Irish child abuse cover-up: four bishops resign
Two more Irish bishops resigned on Christmas Day in the wake of a damning investigation into decades of church cover-ups of child abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese.
Dublin Bishops Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field offered an apology to child-abuse victims as they announced their resignations during Christmas Mass. Priests read the statement to worshippers throughout the archdiocese.
Earlier in December two other bishops, Donal Murray of Limerick and Jim Moriarty of Kildare, quit following the 26 November publication of a three-year investigation into why so many abusive Dublin priests escaped justice for so long.
The government-ordered investigation found that Dublin church leaders spent decades shielding more than 170 pedophile priests from the law. They began providing information to police only in 1995, but continued to keep secret, until 2004, many files and other records of reported abuse.
The 720-page report into abuse cover-ups in Dublin from 1940 to 2004 criticised five retired bishops, including the previous Archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Desmond Connell, for transferring pedophile priests to new parishes rather than report them to police.
But the investigation also found that, even when senior police officers did receive complaints from parents of abused children, they treated the Church as above the law - and sometimes handed reports of child-molesting priests straight back to bishops for them to handle, meaning nothing was done.
The Dublin archdiocese has faced a rising tide of civil lawsuits from abuse victims since the mid- 1990s, after one abuse victim went public with the Church's effort to buy his silence and protect a serving priest.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, a veteran Vatican diplomat put in charge of Dublin in 2004 with a brief to confront the abuse scandal, welcomed the resignations.
Benedict XVI: liberation theology warning
In a meeting with a group of Brazilian bishops on 5 December, Benedict XVI warned of the dangers of Marxist liberation theology and noted its grave consequences for ecclesial communities.
During the ad limina visit, Benedict recalled that 'last August marked 25 years since the Instruction Libertatis Nuntius of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on certain aspects of liberation theology. The document, he said, 'highlights the danger involved in the uncritical absorption, by certain theologians, of theses and methodologies that come from Marxism.'
Libertatis Nuntius warned that the grave ideological deviations of Marxist liberation theology inevitably lead to the betrayal of the cause of the poor and that a Marxist analysis of reality leads to the acceptance of positions that are incompatible with the Christian vision of man.
The Pope pointed out that the 'more or less visible' scars of Marxist liberation theology, such as 'rebellion, division, dissent, offences, anarchy, are still being felt, causing great suffering and a grave loss of dynamic strength in your diocesan communities.'
He advised all those who in some way felt attracted or affected by 'certain deceitful principles of liberation theology' to re-visit the instruction and be open to the light that it can shed on the subject.
Benedict also recalled that 'the supreme rule of faith of the Church in effect arises from the unity that the Spirit established between Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church, in such reciprocity that they cannot subsist independently of each other,' as John Paul II explained in his encyclical Fides et Ratio.
Catholic News Agency
Archbishop Coleridge: overturn ACT recognition of same-sex unions
Last November Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra-Goulburn called on Prime Minster Kevin Rudd to overturn the Australian Capital Territory Government's new laws recognising same-sex civil unions, which he warns, 'mimic' marriage and will undermine its importance.
The ACT's Legislative Assembly had passed laws for legally binding civil union ceremonies between same-sex couples. It was the third attempt to recognise the ceremonies, with the assembly's previous legislation having been rejected by both the Rudd and Howard governments.
Archbishop Coleridge said it was 'vital for the life of the nation that marriage be supported and promoted in every way possible at a time when it is under severe pressure.'
He argued that civil unions would reduce marriage between a man and a woman to being merely one of a number of options. He explained that marriage is a recognition that the relationship between a man and a woman is 'uniquely important' to society, in large part because it can beget children.
Archbishop Coleridge said that confusing desires and rights is bound to lead to bad law, as is the case when a government 'focuses upon the individual at the expense of the community as a whole.'
He added that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had made a 'clear commitment' to prevent marriage from 'being undermined in this way' and he called on the Prime Minister and the government to act in the interests of the Australian community by overturning the ACT legislation.
Greek Orthodox Church opposes crucifix ban
The head of the Greek Orthodox Church has voiced his opposition to a court ban on crucifixes in classrooms in Italy and will hold an emergency synod to set out a plan of action to combat the ban. Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece said that the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) had ignored the role of Christianity in Europe's history. He added that majorities, not only minorities, have rights.
The Orthodox Church fears the EHCR ruling could trigger similar rulings about the public display of Christian symbols in other countries.
