Female Anglican bishops and threats of schism
Although several Anglican communities have expressed their rejection of the proposal, a number of Anglican bishops have said they plan to go ahead with a proposal at the next General Synod to allow women to be ordained bishops.
A group of Anglican leaders opposed to the idea planned to meet at Westminster in January 2006, together with over 1000 priests, bishops and laity. They plan to argue that sacraments administered by women or by any male priest ordained by a female bishop are not authentic.
The leaders say the issue of active homosexuals in the Anglican clergy has already caused enough tension in the communion.
According to a document leaked to The Times, if the proposal is approved at the General Assembly, the first female bishops could be ordained in less than six years.
Many Anglican leaders consider the proposal to be premature and they hope to postpone discussion of the matter for five to ten years.
Women currently make up 16 per cent of the total clergy of the Anglican Communion.
Catholic News Agency
Cardinal Pell: adult stem cell research grant
Cardinal George Pell announced on 16 December that Dr Pritinder Kaur of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne had won the Archdiocese of Sydney's $100,000 grant to support adult stem cell research.
Dr Kaur, who is Head of the Epithelial Stem Cell Biology Laboratory at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, was awarded the grant for her research into the use of adult stem cells in improving the regeneration of the skin. The formal title of the research project is "Improving adult skin regeneration for therapeutic purposes: the role of stem cells and the extra cellular matrix protein laminin-10/11".
Dr Kaur's research is aimed at determining whether adult skin stem cells can be made to expand rapidly for transplantation to patients who have sustained severe injuries as a result of fires, bomb blasts or accidents and who urgently need regeneration of their skin to prevent dehydration and susceptibility to infection, both leading causes of patient mortality.
Cardinal Pell praised the work being done by Dr Kaur and other researchers in Australia on therapeutic applications for adult stem cells. "Dr Kaur's work is emblematic of the remarkable progress being made in the field of adult stem cell research", he said.
"The success and continuing promise of Australian work on adult cells, as represented by Dr Kaur's research and the research of the seven other applicants for the grant, cast doubt on the persistent claim that without relaxation of the restrictions on embryonic research and cloning, our best scientists will leave the country.
"Adult stem cell research is advanced, safe, productive and morally incontestable - a strong contrast with its embryonic stem cell counterpart".
Benedict XVI: the role of a Catholic university
On 25 November, Benedict XVI visited Rome's Sacred Heart Catholic University for the inauguration of the academic year.
In his address the Pope asked of the many thousands of young people who graduated from the university: "How do they leave? What culture do they find, assimilate, develop? This is the great challenge".
A true Catholic university, he said, was "one that excels for the quality of its research and teaching and, at the same time, for its faithfulness to the Gospel and to the Church's Magisterium".
The Catholic university, he continued, "is a great workshop in which, in keeping with the various disciplines, new lines of research are constantly being developed in a stimulating encounter between faith and reason, one that aims to recover the synthesis between these two elements."
This synthesis, he observed, is "unfortunately contrasted by important currents of modern philosophy" in which "the fundamental questions facing man - how to live and how to die - seem to be excluded from the realm of rationality and are left to that of subjectivity. The end result is that the question which gave rise to the university - that of truth and goodness - disappears, to be replaced by the question of feasibility."
This, said Benedict, "is the great challenge facing Catholic universities: to practise science within the horizon of a rationality different from that which dominates today, in keeping with a form of reason open to the transcendent, to God."
Vatican Information Service
US Bishops divided over new Mass translation
At their meeting in Washington in November 2005, the US bishops' conference discussed the draft of the proposed new translation of the Missal, with sharply divergent views on the merits of the translation expressed by individual bishops.
Bishop Donald Trautman, the chairman of the bishops' liturgy committee, reported a roughly equal division in responses to the proposed translation, with 53 percent of the respondents approving the new text and 47 percent giving a negative response.
The central issue in dispute is the fidelity of the English translation to the Latin original. In several instances, the new translation brings the English back into accord with the Latin, but defenders of the translation now in use argue that ordinary Catholics would find the proposed new text stilted or unfamiliar.
Bishop Trautman noted that approval of the new translation would require a favorable vote by two-thirds of the US bishops. In light of the sharp disagreements, he observed, there is little likelihood of approval in the near future.
Catholic World News
Instruction on seminarians and homosexuality
The long-awaited Instruction from the Congregation of Catholic Education on the admittance of homosexuals into Catholic seminaries was released in late November 2005.
The Instruction directs that a man who is an active homosexual, has "profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies," or identifies himself as homosexual, should not be ordained or admitted to seminary training. A candidate could be admitted, the Congregation says, if he experienced some same-sex attraction as a "transitory problem" in adolescence, but has demonstrated that he has overcome any homosexual tendencies by remaining chaste for at least three years.
The Instruction adds that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, may not admit to the seminary and Holy Orders those who practise homosexuality, show profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.
Bishop William Skylstad, President of the US Bishops Conference, described the Instruction as a "timely" document, adding that "the Congregation for Catholic Education is exercising a Christian realism about what is expected in candidates for the priesthood. This realism understands the challenges of our time."
Denver's Archbishop Charles J. Chaput published a column on the new document, focusing on the discernment of the Church regarding candidates to the priesthood. He wrote: "The Church seeks to ordain only those men who can joyfully accept Catholic teaching on human sexuality.
"Living the vocation of a genuinely holy priesthood can only be accomplished by a man who possesses a firm Catholic spiritual foundation, and who is supported in his maturity by the Church."
Catholic News Agency