US bishops condemn Notre Dame's Obama honour
The invitation of President Barack Obama to deliver the Notre Dame University's commencement address and receive an honorary law degree on 17 May has been condemned by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix who accused the University's President, Fr John Jenkins, of committing 'a public act of disobedience to the Bishops of the United States.'
The grounds for the Bishop's charge are found in a 2004 statement from the US bishops which calls on the Catholic community and Catholic institutions not to 'honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.'
Notre Dame and Fr Jenkins have also come under fire from Bishop John D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the diocese in which the University is located.
Bishop D'Arcy said he would not be attending the commencement ceremony and suggested that Notre Dame 'has chosen prestige over truth.' It is the first time in 25 years that the local bishop has not attended a Notre Dame graduation ceremony.
'President Obama,' he said, 'has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long- stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.'
An online petition calling for Fr Jenkins to cancel the invitation to President Obama had reached over 170,000 signatures as of 26 March.
Catholic News Agency
Africans defend Pope against media attacks
On 29 March numerous young African students gathered in St Peter's Square to thank Benedict XVI for the message of hope he brought to the continent.
Led by Guinean Archbishop Robert Sarah, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the students also gathered to show their solidarity with the Pope after he came under fire for saying that the distribution of condoms is not the solution for fighting AIDS.
The head of the Committee of African Students in Rome, Pierre Baba Mansare, said the event was organised after seeing the coverage of the Pope's visit in the media: 'Of the Holy Father's whole pastoral message, the Western media only focused on the statement about condoms with the purpose of starting a polemic.'
Mansare added that the students wanted to send a message to the Western media: 'Don't talk about Africa without knowing the reality, [and] trampling on its values!'
Earlier, the bishops of Cameroon issued a statement defending the Pope's comments on AIDS: 'The bishops of Cameroon are astonished by what the journalists retained from this very complete statement of the Pope, focused only on opposition to condoms, concealing the whole action of the Church in the fight against AIDS and the care of the sick ...
'[T]he Church, as moral force, has the imperative duty to remind Christians that all disordered sexual practice outside of marriage is dangerous and favours the spread of AIDS. This is why she preaches abstinence for single people and fidelity within the couple. It is her duty. She cannot subtract herself from it.'
Catholic World News
Australian religious leaders' letter on climate change
Over 60 prominent religious identities from a wide range of Christian and non-Christian denominations, including Catholic bishops and leaders of religious orders, have written to the Australian Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd, ahead of the release of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme exposure draft legislation, to express concerns with what they think is a poor response to man-made climate change.
The letter urges the Government to address its 'weak' greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and to help shape a strong international agreement on climate change at Copenhagen.
They claim the 5-15% emission reduction target range by the year 2020 fails to protect lives and livelihoods, and emissions must fall by at least 25% in industrialised countries if the world is to have a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.
'It is not only 'environmental' groups who are concerned about the Government's inadequate response', said Dr Miriam Pepper, Secretary of multi-faith network, the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, which facilitated the letter.
'Australia's religious groups are educating our communities about climate change and are taking actions to reduce our own carbon footprints, and we call for stronger action from the Government.'
One of the letter's signatories, Bishop Peter Ingham, a Sydney auxiliary bishop and President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Confer- ences of Oceania, drew attention to the 'low-lying atolls in the Pacific, which are already affected by rising seas, and whose people could be 'climate refugees'.'
The other two Catholic bishops to sign the letter were Bishop Michael Malone of Maitland-Newcastle and Bishop Kevin Manning of Parramatta.
China re-arrests 'underground' Bishop
Chinese police have re-arrested Bishop Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding, the most prominent leader of the Chinese 'underground Church.' The arrest came just as a special Vatican commission met in Rome to consider the situation facing the Church in China.
Bishop Jia spent 15 years in prison (from 1963 to 1978), and has been arrested and released at least 13 times in the past 5 years, with authorities persistently pressing him to join the government-approved Catholic Patriotic Association. He has been living under house arrest since his latest incarceration last year.
AsiaNews reports that the reason for the Bishop's latest arrest is the authorities' determination that Bishop Jia should not meet with Bishop Jang Taoran, who heads the government- recognised 'official' Catholic Church in the Hebei province.
Bishop Jang recently pledged his loyalty to the Holy See, and agreed to work as an auxiliary to Bishop Jia. The two prelates were planning to co-operate as part of the plan suggested by Pope Benedict for the reconciliation of the 'underground' and 'official' branches of the Church in China. Beijing officials evidently fear that reconciliation.
