Archbishop Hart on stem-cell research
Use of human embryos an "assault on life"
In a statement dated 26 March 2002, Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne said the announcement by the Victorian Premier that he now supports nation-wide legalisation of the killing of "spare" human embryos for stem-cell research will be seen by many Victorians as a terrible assault on life at its earliest moments of existence.
Allowing the destruction of some "surplus" IVF embryos so their stem cells can be used for medical research, he said, "amounts to the abandonment of the first principle of medical and research ethics, 'do no harm'. Just because someone is very young, or unwanted, or 'going to die soon anyway' is no excuse for killing them, let alone cannibalising them for 'spare parts' while still alive."
The Archbishop pointed out that it was "irrational to be going down that path at the very time that international research is moving to adult stem cells and other ethically acceptable alternatives."
He concluded: "Human embryos are more than ordinary cells. They are the beginning of life, the first page of someone's biography. We can only pray that by the grace of Easter our leaders will renounce the logic of darkness and death and support instead reverence for every human life from conception until natural death."
College of Cardinals
Italian presence now at lowest level ever
Two Italian cardinals have just reached the age of 80, leaving 126 cardinals eligible to vote in a papal conclave.
Cardinal Virgilio Noe celebrated his 80th birthday on 30 March, while Cardinal Dino Monduzzi passed the same landmark on 2 April. Both prelates are veteran Vatican officials. Cardinal Noe, who for years was the master of ceremonies for papal liturgical celebrations, is now the archpriest of St Peter's Basilica, while Cardinal Monduzzi is the former prefect of the papal household.
Cardinal Noe will be one of only four cardinals over the age of 80 still involved in active ministry.
Once they reach the age of 80, cardinals become ineligible to vote in a papal election. As Cardinals Noe and Monduzzi are removed from the list, the number of Italian prelates among the cardinal electors will be only 20, or 16 percent of the total - the lowest Italian representation ever.
Catholic World News
Neocatechumenal Way successful in Japan
Emphasis on the Incarnation rather than inculturation
Japan has long been regarded as a tough country to evangelise - but not impossible, as an Italian missionary has learned.
Father Antonello Iapicca arrived in Japan in 1990, accompanied by 17 seminarians from 15 countries. All were members of the Neocatechumenal Way, attracted by the missionary zeal of Bishop Joseph Fukahori of Takamatsu.
When Father Iapicca arrived, there were five priests in the diocese, four of them older than 65. There were two seminaries, but no seminarians. "We didn't speak a word of Japanese," he recalled.
Today, there are 25 Neocatechumenal communities, and 27 priests from the Redemptoris Mater Seminary have been ordained. "It is not a surprising growth, but the signs of hope are multiplied," said Father Iapicca. "Our strength lies not so much in carrying forward inculturation, but rather the Incarnation. In other words, we do not try to insert Jesus in the prevailing culture, but to raise the culture to the level of Jesus' Incarnation."
Only 400,000 Japanese are Catholics, 0.3 per cent of the population. Added to these are 500,000 Philippine and South American Catholic immigrants. "If you are a Catholic and decide to stop working at 6 o'clock in the afternoon to go to be with your family, then you are regarded as someone who is 'different,' a 'loser,' you have ended your career," said Fr Iapicca.
"A generation of youths is coming up now that has virtually lived without a father," he added. "We want to transmit knowledge of the Gospel with intense witness, in particular, through Christian humanism. The challenge is enormous, but we are not lacking in enthusiasm."
Zenit News Service
Victory for parents over sex education
Canadian archbishop upholds Vatican guidelines
Catholic parents across Canada have long struggled with the issue of sex education programs in Catholic schools. Two of the texts most commonly used - Fully Alive and Growing in Love - have come under intense criticism by many Catholic parents for their controversial presentation of human sexuality even to very young children.
However, a breakthrough in the struggle has occurred for the first time in a Canadian diocese. Archbishop Adam Exner of Vancouver has announced that his diocese will follow the directives of the Holy See on the question and leave parents in charge of educating their children on sexual matters.
Parents in more than nine parishes with the support of their priests rallied against the mandated use of Fully Alive and Growing in Love. Petitions were sent to priests and the Archbishop objecting to the programs and quoting the text of the Vatican document The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality.
While the Office of Religious Education in the diocese had rebuffed parents' requests, Archbishop Exner ruled definitively on the matter on 20 March. He called a meeting of the priests of the archdiocese and responded positively to the parents' requests. He said that the diocese recognised the primary role of parents in education on matters of sexuality and directed that no classroom teaching on sexuality was to be given at all in Catholic schools before Year 7.
In Year 7, if anything was to be used in the classroom, the only acceptable material would be the Love and Life program by Ignatius Press - one strongly supported by orthodox Catholics.