The self-described human rights group Helsinki Monitor is seeking the removal of icons of Jesus from Greek courts and an end to Christian oaths in the witness box. It also wants Christian symbols to be removed from Greek schools.
The EHCR had ruled that the display of crucifixes in Italian public schools violated the European Convention on Human Rights' protections of the right to education and the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
According to the court's ruling, the crucifix's presence in the classroom could be interpreted by pupils as a religious sign and they would feel 'that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion.'
The ruling caused outcry across Italy and the Italian Government plans an appeal.
Catholic News Agency
Australian religious: environmental priority
The message that a commitment to ecology is not an optional extra when following Jesus Christ will underlie the next Catholic Religious Australia Assembly when it meets in Hobart from 6-9 July 2010.
'In taking up the theme of commitment to ecology and the following of Jesus, we want to deepen our appreciation of how our lives and even our salvation are essentially bound up with the life and salvation of all creation,' said one of the assembly organisers, Sister Majella Kelly PBVM.
'Congregations will be encouraged to share what they are already doing in this work for the 'new creation'.
'We will investigate the future role of religious in this work and we will plan concrete actions we might take in building the reign of God throughout creation.'
The keynote speaker, Adelaide's Fr Denis Edwards, is a senior lecturer in theology at the Flinders University School of Theology and the Adelaide School of Divinity. He will deliver two addresses, speaking on ecological conversion and faith in Jesus Christ and Eucharist and ecology.
The four-day assembly will gather the leaders of more than 100 religious congregations from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
Rome-Moscow relations continue to improve
The often strained relations between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches have been improving in recent years, particularly in the face of aggressive secularism in the West.
During December 2009 a week- long theological dialogue took place in Cyprus between the two churches and on 9 December, following a meeting in the Vatican between the Pope and the Russian President, Dimitri Medvedev, Russia and the Vatican announced 'the establishment of diplomatic relations between them, at the level of apostolic nunciature on the part of the Holy See, and of embassy on the part of the Russian Federation.'
On 3 December, Benedict had received President Medvedev in audience at the Vatican and gave him a copy, in Russian, of the encyclical Caritas in Veritate.
The day before this meeting, a book published by the Patriarchate of Moscow containing the main speeches about Europe made over the past 10 years by Joseph Ratzinger, as cardinal and Pope, was presented in Rome. The book is in two languages, Italian and Russian
Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, the head of the patriarchate's department for external Church relations, wrote the introduction for the book.
The Archbishop is an increasingly important figure in the Russian Orthodox Church, and in the Orthodox world, and in his introduction, he sets forth his vision for Europe, and the new 'alliance' needed to realise that vision.
Archbishop Hilarion argues that Russia is well placed to help Christianity's recovery in Western Europe: 'The Russian Orthodox Church, with its unique experience of surviving the harshest persecutions, struggling against militant atheism, re-emerging from the ghetto when the political situation changed, recovering its place in society and redefining its social responsibilities, can therefore be of help to Europe'.
Significantly, the Archbishop's proposal was made just as 140 Christian leaders in the United States met in New York and issued the 'Manhattan Declaration' pledging renewed zeal in defending the unborn, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and protecting religious freedom.
Zenit News Agency
Pagan Europe to blame for 'Islamisation'
Czech Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the Archbishop of Prague, said Muslims were well placed to fill the spiritual void 'created as Europeans systematically empty the Christian content of their lives'.
'Europe will pay dear for having left its spiritual foundations ... This is the last period - that will not continue for decades - when it may still have a chance to do something about it,' he said.
'The Muslims definitely have many reasons to be heading here. They also have a religious one - to bring the spiritual values of faith in God to the pagan environment of Europe, to its atheistic style of life.
'Unless the Christians wake up, life may be Islamised and Christianity will not have the strength to imprint its character on the life of people, not to say society.'
The 77-year-old cardinal made his remarks in an interview to mark his retirement after spending 19 years as the leader of the Czech Church.
He said he did not blame Muslims for the crisis as Europeans had brought it upon themselves by exchanging their Christian culture for an aggressive secularism that embraced atheism.
'Europe has denied its Christian roots from which it has risen and which could give it the strength to fend off the danger that it will be conquered by Muslims, which is actually happening gradually,' he suggested.
'At the end of the Middle Ages and in the early modern age, Islam failed to conquer Europe with arms. The Christians beat them then.
'Today, when the fighting is done with spiritual weapons which Europe lacks while Muslims are perfectly armed, the fall of Europe is looming.'
He called on Christians to respond to the threat of Islamisation by living their own religious faith more observantly.