celibacy. The article observes:
… time and again, bishops on visits to Rome have stressed that, in many African cultures, a man without a woman beyond a certain age incites suspicion and lacks authority. That puts a Catholic priest at a notable disadvantage to the local imam in many of the areas where Christianity is competing with Islam for ascendancy. And since that is one of the most important challenges facing the church, a black pope could put an end to priestly celibacy.
Remember this article did not appear in the Comment is Free section of the Guardian or as an editorial or op-ed piece. It was printed in the news section — and did not even have the cover of being called “news analysis”. Where does one begin? There are several statements offered as fact that need substantiation — the cause of the decline of the Catholic Church in Europe, the priesthood as a refuge for gay men, the disinclination of Africans to honor clerical celibacy, and cultural pressures from Africa that identify unmarried men as being “suspicious” characters. These are opinions, not facts and this is certainly not news. The lack of professionalism in this story is compounded by an extraordinary cluelessness — the Guardian‘s Rome correspondent does not seem to get out very much.
My favorite Guardian article of the week though was published on 15 Feb in the World News section. It stated the pope had resigned because he had lost his faith.
When the resignation of the Pope was announced earlier in the week, the news seemed bizarre, almost unbelievable. I find, as I get my head around the idea, that the whole thing just becomes more bizarre, not less. If you strongly believe in God, I suppose you can tell yourself that He moves in mysterious ways, as per. But if you don’t, then this all seems rather like the moment when the curtain moves back to reveal the Wizard of Oz as a wee man pulling levers. Exposing the Papacy as a job, not a sacrosanct heavenly ambassadorship, is a quite risky thing to do, precisely because it’s so human, so humdrum, so non-spiritual. The only logical conclusion is that Joseph Ratzinger no longer believes that he is God’s representative on earth. Awkward. The Pope has surely lost his faith.
While I was surprised by the news of the pope’s resignation, I did not find it bizarre. The suggestion that he was stepping down because he no longer believed — that is bizarre.
I must say these stories made me laugh. While the first few roused my professional ire, the great number of silly stories (these three are but a skim of the surface) soon brightened my day. There is a Monty Pythonesque sense of the absurd in these stories. They are so terrible that they cease to upset me and leave me smiling. What say you GetReligion readers? Am I so jaded that I am unable to be offended anymore?
First printed in GetReligion.
Ordinariate liturgical commission meets in London: The Church of England Newspaper, January 27, 2013, p 3. January 28, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Jeffrey Steenson, liturgy, Salvatore Cordileone
The liturgical commission created by the Vatican to prepare a Catholic Book of Common Prayer for the Anglican Ordinariate met in London last week.
In 2012 the Vatican created the Subcommission on the Liturgy for the Anglican Ordinariates staffed by canon law experts, liturgists, and prelates. The commission is to submit proposals in 2014 to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Divine Worship on Anglican rites for the Eucharist, marriage, funerals and seasonal prayers that are in conformance to Catholic doctrine and discipline.
Shortly before the start of the 16-18 January 2013 meeting in London, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco – a member of the subcommission – told his diocesan newspaper Catholic San Francisco there was “diversity among Anglican liturgies. We’re trying to have a more unified form. They can always use the current form of the Roman Missal, but also they’ll have a more traditional form that’s Anglican.”
Last August, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter – the American branch of the ordinariate – stated the liturgy now in use was the “Book of Divine Worship Rite I”, while “those congregations that prefer a contemporary idiom, the Roman Missal 3rd edition could be used.”
However, the Latin mass was not to be used in ordinariate congregations. Clergy who “want to learn also how to celebrate” according to the traditional Latin mass were “certainly encouraged to do so” under the “supervision of the local bishop,” Msgr. Steenson said, so as to “assist in those stable communities that use the Extraordinary Form.”
The traditional Latin Mass, (the Extraordinary Form) “is not integral to the Anglican patrimony, it is not properly used in our communities,” he added.
Those elements of the Anglican liturgical patrimony incorporated into the liturgical life of the Ordinariate sought to balance “two historic principles — that Christian prayer and proclamation should be offered in the vernacular and that the language of worship should be sacral,” Msgr. Steenson said.
Archbishop Cordileone said among the differences to be reconciled between the Anglican and Catholic liturgies were prayers said placement of the penitential rite before the offertory in the Anglican service and the use of “The Comfortable Words” recited by the priest or deacon to the congregation.
The archbishop added that within the Anglican Church there was a diversity of opinion over questions concerning the divinity of Christ, sexual morality and ordination. “There weren’t Christians who, before the 1960s, didn’t believe Christ was divine, didn’t believe he rose bodily from the grave,” he said.
