Tags: clergy abuse scandal, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Der Spiegel, Der Taggespiegel, Green Party, Guardian, paedophilia, pedophilia, Stern
1 comment so far
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.
Polish anti-Semitism and the press: Get Religion, November 20, 2012 November 21, 2012Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: anti-Semitism, Gazeta Wyborcza, Jebwabne, Judaism, Poklosie, Poland, Politics, victimhood
A new film that premiered last week has resurrected moral questions that some Poles hoped had been settled long ago. The 20 Nov 2012 front page of the Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza was dominated by the controversy surrounding the film Poklosie (Aftermath). The headline reads “Poklosie under attack“ — but the reaction of many Poles is that they are under attack from Poklosie.
The film questions Poland’s self-identity as an innocent victim of Nazi aggression. While there is no doubt that Germany sought to destroy the Polish nation, killing millions, destroying its cities and attempting to eradicate its culture, film director Wladyslaw Pasikowski has challenged one of the pillars its post-war identity — the country’s innocence in the Holocaust.
Poklosie is a war movie that dramatizes the 1942 massacre of 340 Jews in the village of Jebwadne. However these Jews were not killed by the Nazis, but by their Polish neighbors who herded men, women and children into a barn and set it alight. Set in the fictional village of Gorowka, the site of a war-time massacre blamed on the Germans, the film takes place shortly after the fall of the Communist regime. The movie tells the story of two brothers who in attempting to preserve Jewish tombstones arouse the ire of villagers who fear they will uncover the crimes of the past. As they used to say in Hollywood, this is a message film, and the message is that hiding past sins results in modern evils.
Amongst the motives for the massacre of the Jews by their Polish neighbors in the film is that Jews were Christ-killers. The incidents recounted in Poklosie are based on true events. In 2003, a Polish government commission released a report saying that claims the Polish Jews of Jebwabne were killed by the Nazis was false. They had been murdered by their Polish Christian neighbors.
I have not seen reference to this story in the American or British press so far — but articles last week in the French press on this story caught my eye. Le Figaro‘s story « La Pologne confrontée à une page noire de son histoire » and Le Nouvel Observateur « Poklosie : le film qui fait polémique en Pologne » approach the story from an entertainment angle — a film that forces Poland to confront a “black page” in its history — that sort of thing.
The Polish press has treated this not as a movie story, but as an existential question. “Who are we? Where have we come from in our history? Do we share in the sins of our ancestors? Has our faith as Catholics led us to this?”
The Associated Press last year reported that in 2001:
Poland’s bishops made an apology for the Jedwabne massacre and other crimes against Jews under the German occupation, in a special ceremony of prayers in Warsaw. It was viewed as a step toward reconciliation with Jewish groups who often accuse the Catholic Church of being too tolerant of anti-Semitism.
However, conservative and nationalist newspapers have been harshly critical of the movie. They reject the assertion that Poland shares in the collective guilt of the Nazis for the Holocaust and reject the movie’s depiction of Polish peasantry being “evil anti-Semites” roused by their priests to commit murder against the Christ-killers. In the conservative weekly Uwazam Rze, Piotr Zychowicz writes in an article entitled “Polacy, Zydzi, kolaboracja, Holokaust”:
No nation has a monopoly on being evil and no nation has a monopoly on being good. Nations are composed of millions of people, and people, it so happens, are very different.
In an interview published in the right wing news and opinion website Niezalezna.pl, Bogdan Musial argues the historical narrative of Poklosie is a false creation of the media.
Many American Jews left Poland and their father and grandfathers became victims of Holocaust. A big part of the Jewish Diaspora considers Poles to be anti-Semites. Remember the film industry and the media have a strong influence on the intellectual environment and they impose their cultural belief in Polish anti-Semitism. There is also in German a harmful and false belief in “Polish nationalism” while there is also a lack of historical consciousness in Poland.
Prof. Musial goes on to state there is no doubt that a crime was committed in Jebwabne, but “reactions to the accusation of anti-Semitism should be measured.” He also suggests the “discussion about the anti-Semitism is designed to draw people’s attention away from the crimes of the Communist” era.
A crime has been committed and this is a fact. But the same fact is that the [2002 book Neighbors by Jan Gross about the Jedwabne pogrom] is unreliable and distorts the history. The problem is that the so-called forces of progress in Poland consider this distorted history to be dogma. The people who denies this are called (by the so-called forces of progress in Poland ) freaks and nationalists. … Through the Gross’ glasses Poles are greedy, primitive, murders who are jointly responsible for the Holocaust and as anti-Semitic as Nazis. Not Germans, but Nazis! … Films such as Poklosie can only strengthen this image …
However the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s largest circulation daily appeals for critics to stop trying to halt the “cleansing process” of the national soul by appeals to to “nationalistic ideology”. Quoting Gross’s book it states there were Poles who killed Jews simply for profit. It defends Poklosie saying it is a:
… valuable work, unique in Polish cinema, reopening an only superficially healed wound of the Polish conscience.
In my recent posts at GetReligion I have been critical of the European-style advocacy journalism practiced by the New York Times and have argued its stories are neither balanced, fair nor complete in their reporting. And, the Times appears to be blissfully unaware of this problem. Yet advocacy journalism when it is done well can produce exceptionally fine work — such as the front page of today’s Gazeta Wyborcza — because it is written from an ideological and moral perspective that is not hidden by spurious claims of being objective. While I find the views express in Niezalezna to be unpalatable, taken in conjunction with Gazeta Wyborcza they provide a better picture of the affair than any single source.
I applaud the Polish press for addressing these issues of national identity, religious bigotry, and historical memory. Well done.
First published in GetReligion.
Vatican issues clergy dress code: Anglican Ink, November 19, 2012 November 19, 2012Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: cassock, clergy dress, saturno
Casual Fridays are over at the Vatican, the Catholic Church has announced.
On 15 Oct 2012, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State for the Vatican, released a letter stating that cardinals and bishops must wear a cassock at work or in public. Monsignors and priests are to wear a cassock or clerical dress while religious must wear their habits “always and in every season.”
Read it all in Anglican Ink.
Lutheran ordinariate proposed: The Church of England Newspaper, November 11, 2012 p November 13, 2012Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Church of England Newspaper, EKD, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Gerhard Feige, Kurt Koch
A Lutheran Ordinariate within the Roman Catholic Church might be the next step for Catholic Lutheran relations, Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has told a Catholic news service.
In an interview with Zenit published on 24 Oct 2012 the Swiss cardinal said that since the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in August of 1999 “great step forward in the ecumenical dialogue with Lutherans.”
The present stage of the talks was centered round the “ecclesiological consequences” of the declaration. However, “evangelicals have another understanding of the Church in regard to Catholic Christians. It’s not enough to recognize one another mutually as a Church. What is needed, rather, is a serious theological dialogue on what constitutes the essence of the Church,” the cardinal explained.
One way forward was to offer Lutherans an option akin to Anglicanorum coetibus, he said, adding that such a step, however, must be initiated by Lutherans.
In response to pleas from Anglo-Catholics, “the Holy Father then sought a solution and, in my opinion, found a very broad solution, in which the Anglicans’ ecclesial and liturgical traditions were taken into ample consideration. If similar desires are expressed by the Lutherans, then we will have to reflect on them. However, the initiative is up to the Lutherans,” Cardinal Koch said.
While dialogue between the churches has seen a softening of attitudes over the past 50 years, Lutheran-Catholic relations have not moved forward at the same speed as Anglican – Catholic relations.
In a statement released on 31 Oct 2012 for Germany’s Reformation Day holiday, Bishop Gerhard Feige of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference said “Catholic Christians consider the division of the western Church as a tragedy and – at least until now – do not think they can celebrate this merrily,”
Noting that the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) had begun preparations to mark the 600th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, Bishop Feige said it would be “very helpful if both denominations could come to a common understanding of what happened,” before the Catholic Church agreed to participate.
Contemplation the key to renewal, Dr. Williams tells the Vatican: The Church of England Newspaper, October 21, 2012 p 7. October 27, 2012Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: contemplation, Rowan Williams, Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation
comments closed The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged the Roman Catholic Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation meeting at the Vatican to be silent and know the Lord.
In his 10 Oct 2012 address to the synod of bishops, which has been tasked with considering how to evangelize the contemporary world with special emphasis upon those who may have been brought up in the Christian faith but who have drifted away, Dr. Williams spoke of the importance of contemplation in reaching the hearts and minds of people in the modern world.
“To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to all the fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our hearts,”Dr Williams said in the first address by an Archbishop of Canterbury to the Synod of Bishops in Rome, The archbishop spoke of the profound connection between contemplation and the task of evangelisation, saying it “must be rooted in a profound confidence that we have a distinctive human destiny to show and share with the world”.
“With our minds made still and ready to receive, with our self-generated fantasies about God and ourselves reduced to silence, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow” as individuals and as a church.
The practice of contemplation teaches Christians “how to look at one another and at the whole of God’s creation,” he said, noting that “contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit.”
Drawing upon Henri de Lubac and Thomas Merton, Archbishop Williams described contemplation as “the key” to prayer, art, liturgy and music and “the essence of a renewed humanity” freed from “self-oriented, acquisitive habits.”
He also told the bishops the Second Vatican Council was a sign of the church’s strength and “a sign of great promise” in its engagement with the modern world. However, “serious work” remained to be done in reaching the “post-Christian public.”
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
2 Dead in Nigerian Sectarian Bombings: The Church of England Newspaper, September 30, 2012 p 5. October 5, 2012Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Persecution, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Bauchi, Boko Haram, Institute on Religion and Public Policy
Two people have been killed and 45 wounded in a car bomb attack on St John’s Catholic Church in the Northern Nigerian city of Bauchi.
On 23 September 2012, a car attempted to enter the church compound shortly after 9:00 am. Police report the driver detonated an explosive device and the car exploded in the church’s parking lot, killing him and one other person attending mass in the church. The militant Islamic group Boko Haram is suspected to be behind the attack.
The Bauchi bombing is the first major incident since the Nigerian army reported that it had killed several of the group’s leaders in a gun battle on 17 September outside of Kano. Boko Haram had switched tactics in recent weeks, also, destroying 30 mobile phone towers in Northern Nigeria, cutting off communications in some parts of the country.
The chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Rev. Pokti Lewis told Sahara Reporters, “we are sad but are appealing to all Christians to be calm and not seek revenge, we have not kicked against anyone and his or her religion but God is watching and time will tell.”
“Just few Sundays ago we lost nine persons in a suicide bombing and today again,” he said, warning Boko Haram was engaged in a war of religion. “This clearly cleansing agenda by those perpetrating this act” designed to convert, kill or drive out Northern Nigeria’s Christians.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
Canterbury & Constantinople invited to Rome: The Church of England Newspaper, September 30, 2012 p 5. October 5, 2012Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Newspaper, Orthodox, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Ecumenical Patriarch, Vatican II
The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Ecumenical Patriarch have been invited to participate in the 50th anniversary celebrations of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
Pope Benedict XVI has invited Dr. Rowan Williams and Patriarch Bartholomew to attend the mass at the Vatican marking the anniversary of the start of the 11 Oct 1962 council. Anglican and Orthodox observers took part in the 1962-1965 council that saw 2500 bishops from around the world reform the church and which also marked the start of the modern era of ecumenical relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox and Anglican world.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
SSPX bishop threatened with expulsion: The Church of England Newspaper, September 20, 2012 September 22, 2012Posted by geoconger in Canon Law, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Richard Williamson, Society of St Pius X
The controversial British bishop of the breakaway Catholic Society of St. Pius X, Richard Williamson, faces expulsion from his order following his unauthorized episcopal visit to a breakaway group in Brazil.