Catholic World News
Fr Frank Brennan, St Mary's and Bishop Robinson
Writing in Eureka Street, Fr Frank Brennan SJ said Fr Peter Kennedy's interview on Richard Fidler's ABC Conversation Hour was 'one of the most moving presentations about priestly pastoral ministry I have heard on the national airwaves' although 'his Q&A appearance with Tony Jones left me a little perplexed about what he actually believed about Jesus and the Church.'
Fr Brennan added that he was 'saddened that the standoff between such a pastoral bishop [Archbishop Bathersby] and a pastoral priest had come to this.'
He then mentioned his up-coming participation in a Catalyst for Renewal seminar in Sydney to discuss Bishop Geoffrey Robinson's book Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, which he described as 'a pastoral book, which does not purport to be a learned theological text. It is a broad sweeping tome which highlights the concerns of a pastoral bishop reflecting on his years as a teacher and administrator.'
Fr Brennan added: 'Bishop Geoffrey will be in attendance. Unsurprisingly Cardinal Pell declined the invitation to speak at the seminar. But he went one step further and prohibited the use of church property for such a discussion.
'Last year the Australian Catholic Bishops provided Bishop Geoffrey's publisher with a bonanza when they issued their brief, simplistic statement claiming that 'the Church's Magisterium teaches the truth authoritatively in the name of Christ. The book casts doubt upon these teachings' ...
'If there had been more open dialogue between John Bathersby and Peter Kennedy and between George Pell and Geoffrey Robinson, the Catholic Church would be more the Church that Jesus would want it to be.'
'Reproductive rights' top US foreign policy agenda
Speaking at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America's national conference in Houston on 27 March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that promoting 'reproductive rights' - including abortion - would be at the top of the Obama Presidency's international agenda.
After being honoured by Planned Parenthood with the Margaret Sanger award for her 'work on behalf of women's health and reproductive rights,' Clinton said, 'I have to tell you that it was a great privilege when I was told that I would receive this award. I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision.'
Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was openly sympathetic with Nazi Germany's eugenic prac- tices and strongly committed to preventing blacks, Hispanics and poor people from reproducing.
Clinton then declared, 'We know that Margaret Sanger's work here in the United States and certainly across our globe is not done.' But she assured her audience that 'reproductive rights and the umbrella issue of women's rights and empowerment will be a key to the foreign policy of this Administration'.
NGOs like Planned Parenthood, she said, are 'one of the great exports that America has.'
Catholic News Agency
Outspoken Anglican bishop resigns
In her report in London's Daily Mail on 30 March, Melanie Phillips described the resignation of Michael Nazir-Ali as Anglican Bishop of Rochester as 'a terrible blow, not just for the Church of England but for Britain.'
The bishop said he was resigning so that he can work for endangered or beleaguered Christian minorities both abroad and in the UK.
'What a shocking rebuke to the church', writes Phillips, 'that he has to leave his post of influence and authority as a bishop in order to carry out the church's core duty to defend its own against attack.
'Shocking - but hardly surprising. Across the world, in countries such as Nigeria and Sudan, millions of Christians are being persecuted at the hands of militant Islam, with forced conversions, the burning of churches and widespread violence.
'Yet in the face of this global onslaught, the Church of England makes scarcely a peep of protest.
'Worse still, when Dr Nazir-Ali warned last year that Islamic extremists had created 'no-go areas' across Britain where non-Muslims faced intimidation, he was disowned by his fellow churchmen who all but declared that he was a liar - even though he was telling the truth.'
Phillips concluded, 'In any sane world, Michael Nazir-Ali - a church leader whose intellect is matched by his courage and insight - should be appointed Archbishop of Canterbury to defend our society at this most dangerous time. Instead, he is out.
'The question now arises whether he will become the effective leader of the church in the Third World, which is on the edge of schism over gay rights and women priests.'
SSPX Bishop thanks Pope for redirecting debate
The general-superior of the Society of St Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, thanked Benedict XVI for his letter concerning the situation of his congregation as the text refocussed the debate on doctrinal concerns.
Bishop Fellay said this in a communiqué released in March, on the same day the Vatican published a letter written by Benedict XVI that explained the intentions behind lifting the excommunications of four Lefebvrite bishops. It followed the furore over the Holocaust denying comments of Bishop Williamson.
'After 'an avalanche of protests was unleashed' recently,' Bishop Fellay wrote, 'we greatly thank the Holy Father for having placed the debate at the level on which it should take place, that of the faith.'
Quoting Benedict XVI's letter, Bishop Fellay said the SSPX fully shared the Pope's 'utmost concern for preaching to 'our age, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel'.'
Zenit News Agency