“It really wasn’t that much of an issue. Now that it has become, I think these more traditionally minded Anglicans lament that many of their fellow believers don’t hold to these traditional Christian beliefs and they see that the Catholic Church is. So they want to be in union with the Catholic Church because of those beliefs but they want to retain their Anglican worship and spirituality.”
Tags: Catholic clergy abuse scandal, Christian Pfeiffer, Der Spiegel, Deutsche Bischofskonferenz, Stephan Ackermann
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before … A European magazine has written a hit piece on the Catholic Church and the clergy abuse scandal that is unfair, incomplete and one-sided … Sound familiar?
The latest installment comes courtesy of Der Spiegel. In an English-language piece entitled “German Catholic Church Cancels Inquiry” published on 9 Jan 2013, the mass circulation news weekly takes a stick to the Deutsche Bischofskonferenz, the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, over the cancellation of a study it had begun on the clergy abuse scandal.
The German bishops could well paraphrase Sally Fields, “You don’t like me, you really don’t like me!”
Here is the lede:
It was a major promise after a major disaster: In summer 2011, the Catholic Church in Germany pledged full transparency. One year earlier, an abuse scandal had shaken the country’s faithful, as an increasing number of cases surfaced in which priests had sexually abused children and then hidden behind a wall of silence.
The Lower Saxony Criminological Research Institute (KFN) was given the job of investigating the cases in 2011. The personnel files from churches in all 27 dioceses were to be examined for cases of abuse in an attempt to win back some of the Church’s depleted credibility.
But now the Church has called off the study, citing a breakdown in trust. “The relationship of mutual trust between the bishops and the head of the institute has been destroyed,” said the Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, on Wednesday morning.
How’s that for telegraphing your editorial opinions. Der Spiegel opens the story with a slippery trick — it defines the terms of the argument and then savages its opponent for not meeting those terms. The lede all but accuses the church of hypocrisy. “They promised transparency but have cancelled the investigation.”
It makes an assertion the church is a shallow self-serving institution stating the abuse study was undertaken as a public relations stunt, an “attempt to win back some of the Church’s depleted credibility.” Der Spiegel may well think so, but should not it have cited a statement to this effect by the church, or even from one of its detractors?
Following the bishop’s explanation as to why the study was cancelled — the church did not trust Prof. Christian Pfeiffer of the KFN — Der Spiegel offers Dr. Pfeiffer space to air his complaints about the bishops lack of cooperation. A politician is then given a platform to criticize the church for cancelling the study, followed by an old quote from a Church spokesman stating:
Before the inquiry was called off, the spokesman for the German Bishops’ Conference, Matthias Kopp, had insisted that the project should continue regardless of the outcome of the conflict: “Should cooperation with the KFN fall through, there would be a continuation of the project with another partner,” he said.
The story then peters out with a few more quotes from Dr. Pfeiffer and a gratuitous editorial aside followed by a spiteful jab at Bishop Ackermann.
The project was of incalculable importance to the Catholic Church, because the loss of confidence after the abuse scandal was enormous. The cancellation of the inquiry throws into high relief Bishop Ackermann’s statement from 2011: “We also want the truth, which may still lie hidden in decades-old files, to be uncovered.”
The story as told by Der Spiegel is the Catholic Church organized a face-saving study on the clergy abuse scandal, but pulled out saying they did not trust Dr. Pfeiffer just as the KFN’s investigators began digging in the bowels of the chancelleries. The clear insinuation being the Catholic Bishops Conference are a bunch of hypocrites.
Let me stop for a moment and say I have no special knowledge of this case. I have no reason to privilege the testimony of the bishops over Dr. Pfeiffer or Dr. Pfeiffer over the bishops. The only dog I have in this fight is that of professional journalism. And this story as journalism stinks.
Why? Take a look a the press release from the Deutsche Bischofskonferenz that served as the basis for this story. Bishop Ackermann explains in detail the study was ended due to a personal dispute with Dr. Pfeiffer — and that the study will continue with another investigator.
This is a critical omission by Der Spiegel. The study has not been cancelled — the investigator has been fired and the study will be restarted with a new team. Rather than report what Bishop Ackermann said in his statement,
Ich bedauere, dass der jetzige Schritt unumgänglich wurde, der allein mit dem mangelnden Vertrauen in die Person von Professor Dr. Pfeiffer zusammenhängt. Gleichzeitig bin ich zuversichtlich, dass wir schon bald das Forschungsprojekt mit anderen Partnern in Angriff nehmen können.
Roughly translated as: Regrettably this step was inevitable due solely to our the lack of trust in the person of Prof. Dr. Pfeiffer. At the same time I am confident that we will soon be able to address this research project with other study partners.
Der Spiegel brings up an old quote from a spokesman for the bishops saying that should there be a conflict between the bishops and the KFN, the study would continue. By not mentioning the current statement while inserting the older one, Der Spiegel is insinuating bad faith.