In a 6 Sept 2012 letter published on the SSPX website, the society’s superior for South America, Fr. Christian Bouchacourt said Bishop Williamson had committed a “serious act against the virtue of obedience” and “an attack upon the most elementary demands of courtesy” by confirming 100 people at the invitation of the prior of the breakaway Benedictine Monastery of the Holy Cross in Nova Friburgo in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro.
Fr. Bouchacourt said the illicit confirmations had “deceived” those being confirmed as they had been led to believe the bishop was acting on behalf of the SSPX. The society, which has distanced itself from the bishop’s Holocaust-denial statements, is investigating the charges, which if proven true could result in his dismissal from the society.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
Exorcism for fun and profit: GetReligion, September 18, 2012 September 19, 2012Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Agence France Presse, demonic possessions, Egzorcysta, exorcism, spiritual warfare
The title of this story from the Agence France Presse (AFP), “Exorcism boom in Poland sees magazine launch” caught my eye, as a good headline should, and set my click finger twitching.
“What was this?”, I wondered. An explosion during an exorcism? Did the acolyte get too close with his burning taper to a gas line? Satan levitating magazines, tossing back issues of Our Sunday Visitor at a cowled cleric?
Alas, my imagination — alight with images of Max von Sydow battling the forces of evil in the form of the National Catholic Reporter — was a bit off. The AFP was reporting on the launch of Egzorcysta, the Polish word for “exorcist”, a monthly Polish-language magazine devoted to exorcisms, demonology, and related topics.
With its 62-page first issue including articles titled “New Age — the spiritual vacuum cleaner” and “Satan is real”, the Egzorcysta monthly with a print-run of 15,000 by the Polwen publishers is selling for 10 zloty (2.34 euros, 3.10 dollars) per copy.
Though not as colorful as I had hoped, the article nonetheless turned out to be well crafted with strong quotes from the magazine’s principals outlining its editorial mission. It also looks into the phenomena of exorcisms.
The story beings with Fr. Aleksander Posacki, one of the magazine’s founders, whom AFP describes as a “professor of philosophy, theology and leading demonologist and exorcist” explaining the niche his magazine will fill is related to the “rise in the number or exorcists from four to more than 120 over the course of 15 years in Poland …”
Having identified his audience, Fr. Posacki explains why the market for exorcists has grown.
Ironically, he attributed the rise in demonic possessions in what remains one of Europe’s most devoutly Catholic nations partly to the switch from atheist communism to free market capitalism in 1989.
“It’s indirectly due to changes in the system: capitalism creates more opportunities to do business in the area of occultism. Fortune telling has even been categorised as employment for taxation,” Posacki told AFP.
“If people can make money out of it, naturally it grows and its spiritual harm grows too,” he said, hastening to add authentic exorcism is absolutely free of charge.
The article offers Fr. Posacki’s views on the intersection of psychiatry and the demonic possession, and he and fellow exorcist Fr. Andrzej Grefkowicz offer accounts of exorcisms.
According to both exorcists, depictions of demonic possession in horror films are largely accurate. “It manifests itself in the form of screams, shouting, anger, rage – threats are common,” Posacki said. “Manifestation in the form or levitation is less common, but does occur and we must speak about it — I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” he added.
A fun little story — yet I was troubled by the story’s lack of curiosity and its underlying assumptions. Unlike the Huffington Post‘s treatment of this issue, the AFP does not play it for laughs. But is it too respectful, to earnest? An assumption behind this story is that exorcisms are a bona fide spiritual phenomena — should AFP have been more circumspect? Even-handed? Would it have reported accounts of Sufis doing spiritual battles with Jinns from Pakistan, or occult practices from Zimbabwe in the same way?
The respectful tone of the story might well have led to the avoidance of hard questions. Fr. Posacki argues that the free market for spiritualists has led to the growth in demand for the services of Catholic exorcists. Might not the same question be put to Fr. Posaki? Is he making a quick buck out of exorcisms though the launch of this magazine?
And, if the rise in the number of exorcists is only “partly” due to a free market in fortune tellers, what are the other reasons for the jump from 4 to 120?
Let me say I am not denigrating Fr. Posacki with my questions. Rather I am asking why the reporter on this story did not press Fr. Posacki to address the issues of the business of exorcisms when Fr. Posacki raises this issue in his rationale for the magazine. Many of my posts at GetReligion deal with the ignorance or hostility a journalist brings to a religion story. But there are also times when a too respectful attitude, too deferential to an institution, individual or doctrine results in poor reporting. Tell me GetReligion readers, is this the case here?
First printed in GetReligion.
Catholic bishop guilty of cover up in U.S. child abuse case: The Church of England Newspaper, September 16, 2012 p 6 September 16, 2012Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph, Robert Finn, Shawn Ratigan
A Missouri state court has found Bishop Robert Finn of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph guilty of failing to report suspected child abuse. The 7 September 2012 conviction of Bishop Finn makes him the most senior U.S. Catholic cleric convicted in that church’s clergy sex abuse scandal.
After pleading no contest to the charges and declining to exercise his right to a trial by jury, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge John Torrence placed Bishop Finn on probation, ordered him to ensure the diocesan staff implements an effective child abuse prevention programme, and create a fund to pay for the counselling of abuse victims.
Last week’s ruling follows the August conviction by a Philadelphia court of the secretary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Msgr. William Lynn, who was sentenced to six years imprisonment for covering up child sex abuse by Philadelphia priests.
In May 2010 teachers at a Kansas City parochial school shared their concerns with the bishop over the behavior of Fr. Shawn Ratigan. The bishop brought Fr. Ratigan into his office and counseled him over “boundary issues” but made no further inquiries into the school’s concerns.
In December 2010 a computer technician discovered a photograph of a child’s genitals on a computer brought in for repair by Fr. Ratigan. Further investigations subsequently discovered hundreds of pornographic photographs of the pudenda of pre-pubescent girls.
Contrary to state law, the bishop did not report the discovery to the police, but after consultation with diocesan lawyers sent Fr. Ratigan to a psychiatrist for an evaluation, who said he did not believe Ratigan was a threat to children. A parish priest subsequently informed the police of the discovery six months after the diocese learned of the photos. Fr. Ratigan has been indicted by Federal prosecutors on child pornography charges.
Prosecutors hailed the ruling as a “clear and ringing victory for the victims.”
This decision by the court “helps protect children and continued anonymity for these young victims,” Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said.
“We can be assured now that if an allegation of child abuse comes to the attention of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, there will no hesitation to report it immediately to the proper authorities.”
However, a spokesman for a victims’ rights’ groups disagreed. “Only jail time would have made a real difference here and deterred future horrific cover-ups, anything less will not produce any meaningful reform,” said Barbara Dorris, outreach director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
American Ordinariate accused of being ‘insufficiently Catholic’: The Church of England Newspaper, August 12, 2012 p 5. August 16, 2012Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Jeffrey Steenson, liturgy
The American branch of the Anglican Ordinariate is insufficiently Catholic, critics charge, following the announcement the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter will not use the traditional Latin mass – the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
Clergy who had been permitted to use the Latin mass by their Anglican bishops tell The Church of England Newspaper they are nonplussed in being forbidden to use the traditional rite now that they are Catholic priests.
On 30 July, Mgr Jeffrey Steenson, the ordinary of the Chair of St Peter and the former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, released a statement clarifying the Ordinariate’s liturgical formularies after some new converts claimed he was bullying them by forbidding the use of the Latin mass.
On 29 July 2012 the Anglo-Catholic website posted a story stating Mgr Steenson had discouraged his clergy from using the Latin mass, directing them to use only approved Anglican and Catholic English-language liturgies.
Christian Campbell stated that he had it on “unimpeachable authority that there is an ongoing crackdown on those AU/Ordinariate priests who would dare to learn or celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite on the part of [Mgr] Steenson” and other Ordinariate leaders.
The “affected priests are naturally frightened, and unwilling to go on record, but make no mistake, the leadership of the US Ordinariate at present has set itself against both Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum coetibus,” he stated, adding: “I also have it on good authority that this intimidation, an abuse of power, is being reported directly to the Roman Authorities. And the contention that the traditional Latin Mass has no bearing on the Anglican Patrimony — this simply has me flabbergasted.”
Other traditionalist Catholic websites picked up the story, with many commentators berating Mgr Steenson. By not allowing the traditional Latin mass the ordinary was forbidding the use of the liturgy that “shaped the Anglo-Catholic movement.”
“The Mass celebrated by [Blessed] John Henry Newman is not apt for the Anglican converts of the Ordinariate,” was how one commentator characterised Mgr Steenson’s actions.
But in a statement posted on the Ordinariate’s website, Mgr Steenson responded to his detractors saying 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.”
The Ordinariate’s “Book of Divine Worship Rite I” was its principal liturgical resource, while “those congregations that prefer a contemporary idiom, the Roman Missal 3rd edition could be used.”
Ordinariate 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,” Mgr Steenson said, so as to “assist in those stable communities that use the Extraordinary Form.”
However the traditional Latin Mass, (the Extraordinary Form) “is not integral to the Anglican patrimony, it is not properly used in our communities,” Mgr Steenson wrote.
A spokesman for the Ordinariate told CEN that over the past seven months, Mgr Steenson “has undertaken the incredible task of building what is essentially a national diocese from the ground up, and with few resources.”
“Looking back, we can see all that has been accomplished, including a high quality application and formation programme for clergy; ordinations of more than 20 priests in two countries in just six months – with more on the way; new communities being received into the Ordinariate regularly, with the next one in Boston this August; and policies, procedures and a structure being put in place to ensure the Ordinariate has a firm foundation for a healthy future.”
However, she noted that “bloggers always will speculate, but the focus of the Ordinariate continues to be on building up this new community of faith, with a healthy presbyterate and healthy local communities.”
The American branch of the Anglican Ordinariate is one of three so far created in response to the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorun coetibus. In addition to the Chair of St Peter in America and Our Lady of Walsingham for England and Wales, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross was established in June for Australia.
A former Church of England clergyman who became a bishop of the Traditional Anglican Communion, the Rev Harry Entwistle was appointed as the first ordinary.
Fr Entwistle was born on 31 May 1940, at Chorley, Lancashire. After studies at St. Chad’s Theological College in the University of Durham, he was ordained a priest in 1964 for the Diocese of Blackburn.
After serving parishes in Fleetwood, Hardwick, Weedon, Aston Abbotts and Cublington, he was a chaplain in the prison service from 1974 to 1988, serving as Senior Chaplain at HM Prison Wandsworth before emigrating to Australia, where he took up the post of Senior Anglican Chaplain for the Department of Corrective Services in Western Australia. In 2006 he joined the Traditional Anglican Communion and was appointed Western Regional Bishop and Parish Priest of Maylands in Perth.
The head of the English Ordinariate, Mgr Keith Newton said he was pleased to learn of the appointment. “Fr Entwistle has a wealth of experience from his Anglican ministry in England and in Australia, and I look forward to working with him closely as we seek to articulate the vision of Anglicanorum coetibus,” he said.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
La France Catholique Renaissante: Get Religion, August 14, 2012 August 14, 2012Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: France, Le Figaro, Phillipe Barbarin, Reuters
Everything is at root dependent on politics
Jean Jacques Rousseau
The Feast of the Assumption of Mary — August 15 — will be marked by the Catholic Church in France by the revival of prayers for the eldest daughter of the Church (France).
Reuter’s report on the prayers characterizes them as:
opposing the same-sex marriage and euthanasia reforms planned by the new Socialist government.
The prayer, to be read in all churches on Aug 15, echoes the defense of traditional marriage by Pope Benedict and Catholic leaders around the world as gay nuptials gain acceptance, especially in Europe and North America.
King Louis XIII decreed in 1638 that all churches would pray on Aug 15, the day Catholics believe the Virgin Mary was assumed bodily into Heaven, for the good of the country. The annual practice fell into disuse after World War Two.
