Britain's anti-Christian laws on increase
A raft of laws on so-called hate crimes and anti-discrimination have created a continual series of legal challenges for Christians in the United Kingdom.
According to a booklet just published on this topic by Jon Gower Davies, there are more than 35 Acts of Parliament, 52 Statutory Instruments, 13 Codes of Practice, three Codes of Guidance, and 16 European Commission Directives that bear on discrimination.
In A New Inquisition: Religious Persecution in Britain Today (Civitas) Davies outlines a number of recent cases where Christians have suffered from these laws.
The latest example of this was the loss by Leeds-based Catholic Care in a High Court appeal on the issue of whether they could continue to deny placing adopted children with same-sex couples.
The origin of the case was a 2007 sexual orientation regulation, which outlawed adoption agencies from such "discrimination."
According to The Telegraph (19 August), Catholic Care is the last remaining Catholic adoption agency to resist the regulations. Since the law came into effect in January 2009, the other 11 Catholic adoption agencies have had to either shut down or sever their ties with the Church.
There have been numerous other cases in past months where Christians have faced legal battles.
For example, a foster carer won her struggle to continue fostering children, after she had been banned by Gateshead Council. The ban was due to the fact that a girl aged 16 for whom she was caring decided to convert from Islam to Christianity. Although the matter was righted in the end, the woman suffered considerable financial losses due to the ban.
In another case, a Christian preacher was arrested for publicly saying that homosexuality is a sin. Dale McAlpine was locked up in a cell for seven hours and subsequently charged with "causing harassment, alarm or distress" ( The Telegraph, 2 May). After widespread protests the charges were dropped.
Shirley Chaplin, a Christian nurse, lost a claim for discrimination after she was moved to desk duties following her refusal to remove a crucifix on a necklace. Even though John Hollow, the chairman of the employment tribunal panel, admitted that Chaplin had worn the crucifix for 30 years as a nurse, he said that wearing it was not a requirement of the Christian faith.
The notoriety of restrictions on Christians reached the point where the Pope publicly intervened. During his speech on 1 February to the bishops of England and Wales, present in Rome for their five-yearly visit, he urged them to stand up when legislation infringed on the freedom of religious communities.
"I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church's moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended," Benedict said.
Zenit News Agency
The facts about Galileo
In an interview in August with the Peruvian daily El Comercio, physics expert Fr Manuel Carreira clarified numerous and often misunderstood details about the life of Galileo, also touching on the relationship between faith and science.
The priest confirmed that Galileo "was a believer" and that, despite assumptions to the contrary, "he did not spend one minute behind bars ... nor was he excommunicated." Fr Carreira added that Galileo "died professing the faith under the care of a religious sister and with a papal blessing."
Fr Carreira, who was in Lima for the Second Congress on the Holy Shroud of Turin, said that during Galileo's time, there was no proof that the Earth moved around the Sun. "His supposed evidence was invalid," the physicist noted, as well as being dismissed by other astronomers.
Galileo's correct idea, he explained, was that "the Bible does not teach science." However, he "also wanted theologians to change their interpretation of the text according to his theory." Although the theologians of his day "were mistaken in thinking that the Bible teaches astronomy," the priest added, "they were correct in saying that as long as there was no evidence, Galileo should have presented his ideas as a theory and not asked them to change their opinions."
"In both cases," Fr Carreira said, "they went outside their fields and entered that of the other. From this lesson, we have learned that there must be mutual respect."
Catholic News Agency
Archbishop Chaput: face up to secularism
Addressing the first session of the 15th symposium for the Canon Law Association of Slovakia in August, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver called for Catholics in America and Europe to oppose the rise of a "state-encouraged atheism" which reduces religion to "an individual lifestyle accessory" incapable of influencing the world. He exhorted Christians to respond to these trends by rediscovering their historic faith as the only sound basis for a just society.
Recalling the historical experience of the Slovakian Church under Communism, Archbishop Chaput told the assembly of Central European bishops and canon lawyers that Christians are being called today to defend the Church's own rights, and the rights of all people, against the "civil religion" of relativism.
Like Communism, he explained, today's secularist ideology envisions "a society apart from God" where "men and women might live wholly sufficient unto themselves," sharing no higher guiding principle than "satisfying their needs and desires."
Citing legislation and court decisions in America and Europe, the Archbishop detailed an ongoing shift in the West, from a non-sectarian public policy of broad religious tolerance to an overtly anti-religious form of government which attacks religion in the name of tolerance.
A comprehensive attack on religious freedom, and specifically upon Christianity, he explained, has already begun. Its end goal is to replace God and the Church with technology and social engineering.