I have never worked with the German bishops and do not know their reputation for truthfulness or transparency. There are some English and American ecclesiastical entities and figures whom I have learned not to trust — if one London based Anglican agency were to tell me the sun will rise tomorrow morning, I would not print that story until I saw the sun rise myself and then I would ask for a second opinion — their reputation for integrity is so poor. There well may be bad faith on the part of the bishops. Dr. Pfieffer thinks so. But Der Spiegel is improving the story — sexing it up (to use a British newspaper phrase) — so that the reader will be led to believe one side over another. If deliberate that is journalistic misconduct, it an accident that is a most unfortunate error.
First printed in Get Religion.
Papal meeting for Anglican conservatives: The Church of England Newspaper, January 6, 2013 p 3. January 4, 2013Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Eliud Wabukala, Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, Pope Benedict XVI, Ray Sutton, Robert Duncan
The leader of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya, held a private meeting last month at the Vatican with Pope Benedict XVI.
On 28 Nov 2012, Archbishop Wabukala, Archbishop Robert Duncan and Bishop Ray Sutton of the Anglican Church in North America, along with a retired bishop from the Church of England met with Benedict and officials from the curia in private after the Wednesday General Audience.
Details of the conversation have not been released however, Benedict has long held an interest in the internal workings of the Anglican Communion. In October 2003, as President of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger sent a letter of encouragement on behalf of Pope John Paul II to those attending the “Plano Conference” of conservative Episcopalians in Dallas, Texas, who had gathered to voice their opposition to the impending consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.
Pope Benedict has also focused much of his energies on Africa. A recent issue of the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica stated the pope has referred to Africa as to the “lung” of the Catholic Church and the church in Africa was “currently the most dynamic continent from the point of view of the expansion of the Church and of Christianity in general, and where vocations are the most numerous in terms of percentage.”
Travel delays prevented Archbishop Wabukala from attending the General Audience with Archbishop Duncan and Bishop Sutton, though the archbishop and other leaders of the global reform movement within the Anglican Communion were present at the afternoon’s private session.
Tags: Bishops Conference for England and Wales, Soho Masses, Vincent Nichols
The line between criticism and carping is not always clear. A story may appear to be well written, well sourced, balanced and complete to a casual reader. The same story, however, may appear naive, incomplete or wrongheaded to someone who has knowledge or opinions on the issues.
An article in today’s Guardian entitled “Gay mass services in Soho abolished by archbishop of Westminster” illustrates this problem. Taken on its own terms, this article is very good. However, to those who have been following the Soho masses controversy in the Catholic Church in England, this story prompts a “yes, but …” reaction, as it is written in the belief that the Roman Catholic Church is a unitary structure with a common doctrine.
While that may be true on paper, that is far from true in practice. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (BCEW) does not and has not shared the same views on social and moral issues as Pope’s John Paul II and Benedict XVI. For those unencumbered with a knowledge of English ecclesiastical intrigue, the Catholic Church may appear a monolith — it isn’t. But is it fair to critique an article in a general interest newspaper for not telling the story to the satisfaction of those in the know?
The lede to this story begins:
The Archbishop of Westminster, head of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, has ordered that special fortnightly “Soho masses” for gay and lesbian churchgoers in central London are not appropriate and are to be axed.
The services, intended to be particularly welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, had been held at Our Lady of the Assumption church in the West End for six years with the blessing of senior clergy but had attracted criticism from traditionalists.
The story then moves to analysis, noting this will be seen as a victory for “traditionalists” within the church. And the curtailment of the Soho masses comes as the church battles the coalition government over its plans to introduce gay marriage in England and Wales.
The article gives a clear summary of the announcement made by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, reporting “the archbishop is said to believe that the pastoral care of the lesbian and gay church community should now be uncoupled from the sacrament of Mass, and that the [gay] community should not be singled out to have ‘special’ masses.”
The Catholic Church will continue to offer “pastoral care” to gays and lesbians “on Sunday evenings at Farm Street Church of the Immaculate Conception in Mayfair.” And in an interesting twist, the church that hosted the Soho masses will be turned over to the use of the “Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the body set up by Rome to cater for those who have defected from the Church of England to the Catholic church.”
The article notes the existence of the Soho masses had angered traditionalists who saw the services as a challenge to the church’s teaching on human sexuality, and then cites extracts from the archbishop’s letter that re-iterates the church’s teaching on these issues. The story closes with quotes from two conservative Catholic critics of the Soho masses, who welcome the news.
For the Guardian, this was a remarkably neutral report — that shaded towards the conservative side. No liberal voices appeared in the story attacking the church for homophobia or insensitivity to counter the two conservative voices. The article was also framed in a neutral tone, not picking sides — reporting the facts of the archbishop’s letter without comment.