While there may be more to the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary than its being of benefit to France, overall this article is nicely done — tight, balanced and precise. Yet I cannot help but wonder if an American political lens is the one through which this prayer is being viewed. The Reuter’s article demonstrates there are political ramifications to the prayers — but should these be the focus of the story?
The article states the prayer that children “cease to be objects of the desires and conflicts of adults and fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother” is a rejection of gay adoption, while the prayer that Catholics pray for government leaders “so that their sense of the common good will overcome special demands” is a rejection of the Socialist government’s plans to authorize gay marriage and euthanasia.
The article notes:
The prayer is unusual for French bishops, who usually keep a low political profile. Church spokesman Monsignor Bernard Podvin said they wanted to “raise the consciousness of public opinion about grave social choices.”
The article also ties the story into a wider global political context citing Pope Benedict XVI’s January statement that gay marriage threatened the “future of humanity itself” along with the political push to legalize gay marriage in the U.S. and the U.K.
A front page interview in Le Figaro printed on 14 August with the Archbishop of Lyon, Mgr. Phillipe Barbarin entitled: «Il ne faut pas dénaturer le mariage» may strengthen a political interpretation of these prayers. In response to questions from Le Figaro about their political nature, Mgr. Barbarin stated:
Politics is not a “dirty word”! Prayer has a political dimension, but it is primarily a spiritual act. We turn to God with confidence, asking his help for our loved ones, especially those living in hard times. Nothing is more natural than to pray for our family or our country. [Catholic] prayer has never ignored the issues of social life, let alone human suffering. We can say that our prayer is marked by the living conditions of the society in which we find ourselves.
Nicely said — I would almost characterize this as an American response that defends the place of religion in the public square. American in that, as Reuters notes, the French hierarchy has a reputation of being politically supine.
Le Figaro responds by asking whether the church’s intervention crosses a line, violating the secular nature of the state. And Mgr. Barbarin again pushes back:
Secularism prohibits prayer? Is that what you are asking? Do we live in tyranny? Must we submit our rituals and our formularies to the dictates of group think? … The situation is serious. … But the primary mission of the church is prayer, and I hope she will be faithful to that calling and speak regardless of public opinion.
But when we get to the text of the prayer, through a question from Le Figaro asking why the church would use the occasion of the Assumption Day prayers to express its opposition to “gay marriage and the adoption of children by such couples”, Mgr. Barbarin changes tack.
Have you read this prayer? None of the phrases you use is there. We can pray for the commitment of spouses, children and youth so that they “fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother” without being accused of homophobia I hope! These are the intentions that rise spontaneously in the heart of believers.
Perhaps the archbishop is being coy in decrying any specific reference to gay marriage/adoption, but he has no problem in a forthright rejection of euthanasia. “A law which would justify euthanasia supports the idea that some lives are not worth living,” the archbishop said, adding that speaking out against Euthanasia on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary was a duty for the church.
The archbishop also appeared to be pleased by the harsh reaction from secular quarters, saying the Catholic Church will no longer be
the doormat on which [French intellectuals] wipe their feet. This suggests that, in these reactions — paradoxically and happily — some seem to be afraid of prayer. Prayer is powerful, indeed!
Let me say I am not criticizing the Reuter’s story not developing the context and providing an analysis of what these prayers mean for France. In the space allotted and in the format of a wire service story, it does a great job.
Yet, I would argue that taken in conjunction with the Le Figaro interview, we are seeing new things — a politically resurgent Catholic Church in France (as Reuter’s points out), but also an intellectually and theologically confident Catholic Church in France.
Do others see this confidence in these reports? And if so, how should a reporter tell this story? Should this story even be touched by a secular reporter? Is this primarily a political story or a religious one? Must everything be reduced to politics and the political, or is it possible for journalists to address a changing intellectual and moral world?
First printed in Get Religion.
Doggie masses down under: Get Religion, August 6, 2012. August 6, 2012Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: animal souls, Eucharist, Inclusive Catholic Church, Laika, The Age
Can a dog be a good Catholic? Must a dog be baptized before it receives Holy Communion? For that matter, can a dog be saved? Will all dogs go to heaven, or does Laika’s 1957 launch mark the apogee of canine celestial progress?
Must a commitment to inclusivity by a liberal Catholic mandate the rejection of speciesism?
Religion reporter Barney Zwarts writing in The Age — one of Australia’s great national newspapers — has an article that brought these questions to my mind. But I am not sure whether he meant to do this. Is he playing it straight or writing with tongue in cheek in this article about inclusive Catholics in Australia?.
The 6 August article entitled “Dissidents preach a new breed of Catholicism” begins:
FATHER Greg Reynolds wants his church of dissident Catholics to welcome all – ”every man and his dog”, one might say, risking the non-inclusive language he deplores – but even he was taken aback when that was put to the test during Mass yesterday.
A first-time visitor arrived late at the Inclusive Catholics service in South Yarra with a large and well-trained German shepherd. When the consecrated bread and wine were passed around, the visitor took some bread and fed it to his dog.
Apart from one stifled gasp, those present showed admirable presence of mind – but the dog was not offered the cup!
Father Reynolds, a Melbourne priest for 32 years, launched Inclusive Catholics earlier this year. He now ministers to up to 40 people at fortnightly services alternating between two inner-suburban Protestant churches.
The congregation includes gay men, former priests, abuse victims and many women who feel disenfranchised, but it is optimistic rather than bitter.
A few details of the service are offered, with the article stressing that the lector and homilist were women as were the lay eucharistic ministers who distributed the elements consecrated by Fr. Reynolds. The shift from narrative to analysis comes with this paragraph:
Inclusive Catholics is part of a small but growing trend in the West of disaffiliated Catholics forming their own communities and offering ”illicit” Masses, yet are slightly uncertain of their identities. The question was posed during the service: ”Are we part of the church or are we a breakaway movement?”
The article does not seek to answer this question, but returns to narrative by providing biographical details of Fr. Reynolds, whom it describes as “still a priest, though now on the dole.” Some rather predictable, but still crisp quotes are offered by participants. To whit: “This is inclusive and welcoming.” and “Intelligent, educated, adult Catholics have had enough.”
The article closes with this encomium for the inclusive Catholic movement:
But if there’s one thing that unites Inclusive Catholics and the mainstream church, it’s their reliance on hard-working women behind the scenes. The volunteer who made the name tags given out yesterday turned 88 during the week.
I am undecided as to the author’s editorial voice. Is he playing it straight yet allowing the subjects of the story to make fools of themselves, or does the pro-inclusive church framing of the story represent the author’s editorial voice? Let’s lay out the evidence for either proposition.
In favor of the ridiculous theme, we have the juxtaposition of the articles beginning and ending with its pivot paragraph. At the head of the story is a photograph of the congregation, Fr. Reynolds and the dog. A quick scan indicates that save for the dog, no one appears to be under 65 years of age. The closing sentence mentions the industrious work of the volunteer who writes out the name tag — noting her 88th birthday. Against this we have the “small but growing trend” argument put forward in the middle of the story. Are the photo and birthday greetings for this aging crowd to be set against the claim of a new movement in the church meant to ridicule Fr. Reynolds and his congregation, or demonstrate its strength?
The selection of quotes is also telling. We have two cliched quotes in support of Fr. Reynolds’ work, but nothing from the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne about the activities of this unlicensed, yet still in good standing Catholic priest. Did the author choose to leave the story unbalanced to allow the comments made by the subject to impeach their cause? Or, were the comments so self-evidently true that there was no need to balance them with a contrary view?
The shaggy dog story at the start of the article might also lend support to the ridicule thesis. The article starts with a joke about “inclusive” language, relates the story of the dog receiving the host, and then makes a joke about Fido not receiving the wine — here we can tell this is a Roman Catholic not Anglo-Catholic mass as the Anglicans would doubtless have required the dog to receive the elements in both kinds.
And without seeking to explain why someone in this congregation would gasp at the dog’s reception of the sacraments, we move into a litany of the sorts of persons who attend this service.
My vote is for satire. A crowd of aging hipsters celebrating a mass that is in bad taste and theologically and sacramentally scandalous with no comment, context or correction seems likely to be a way for the author to hold this group up to ridicule. Or, the author of this story is playing it straight and declines to offer context, contrary voices, or to develop the shaggy dog story at the start of his narrative because he does not believe it necessary.
Last month I reported on the discussion held by the bishops of the Episcopal Church on the appropriateness of prayers for animals. A proposed prayer put forward by the church’s liturgy committee was vetoed, the Bishop of Missouri, the Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith reported and an alternate prayer provided by the Prayer Book committee “no longer express the desire for our animals to be part of the resurrection.”
The question of the place of animals in heaven is of real pastoral concern and the Christian tradition is divided on this point. I’ve touched on this issue at GetReligion in the past, noting that according to Oxford theologian Andrew Linzey there is “an ambiguous tradition” about animals in Christianity. Thinkers as diverse as Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Fenelon, and Kant and have held that animals do not have rational, hence immortal souls. Descartes defended a distinction between humans and animals based on the belief that language is a necessary condition for mind and as such animals were soulless machines (Descartes, Discourse on the Method)
Others theologians, philosophers and writers as diverse as Goethe, St John of the Cross, C.S. Lewis, Bishop Butler, and John Wesley held the opposite view and believed that animals will find a place in heaven. Billy Graham is purported to have said:
I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness’ in heaven. If it takes my dog being there, I believe he’ll be there.
The Episcopal Bishop of North Dakota, Michael Smith made this same point when asked by the press at the General Convention if animals went to heaven.
These are “theological issues not many of us have thought through,” he said, “but if a little girl needs Fluffy the cat to see the beatific vision, then Fluffy will be in heaven,” Bishop Smith said.
But lets come back down to earth and return to Melbourne — is this Inclusive Catholic Church pressing the theological envelope on these issues? Or has the author structured his story to expose a group of wayward elderly Catholics doing silly things and playing at church? What say you GetReligion readers? Serious or satire?
First printed in GetReligion.
Tags: Associated Press, Pope Benedict XVI, Robert Brezak, Slovak Republic
Where is Dan Brown when you need him?
The story of Archbishop Róbert Bezák is ready made for the Da Vinci Code treatment. Yet the press has bungled a Catholic story — the Associated Press piece that ran in most U.S. newspapers devoted more space to a rehash of the clergy pedophile scandal than the church conflict in the Slovak Republic.
This story has gays, Nazi sympathizers, Communist secret police agents, liberal Catholics, Vatican intrigue, and the “Rottweiler” — Pope Benedict XVI — playing the heavy. And what we are offered is the tired (and irrelevant) clergy abuse saga.
Our tale begins — in press terms — with the announcement from the Vatican that Archbishop Róbert Bezák of Trnava had been sacked. The AP story opens with:
The pope fired a 52-year-old Slovak bishop on Monday for apparently mismanaging his diocese in a rare show of papal power over his bishops.
Usually when bishops run into trouble – either for alleged moral lapses or management problems – they are persuaded by the Vatican to resign. But Pope Benedict XVI has become increasingly willing to forcibly remove bishops who refuse to step down, sacking three others in the last year alone.
His willingness to do so raises questions about whether he would take the same measures against bishops who covered up for sexually abusive priests. So far he has not.
As you can see, while the story ostensibly is about Archbishop Bezák, it really is another opportunity to club the pope and the Catholic Church. We do learn a bit about the unemployed archbishop. The AP story states:
On Monday, the Vatican said Benedict had “relieved from pastoral care” Bishop Robert Bezak of Trnava, Slovakia. No reason was given, but Italian news reports suggested administrative problems were to blame and Slovak news reports quoted Bezak as saying he thought his criticism of his predecessor may have had a role.
