Obama's pro-abortion order: Vatican responds
The first sign of Vatican disappointment with the Obama administration came on 24 January 2009, when Holy See officials reacted to the President's executive order reversing President Bush's Mexico City policy, thus making federal money available to promote abortion internationally.
In his statement, President Obama said, 'It is clear that the provisions of the Mexico City Policy are unnecessarily broad and unwarranted under current law, and, for the past eight years, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries'.
To put it in plain English, abortion is to be freely available to any who want it for whatever reason.
The President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, said that 'among the many good things that he could have done, Barack Obama instead has chosen the worst ... If this is one of the first acts of President Obama, with all due respect, it seems to me that the path towards disappointment will have been very short'.
Another Vatican official, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, joined Archbishop Fisichella in his criticism of Obama's pro-abortion decision.
Although retired as former President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Sgreccia's is still one of the most sought after opinions on bioethical issues in the Roma Curia.
'This deals a harsh blow not only to us Catholics but to all the people across the world that fight against the slaughter of innocents that is carried out with abortion,' he said.
Inventor of birth control pill has second thoughts
The chemist who made a key discovery leading to the invention of the birth control pill has written a commentary calling demographic decline in Europe a 'horror scenario' and a 'catastrophe' brought on in part by the pill's invention.
Carl Djerassi, now 85 years old, was one of three researchers whose formulation of the synthetic progestagen Norethisterone marked a key step in the creation of the first oral contraceptive pill.
In an article in the Austrian newspaper Der Standard, Djerassi said his invention is partly to blame for the demographic imbalance in Europe where there is now 'no connection at all between sexuality and reproduction. This divide in Catholic Austria, a country which has on average 1.4 children per family, is now complete.'
The fall in the birth rate, he said, was an 'epidemic' and young Austrians who failed to procreate were committing 'national suicide'.
The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, told Austrian TV that Paul VI had predicted the pill would cause a dramatic fall in the birth rate. 'Somebody above suspicion like Carl Djerassi ... is saying that each family has to produce three children to maintain population levels, but we're far away from that.'
Catholic News Agency
Washington pro-life march
On 22 January, 200,000 pro-lifers marched in Washington, DC. Their mood was sombre, reports Phil Lawler for Catholic World News, 'not only because they were marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that ushered America into the era of abortion-on-demand, but also because the newly inaugurated President Obama has announced his determination to extend that era.'
Shortly after noon on Tuesday, 20 January, even before Obama took the oath of office, a new White House web site was unveiled, pledging support for unrestricted abortion, legal recognition of same-sex unions, embryonic stem-cell research, and federal use of 'hate crime' legislation targeted against critics of homosexuality.
The President has promised to end the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' rule for homosexuals in military service, to end the Mexico City policy, to support repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and to sign the Freedom of Choice Act immediately if Congress approves the legislation. In short, on 'culture of life' issues, Obama has promised to give his most radical supporters everything they want.
The sweeping Freedom of Choice Act - which would enshrine taxpayer subsidies for elective abortions, repeal the ban on partial-birth abortion, invalidate state regulations protecting women and unborn children, and strip the 'conscience clause' protection for health-care personnel - was the chief concern for most participants in this year's March for Life. But veteran pro-lifers on Capitol Hill say that the legislation will not pass this year. For now, at least, that is not the front line of the battle.
Rather, says Lawler, the most important challenge for the pro-life movement today is to awaken the concern of a sleepy majority - to help Americans realise how dramatically the Obama administration proposes to change the US government's approach to issues involving life, marriage, and family.
Catholic World News
Benedict XVI praises Neo-Catechumenal Way
On 10 January in St Peter's Basilica, Benedict XVI commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, a group founded by the Spaniards Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez, and the Italian priest Mario Pezzi.
During the meeting, attended by 25,000 members of the Way, the Pope said, 'your presence bears witness to the prodigies wrought by the Lord over the last four decades. It is also a sign of the commitment with which you intend to continue down the path you have begun, a path of faithful adherence to Christ and of courageous witness to His Gospel ... The Neo-Catechumenal Way is part of this ecclesial mission, as one of the numerous 'ways' brought into being by the Holy Spirit at Vatican Council II for the new evangelisation.
'How much fresh apostolic energy has been created among priests and laity! How many families ... have been helped to rediscover the joy of faith and the enthusiasm of evangelical witness through the announcement of the 'kerygma' and the rediscovery of Baptism! The recent approval of the Statutes of the Neo- Catechumenal Way by the Pontifical Council for the Laity are a confirmation of the esteem and benevolence with which the Holy See follows the work the Lord began through your founders.