Save for the absence of a liberal response, on its face this article passed the test of sound journalism — and as the story was framed about the announcement and not the reaction, the absence of contrary voices was not fatal. It allows the Guardian to come back to the issue with a second day story.
Yet, I was struck by the absence of a paragraph or clause that reported the end of the Soho masses was an about face for the archbishop. The article notes this was a victory for traditionalists, but does not go on to say that hardly any of the hierarchy are traditionalists — and that includes Archbishop Nichols.
The always readable, and quotable, Damian Thompson of the Daily Telegraph and Catholic Herald coined the phrase the “Magic Circle” to describe the liberal block that controls the hierarchy of the English Catholic Church. The Magic Circle (a wonderful phrase — if Thompson is not the author, he nonetheless has given it cachet) has safely ignored directives from Rome to conform its practices to Catholic teaching. The Catholic Herald reported in February 2012 Archbishop Nichols defended the Soho masses while the Catholic World Report had a 2011 story that noted the archbishop called for critics of the Soho masses to be silenced.
Now the archbishop has silenced the Soho masses. What happened to cause this extraordinary change? Is Archbishop Nichols shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here that the Soho masses convey false teachings on Catholic moral doctrine?
And, the site of the Soho masses will now be turned over the Anglican Ordinariate — again, extraordinary. The influx of conservative Angl0-Catholics into the Ordinariate has been fought by the Magic Circle through delay, obstruction and (I believe) a degree of venality. What has happened to produce the sea change in the CBEW?
While this article gives good treatment in 750 words to the Soho masses announcement, it does not go down deep into the story and answer the question “why”. Now, is this a problem? I would expect the Catholic Herald and other specialty publications to focus on the ecclesiastical and bureaucratic infighting that led to this announcement. But should the Guardian wade into these waters? What say you GetReligion readers? Is my critique justified or am I carping — asking that the Guardian to be something that it is not.
First printed in Get Religion.
Tags: Benedict XVI, Eluid Wabukala, Jeffrey Steenson, Ray Sutton, Robert Duncan
At the close of the General Audience of 28 Nov 2012, the leader of the Anglican Church in North America, Archbishop Robert Duncan met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.
Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya, leader of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, was to have also attended the General Audience, but was delayed. Joined by the chairman of the ACNA’s ecumenical relations commission, Bishop Ray Sutton of the Reformed Episcopal Church, Archbishop Duncan spoke with the pope. The three later met with Vatican officials. Details of the conversations have not been released. Claims of the significance of the meeting or of its symbolism are also premature, one Vatican watcher said, until the substance of the conversation is known.
Read it all in Anglican Ink.
Celibacy and the clergy abuse scandal: Get Religion, December 11, 2012 December 12, 2012Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Get Religion, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: clergy abuse scandal, Frankfurther Rundschau, Germany, Süddeutsche Zeitung
Last Friday the Deutsche Bischofskonferenz, the German Episcopal Conference of the Roman Catholic Church, released the results of a study on the psychological make-up of clergy who had sexually abused children. I was surprised by the weak coverage of this story, especially in light of the 2010 German media frenzy when the clergy abuse scandal broke.
I am also wondering how many reporters actually attended the press conference in Trier given by Bishop Stephan Ackermann? The Reuters story had a Paris date line, the Frankfurter Rundschau story was written from Cologne, and the Süddeutsche Zeitung was written from Munich. Other German newspaper accounts were re-writes of the press release from the Deutsche Bischofskonferenz. Might this explain the lousy job two of Germany’s major newspapers did in reporting this story?
The lede from the English-language Reuters’ story states:
A German Catholic Church study showed most priests found guilty of sexually abusing minors were psychologically normal, according to survey results presented on Friday. Only 12 percent of those surveyed were diagnosed as paedophiles, said the report released by Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann, the church’s spokesman on abuse cases.
Psychological tests commissioned by priests’ dioceses around Germany found only five percent could be classified as ephebophiles – attracted to teenagers, it said. “There are no significant differences to results found in the general population in Germany,” said Dr Norbert Leygraf, one of the experts reviewing reports on predator priests found out in the past decade.
All of the newspaper stories I have looked at have reported this basic information, but each developed their own angle. The Frankfurt-based national daily, the Frankfurter Rundschau, had a balanced story in its article „McKinsey auf Katholisch” — the balance being half news-half hit piece. The first five paragraphs of the Frankfurter Rundschau’s story summarized the bishops’ press release. It then moved to the attack.
The first voice speaking in response to the news conference was identified as a spokesman for: Die katholische Reformbewegung „Wir sind Kirche“. (The Catholic reform group “We Are the Church”). The label a newspaper gives to an advocacy group is one way it expresses its editorial voice. “We Are the Church” is a group of German and Austrian Catholic clergy and lay people who have been advocating for a change in the church’s teaching on clerical celibacy, women priests, married priests, birth control, homosexuality and so forth. For the Süddeutsche Zeitung these innovations are reforms, e.g., changes for the good.