In light of such events, he warned, "the Church's religious liberty is under assault today in ways not seen since the Nazi and Communist eras."
In this context, Archbishop Chaput pointed out, the legality of abortion can be understood as an indicator of secular society's deepest contradictions. What began as an unassuming philosophy of "live and let live" becomes warped into a licence to kill: "The will to power of the strong is given the force of law to kill the weak."
Archbishop Chaput warned that when societies forbid the public proclamation and active expression of religious truths, they inevitably end up exalting the power of the state.
Catholic News Agency
Catholic-Russian Orthodox relations
High-ranking representatives of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches embraced last August in a moment reflecting a will for unity. It was a highlight of the 31st Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, an annual event sponsored by Communion and Liberation in Rimini, Italy.
The leaders in question were Cardinal Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, and President of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) and Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Sluzk and Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus.
The Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches are already united in their common stance on many issues affecting Europe: challenges to life and family and religious freedom among them. Recently, an apostolic nunciature was opened in Moscow, and there is ever greater insistence on a meeting between Benedict XVI and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.
To this end, Metropolitan Filaret said that "the time is ripe for a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch. It might even be possible in 2011; in principle I see no obstacles ... We have been in dialogue with the Catholic Church for some time, at times with moments of exhilaration, at others with a fall in tensions.
"Now we are in a moment of stability, but between us, we, the parties, are open to dialogue. I hope this atmosphere will continue."
Zenit News Agency
Pro-life El Salvador
A new poll has revealed that 93 percent of Salvadorans oppose the legalisation of abortion. In addition, 76 percent support the decision by President Mauricio Funes to reject the "Brasilia Consensus" which promotes the legalisation of abortion in Latin America.
The poll asked respondents, "Do you agree that the country's constitution should be changed to allow abortion?" Ninety-three percent said they disagreed.
The Brasilia Consensus was signed at the conclusion of the 11th Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which took place in Brazil. The countries that signed the document pledged to review their laws on abortion.
The Salvadoran Constitution protects human life from the moment of conception.
Catholic News Agency
Ghana Church flourishing
When two US bishops recently visited Ghana, they found that the Church there is characterised by "youthfulness, energy, and a zest for life," said Auxiliary Bishop Martin Holley of Washington, who added that the faith of Catholics is "strong and full of joy."
Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra said that 60% of Ghana's Catholics are under 30. "It is a massive force. If we do invest well in them, build their capacity in social, political, economic and financial [ways] as well as in the Church's social teachings and the Catholic faith, then there's no reason not to have greater hope."
12% of the nation's 23.4 million people are Catholic, according to Vatican statistics. 57% are Protestant, and 16% are Muslim.
Catholic World News
Mexican Bishops and same-sex "marriage"
After two Mexican cardinals were criticised for speaking out against the legalisation of same-sex "marriage," the rest of Mexico's bishops have risen to the defence of free speech.
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico City, and Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, Archbishop of Guadalajara, had been accused of "intolerance" for having spoken out against same-sex "marriage" and adoptions by homosexual couples.
In response, the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate published a communiqué in August, stating, "We lament that on expressing these concepts in public opinion, there are those who recriminate and threaten, warning of intolerance, when tolerance is the possibility that we all express our opinion and positions."
In addition to warning about attacks on liberty of expression, the bishops reiterated their opposition to the process carried out in Mexico to legalise same-sex "marriage" and adoption by homosexual couples.
Following legalisation of same-sex "marriage" in Mexico City a few months ago the Mexican Supreme Court decided these unions must be recognised in the entire country and later upheld the decision to permit homosexual couples to adopt children.
The decision essentially puts Mexico among the most liberal nations with regard to same-sex "marriage." In July, Argentina became the 10th nation to pass a law allowing same-sex "marriage", preceded by the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and Iceland. In the United States, same-sex "marriage" is recognised in only five states and Washington, DC.
The Mexican conference expressed "total disagreement with the ruling," adding, "We believe that equating these unions with the name of marriage is a lack of respect, both of the very essence of marriage between a woman and a man, expressed in Article 4 of the country's Constitution, as well as of the customs and culture itself that have governed us for centuries."
Catholic News Agency
Melbourne's Latin Mass status enhanced
Responding in a practical way to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne has moved to provide proper canonical stability for the Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form) community in Melbourne.
This apostolate, already centred at St Aloysius' Church, Caulfield, under two chaplains (Frs Glen Tattersall and John McDaniels), has received a new impetus by the appointment of Fr Tattersall as Rector.
Archbishop Hart has also approved a new patron for the community of the faithful in Melbourne attached to the Extraordinary Form: from 19 September 2010, it would be known as the Catholic Community of Blessed John Henry Newman. For further details: www.latinmassmelbourne.org.