'Your apostolic activities, already highly praiseworthy in themselves, will be even more effective in the degree to which you constantly strive to cultivate that desire for unity which Jesus communicated to the Twelve at the Last Supper ... The unity of the disciples of the Lord is part of the essence of the Church, and an indispensable condition if her evangelising activity is to prove fruitful and credible.
'Indeed, what is needed today is a vast missionary action involving the various aspects of the Church which, each conserving the originality of its own charism, must work harmoniously to achieve that 'integrated pastoral care' which has already enabled significant results to be reached. And you, placing yourselves - as your Statutes say - with complete willingness at the service of bishops, can become an example for many local Churches which rightly look to Rome as a model to which to refer'.
Vatican Information Service
An ecumenical first in Newcastle
Catholic Bishop Michael Malone of Maitland and Anglican Bishop Brian Farran of Newcastle are to continue with their ecumenical initiatives with the announcement of a joint Confirmation service for Pentecost Sunday, 31 May 2009.
Candidates will be confirmed by their respective bishops and the other will then give them a blessing.
Bishop Malone said that although joint services had been carried out in England, he believed this would be the first time such an event had been held in Australia.
Earlier the two bishops (along with Bishop David Walker of Broken Bay) had signed a covenant of co-operation on 2 April 2008.
According to this covenant, Catholic and Anglican clergy would visit each other's churches to give Sunday sermons and take part in worship services, there would be an annual ecumenical service of worship, an annual joint clergy day and exploration of the possibilities for sharing church facilities.
Anglican Bishop Robert Forsyth of South Sydney described the covenant as 'quite unusual'. Bishop Michael Putney, chairman of the Catholic Bishops Commission for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, said the agreements were encouraged by Rome 'as a way forward to build on what we've achieved through our dialogues'.
Jesuit theologian in trouble with Vatican
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ordered the American Jesuit theologian Fr Roger Haight, whose books have been used as texts in Catholic colleges, to stop teaching and publishing on theological matters. The academic's work has been criticised for undermining Catholic teaching on the divinity of Christ, the Trinity and the importance of the Church.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) communicated these restrictions to the Jesuits in spring 2008 and US Jesuit leaders reportedly had consulted the late Cardinal Avery Dulles on the matter.
In a 2005 notification, the CDF cited 'serious doctrinal errors' in Father Haight's 2000 book Jesus: Symbol of God. The Congregation said that Father Haight, a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, should be barred from teaching Catholic theology.
Father Thomas Slon, Socius (Executive Assistant) to the Provincial of the New York Province, told CNA that Father Haight 'absolutely' plans to comply with the CDF restrictions.
Catholic News Agency
Most Americans want abortions restricted
An online nationwide poll sponsored by the US episcopal conference has found that a large majority of Americans want restrictions on the legality of abortion.
Four out of five US adults want limits on abortion, with 11% wanting it illegal in all circumstances. These findings were released in January after a 10-12 December poll.
Thirty-eight percent would limit abortion to the circumstances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother; and an additional 33% would limit abortion to either the first three or first six months of life. Only 9% said abortion should be legal for any reason at any time during pregnancy.
The survey also found that 88% favoured informed consent laws requiring abortion providers to inform women of potential risks to their health and about alternatives to abortion; 76% favoured laws that protect health care professionals from being forced to perform or refer for abortions; and 73% favoured laws to give parents involvement in a minor daughter's abortion decision.
Such findings cut across the agenda of the Barack Obama administration and the intended passage of the so-called Freedom of Choice Act which would eliminate all restraints on abortion on demand, for any reason and at any time of a pregnancy.
Zenit News Agency
Rebel Brisbane church's administrator removed
Following months of warnings, the administrator of St Mary's Church, South Brisbane, Fr Peter Kennedy, has been removed by Archbishop John Bathersby.
In a letter received by Fr Kennedy on 6 February, Archbishop Bathersby said that he would be terminating Father Kennedy's appointment at St Mary's from 21 February.
The Archbishop said any members of the parish who chose to follow Father Kennedy to a breakaway Christian church following his removal would 'not be in communion with the Roman Catholic Church or the Archdiocese of Brisbane'.
He also said a number of baptisms performed in the South Brisbane church were not valid and would need to be re-performed by the new administration.
Dean Ken Howell from St Stephen's Cathedral will be taking over as temporary administrator of St Mary's from 21 February.
But the St Mary's steering committee declared it would be business as usual from 21 February, insisting Fr Kennedy would stay on and parishioners would pay his stipend from the regular collection take up during Masses.