“We are the Church” takes exception to the findings as well as cites them as an example of the need for the Catholic Church to come over to their way of thinking. Mandatory celibacy is part of the problem, they argue.
„Welche Männer werden Priester? Und wie werden sie in der katholischen Kirche sexuell sozialisiert?“
Roughly translated as: “What kind of man becomes a priest, and how are they sexually socialized in the Church?”
A professor of pastoral theology at the University of Augsburg (and a supporter of We are the Church though that is not mentioned) Fr. Hanspeter Heinz, is then brought on board to criticize the church, this time noting that as half of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse were heterosexual, the church’s ban on homosexual clergy is wrong. And to present the other side of the argument we hear from? … no one.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung is not as heavy handed. It offers the same general facts as the Frankfurter Rundschau, but provides some context. Its article „Studie sieht bei Priestern keine besondere Pädophilie-Neigung” states that a study conducted by psychologists at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York in 2011 found the same rate of psychiatric disorders among American clergy child sexual abusers.
However, in its closing paragraph, the newspaper’s editorial voice wondered if the cause of clergy sex abuse may be linked to mandatory clerical celibacy.
So bleibt die Frage offen, warum einige Priester offenbar Kinder oder Jugendliche missbraucht haben, obwohl sie nicht unter einer entsprechenden psychischen Störung litten. Spekuliert wird häufig, dass Priester – besonders katholische Geistliche, die im Zölibat leben – möglicherweise ihrem Sexualtrieb dort nachgeben, wo sich eine Gelegenheit bietet. Kinder würden sie dann missbrauchen, weil diese sich im Gegensatz zu Erwachsenen leicht manipulieren lassen und die Täter aus Angst danach nicht verraten.
This leaves open the question of why some priests abused children or teenagers even though, apparently, they did not suffer from a mental disorder. A common speculation that priests — especially Catholic priests who live celibate lives — may yield to their sex drive where the opportunity arises. They would abuse children because in contrast to adults, children can be easily manipulated and the perpetrators have little fear of being betrayed afterwards.
The clerical celibacy angle as a contributing factor in the child abuse scandal should be explored. But in raising this issue on their own, the newspapers should also have included Bishop Ackermann’s statement at the press conference that there was no link between mandatory celibacy and child abuse. Reuters managed to report this — the Frankfurter Rundschau and the Süddeutsche Zeitung should have done so also.
Sloppy reporting or anti-Catholic animus? You decide. Or, does it really matter what the cause of this omission was? The result was these two major German national newspapers mangled the story.
Tags: embryonic stem cells, France, Kung Fu, Le Figaro, Le Monde, Liberation. Le Croix
Master Po: Ha, ha, never assume because a man has no eyes he cannot see. Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Master Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Young Caine: No.
Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?
Young Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Master Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?
D0 you remember “Kung Fu?” From 1972 to 1975 ABC broadcast the story of Caine, a Sino-American Shaolin monk tramping across the old West in search of enlightenment and his half-brother. Following upon the martial arts craze of the early 1970′s, “Kung Fu” also instructed America in the wisdom of the East. Like the Charlie Chan movies of an earlier generation, each episode episode included a faux pearl of oriental wisdom — a philosophical bromide designed to expand the viewer’s conscious.
The deep thought from this episode, young grasshopper, is the distinction between seeing and perceiving. One can see but still be blind to the world around you. Let’s take this lesson and apply it to Wednesday’s reports in the press on the embryonic stem cell vote in the French Senate. (How’s that for a transition …)
In several posts at GetReligion I have lauded the European advocacy model of reporting, where a news story is unashamedly presented from a particular partisan political view. Read the coverage about the same issue in Le Figaro (right), Le Monde (center) and Liberation (left) and you will have a good appreciation of a subject. (So long as they are not talking about the United States.) My accolade for a partisan press is premised on there being a conversation — a dialogue between the reader and the newspapers — where all the facts are presented and disparate interpretations are offered for the intelligent reader to assess.
This model does not work well, however, when newspapers devote different space and resources to a story — or when an important perspective is ignored. Le Figaro, Le Monde and Libération — generally considered to be France’s newspapers of record — offered good first day stories on the Senate vote but fell down in the follow up. The politics were done well, the moral issues were not. Here is some background:
The major newspapers reported that the French Senate on 4 Dec 2012 passed the first reading of a bill to overturn the country’s ban on embryonic stem cell research. In 2004 France outlawed research on fetal stem cells and the ban was re-affirmed on ethical grounds in 2011 by the conservative government. The new Socialist government, however, has backed a bill allowing the research.
