Anglican Personal Ordinariate for Australia
The President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, announced in May that Benedict XVI had approved the establishment in Australia of a Personal Ordinariate for Former Anglicans to commence on 15 June.
A Personal Ordinariate is a church structure for particular groups of people who wish to enter into communion with the Catholic Church. In 2009 Pope Benedict announced special arrangements to cater for groups of Anglicans who wished to join the Catholic Church. This provision allows them to maintain the traditions of prayer and worship of Anglicanism. Personal Ordinariates have already been established in the UK and US.
The Australian Bishops have put in place procedures to enable clergy and lay church members to join the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate.
Archbishop Hart is "confident that those former Anglicans who have made a journey in faith that has led them to the Catholic Church will find a ready welcome."
The new community will have the status of a diocese and be known as the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross under the patronage of St Augustine of Canterbury.
More Americans identify as pro-life
The number of pro-life Americans is near an all-time high, while those who self-identify as pro-choice are at a record low, according to a Gallup poll taken in early May which shows that 50 percent of Americans say they are "pro-life," an increase of five percent since a 2009 survey. Forty-one percent identify as "pro-choice", down eight points since 2009.
The change is even greater since 1995, when 56 percent of Americans said they were pro-choice and only 33 percent said they were pro-life.
In 2012, Republicans tend to be the most pro-life, with 72 percent identifying as such. About 34 percent of Democrats are pro-life. Fifty-eight percent of Democrats say they are pro-choice, as do 22 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of independents.
The Gallup survey found that 51 percent of Americans believe abortion is morally wrong, while 38 percent say it is morally acceptable.
Only 20 percent of Americans said that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, 52 percent said it should be legal only under certain circumstances and 25 percent said it should be legal in all circumstances.
Catholic News Agency
No "Arab Spring" for Christians
One of the Catholic Church's leading experts on the Middle East, Father Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit, says the Arab Spring is "no more." He explained: "It was in the beginning a 'springtime' because really it was a free movement, (an) independent, unorganised movement for freedom."
But the movement slowly became "organised by other groups, especially by Islamic groups, in Egypt, also in Libya, in Bahrain, so that now the situation is no more a spring."
Fr Samir teaches at Rome's Pontifical Oriental Institute, as well as in Beirut and Paris. Last year he cautiously welcomed the rise of the "Arab Spring," a series of popular uprisings that dislodged several Middle Eastern dictators.
While some observers were hopeful that more democratic forms of government would take root in the wake of the protests, many countries instead saw Islamist movements rise to political prominence.
Fr Samir said this has been particularly true in his homeland of Egypt, where the 30-year military dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak was toppled last year, and in other states such as Tunisia and Libya.
Fr Samir said he still prays for "an open society for all people" in the Arab world but believes there are two "road blocks", a lack of experience with democracy and a lack of education, particularly for Arab women.
He believes education, especially for women, is a key factor in achieving a stable democratic society since it is Arab women who "build the family, not the fathers" and that females are also "those who are more for peace and not for war."
UK Catholic schools under fire over "gay marriage"
The government of Wales is moving against Catholic schools that organised students to sign a petition against the government's plans to legalise gay marriage. That drew the ire of some Welsh politicians.
Government ministers in Britain are also "looking into" whether or not to issue a similar warning to schools in England, according to the London Telegraph.
An estimated 600,000 people so far have signed the Coalition For Marriage's campaign petition backing traditional marriage, a document supported by major United Kingdom religious figures like Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Catholic Education Service said that it had contacted its 385 secondary schools in England and Wales asking them to circulate a letter by the Archbishops of Westminster and Southwark that was recently read in parishes, defending the traditional definition of marriage. The schools were also encouraged to consider publicising the petition.
A number of British politicians accused Catholic schools of "political indoctrination" by promoting the campaign among schoolchildren. The government in Wales is also looking into whether the schools could be breaking equality and political impartiality laws.
But Leighton Andrews, the Welsh Assembly government minister for education and skill, said he had been advised by legal experts that the petition was not "homophobic" and therefore did not break equality laws.
Canadians' religious freedom under threat
Freedom of religion and conscience are in danger of disappearing from Canadian society, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops warned on 14 May in a Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion: "In the past decade in Canada there have been several situations that raise the question whether our right to freedom of conscience and religion is everywhere respected," the Pastoral Letter warned. "At times believers are being legally compelled to exercise their professions without reference to their religious or moral convictions, and even in opposition to them."
The Bishops pointed to the dangers of "radical secularism" and an "aggressive" relativism that opposes all claims of truth. They also highlighted the anti-religious nature of some "anti-discrimination" laws, as well as the tendency of advocacy groups to use provincial Human Rights Tribunals to promote a radical agenda and block believers from speaking and acting freely.
