Archbishop Hickey's RE teaching directive
In April, Archbishop Barry Hickey announced new requirements for the teaching of religious education in the Archdiocese of Perth.
Each Catholic primary and secondary school is to be accountable to the parish priest in its locality for its religious activities, including the teaching of RE.
Some of the specific provisions to make the schools accountable to parish priests for their religious activities are:
* The parish priest has the right to be on the RE teacher selection panel.
* The parish priest is to be informed early in the year by the RE coordinator of the content being taught each year, with a summary given to him.
* The parish priest is to determine, in conjunction with the school authorities, the frequency of school Masses, and the provision for the Sacrament of Penance.
* The parish priest and parish clergy are to be invited to participate personally in the RE program after discussions with the RE coordinator regarding this involvement.
In another significant step, RE is to be taught only by teachers who believe and practise the Catholic faith and desire to see the faith grow in the students they teach.
The role of the local bishop and his clergy is to be strengthened to make it more clearly apparent that the units of RE and the faith activities of the Catholic schools are sanctioned, endorsed and to some extent prepared by them.
For this purpose three academically qualified Perth priests will assist in the final texts of the RE units for secondary schools, and offer their advice to the Archbishop.
The Record (Perth)
British priestly vocations increasing
The Catholic Church of England and Wales released statistics in April showing that the number entering seminaries has increased for the fourth straight year.
In 2003 the figure stood at 28; last year this had risen to 44, bringing the total number of men studying for the priesthood for the dioceses of England and Wales to 150. (This is about the same as the total for Australia which has a similar Catholic population to the UK).
Father Paul Embery, director of the National Office for Vocations, welcomed the rise, but remained only cautiously optimistic.
'After several decades of decline in the number of those training for the priesthood, we have seen four consecutive years of growth, which is good news; however, we have no guarantee that this growth will continue,' he said.
The recent immigration to the United Kingdom from European Union accession states, such as Poland, has boosted the Church's numbers there in the last few years. But according to Father Embery, as yet there has not been a large number of applications for the priesthood or religious life from these groups.
Zenit News Agency
Religious ignorance among young Irish
Irish residents showed a remarkable lack of basic knowledge about the Catholic faith in a recent national poll, the Iona Institute reported in April.
The most striking ignorance was displayed by those between the ages of 19 and 24, who consistently scored well below the general population in the survey, conducted by the Lansdowne market research firm.
Respondents over the age of 65 yielded above-average results on the poll, suggesting that the teaching of the faith was significantly better in earlier years.
A minority of respondents between 19 and 24 could name the three Persons of the Trinity. Just 47 percent of the young people answered that question correctly, while 76 percent of those over 64 gave the proper answer, and 66 percent of the overall poll sample.
Similarly, only 38 percent of the young respondents could provide the number of Gospels in the New Testament, and another 38 percent could give the number of Catholic sacraments. Among those over 65 years old, 65 percent answered the former question correctly, and 63 percent the latter.
Catholic World News
An Australian diocese: then and now
Statistics cited in the Autumn 2007 issue of Our Diocesan Community, the quarterly periodical for the Ballarat Diocese, highlight a situation typical of most Australian dioceses in regard to falling Mass attendances and priestly numbers.
In 1966, with a Catholic population of 74,016, the Ballarat Diocese had 95 active priests, or about 780 Catholics per priest. According to the 2001 Census, there were 98,502 Catholics in the diocese, with the number in 2007 likely to be over 100,000. At the same time, the number of active priests has fallen this year to 41, so that the number of Catholics per priest is around 2,500.
This situation is predicted to worsen: with only two seminarians in training for the Ballarat Diocese in 2007 it is estimated that in five years' time there will be only 31 active priests, and in ten years' time, just 22. The Catholic population meanwhile will have continued to increase.
However, the spreading phenomenon of 'priestless' parishes has been offset, to some extent, by what might be called 'parishioner-less' parishes.
According to the last Mass count (2006), the average Sunday Mass attendance was 13,676, or about 13 percent of the Ballarat Diocese's 100,000 plus Catholic population. This is in line with the national average.
Ballarat's attendance rate as recently as the mid-1980s was around 40 percent (about 35,000 at Mass out of a population of 85,000, according to figures in Our Diocesan Community).
The decline in Mass attendances will continue, given the low practice rate (five percent or less) of the graduates of Catholic schools.
European Left attacks World Congress of Families
A left-wing coalition within the European Parliament sought to dissuade a US State Department official from attending the World Congress of Families in Poland.