The parties of the left, the Socialists, Radicals, Communists, all voted in favor, while the conservatives split. The final vote was 203 to 74 — 63 conservative senators were either not present for the vote, or abstained.
All three of the major French newspapers had extensive quotes from senators for and against the measure. Liberation had the most extensive coverage, Le Figaro the least — but from a journalistic perspective all did a solid job as a reader could understand and assess the arguments proffered by both sides. The government and it supporters held that fetal stem cell research would be a boost to French science, would lead to scientific discoveries that would save lives, and would be strictly regulated by the government allowing no “commodication” of stem cells.
The conservatives said fetal stem cell research was immoral, scientifically unnecessary and contradicted established government policy. From Le Figaro:
« “Il s’agit d’un revirement à 180 degrés » a protesté Dominique de Legge (UMP). « Les cellules souches adultes ne sont-elles pas une alternative crédible à la recherche sur l’embryon? » s’est-il demandé.
Roughly translated — “This is a 180 degree turnabout,” protested Dominique de Legge of the conservative Union pour un Mouvement Populaire party. “Are not adult stem cells a viable alternative to embryos for research,” he asked.
Jean-François Copé, président proclamé de l’UMP, a dans un communiqué publié avant le début de la discussion vivement critiqué le texte.« Ce projet de la gauche est un renversement complet de la logique actuelle du Code civil qui garantit le respect de la vie et de la dignité humaine », a-t-il estimé.
Jean-Francois Cope, president-elect of the UMP was strongly critical of the bill. In a statement released before the debate he stated: “This project of the Left is a complete reversal of the current logic of our Civil Code which guarantees respect for life and for human dignity.”
The second day stories took a geographic turn, with regional newspapers reporting on how their senators voted. What was nt reported was the news the French Episcopal Conference denounced the bill on ethical grounds. Outside the Catholic press, I found one mention of the church’s response — in Le Telegramme, a conservative paper from Brittany.
Le Croix, is a “Catholic” newspaper but not a “church” newspaper. By this I mean it is a general interest newspaper, with approximately 100,00 subscribers — roughly a third the size of the big three — and is written from a Catholic intellectual and moral perspective. It covered the senate debate in detail, but also ran a story on the reaction from the hierarchy.
The article “Mgr d’Ornellas juge« choquant » le vote du Sénat autorisant la recherche sur l’embryon” stated the Archbishop of Rennes, Msg. Pierre d’Ornellas was “shocked” by the vote.
Speaking on behalf of the French Episcopal Conference, the archbishop said the church objected to the vote on moral and political grounds.
« L’embryon humain a le droit d’être protégé … », indique Mgr d’Ornellas selon qui le Sénat « a remis en cause ce respect ».
“The human embryo has a right of protection,” Msg. d’Ornellas said, and the Senate “has challenged this respect.”
« Cela est choquant. Et un tel changement est opéré sans même qu’un véritable débat ait eu lieu.»
“This is shocking. And such a change is being made without any real debate taking place.”
Msg. d’Ornellas saved his best argument for last. For goodness sakes, even the Germans do not allow experimentation on embryonic stem cells, protested the archbishop.
« L’Allemagne maintient l’interdiction de recherche sur l’embryon humain. Faudra-t-il que ce soit l’Allemagne qui soit en avance dans le respect dû à l’être humain ? »
“Germany maintains the ban on human embryo research. Will Germany be ahead of us in the respect due to human beings?”
None of this saw the light of day except in Le Croix and other Catholic outlets. All three of the majors reported on the ethical questions raised in the Senate debate — but I’ve not found where they followed up with a report on the the source of these ethical questions — the Catholic Church.
Here is one of the problems of advocacy reporting — the omission of news that does not fit into the worldview of the editorial board of a newspaper. When there is a multitude of voices, there can be a multitude of angles for a story. But as this story demonstrates — it can also lead to the silencing of important aspects of a story. We hear the birds. We hear the water, but do not hear or see the grasshopper at our feet.
First printed at GetReligion.
No Catholics in the new Europe: Get Religion, November 30, 2012 November 30, 2012Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Anglican Ink, EU, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: anti-Catholic prejudice, New Scientiest, Tonio Borg
This is a great country. I’ve been privileged to live and work abroad, but there is no place like America. It’s a cleaner, cheaper, nicer place. Big cars, big hair, the big country — purple mountains majesty, amber waves of grain and all that — makes me proud to be an American. Give me a political landscape dominated by God, guns and gays and I’m happy. Yet, I must admit there are some things Europeans do better than Americans. I take away nothing from the observations made in Philip Jenkins book, “The New Anti-Catholicism, The Last Acceptable Prejudice”, but the Europeans do anti-Catholicism or anti-clericalism much better than we do.