But this detour into news soon ends and we go back to assumptions and assertions.
The exercise of the pope’s ability to fire a bishop has important implications, particularly concerning bishops who mishandle pedophile priests.
In the face of U.S. lawsuits seeking to hold the pope ultimately responsible for abusive priests, the Holy See has argued that bishops are largely masters of their dioceses and that the pope doesn’t really control them. The Vatican has thus sought to limit its own liability, arguing that the pope doesn’t exercise sufficient control over the bishops to be held responsible for their bungled response to priests who rape children.
The ability of the pope to actively fire bishops, and not just passively accept their resignations, would seem to undercut the Vatican’s argument of a hands-off pope.
And so on and so forth. I’ve read this sort of thing dozens of times before and repetition does not make it any more newsworthy.
The front page of the 23 July issue of Pravda — not that Pravda, but the other one, the Bratislava daily newspaper — is devoted to a discussion of Church/State relations in the Slovak Republic and the fallout from the Bezák affair. The Pravda lede begins:
[Slovak] churches will receive more than 37 million euros in state support this year, and from this amount 21 million euros will be given to the Catholic Church. The state is facing a financial shortfall and church support is a huge burden, but so far the government has been reluctant even to begin discussing the separation of church and state.
… The debate on the separation of church and state is once again in the public eye due to the events surrounding the appeal [of the dismissal] of Trnava Archbishop Robert Bezák …
The focus of the Pravda story is on the return or restitution to the Catholic Church of properties confiscated by the Communist regime. The neighboring Czech Republic has been debating the issue in Parliament and the Slovak government is about to follow suit. However, the no-compensation group has a strong political base, Pravda notes.
One expert is cited in the article saying that during the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the Czechoslovak Republic of 1919 to 1938 and the Nazi-puppet Slovak Republic of 1938 to 1945 the state owned church properties, which were entrusted to the Catholic Church for the use and benefit of the people. ”Each year [the Catholic Church] had to account to the state for the management of the property it used.”
The article then returns to Archbishop Bezák, with one expert saying the dismissal of the Archbishop of Trnava for his progressive social views was grounds not to compensate the church as it could not be trusted to put the interests of the people first. The bottom line — the Bezák story is not another episode in the clergy abuse saga but falls into another popular press theme — good liberal Catholics, bad conservative Catholics.
A 14 July story in TASR, the state news agency, reports that one of the letters of complaint lodged against Archbishop Bezák found its way to the TA3 television network.
Among the accusations listed by the Vatican in the documents are Bezak’s selection of homosexual priests and those having illegitimate children as his close associates, and alleged mockery of the cassock as a piece of clothing worn by sorcerers, while he himself wears jeans or sweatpants. The Vatican also asked whether it’s true that Bezak speaks of the pope merely as “Mr. Pope” in the public, and describes other Slovak bishops as “old and fogy”, while he is a “modern bishop and enlightened liberal”.
Bezak in a response said that his predecessor Jan Sokol didn’t alert him to any priests in the diocese that would have “dubious reputation”, while he isn’t interested in any ill-based accusations and observes the principle of benefit of the doubt instead. Similarly, Bezak rejected the accusation that he would have ever mocked the cassock and have worn indecent dress. He also said that he has never described himself as a “modern bishop and enlightened liberal”, as he had been in office less than three years, which was too little to define himself in any way. He further said that he describes the pope with due reverence, using terms such as “pope, pope Benedict XVI, Holy Father, Holy Father Benedict XVI and His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI”.
If the TASR story is true, one faction of the Slovak Church complained to the Vatican about the new archbishop’s liberal social views and progressive lifestyle. The story continues to build:
Drawing upon reports published by the Slovak newspaper SME, the English-language Slovak Spectator stated local protests by some Catholics followed the bishops removal. It offered further comments from political leaders perturbed by the Vatican’s removal of the young archbishop. Part of the dispute, the Slovak press reports, arises from the sharply different styles and personalities of the former archbishop and the new archbishop.
Bezák, aged 52, replaced controversial former archbishop Ján Sokol three years ago. The step was widely welcomed given Sokol’s repeated praise of President Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest who led the Nazi-allied wartime Slovak state during which, among other atrocities, tens of thousands of Slovakia’s Jews were deported to Nazi death camps. Bezák won popular respect when he announced that Tiso should have resigned as soon as the first train transporting Jews left the country.
… [archbishop] Ján Sokol is known by Slovaks as one of the more controversial personalities in the local Roman Catholic Church, especially because his name appeared on the payroll of the communist-era secret police, the ŠtB.
Now I’ve not found an Opus Dei angle to the story so far, but a Gay-Nazi-Commie-Catholic-Conspiracy story is the sort of thing that religion reporters lie awake at night dreaming about.
It is not a crime for a journalist to run a short item. I am not criticizing the AP for being unaware of the back story of Archbishop Bezák. What troubles me is the padding of this story by the AP.
Yes, I get it. You don’t like Benedict and you are suspicious of the institution. But that sort of heavy breathing and speculation is inappropriate in a news story. The AP should have reported the fact of the archbishop’s dismissal and the Vatican’s decision to decline to comment. Droning on and on about bad Benedict and the clergy abuse scandal served no purpose. Simply put, by playing to its prejudices, the AP blinded itself and its readers to the real, much more interesting, story.
First printed in GetReligion.
BBC bias from Cuba: Get Religion, July 24, 2012 July 25, 2012Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: BBC, Cuba, Los Angeles Times, Oswaldo Paya
In my experience, the BBC does not ‘get religion’. I am not speaking of the reporters assigned to cover religion stories — they are a professional crew and are always worth reading. I find the problem with the BBC’s coverage arises when a religion angle appears in a non-religion story. More often than not the BBC is at sea when it comes to the faith. You can see this confusion in the BBC’s coverage of the death of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya.
The BBC story entitled “Cuba dissident ‘forced off road’ to death, says family” consists of 24 paragraphs, each one sentence long. It begins:
Family members of prominent Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, who died in a car crash on Sunday, say they believe his car had been forced off the road.
At a funeral mass attended by hundreds of people in Havana, Mr Paya’s son, Oswaldo, told the BBC that his father had received many death threats.
An official statement said the driver lost control as it drove on a road in eastern Granma province and hit a tree.
Mr Paya, 60, was one of Cuba’s main pro-democracy campaigners.
The story proceeds to offer details of the auto accident; the claim by the family that it was murder; a summary of his anti-Castro activism, his awards from European Human Rights organizations; and the funeral arrangements. The BBC notes:
Mr Paya is best-known as the founder of the Varela Project – a campaign to gather signatures in support of a referendum on laws guaranteeing civil rights.
And then offers one or two snippets about what might have motivated the man to stand against the Communist regime. The
Paragraph 13 gives us a hint:
Mr Paya was sent to a work camp in 1969 as punishment for his faith.
But it is not until paragraph 22 (of 24) that we learn that Oswaldo Paya was:
A devout Christian, Mr Paya was also the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, which campaigns for political change, civil rights and the release of political prisoners.
What sort of Christian Mr Paya was the BBC does not say. We may infer he was Roman Catholic as the story reports that his funeral was held at San Salvador Catholic Church. The photo the BBC used to illustrate this article may also be a give away as to the man’s beliefs — he is standing in front of a mural of Jesus Christ with hands raised to mid-chest — though obscured it could be a representation of the sacred heart of Jesus or of his giving a blessing.
Compare the BBC’s treatment of Mr Paya with the Los Angeles Times. The lede in its story entitled “Oswaldo Paya dies at 60; Cuban anti-Castro activist” begins:
Cuban activist Oswaldo Paya, who spent decades speaking out against the communist government of Fidel and Raul Castro and became one of the most powerful voices of dissent against their half-century rule, died Sunday in a car crash in Cuba. He was 60.
Paya and a Cuban man described by media as a fellow activist, Harold Cepero Escalante, died in an accident in La Gavina, just outside the eastern city of Bayamo, Cuban authorities said. A Spaniard and a Swede also riding in the car were injured.
Cuba’s International Press Center told the Associated Press that witnesses said the driver of the rental car lost control and struck a tree. Rosa Maria Paya, the dissident’s daughter, told CNN en Espanol that other witnesses said the car was run off the road by another vehicle. Police are investigating.
Paya, who drew strength from his Roman Catholic roots as he pressed for change in his homeland, continued to voice his opposition after Fidel Castro resigned due to illness in early 2008, calling the passing of the presidency to younger brother Raul a disappointment.
The LA Times story notes Paya became a dissident when he “founded the non-governmental Christian Liberation Movement, which emphasized peaceful, civic action.” It states Paya:
… gained international fame as the top organizer of the Varela Project, a signature-gathering drive asking authorities for a referendum on laws to guarantee civil rights such as freedom of speech and assembly.
… The Varela Project was seen as the biggest nonviolent campaign to change the system the elder Castro established after the 1959 Cuban revolution.
The LA Times article closes by stating:
Oswaldo Jose Paya Sardinas was born Feb. 29, 1952, the fifth of seven siblings in a Catholic family. An engineer by training, he was employed at a state enterprise that deals with surgical equipment. Survivors include his wife and three children.
Reading these two articles, which do you believe paints a better portrait of the man? The BBC pushes his faith all the way to the end of the story — mentioning in passing that he was religious. The LA Times places the man’s faith front and center, stating that it was his Catholic faith that led him into opposition against the Communist regime.
We see in these two stories a clash of sensabilities. For the LA Times, Paya could not be understood apart from his faith. For the BBC, the pertinence of his Catholic faith is not understood and added as a subordinate item to the main story.
Perhaps one could argue in defense of the BBC article that it led with the accusation of foul play — that Paya may have been murdered. It might be argued that his Catholicism was not the proximate cause of his suspicous death — and hence more time was devoted to his political work such as the Valera project.
Yet the LA Times also places the suspicious circumstances of Paya’s death high in the story. And by the way it links his politics and his faith a reasonable assumption is that if this was a political murder, exploring Paya’s motivation for his politics is necessary to the story. The BBC also appears to have missed the significance of the name of Paya’s civil rights project. Padre Felix Valera was a Cuban Roman Catholic priest who was forced to flee the island after he was sentenced to death for his agitation against slavery and Spanish political tyranny.
On 12 April 2012, the Sun-Sentinel reported Fr. Valera is currently in the process of canonization.
It may have been Easter, not Christmas; but South Florida Catholics — especially the Cuban-Americans among them — got a gift when the church declared Father Felix Varela “venerable,” one of three steps toward possible sainthood.
Varela, a 19th century priest, philosopher and statesmen, was approved for the title by Pope Benedict XVI, reported the Archdiocese of Miami. The title is given to Catholics whose lives are considered virtuous and worthy of emulation.
As one measure of Varela’s regard in the United States, the announcement was shared on April 7 by Cardinal Timothy Dolan in New York and by Father Juan Rumin Dominguez at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Miami. The shrine not only has a statue of Varela, but a mural of Cuban patriots that is dominated by his face.
I am not saying the BBC made factual errors in this story. Rather the story it told was incomplete. The BBC appears tone deaf to the religious meaning and significance of words and to Cuban history. Nor is this a one-off mistake. When dealing with religion — apart from anthropologically tinged stories about non-Western faiths or deferential, often cringe-inducing stories about Islam — the BBC more often than not is incapable of reporting accurately. There is an institutional blindness against Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism and Protestantism — no sympathy, no empathy, no understanding of what is going on or why.
The inability to understand the role faith played in the life and death of Oswaldo Paya and of Cuba is speaks poorly of the professionalism and rigor of BBC reporting. At best it is ignorance, at worst it is bias.
First printed in Get Religion.
Tags: Associated Press
When I makes tea I makes tea, as old mother Grogan said. And when I makes water I makes water … Begob, ma’am, says Mrs. Cahill, God send you don’t make them in the one pot.