ACU research project
Why few aspire to headteacher positions
In a letter to the London Tablet (2 March 2002), Professor Tony d'Arbon FMS of the School of Educational Leadership at Australian Catholic University (Strathfield, NSW) drew attention to research carried out by a team from ACU to find out why more people were not applying for leadership positions in Catholic schools in the State.
The research was authorised by the Catholic Education Commission of New South Wales.
Professor d'Arbon summarised the research project and its findings as follows:
"More than 1,000 people from the pool of those who would be eligible, either now or in the future, responded to a questionnaire. They were asked to set out their leadership intentions, reasons that would influence them not to apply, and reasons that would encourage them to do so.
"Everyone saw the job as demanding and complex. Of the deputy headteachers who responded, two out of every five said they would be unwilling to apply for a headteacher position if one became available. What worried them most was the impact such a role would have on personal and family life, but they were also reluctant to have to deal with external authorities and parents who have become increasingly critical and confrontational.
"The religious identity of the school, and the expectation that the headteacher would be a 'practising' Catholic, was another important deterrent."
Archbishop Chaput on clerical misconduct
Palm Sunday homily read in each Denver parish
In a Palm Sunday homily read out in each parish, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver commented on the recent media coverage of clerical sexual misconduct.
"This has been," he said, "a Lent we'll remember for a very long time. The headlines have reminded us that sin isn't just something outside the Church. It can also live in the actions of her pastors and her shepherds. Nothing can diminish the suffering of the victims of sexual misconduct in the Church or explain away the seriousness of the sin, especially when committed against a child."
Archbishop Chaput offered an apology, "sincerely and humbly on behalf of myself and our priests, for any hurt inflicted on our people over the years by clergy or lay employees of the archdiocese." Any sexual misconduct by any priest, he added, "is a grave sin and does serious harm to innocent people. Therefore Church leaders have an equally grave duty to act on allegations quickly and fairly."
He pointed out that the Archdiocese of Denver has had an effective sexual misconduct policy in place since 1991 which is made available to anyone. This policy had to be reviewed and signed by every member of the clergy and every lay archdiocesan employee as a condition of employment and "any violation is grounds for immediate termination or suspension."
New pro-life Canadian Catholic college
Agreement on credits with Steubenville University
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, a private Catholic college in Barry's Bay, Ontario, noted for its strong pro-life commitment, has recently obtained an articulation agreement from the Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS).
This agreement allows students completing courses at the Academy to transfer to FUS and apply the credits towards a Steubenville degree. Thus students desiring a Steubenville degree may begin their education in Canada and save more than $US10,000.
The Academy cancelled classes and students and instructors alike attended the March for Life in Ottawa last year. Scott Nicholson, Academic Dean of the Academy, said they intend to continue the tradition of full attendance at the March for Life.
The Academy is very pleased about the new relationship with FUS and hopes to reach similar agreements with other colleges in the near future. At present it offers a one-year program, but hopes, in the near future, to add a two-year program, which will provide both a sound foundation in the Western intellectual tradition and authentic Catholicism, and make a bachelor's degree from a Catholic college more affordable by providing an inexpensive option for completing the first two years.
Pressures on China's religious policies
But hopes for an early relaxation may be premature
In recent weeks there has been speculation that China is adopting a softer approach toward religious freedom. "China Rethinks Religious Policies in Effort to Avoid US Criticism," the Wall Street Journal reported on 6 February.
Late last year, China's leadership ordered a reassessment of its attitude toward religion, a review apparently still under way. The Communist leaders presumably hope a more conciliatory policy would prompt religious believers to adopt a less hostile posture toward Beijing.
The reconsideration has been forced upon China due to a resurgence in belief in the country. Even though authorities only recognise five established religions, and the faithful may only worship in registered places, a religious revival has swept China in recent years.
Estimates say the official Protestant Church in China has up to 15 million members, while the state-controlled "patriotic" Catholic Church has about 10 million, the Boston Globe reported on 3 March. Membership in the underground churches is believed to be double those figures, and growing rapidly. If these figures are accurate, the Christian population of China already may exceed the Communist Party's membership of 50 million.
In addition to this internal pressure, China is coming under increasing international criticism for its failure to respect basic freedoms in religious matters. Its ongoing campaign to wipe out the Falun Gong movement has received continuous attention, and condemnation, in the world press.
But informed observers consider China's hardline religious policies are continuing to be implemented despite Western pressures. A set of official documents detailing a campaign of religious persecution was published on 11 February by Freedom House's Centre for Religious Freedom.
The Vatican-based agency Fides has also accused Chinese authorities of continuing to arrest bishops and clergy belonging to the underground Catholic Church that is persecuted because of its refusal to submit to government control.
Zenit News Service