While it is the French who have unfairly earned a reputation as cheese-eating surrender monkeys in the American psyche, it is the the European establishment — Matthew Arnold’s chatter classes — who deserve the accolade. But as church-eating surrender monkeys.
Religion has no place in the public square in European political life. In January the Irish Independent reported the Irish Labour Party had called for a secularist litmus test for senior civil servants. Catholics were bad people who needed to be kept under close scrutiny lest they undermine the government.
All senior officials in state bodies which are likely to have to deal with the Catholic Church should be screened to ensure that they will not show inappropriate deference to the Catholic Church. Those who feel they are ‘Catholic first and Irish second’ should seek promotion in other organs of the State.
Such sentiments are not exceptional. The news this week of the appointment of a new EU health commissioner offered an illustration of this Weltanschauung. On 28 Nov 2012 the BBC and the DPA (the German wire service) reported the European parliament had given its approval to the appointment of Malta’s Foreign Minister Tonio Borg as health commissioner. For those who missed this news here are extracts from the DPA story:
Maltese Foreign Minister Tonio Borg will be the European Union‘s new health commissioner, EU governments confirmed Wednesday, giving the appointment its final blessing. Borg, 55, will replace John Dalli, who resigned last month over claims he did nothing to stop an acquaintance from using his ties to ask a Swedish company for money to influence new EU tobacco rules.
Borg has vowed not to water down the rules, which he has identified as a priority and has said should be ready in January. Borg‘s nomination had proven controversial, after some EU parliamentarians raised concerns about his conservative views on abortion and homosexuality. He has pledged to abide by the EU‘s human rights charter, regardless of his personal views on social issues.
Cecilia Wikström, the Liberal Swedish MEP who had dubbed Tonio Borg “a dinosaur that does not belong in our modern world” when the former foreign minister was nominated for the post of EU Commissioner, has reiterated her stand that Borg’s personal political standpoints did not make him fit for the post of health and consumers affairs policy Commissioner.
And these objectionable beliefs are?
“Borg is a very well known politician with a high education [who] would have been a fantastic leader of Europe a couple of decades ago,” Wikström said, pointing out that his conservative beliefs might put him at loggerheads with several aspects of his portfolio. “Had Borg’s portfolio been on something else, like fisheries, culture, higher education or even the internal market, he would have been a wonderful commissioner. “Since Borg’s portfolio deals with rights and the choices people make, I think this is going to be complicated for him,” Wikström said, mentioning as an example, sexual and reproductive health rights that would include the provision of safe and legal abortion for women.
Ms. Wikström, who also is a Lutheran minister, believes Borg’s Catholicism to be incompatible with government service, save in areas that don’t matter much like Fish & Agg.
The only mainstream English-language report on Borg’s appointment that I have seen that raises these questions was the New Scientist – the British science news weekly. Its article “Staunch conservative to be new EU health commissioner” framed the story around the objections to Borg’s Catholicism.
Borg is Catholic and is known for his conservative views on abortion, homosexuality and divorce. For example, he is a supporter of the Embryo Protection Act currently being debated in the Maltese parliament. If approved at the end of November, the bill will prevent experimentation on human embryos, ban egg and sperm donation, and prohibit the freezing of embryos for IVF procedures other than in a few special cases.
The article reported on the grilling MEPs gave to Borg during his confirmation hearings.
Some MEPs questioned Borg’s stance on abortion, recalling how he tried to incorporate the ban on abortion, even if the mother’s life is at risk, into Malta’s constitution. Borg replied: “The laws on abortion are a matter of national law… These are not matters within the competence of the Commission and the Union.”
But in the end Borg’s appointment was approved on a 386 to 281 with 28 abstentions. The New Scientist rounded out its story with comments from liberal MEPs who warned they would be watching Borg for signs his faith was influencing his job, and with comments from International Planned Parenthood and a stem cell researcher who said that:
“Although I do not dispute his technical skills, there is the risk that personal views, especially when radical in nature, will interfere with or slow down important projects which have already been endorsed by public opinion,” he says.
From the classical journalism perspective, the New Scientist story is incomplete. We have the back and forth between Borg and his critics, but the comments and critical observations offered that would give context are one-sided — Planned Parenthood and a stem cell researcher. Nothing is offered from those on the opposing side of the argument. That, however, is not a surprise, as the New Scientist’s reputation is one of being on the secular left — and I do not fault them for being true to their editorial line.
But from the mainstream media we have next to nothing. The wire services and the short BBC item do not do justice to the ethical issues at play. Part of the problem is the lack of space and resources. Not all stories can be covered and editors must pick and choose how they utilize their space on the page and their reporter’s time. However, I also believe there is an agreement in just about all newsrooms that the criticisms raised by the New Scientist are valid. This belief that religion belongs to the private sphere of life and is not welcome in the public square permeates the European press.