Ulysses by James Joyce (1922)
The clergy abuse scandal is the gift that keeps on giving as dry and dusty Catholic news stories can always be sexed up by reference to this evil. A recent story from the Associated Press on the opening ceremonies of the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin is an example.
The words “Eucharistic Congress” are likely to induce palpitations in the heart of a reporter who seeks to make a name for himself. A week-long confab of fervent Catholics meeting to discuss the mysteries of the sacrament is not a setting that produces great copy. Write six or seven hundred words about what Cardinal X said about this, or Archbishop Y said about that, and a reporter would be lucky to see 250 words survive the editorial pencil.
Find a way to work in the sex scandal changes the equation. Take a look at this article entitled “Catholic faith on line as church rallies in Dublin” and you can see the transformation of a dull story by focusing on one aspect at the expense of all others.
The problem for a subscriber to the AP’s wire service however is that they are not getting what they paid for. What they bought was a news story. What they received was an opinion piece that speaks more to the psyche of the AP reporter than to the mind of the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.
In reading this free form fantasia, my mind too was loosened from the bounds of straight news and it floated off to a Dublin I knew in misty days of yore when
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven—
Reagan is in the White House;
All’s right with the world!
My Dublin was not a place but an ordeal — a sixth former’s struggles with James Joyce’s Ulysses. This was a right of passage for English students who were introduced to One Day in the Life of Leopold Bloom — 16 June 1904 to be exact. Stylistically varied, full of puns, allusions and jokes, Ulysses introduced the stream-of-consciousness style which allowed the reader not only to follow the events of Bloom’s day hour by hour, but also to follow his thoughts and hear the inner rhythm of his needs and desires, joy and despair.
Ulysses was a very hard book for me to read, so saturated was it with the life of Dublin and the mental perambulations of its characters. At times I found it incoherent. I took comfort that others did not enjoy this style — Hemingway (the other one, not M.Z.) referred to it as ‘steam of consciousness’ writing. Yet Ulysses marked the end of the dominance of realism— telling life as it is — in the novel. Which takes me back to this AP story, which does not tell life as it is, but gives free flow to the mental perambulations of its author.
Let’s start with the lede.
An international conference celebrating Roman Catholicism opened Sunday in Ireland against a backdrop of anger over child abuse cover-ups and evidence of declining faith in core church beliefs.
That’s the way to frame the story, misstate the agenda of the conference and go on the attack. It continues:
About 12,000 Catholics, many from overseas, gathered for an open-air Mass in a half-full Dublin stadium at the start of the Eucharistic Congress, a weeklong event organized by the Vatican every four years in a different part of the world. The global gathering, begun in the 19th century and last held in Quebec in 2008, highlights the Catholic Church’s belief in transubstantiation, the idea that bread and wine transforms during Mass into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.
Wait, I thought this was about “celebrating Roman Catholicism” — some sort of quasi-tribal rally of the faithful. Instead we have a half-full week long congress on transubstantiation? Bait and switch reader, bait and switch. I’ve seen other reports that list 20,000 present — funny how stories about the Pope’s trip to Germany, England and Mexico all seem to start out with low ball estimates that have to be revised dramatically upwards. But I digress …
An opinion poll of Irish Catholics found that two-thirds of Irish Catholics don’t believe this, nor do they attend Mass weekly. The survey, published in The Irish Times with an error margin of 3 points, also found that just 38 percent believe Ireland today would be in worse shape without its dominant church. And just three-fifths even knew the Eucharistic Congress was coming to Ireland.
Such views reflect rapid secularization and alienation with the church in Ireland, where church and state once were tightly intertwined. The last time Ireland hosted the Eucharistic Congress in 1932, more than 1 million — a quarter of Ireland’s population — packed Dublin’s Phoenix Park for Mass with nary a dissenting voice.
How do we know that these views “reflect rapid secularization and alienation”? It may be reasonable to assume this based upon the increasing secularization of society and the scandals of recent years, but what evidence is there in the article that takes us from A to B?
And how does the rate of belief in the real presence as found in the survey relate to past levels of belief — or to rates of belief in other countries? Surveys conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) would indicate that Ireland is doing better than the U.S. on this point. There is no context provided to judge the numbers — only the assertion that this is a bad thing.
And … Is it fair to compare the 1932 Phoenix Park mass to the 2012 Dublin opening ceremony? The 26 June 1932 open air mass in Phoenix Park drew almost 1 million people. But discussions of transubstantiation at the 1932 Eucharist Congress did not bring in the crowds — it was Pope Pius XI and the Irish government.
The pope addressed the crowd from his library in the Vatican and was the first time a pope directly spoke to the Irish people. A better comparison might be Pope John Paul II’s 1979 mass in Phoenix Park, which also drew almost a million people. Juxtaposing 12,000 (or was it 20,000) people with a million people appears to be an attempt to advance the rather tired “Ireland is losing its faith mantra”.
The 1932 Eucharistic Congress was a political, cultural and religious event. It was a celebration of Irish Nationalism and Roman Catholicism and showcased the success of the Irish Free State. Éamon de Valera heavily promoted the congress as a symbol of republican Ireland being a Catholic state for a Catholic people. It also cemented the relationship between Fianna Fáil and the church which culminated in the 1937 Constitution which recognized the “special place of the Catholic Church” in Irish life. We get a hint of this in the article, but the author ignores this and compares attendance between the two congresses in an attempt to denigrate the 2012 gathering.
The quip about “nary a dissenting voice” is unsubstantiated as Protestants and Unionists (what few that remained south of the border) objected to the rally in 1932 as a sectarian political show.
Fast forward to 2012. The AP reports:
And as Catholic pilgrims entered the opening Mass, they passed protesters from Survivors of Child Abuse, an Irish pressure group that has spent more than a decade demanding that church leaders in Ireland and Rome admit their full culpability for the protection of pedophile priests. Other protest groups highlighted the church’s opposition to homosexuality and its role in running most Irish elementary schools and many hospitals today.
Today we have gay rights activists protesting (where the friendly folks from Westboro Baptist Church there?) as well as abuse victims advocates. How many protestors is not stated. Different issues separate 1932 and 2012, but protests there were.
Yet one of the major angles in this story that the AP managed to miss was the inclusion of Protestants in the Congress. The Church of Ireland’s Archbishop of Dublin, (the other archbishop) was among the speakers at the opening service. Two Archbishops of Dublin were present, Protestant and Catholic, Dr. Michael Jackson and Dr. Diarmuid Martin. Nor was Dr. Jackson’s presence window dressing as Presbyterian, Methodist and other Protestant leaders took part in the ceremony. For goodness sakes even a contingent from the Church of Ireland’s Boys Brigade took part in the march.
Remember a time when Irish news was dominated by the “troubles” — that Protestant/Catholic thing that went on for a few decades? In its fixation with the abuse scandal the AP has managed to miss one of the significant changes in Irish life made manifest by this congress — the virtual end of Protestant/Catholic discord.
The article continues with its focus on the abuse scandal, highlighting those moments from the opening day where congress organizers addressed the abuse issue. Readers were also treated to this assertion.
… Four state-ordered investigations over the past decade have documented how tens of thousands of children from the 1940s to 1990s suffered sexual, physical and mental abuse from priests, nuns and church staff in three Irish dioceses and in a network of workhouse-style residential schools. More investigations of other dioceses beckon.
Tens of thousands of children suffered abuse? Where does that number come from?
In 1999 the Irish government began a ten year investigation into incidents of abuse in Church-run reform schools and educational institutions: the places where the bulk of the abuse took place. In its 2010 report, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse found that between the period 1914 to 1999, 253 claims of sexual abuse were made by males and 128 by females.
Were these all the possible claims? No. But “tens of thousands”? Does the AP have information on at least 19,619 other cases it says took place?
Let me stop at this point and address the question why this matters. One or one thousand children abused are too many abused children. It is a shame, a horror, a crime that tarnishes the church and society.
However, when the abuse is inflated to hyperbole, when imaginary victims are created to make an argument that the church is corrupt, the abuse suffered by real people is cheapened. Their suffering is diminished and is expropriated by those advancing a political agenda. In a situation of suffering it is reprehensible to exaggerate for effect.
And it is bad journalism. The reporting in this story shows no understanding of the issues, no sense of the story, no sense of the people. It tells us nothing of consequence about the Eucharistic Congress, but a great deal about what the author thinks of the Catholic Church. It is an anti-Catholic editorial masquerading as news.
When you are going to make tea, make tea. When you are going to make water, make water. Don’t try to make them in the same pot. When you are going to write an editorial, write an editorial. When you are going to write news, write news — don’t try to do both in the same story. Stream of consciousness reporting didn’t work here. The AP would have done a better job of sticking to realism.
First printed in GetReligion.
Tags: Artemesia Gentileschi, L’Osservatore Romano, women's page
L’Osservatore Romano reports that it has added a women’s page to its Italian-language edition. The four-page insert will be called “Women, Church, World” and will be written “by and for” Catholic women, and will appear on the last Thursday of the month, the semi-official Vatican newspaper reports.
The first issue was printed on 31 May 2012 (Feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary) and features an interview with Maria Voce, president of the Focolari Movement, an appreciation of the Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, an essay on Joan of Arc, and other women-themed articles. If the first issue is any guide this section will be more of a feminist Catholic feuilleton rather than a throwback to the traditional women’s page of day’s past.
The front page article in L’Osservatore Romano announcing the new section states:
Historical research is showing how the emancipation and advancement of women is indebted to Christianity from its origins, despite contradictions down the centuries, due above all to the cultural context and, in our day, to persistent prejudices.
The article then notes the fullness of presence of women in the life of the church through history.
And although the female presence in the Church has in some periods seemed to be in the shadows, this makes it no less important. In the second half of the twentieth century the recognition of this element on the part of the Holy See became more decisive, as in 1963 when the new lead role of women in society, especially in that of Christian tradition, was recognized by John XXIII as one of the “signs of the times”.
Then in 1964 it was Paul VI who, with unprecedented determination, invited several women to take part in the Second Vatican Council and, in 1970, proclaimed two women saints Doctors of the Church: Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila. He was followed by John Paul II – who likewise proclaimed Thérèse of Lisieux a Doctor in 1997 – and by Benedict XVI who has decided on this solemn definition also for one of the greatest women of the Middle Ages, Hildegard of Bingen – as confirmation of an indispensable and valuable presence in Christ’s Church.
In an interview in the Italian language section of Zenit, Prof. Lucetta Scaraffia of La Sapienza University in Rome, the editor of the supplement, acknowledged the project will break stereotypes of Catholic women — inside and outside the church. She accepts that some will not be pleased.
The church world has traditionally misogynistic.Women have been seen as potential competitors for careers inside the church and accepted only if they cancel themselves out by playing a subordinate role. But this position in today’s world is unsustainable.
Prof. Scaraffia stated the new section:
will demonstrate how many women are involved in church life …
and will push for reform by lending:
a hand to a growing need for internal change.
She added that:
Religious and secular women are not only very numerous but they play important and interesting roles in the life of the Church. However, everyone thinks that the Church is made only of cardinals, bishops … so finally, at least once a month, we will open a window on the fundamental presence, past and present, of women in the Church.
The women’s page will also promote a modern Catholic feminism based upon the principle of complementarity — not interchangeability — of men and women.
Feminism was and is many things. First, it seeks recognition for the role of women, which often – and precisely in the Church – is undervalued and ignored. But there is a difference between feminism that seeks equality by flattening the distinction between women and men, thereby erasing women’s difference from men … Too often this difference has been synonymous with inequality, but we will defend it and advance a new feminism.
One not centered solely around careers, “sexual freedom, contraception and abortion,” she said.