These "acrimonious procedures," they said, "would be better replaced by a civilised and respectful debate" that offers "a voice in the public forum to religious believers."
Billed as a "pressing appeal" to people of all religions and outlooks, the Letter cited the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which lists "freedom of conscience and religion" among the fundamental Canadian liberties.
Canadians were also urged to form their consciences "according to objective truth" rather than "personal preference or the will of the majority" and to safeguard the right of conscientious objection, especially in areas "linked to the dignity of human life and the family."
Believers who defy an unjust state decree, they warned, "must be prepared to suffer the consequences that result from fidelity to Christ."
Most gays uninterested in "marrying"
In the widespread discussion over "gay marriage", one question is rarely asked: How interested are gay couples in getting married?
Heretofore at least, the answer seems to be "not really". Since 1997, when Hawaii became the first state in the US to allow reciprocal-beneficiary registration for same-sex couples, 19 states and the District of Columbia have granted some form of legal recognition to the relationships of same-sex couples.
The most recent US Census data reveal that over the past 15 years only 150,000 same-sex couples chose to take advantage of this recognition, or about one in five of self-identified same-sex couples. In the first four years when gay marriage was an option in trailblazing Massachusetts, there was an average of only about 3,000 per year, and that included many who came from out of state.
Research conducted in 2004 in Sweden seems to confirm the trend. Legal partnerships in both Norway and Sweden were examined and it was found that in Norway, which legalised civil unions in 1993, only 1,300 homosexual couples registered in the first eight years, compared with 190,000 heterosexual marriages. In Sweden, between initial passage in 1995 and a review in 2002, 1,526 legal partnerships were registered, compared with 280,000 heterosexual marriages.
In the Netherlands, gay marriage is actually declining in popularity: 2,500 gay couples married in 2001, the year it was legalised, and that number fell to 1,800 in 2002, 1,200 in 2004, and 1,100 in 2005. In 2009, the last year for which figures are available, less than 2 percent of marriages in the Netherlands were between same-sex couples.
In Norway, male same-sex marriages are 50 percent more likely to end in divorce than heterosexual marriages, and female same-sex marriages are an astonishing 167 percent more likely to be dissolved. The figures are similar for Sweden.
In short, there is no particular groundswell for "gay marriage", even in states and cities where this is legal and there are significant numbers of homosexuals. Also, such "marriages" are less likely to endure.
National Review Online (Charles Cooke)
New Bishop appointed to Toowoomba
Benedict XVI has appointed Monsignor Robert McGuckin as the new Bishop of Toowoomba, Queensland. He was previously Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia in the Parramatta Diocese as well as Judicial Vicar of the Regional Tribunal for NSW and the ACT.
Bishop Brian Finnigan, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Toowoomba since the resignation of Bishop Morris in 2011, offered the following comments on the new Bishop: "He is well equipped to lead people to a deeper liturgical and spiritual life. He has had years of involvement in the daily life of parishes. I am confident that the priests, religious and lay faithful will give a warm welcome to Monsignor McGuckin so that his gifts and skills can flourish and that the Diocese will continue the traditions of which it is renowned."
US Catholic university's pro-abortion speaker
More than 15,000 people have signed an open letter protesting against Jesuit-run Georgetown University's decision to invite US Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, to speak at an award ceremony during its commencement weekend.
"Our courageous bishops have been vigilant against this threat and they deserve, at a minimum, the respect and support of prominent institutions that claim to be in communion with the Church," said Catholic Vote.org president Brian Burch, who organised the letter.
Burch explained that Georgetown's decision to invite Sebelius was surprising because her defence of the Obama administration's contraception mandate "threatens the very freedom of institutions like Georgetown University."
Hospitals, universities and other institutions threatened by the mandate "represent what it means to be Catholic," Burch said. "They're inseparable from who we are as a Church."
The open letter warns of the danger of Catholic institutions honouring people who "demonstrate a hostility and clear opposition to the freedoms" for which the bishops have been fighting, and asked the Jesuit university to reconsider the invitation.
The letter, which was launched on 7 May, gained more than 15,500 signatures by the following day. It was addressed to Georgetown President John J. DeGioia and the school's Public Policy Institute Dean Edward Montgomery, as well as Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington DC and Archbishop-designate William E. Lori of Baltimore.
Citing the "present conflict" between the Church and the Obama administration, the signatories voiced "distress" over the decision to welcome Sebelius as a speaker at Georgetown's Public Policy Institute award ceremony on 18 May.
Catholic News Agency