A group of hard-left members of the European Parliament (MEPs) sent a letter to Ellen Sauerbrey, the assistant secretary of state for population, saying that she would be giving an 'official US government stamp of approval to extremist and intolerant views' by attending the May event in Poland.
In the letter released to the Baltimore Sun by 'Catholics for a Free Choice,' 19 MEPS - who comprise The European Parliamentary Working Group on Separation of Religion and Politics - charged that organisers of the World Congress of Families had shown 'prejudiced attitudes toward foreigners, people from other religions, homosexuals and the inclusive vision of what represents a family unit that has been developed by the United Nations and the European Union.'
The MEPs claimed that Sauerbrey would be committing 'a diplomatic faux pas' by participating in the Warsaw gathering 'with individuals whose views oppose what is laid out in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.'
A member of the European Parliament from Poland, Konrad Szymanski, commented, 'Contrary to the opinion of the undersigned MEPs, the European Union has no competence to express any binding opinions in the matters of family. The letter is a good illustration of the leftist version of tolerance - it strictly prohibits criticising abortion, birth control, and homosexual claims in the realm of family law.'
Catholic World News
US Supreme Court: partial-birth abortion ban upheld
In a victory for life, the Supreme Court of the United States on 18 April upheld a 2003 law passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, which bans the procedure known as partial-birth abortion.
In a 5-4 decision the justices ruled that the 2003 law did not violate a woman's right to procure an abortion and, as such, was in line with the court's precedent set by 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.
The opponents of the act 'have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases,' Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.
The court accepted arguments on behalf of the legislation which claimed that the procedure, which involves partially removing the child then crushing or cutting its skull, qualifies as infanticide and not as abortion.
All five of the majority-voting Justices are Catholic.
Justice Kennedy cited medical testimony that the partial-birth procedure is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother and said there was 'medical disagreement whether the Act's prohibition would ever impose significant health risks on women.'
Pro-life leadership from around the United States praised the court's decision.
Catholic News Agency
Benedict XVI on Catholic pro-abortion politicians
A Vatican spokesman clarified that Benedict XVI did not formally excommunicate Mexican politicians who supported the legalisation of abortion in the country's capital - rather, they have excluded themselves from Communion.
Father Federico Lombardi SJ, director of the Vatican press office, said this in a statement he issued on 10 May following comments made by the Pope aboard his flight from Rome to S‹o Paulo.
Reporters asked Benedict XVI if the Church had excommunicated the politicians of Mexico City who had voted to legalise abortion in the first trimester.
He said that the excommunication for those promoting abortion was 'nothing new, it's normal, it wasn't arbitrary. It is what is foreseen by the Church's doctrine.'
He also underlined that Christian politicians need to be consistent with their beliefs, and confirmed that the Church announces the Gospel of Life.
Fr Lombardi, who was with Benedict XVI on the plane, clarified that neither the Pope nor the Mexican bishops had declared those politicians excommunicated.
Fr Lombardi explained that the Church teaches that the promotion of abortion is not compatible with the reception of Communion.
The journalists then askedFr Lombardi: 'So, are they excommunicated'?
'No,' he responded. 'They excluded themselves from Communion.'
Zenit News Agency
Scottish Bishops: support MPs with Christian values
The Scottish bishops wrote a letter to the voters of their dioceses, who were to elect a new Parliament on 3 May, asking them to question the nominees on some key issues of Catholic morality, such as the family, the schools, the right to life, and religious freedom.
In the message, read in all Scottish churches, the Bishops spoke of 'a conflict of values in society' that has led to 'policies, social legislation and regulations which are seriously at odds with the insights and values of our Christian faith and of other faiths.'
In addition to issues such as abortion, euthanasia and embryonic experimentation, the bishops noted the recent regulations on family law that had been introduced by the 'Equality Act,' due to be enacted on 30 April, and which would oblige Catholic adoption agencies to either equate homosexual couples with heterosexual couples or face closure for 'discrimination.'
The Bishops noted that the Government had 'advanced proposals which imply a stealthy and unjust attack on the freedom of religion itself and on the rights of conscience ... These dubious innovations are detrimental not just to the good of the Catholic community but to the common good of humanity as a whole. They deserve to be challenged at the ballot box'.
The letter concluded: 'Your Bishops urge you to use your vote to support the candidates who offer the best chance of bringing the voice of a truly human and Christian civilisation to the decision-making chambers of our country. We invite you to look beyond the superficially attractive and fashionable to recognise those policies and values which are most in tune with the dignity of the human person and with the common good of our society.'
Catholic News Agency