From a journalistic perspective, the addition of a women’s page to advance a feminist agenda appears counter intuitive.
In the early Twentieth century women’s pages began to appear in the middle or back of newspapers and provided how-to-information to women on marriage, fashion, food, beauty, home improvement and the like. In some more progressive metropolitan newspapers the women’s page also ran features on social issues: domestic violence, women in politics, poverty among women, and reports on the growing feminist movements. It also provided an entry for women reporters into a hitherto male dominated profession.
In the 1970’s however, most American newspapers dropped the women’s page, replacing it with a Lifestyle section that produced soft news stories and features about the arts and personalities designed to attract men and women.
Is introducing a women’s page one Thursday a month a good idea? Tell me GetReligion readers, do you agree with the argument put forward by Prof. Scaraffia that this supplement will increase the profile of women in the church?
Or, do you share my disquiet that — while well intentioned — this creates a ghetto for women in L’Osservatore Romano? Should the types of articles that Prof. Scaraffia hopes to publish appear more than once a month? Or, should we accept that this is a start and that good writing and solid reporting will see women-themed stories move from the supplement into a regular slot in the news pages?
What say you GetReligion readers?
First printed in GetReligion.
Bishops plea for peace in the Sudan: The Church of England Newspaper, May 20, 2012 p 6. May 28, 2012Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Daniel Deng, John Sentamu, National Islamic Front, South Sudan, Sudan, Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement
The Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops of South Sudan, joined by the Archbishop of York, have issued a statement saying they “stand committed” to stop the outbreak of fighting between Sudan and South Sudan.
On 2 May 2012 the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution demanding that the two countries cease hostilities within 48 hours and return to the negotiations put forward by the African Union. The National Islamic Front government in Khartoum and SPLM government in Juba agreed to return to the negotiating table in Addis Abba, but on 3 May the Sudanese air force bombed troop positions in South Sudan and fighting continues across the disputed border regions.
The situation along the border is grim, the Bishop of Aweil reported in a letter posted on the website of the Diocese of Salisbury.
‘The war is back to us,” the bishop wrote and “many people are killed, wounded, displaced and their properties are looted or destroyed by the soldiers from Sudan government leaving them in horrible situation. As I write this letter many of displaced people go to bed everyday without food even one meal in a day is not there, leave alone shelters to protect them from the rains and no clothing to cover their skinny bodies. The displaced persons have experienced great trauma and great suffering now more than ever because no one was affecting war again soon,” Bishop Abraham Nhial wrote.
Meeting form 9 to 11 May in Yei in South Sudan, the country’s Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops pleaded for peace. “We dream of two nations which are democratic and free, where people of all religions, all ethnic groups, all cultures and all languages enjoy equal human rights based on citizenship.”
“Enough is enough. There should be no more war between Sudan and South Sudan,” the bishops said in their communiqué.
The bishops said they stood “committed to do all in our power to make our dream a reality. We believe that the people and government of South Sudan desperately want peace. We believe the same is true of the people and their liberation movements in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile.”
However “a lasting peace will come unless all parties act in good faith. Trust must be built, and this involves honesty, however painful that may be. We invite the International Community to walk with us on the painful journey of exploring the truth in competing claims and counter-claims, allegations and counter-allegations. We invite them to understand the peaceful aspirations of the ordinary people, and to reflect that in their statements and actions.”
In a statement released on 24 April 2012, Archbishop Daniel Deng said that war was not the answer. “We should learn from the 55 years of war not to return to it so hastily. The blood of those who fought for peace should not have been poured in vain. We call on all sides to exercise restraint and pursue peace at all costs. God is on the side of those who seek peace.”
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Associated Press, Lady Gaga, MTV News, Philippines
Ohohohoh, I’m in love with Judas
Ohohohoh, I’m in love with Judas
Judas! Judaas Judas! Judaas
Judas! Judaas Judas! GAGA
When he comes to me I am ready
I’ll wash his feet with my hair if he needs
Forgive him when his tongue lies through his brain
Even after three times he betrays me
I’ll bring him down, bring him down, down
A king with no crown, king with no crown
I’m just a Holy Fool, oh baby he’s so cruel
But I’m still in love with Judas, baby
I’m just a Holy Fool, oh baby he’s so cruel
But I’m still in love with Judas, baby
So goes the first stanza of the pop song “Judas” performed by Lady Gaga, the stage name of New York-born singer/song writer Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. Lady Gaga’s work has won her fans round the world, but news reports from her tour of South East Asia indicates she has garnered a few enemies as well.
MTV News (I think this is a first for GetReligion — linking to an MTV News story) reports:
Lady Gaga has had a rough couple of weeks. What should have been a celebratory kick-off to her “Born This Way Ball” has been marred in controversy, as the pop superstar has encountered protests from religious groups at nearly every turn.
The tour’s first show in Seoul, South Korea, was marred by protests from Christian groups saying Mother Monster was “obscene” and could “taint” young people with her performance. The protestors even managed to get the Korea Media Rating Board to elevate the age rating for the concert from 12 to 18, prohibiting minors from seeing the show.
The second leg of the tour, MTV reports, was equally difficult.
She encountered similar troubles in the Philippines, where her May 21 and 22 concerts in Manila were met with similar derision from Christian groups claiming her lyrics are blasphemous and that the sentiment behind songs like “Born this Way” promotes “promiscuity” and homosexuality. A few days before the first concert, anti-riot police were forced to stop hundreds of protestors from descending on the venue. Gaga responded to the hubbub today on Twitter, saying, “And don’t worry, if I get thrown in jail in Manila, Beyonce will just bail me out. Sold out night 2 in the Philippines. I love it here!”
A June show in Jakarta may be cancelled in the face of threats from militant Muslims.
”The Jakarta situation is 2-fold: Indonesian authorities demand I censor the show & religious extremist separately, are threatening violence,” Gaga tweeted earlier today.
A 17 May 2012 AP story gives further details of the protest in the Philippines. The version printed by the Washington Post began:
Scores of Christian youths in the Philippines chanted “Stop the Lady Gaga concerts” at a rally Friday calling for the pop diva’s shows here to be canceled despite assurances from authorities that they won’t allow nudity and lewd acts.
Christian youths — and they are exactly what? Paragraph three tells us more about these three score and 10 youths.
About 70 members of a group called Biblemode Youth Philippines rallied in front of the Pasay City Hall in metropolitan Manila. They said they were offended by Lady Gaga’s music and videos, in particular her song “Judas,” which they say mocks Jesus Christ.
And what is Biblemode Youth Philippines? The article does not say. But it later states:
Former Manila Mayor Jose Atienza said the singer and organizers can be punished for offending race or religion. Under the penal code in the conservative, majority Roman Catholic country, the penalty can range from six months to six years in prison, although no one has been convicted recently.
The narrative arc of the MTV story is sympathetic to Lady Gaga — as one would expect. The AP story adopts a neutral tone, but gives more space in the story to those offended by Lady Gaga’s musical act. Again, this is what one would expect as the story from the AP is focused on the protests.
However, I would have hoped the AP story would have gone a bit deeper in its reporting as this appeared to the be the source for MTV‘s report — and was the principle vehicle for this story in the American press. The AP story identifies the protestors in Manila as Christians and then as members of Biblemode Youth Philippines. But it stops there — save for noting the Philippines are a “conservative, majority Roman Catholic country.”
It would be natural to assume that these Christian youths are Catholic youths. Catholic youth movements are politically active in the Philippines — protesting the government’s recent contraception bill. But Biblemode Youth Philippines is not on the Catholic Church’s Federation of National Youth Organizations’ membership list.
A quick check of the group’s Facebook page shows that it is not a parish organization that would be below the level of groups in the national Catholic youth federation, but shows the members of Biblemode Youth Philippines are Baptists.
Where members of the “majority” Roman Catholic church among the protestors? Or was this a Protestant affair — or even a Baptist protest against Lady Gaga?
When saying “Christians are protesting”, is it responsible journalism to say what sort of Christians are protesting? I believe so.
There is the issue of precision. But there is also the underlying religious question. What is the significance of a minority Christian group leading the Manila protests against Lady Gaga? Is there silence from the Catholic Church on this issue? If so, why?
Which groups were leading the protests against Lady Gaga in Korea? Is there any link between the protestors in Korea and the Philippines? Does Lady Gaga offend against decency or good taste in an equal degree in the Philippines and Korea?
Are the protestors Westboro Baptist wannabees? Is there a link to the anti-American movement in the Philippines?
What exactly is going on here?
I ask you, GetReligion readers, am I making a mountain out of a molehill, or should we expect precision on this point?
Tags: François Hollande, France, gay marriage, Nicolas Sarkozy
In light of the media’s fascination with interplay between sex, the Catholic Church and politics, I am always surprised at its lack of curiosity when these worlds collide overseas.
The 6 May 2012 French presidential election is a case in point. Socialist Party (PS) candidate François Hollande captured 18 million votes to incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 16.8 million: 51.64 per cent to 48.36 per cent. The role religion played in the election has received little play in the U.S. save for conservative bloggers, who reported that 93 per cent of France’s 2 million Muslim voters went for Hollande.
Some liberal blogs are warning of the resurgence of a Catholic far right. Writing in the Huffington Post, Eric Margolis argued the National Front was one of the winners in the election, as a Socialist government would invigorate the conservative fringe parties at the expense of Sarkozy’s center-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) party.
But the National Front — xenophobic, racist, violently anti-Muslim and anti-Europe — is poison to moderate French and many members of the UMP. To no surprise, UMP may split, or disintegrate, over the issue of joining forces with the National Front, seen by many French as a reborn fascist movement. In fact, it’s not really fascist, but an avatar of the old 1940 far-right, ultra-conservative, ultra-Catholic movement.
It may very well transpire that a Socialist victory will empower the parties of the far right, but I believe Margolis is off the mark in lumping the far-right with the ultra-Catholic movement (and what exactly is the ultra-Catholic movement anyway?). As I noted in a pre-election post, the French Catholic Church did not endorse any one candidate for the election, but it made it clear that the policies of the National Front were not supported by the Church.
The first article I have seen that looked into how Catholics voted came in the Catholic weekly, La Vie — and its results were a surprise as they closely matched observations made by the editor of GetReligion Terry Mattingly about the American Catholic vote.
Roman Catholics who “go to mass as least once a month” voted 4 to 1 in favor of Sarkozy: 79 per cent to 21 per cent, according to a poll commissioned by Le Vie and conducted by the Harris Institute. Catholics who went to Mass less than once a month, voted 62 per cent to 38 per cent for Sarkozy. Those who self-identified as Catholics but who did not attend mass showed the same voting patters as the French population at large. Those who identified themselves as atheists voted 70 per cent to 30 per cent in favor of Hollande.
In an odd twist to the conventional media wisdom, Sarkozy increased his margins among mass-going Catholics in this election form 70 per cent in 2005 to 79 per cent this month. What was odd about this increase was that Hollande campaigned on a theme of personal probity — fostering a dour frugal image in contrast to the flamboyant Sarkozy.
Gay marriage was one of the reasons for the Catholic rejection of Hollande, the survey found. In an interview with the French gay-oriented glossy magazine TÊTU Hollande stated he would honor the PS’s campaign promise to legalize gay marriage and gay adoption — measures rejected by the UMP-dominated French parliament in 2011. The Harris survey found that mass-going Catholics were not keen on France’s new Socialist President because he was “in favor of same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.”
Last month the LA Times reported that:
A recent poll for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper found that 64% of French disapproved of Sarkozy. That’s higher even than the rating for the unpopular Valery Giscard d’Estaing during his tenure. Giscard was the last president to lose his reelection bid, in 1981.
The truth is that Sarkozy, 57, has never succeeded in shaking off the negative impression he made at the beginning of his five-year term, that the conservative leader was the “president of the rich.” That image plays badly, especially given that a few months after he took office, the global recession hit, leading to belt-tightening measures.