A response I hear from supporters of the secularist model runs along the lines of “If you want to hear a sermon go to church”, meaning the worlds of faith and news are so far apart that one should not trespass on the other. I do not agree. Incorporating faith or ethical issues into journalism is not proselytizing. It is being faithful to the dictates of honest fair and full reporting.
First printed in GetReligion.
The Pope hates Christmas: Get Religion, November 22, 2012 November 22, 2012Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: anti-Catholic media bais, Benedict XVI, Christmas, Telegraph, William Tighe
Breaking news from the Telegraph… the newspaper’s Rome reporter reports that one Joseph Ratzinger, a.k.a. the Bishop of Rome, Pontiff of the Catholic Church alias Benedictus PP. XVI, claims Jesus was not born December 25, in the year 1.
As I read this story, “Jesus was born years earlier than thought, claims Pope” I could envision the clatter of the teletype in the background with three bells ringing to tell the news room a major story had come across the wires. In a story datelined from Rome, we learn:
“The calculation of the beginning of our calendar – based on the birth of Jesus – was made by Dionysius Exiguus, who made a mistake in his calculations by several years,” the Pope writes in [Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives], which went on sale around the world with an initial print run of a million copies. “The actual date of Jesus’s birth was several years before.”
The assertion that the Christian calendar is based on a false premise is not new – many historians believe that Christ was born sometime between 7BC and 2BC. But the fact that doubts over one of the keystones of Christian tradition have been raised by the leader of the world’s one billion Catholics is striking.
“Many historians believe” that Jesus was not born in the year 1, or 0? How about all historians for the past few hundred years — I’m not aware of any school of church scholarship that holds to the contrary view. The Telegraph reports that in addition to challenging the notion that Jesus was not born in the first year of the Gregorian calendar, the pope claims the traditional church creche is all wrong:
Christ’s birth date is not the only controversy raised by the Pope in his new book – he also said that contrary to the traditional Nativity scene, there were no oxen, donkeys or other animals at Jesus’s birth. He also weighs in on the debate over Christ’s birthplace, rejecting arguments by some scholars that he was born in Nazareth rather than Bethlehem.
Well, there goes the Christmas pageant. But why is this news? Anyone with even the remotest knowledge of the issue would not be surprised by this revelation.
It could well be ignorance on the part of the reporter, who upon reading the third volume in the pope’s Jesus of Nazareth trilogy was dumbstruck by this information and had to rush to print to tell England the news. Or, it could be that the Telegraph, aware of the abysmal level of religious knowledge and practice in England, believed that this would be news to the millions of cultural Christians in England whose only relationship to the faith were hoary memories of youthful school and church pageants. Or, this could be just another story in the series of articles from the British press that paints Benedict XVI in unflattering colors.
The article closes out with an Oxford professor’s calming assurance the pope may be right as “most academics agreed with the Pope that the Christian calendar was wrong and that Jesus was born several years earlier than commonly thought, probably between 6BC and 4BC.”
Again we have the “most academics” — I would be interested to know who are the dissenters that believe in the 25 Dec 00 date.
The signs the story was rushed in to print also comes from the selection of the expert. The Professor of the Interpretation of the Holy Scripture from Oxford is quoted on the absence of any dating in the text of the Bible as to exact time of Jesus’ birth. But the professor is allowed to move out of his area of expertise — Biblical interpretation — into Patristics or Patrology (the study of the writings of the Church Fathers and the history of the early Christian Church) and in doing so, the good professor makes a mistake.
The idea that Christ was born on Dec 25 also has no basis in historical fact. “We don’t even know which season he was born in. The whole idea of celebrating his birth during the darkest part of the year is probably linked to pagan traditions and the winter solstice.”
This claim by the Old Testament scholar about the origin of the Christmas holiday is false. While the village atheist may delight in repeating this legend, it is nonetheless untrue. A non-academic rejoinder to this “pagan traditions” claim can be found in a 2003 article “Calculating Christmas” by Prof. William Tighe in Touchstone magazine.
Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.
Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.
From this piece, should you be interested in the details you can access the academic literature. But returning to the Telegraph piece, there are some fascinating things raised in the pope’s new book — and smart fellow that he is it came out just in time for Black Friday. There is an interesting historical and religious debate mentioned by the Telegraph story, the location of Jesus’ birth: Nazareth v. Bethlehem, but that is passed over in favor of the “striking” news about the calendar question. Given the excitement over the women bishops’ vote in the Church of England the reporter may have needed to “sex-up” his story to find space in the newspaper for another religion news item. Whatever the reason, the story is a disappointment. The Telegraph is supposed to be a “quality” newspaper, but this story is worthy of the tabloids.
First printed in GetReligion.