Before the 2007 election, he had hinted that he would go into retreat in the days before the transfer of power to consider how to lead France. Instead, he threw a party at Fouquet’s, one of the most ostentatious restaurants in France. Then he spent a few days vacationing in the Mediterranean on the yacht of a billionaire businessman friend.
Sarkozy, the French were told, had no hang-ups about celebrity or money; instead of reassuring them, however, the flashy watches and aviator sunglasses simply cemented his reputation as the “bling-bling” president.
Distaste among French voters concerned with social values — the segment were most mass-going Catholic voters can be found — for Sarkozy’s lifestyle appears not to have translated into more votes for Hollande.
La Vie explained the “massive” move to the right by practicing Catholics by stating:
Among the many factors to consider – sociological, economic and cultural – should undoubtedly include anthropological and ethical convictions of these strong Christians.
And for French Catholics gay marriage appeared to be key amongst these convictions. The American Catholic voter matrix created by Tmatt — with the Catholic vote divided amongst Ex-Catholics, Cultural Catholics, Sunday-morning American Catholics and “Sweats the details” Roman Catholic — appears to hold true for France also.
It may be that the sort of article that looks at the big picture of values voters is beyond a newspaper and lies in the realm of a monthly. However, I would welcome an acknowledgement in the American press that the issues that animate our political debates are not unique to these shores.
What say you GetReligion readers? Is this merely interesting ephemera, or a news angle that should be developed further?
First published in GetReligion.
Tags: Colorado Springs Gazette, First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs, Irish Times, Issues Etc., Sean Brady
In this week’s podcast Issues Etc. host Todd Wilkin and I discussed two recent GetReligion stories: the withdrawal of First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs from the PC(USA) and the latest developments in the Irish abuse scandals.
As Nathaniel Campbell noted in his comment on the Colorado Springs article, the press frequently conflates the disputes within the mainline denominations into a single issue — homosexuality.
there are deeper but acknowledged issues here over hermeneutics and the evangelical insistence on privileging (often exclusionarily) a literal reading of Scripture.
In my estimation, at least, that is the major “ghost” behind a lot of mainstream/evangelical friction. While on the surface level it manifests as doctrinal disputes, I think it is at root a problem over how to read and understand Scripture.
Wilkin and I discuss the issue of press blindness, noting the divisions within the mainline churches do not stop at homosexuality as the breakaway groups are divided over another Scripture-driven issue: women clergy.
We also look at the coverage in the Irish Times over the fallout from the 1 May 2012 documentary “The Shame of the Catholic Church”, where the BBC claimed that as a young priest in the early 1970’s Cardinal Sean Brady failed to take sufficient action in the case of pedophile priest Brendan Smyth.
I argued that the advocacy journalism approach taken by the Irish Times in its reporting on the Catholic Church was self-defeating. By adopting a relentlessly hostile approach to coverage of the Catholic Church,the Irish Times was preaching to the choir. Those ill-disposed to the church would find confirmation of their views, while those supportive of the church would see their reporting as biased.
The comments to the story demonstrated this. As one commentator noted:
The Irish establishment, including their media, has long been anti Catholic, because the church stood in the way of Ireland becoming “modern” (read divorce, birth control and abortion). The “abuse” saga is a godsend to them to destroy the influence of the church, which was standing in the way of a modern forward looking culture. Perhaps this is why the story is made to sound as if the church is again being it’s old stubborn old fashioned self.
In its simplest sense, the problem with advocacy journalism is that it is based on the supposition that there is no one truth. Truth is subjective, or relative — I have my truth, you have yours. Why then should the journalist strive for balance or fairness, when at heart there is no single point of reference in which to frame a story?
First printed in GetReligion.
Anglican archbishop to address Catholic Conference on the Eucharist: The Church of England Newspaper, May 6, 2012 p 7. May 14, 2012Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: 50th International Eucharistic Congress, Diarmuid Martin, eucharistic theology, Michael Jackson
Communion need not only be expressed in the sacraments, the Anglican Archbishop of Dublin told Vatican Radio last week, but can be found in a communion of charity, action and relationship.
Dr. Michael Jackson’s remarks on the future of ecumenical relations come as the Roman Catholic Church prepares to hold its 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin next month. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dr. Diarmuid Martin has asked Dr. Jackson to lead worship on 11 June 2012 on the first day of the conference which will explore the theme, Communion in One Baptism.
Dr. Jackson told Vatican Radio there was a “genuine sense of excitement and expectation right across the Christian traditions in Ireland” over the inclusion of non-Catholics in the 50th global gathering of the Catholic Church on the Eucharist. “This I think is a tremendous invitation to all of us who carry the Cross of Christ to make a contribution together to try to formulate and shape a fresh direction for our society”.
The Anglican archbishop said that he believed that “communion as understood more widely is at the very heart of this Congress. So Baptism as something which is recognised, respected and practised across the traditions in a very specific way is a wonderful way into the exploration of communion as shared life”
A new look at the sacraments will bring Ireland’s churches closer together, he said. “I think two things in particular will probably happen: there is an element of what I call internal instruction which is actually facilitating people who are faithful in the Catholic tradition to see communion as something beyond Eucharist, something within it and something beyond it, and to enable the rest of us to see it in the same light”.
He added that it was “important for us all to see beyond what to many people is an ecumenical logjam which is the fact that we do not together celebrate and share the Eucharist. I think what the Eucharistic Congress is encouraging us to do its to take the fullness of the Eucharist in the tradition of each of us, and actually to take that sense of belonging to Christ and share in that spirit more widely”.
Dr. Jackson noted that “many people are saddened and frustrated at the fact that it is not possible to officially share the Eucharist together. I can understand that pain… but I think that we need to work with a mixture of holy patience and holy impatience, and if this is the situation where institutionally the Churches are then we need to dig deeper and look for ways in which we can express that communion. There is of course a communion of the sacraments. But there is also a communion of charity, a communion of belonging to one another, there is a communion of faith and a communion of action”.
A “divided Christian witness convinces nobody,” Dr. Jackson concluded. “It doesn’t convince anyone in the Churches and it certainly doesn’t convince those who look quizzically at the Churches. We need to build in simplicity. Our smaller scale in Ireland means that we need to know one another.”
Interview: Issues Etc, May 11, 2012 May 12, 2012Posted by geoconger in Interviews/Citations, Issues Etc, Presbyterian/Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic Church.
Tags: Colorado Springs Gazette, First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs, Irish Times, Sean Brady
Here is a link to a radio interview I gave to Lutheran Public Radio‘s Issues, Etc. program first broadcast on May 11, 2012.
The topics were the vote by First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs to withdraw from the PCUSA and the press coverage of the Irish clergy abuse scandal.
Tags: Brenday Smyth, Irish Times, Sean Brady
The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has been having a run of bad press of late. The clergy pedophile scandal and the church’s inadequate response has left it deeply wounded. The latest scandal involves Cardinal Seán Brady, the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, and his actions in the Brendan Smyth case.
Outrage over the Smyth case led to the collapse of the Irish government in 1994 and may force Cardinal Brady to step down. Smyth, a Norbertine priest who abused more than 100 children in Ireland and the U.S. over the course of 40 years, died a month after he entered prison in 1997.
In a 1 May 2012 documentary entitled “The Shame of the Catholic Church”, the BBC reported that as a young priest in the early 1970′s, Brady served as the notary to an investigative committee that reviewed complaints that Smyth had abused a 15 year old boy. Brady interviewed the 15 year old and reported the victim’s testimony of abuse to his bishop. However the boy’s parents were not informed. Smyth remained a priest and abused children for a further 13 years.
This is a terrible story of abuse, incompetence and inertia. Watch the BBC documentary if you can. But that is not the focus of this post. Newspaper reputations are established by consistently good work. When a newspaper engages in advocacy journalism on small stories, its readers are less likely to accept its version of events when the blockbuster stories come along.
The Brady/Smyth story is a blockbuster. But its importance — and the Irish Times‘ credibility — some would argue has been damaged by what has come before.
Last week’s news article entitled “Fr D’Arcy ‘saddened’ at Vatican censure over articles” reports on moves against a priest with a newspaper column. The lede introduces us to Fr. Brian D’Arcy who reports he was:
“saddened and disappointed” at his censure by the Vatican over articles he wrote for a Sunday newspaper. The cleric and media commentator writes for the Sunday World, where he has been a regular columnist since 1976.
It emerged yesterday that he had been censured by the Vatican over four articles he wrote in 2010. The four articles by Fr D’Arcy concerned how the Vatican dealt with the issue of women priests; why US Catholics were leaving the church; why the church had to take responsibility for clerical child sex abuse; and homosexuality.
The Vatican is also understood to have complained about headlines on some of the articles, which would have been written by editorial staff at the Sunday World. Currently, in instances where he addresses matters of faith and morals in his writings or broadcasts, he must first submit these to a third party for clearance.
The article cites a statement from Fr. D’Arcy that speaks of his having to live with the “the pain of censure for 14 months and will have to live with it for the rest of my priestly life.” The priest defends his journalism and his “ministry in communication,” while the article notes that news of the censure came via the head of his order, who was summoned to the Vatican for a dressing down. A fellow Irish priest then speaks (in support of Fr. D’Arcy).
Fr Peter McVerry branded the Vatican’s actions as “horrific”.
“They are terrified that if they speak publicly they will get their heads chopped off,” he said.
And the article then closes with the names of five other Irish clerics censured by the Vatican. What the story does not have is any comment or explanation from the hierarchy or the Vatican.
Nor does the article question or substantiate the claims of censorship. A quick run through the archives of Fr. D’Arcy’s articles shows that he has not been shy of criticizing the Catholic Church’s leadership in Ireland and in Rome. If someone from the chancellery is reading Fr. D’Arcy’s articles before they are published with an eye towards reigning him in, they have been somewhat lax. In a 23 April 2012 column that discusses popular attitudes toward married priests, Fr. D’Arcy states the hierarchy is deaf to the concerns of the laity:
Sadly in our church now, it has become impossible to be open and honest about what good people are convinced of. It’s as if merely stating unpalatable facts is in itself disloyal.
In this article, an assertion is made, facts and opinion from one side are offered in support, but no contrary views are presented nor are the claims tested. On one side we have a supporter of Fr. D’Arcy saying his treatment has been “horrific” and that critics of the church’s party line will have their head chopped off. Against that we have — nothing. What are we to make of Fr. McVerry? Is he an idiot? Is he being prophetic? What is clear is the bias against the Catholic Church from the Irish Times.
Now we are in the midst of a newspaper feeding frenzy over the fallout of the Shame of the Catholic Church. What trust should a reader place in the Irish Times‘ coverage? The stories from the newspaper’s religion correspondent Patsy McGarry on the Brady/Smyth affair are well written, well sourced and eminently readable. McGarry is a pro whose work I have enjoyed for many years.
But his latest round of stories will be read in conjunction with his 18 April 2012 opinion piece. In this pre-Shame of the Catholic Church story, McGarry takes a hammer to Pope Benedict XVI and beats.
Benedict was a “divisive figure” possessed of “rigid certainties” whose election “represented the final defeat of that liberal Catholicism ushered in following Vatican II.”
Cardinal Ratzinger was an enemy of the “porous, inclusive Catholicism of the previous generation.” As Pope John Paul II’s “enforcer” he “closed many windows thrown open by Pope John XXIII and Vatican II” through such action as “infamous Dominus Iesus document of 2000.”
On celibacy, women priests or women in the diaconate, he was immovable. Similarly on the use of condoms even to combat Aids. On homosexuality he was virulent. In 1986, he described it as a “strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder”.
Where dissent was concerned he brooked no hostages. It extended to former colleagues such as Hans Küng. In 1966, at Küng’s instigation, the Catholic faculty at Germany’s Tübingen university appointed Fr Ratzinger professor of dogmatics. In 1979, Küng was stripped of his licence to teach because he challenged papal infallibility. In 1981, when Ratzinger became dean of the CDF, he upheld that decision.
The pope continues to take a pounding from Mr. McGarry. But the story then takes a turn towards the Irish church where she speaks to the “silencing” of Irish clergy who had “sought their way to a more compassionate, Christian understanding of human life.” He adds that:
In each case too, those of us in the media aware of it were asked not to write about this lest the sky fall and bring further misery on the already crushed. So Rome has had its way and through exploiting finer human emotions such as loyalty and respect. Clever? Yes, but hardly Christian.
Strong stuff this. One could say extraordinary when you consider that this was penned by the newspaper’s religion correspondent. If this is the worldview through which the newspaper’s religion reporter views the pope and the Vatican, how then should one read the Irish Times‘ news coverage of the Catholic Church?
The approach taken by the Irish Times has been self-defeating. By engaging in advocacy journalism, letting opinions drive the story rather than the facts, readers who are well disposed to the Irish Times editorial voice will find their views confirmed.
Those who object to its characterizations and treatment of the Catholic Church may respond to these latest scandals with a “well they would say that, wouldn’t they” about the Irish Times‘ coverage. The truth winds up getting lost in advocacy journalism and it ultimately fails in its mission as no minds are changed or views shifted.
Read the Irish Times on Catholicism — but read it with a jaundiced eye is my advice.
First published in GetReligion.
Tags: Diocese of Sydney, Eucharist, Lay Presidency, Reuters
Reuters has a dispatch from Athens on the difficulties the Greek financial collapse is causing the Orthodox Church. The article entitled “Crisis proves a curse for Greece’s Orthodox Church” will appear in various forms in newspapers and websites this weekend and I encourage you to read it, as it provides a strong account of the hardships facing the Church.
However, a GetReligion reader, Dominic Foo, was struck by one section of the article. He wrote:
I find it incredibly hard to believe that an Eastern Orthodox Church would permit lay celebration of the Eucharist, unless of course, this is merely sloppy journalistic reporting and what is permitted is not “mass” but a prayer service.
He was questioning this section of the story:
To cover the shortage of priests, some bishops are permitting laymen to take services. These volunteers receive no state wages and don’t wear the characteristic vestments.
For instance, a retired army officer recently started holding mass at Avantas, a village close to the eastern border with Turkey, said Father Irinaios. “Priests in small villages retire or pass away and there is nobody to replace them,” he said. “We are going to have a huge problem.”
If Reuters is correct in its reporting, this is highly significant development. In the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions it is inconceivable that a lay person would be permitted by a bishop to celebrate the Eucharist as the administration and celebration of the sacraments is the essence of the priesthood. For Roman Catholics this teaching is set down in a number of formal statements and encyclicals: Lumen Gentium 28; De ordinatione episcopi, presbyterorum et diaconorum 2; 6; 12.
For the Orthodox lay presidency is a non-starter. The doctrinal confessions most accepted in the Orthodox world, The Confession written by Dosietheus, Patriarch of Jerusalem (1672) and The Orthodox Confession written by Peter Mogilas, Metropolitan of Kiev (1643) state the Eucharist may be celebrated only by a “lawful” priest.
In my corner of the church world, the issue of lay celebration of the Eucharist has the potential to supplant the fights over homosexuality. The Diocese of Sydney — the most influential evangelical diocese in the Anglican Communion — supports allowing lay people licensed by the bishop to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The diocese has debated this issue for almost a generation and prepared a number of theological papers in support of its views.
One clue to the debate is the use of the phrase “Lord’s Supper” rather than Mass by Sydney Anglicans. Their understanding of what takes place in Holy Communion is very different than that of High Church Anglicans, not to mention the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. However, the Archbishop of Sydney Dr. Peter Jensen, has so far declined to implement the diocesan synod’s request as the wider Australian church — and Anglican Communion does not agree with this innovation.
If the Greek Orthodox Church is allowing lay celebration of the Eucharist this would be a break with tradition. For a religion reporter this would be great news — I have visions of a pan-Orthodox council being called (allowing me a trip to Greece on my editor’s dime.)
Perhaps something less dramatic, but still highly significant is taking place. Has some form of Liberation theology arisen in Greece? That would be news! In marginalized or deprived communities where a priest is not present to preside at the Eucharist, such as in Latin American base communities, Leonardo Boff and other radical theologians have proposed holding a eucharist-like fellowship meal as an admittedly less than adequate substitute for the Eucharist.
Or, as is most likely, the Reuters reporter was confused or his article was mistranslated. I’m afraid I won’t be jetting off to Greece this summer as I suspect the liturgy being used at services where no priest is present is the Typica or Reader’s Service.
While the Typica may not be common in areas where there is a settled Orthodox presence, it can be found in places like the American South or Africa where there are new Orthodox congregations but no resident clergy. Here is a link to a Greenville, NC Orthodox Church that explains the value of Lay-led Services.
While this Reuters story focuses on the effects of Greece’s economic implosion on the Orthodox Church, the statement about lay led masses should be addressed. If wrong, I would hope it would be corrected. If right, then there is a major story here that has so far gone unreported.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
First printed in GetReligion.
Tags: Eucharistic discipline, Italian Catholic Bishops Conference, La Stampa, Piergiorgio Zaghi
Sometimes a story is too good to be true. A story with sympathetic victims, righteous heroes, dastardly villains and an issue that all agree is important, but yet is remote to the reader — something that doesn’t touch me — makes a reporter’s day.
One of these stories appeared in the Italian sky last week and burst, producing a torrent of outraged news stories. A Catholic priest denied Communion to a mentally disabled child because the boy was “Non è capace di intendere e volere” — not capable of consent, of understanding the holy mysteries of the sacraments, reported the Italian daily La Republicca.
The Italian press had a field day with the story of Fr. Piergiorgio Zaghi of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Porto Garibaldi, a village near Ferrara in Northern Italy. And it was picked up by all of the major newspapers and news sites in Italy.
It also topped the now famous Washington Post story about Fr. Marcel Guarnizo who declined to give Communion to Buddhist-Catholic-artist-gay-activist Barbara Johnson. The gay angle muddied the Fr. Guarnizo story, pushing it into the U.S.’s battle over the normalization of homosexuality. The Fr. Zaghi story, however, was clean and clear of political mines. There was no downside in expressing shock, horror, and outrage over the news that a 70-year old rural priest had refused to allow a mentally handicapped boy to receive his first Communion.
Here is Worldcrunch’s translation of La Stampa’s report.
Controversy has erupted both inside and outside the Catholic Church after a parish priest in northern Italy refused to offer communion to a disabled child. Father Piergiorgio Zaghi of the Immaculate Conception church in Porto Garibaldi, a village near Ferrara, denied the sacrament at Easter mass, saying that the mentally-disabled boy was unable to “understand the mystery of the Eucharist.”
The parents of the boy in the Emilia-Romagna region have taken their case both to the European Court of Human Rights and to the higher authorities at the Holy See in Rome.
La Stampa followed its lede with a comment from a children’s rights activist who denounced the 70-year old priests actions as “cultural obscurantism from the Middle Ages.”
The newspaper picked up the intensity by saying “parishioners are divided” between those who support the priest and the boy, 10-year old Luca. It then followed with this quote:
A boy who attends catechism classes with the disabled child wrote a letter to the priest: “If he was with us, it would be a great joy for him, and we would see the actual value of Communion.”
Cardinal Velasio De Paolis offered his opinion of the controversy, denouncing Fr. Zaghi.
“As long as the disabled person does not desecrate the host, if they receive it calmly, it is normal practice to offer it to them,” De Paolis said. “Never have I denied host”, and above all, “the strength of the sacrament also touches the ill and the dying.”
The child’s mother was quoted as saying she hopes the priest will reconsider his actions, but they have engaged attorneys to press their case. La Stampa reported the Bishop of Ferrara is backing Fr. Zaghi, but the article closed with the mother’s hope the church will reconsider.
“I hope that my son will be able to have the communion with all his friends,” Claudia said. “They want to celebrate the ceremony with us. They stand in solidarity.”
This story appears to have covered all the bases. Sympathetic victim. Couragous mother fighting for her disabled child. Catholic cardinal siding with the embattled family. Unnamed bishop backing cranky old priest. Crisp, clean, clear. It doesn’t get any better.
It would have been nice to have the other side of the story. A comment from the diocese, the bishop or the priest. Fr. Zaghi appears to have done himself no favors. The Corriera Della Sera got hold of the priest to ask him why he did it and was told:
«Non ho nulla da dire, voglio essere rispettato» (“I have nothing to say. I want to be respected.”)
A perfect answer — one that allows commentators to wax eloquent on the priest’s pastoral failings, and ignorance of canon law and doctrine. The Archbishop of Ferrara defending backing Fr. Zaghi makes it all the better — old boys network, cover up — what fun!
But, all good things must come to an end. And after 100+ Italian newspapers, websites and blogs reported on the controversy, the Archbishop of Ferrara spoke to Vatican Radio to explain what happened.
Archbishop Paolo Rabitti of Ferrara-Camacchio stated Fr. Zaghi had declined to allow the disabled boy to receive Communion because he had not attended the requisite number of First Communion classes. The boy was not banned from receiving Communion because he could not understand the mysteries of the sacraments due to mental defect, but because he had skipped class.
In its summary of the broadcast, EWTN wrote that two years of preparation were required before First Communion.
“The path of preparation intensified starting last October,” Archbishop Rabitti said. “First Communion took place on a very significant day – Holy Thursday – and a couple not belonging to the parish came to the pastor on February 29 to request that their mentally handicapped son also make his First Communion.”
Due to the lack of preparation, Father Zaghi explained to the parents that they should be sure to attend Mass with their son during the final month before Holy Thursday, “but they only came a few times: the child had participated in Mass and catechism classes only a few times.”
At some of the classes the boy did attend, he spit out the unconsecrated host from his mouth when catechists were helping the children to familiarize themselves with how to receive the Eucharist.
Father Zaghi informed the parents that their son had not received enough preparation and he suggested that he make his First Communion next year, but they reacted by calling the decision “discrimination,” Archbishop Rabitti explained.
As Miss Emily Litella used to say, “Never mind.”
Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Catholic Bishops Conference responded to the press furore in an editorial entitled “Le lenti offuscate” (“The clouded lens”).
In focusing a spotlight on an episode that was divorced from its ecclesial setting, the press acted trivially, forgetting to check the news (and perhaps to manipulate it to raise the dust of anti-clerical propaganda.) … In this runt of a narrative — Communion “denied,” the priest “bad”, the child “excluded” — all was false. This was poisonous reporting whose flow, drop by drop, undermines religious freedom and public faith and trust in the Church.
The story was too good to be true. Avvenire’s editorial implied that the fault lay with lawyers for the family who enlisted a credulous media, quick to believe the worst of the Catholic Church.
Perhaps. But the church did itself no favors by not moving more swiftly to put out its version of events. It may have been safer to wait for the archbishop to appear on Vatican Radio to explain what happened, but by then two days had passed — and the narrative was set.
Does that excuse the reporting or the herd mentality of the press on this story? It is easy to beat up the media on this one. One side exaggerated and the other side was slow to respond. Should the press have waited until the church decided to speak? Did it have a duty to run with a story that showed a callous disregard of the church’s teachings about the sacraments for the disabled (remember they had the cardinal weighing in against the priest).
Given a conflict between unequal forces — a disabled boy and the Catholic Church — sympathy for the boy is the natural response. How do you respond to this GetReligion readers? What should the press have done?
First printed in GetReligion.