The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World


US sex abuse crisis

Bishops call for Plenary Council to examine root causes

Eight American bishops have penned a confidential letter calling for a plenary council to be called as soon as possible to discuss the "root causes" of - and possible solutions to - the current crisis in the Church.

In a five-page background paper two of the signers, Auxiliary Bishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit and Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Helena (Montana), outlined what the proposed plenary council would do and some of the pros and cons of convening such a council.

The others who signed the letter were Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford, Archbishop James P. Keleher of Kansas City (Missouri), Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb of Mobile (Alabama), Archbishop John G. Vlazny of Portland (Oregon), Bishop Raymond L. Burke of La Crosse (Wisconsin) and Bishop Daniel N. DiNardo of Sioux City (Iowa).

Crisis magazine editor Deal Hudson, who obtained a copy of the letter last July, explains that a plenary council would be a meeting of all US bishops which would focus on "those issues that were swept under the rug at the June bishops' meeting." He said the signatories represented "the entire theological and political spectrum."

Hudson quotes the letter saying the council would address: "What things need to be going on so that in this cultural milieu priests and bishops will preserve their celibate chastity along with all the other virtues that constitute the life of holiness proper to pastors?"

Pastors must, says the letter, "foster the acts of virtue required of pastors and the means needed to achieve those virtues, especially celibate chastity (e.g., daily celebration of the Mass, frequent Confession, daily meditation, regular acts of asceticism, obedient submission to Church teaching and discipline, and simplicity of life)."

The letter notes the need for strengthening the "teaching of the Gospel, especially in regard to sexual morality."

A plenary council differs from the biannual meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in that the latter deals primarily with administrative matters of the bishops' conference. A council, however, focuses on "teaching the truths of the faith", as the letter states.

Catholic World News

'Carnivale Christi' for Melbourne

A celebration of the great Catholic legacy of art and culture

Melbourne is to get its first-ever Carnivale Christi Catholic arts festival, from late September to early October. This follows the successful staging of Sydney's first Carnivale Christi festival by a group of young Catholics last year.

"Beauty ever ancient, ever new" - a famous phrase borrowed from St Augustine - has been taken as the motto for the event.

"Beauty is an essential element," says the festival's director, music teacher Francine Houlihan. "Because of the negative publicity that the Church is getting at the moment, there's a lot of things that make it difficult being a Catholic."

A festival celebrating the beauty to be found in the Catholic legacy of art and culture is a logical answer to these challenges, Ms Houlihan says. "The whole artistic side is so easy to do, because the world wants beauty. In the Pope's letter to artists, he emphasises this very much."

Catholic culture has an enormous history to offer, Ms Houlihan says. This is reflected in the festival's diverse programming which features a performance of the Robert Bolt play about St Thomas More, A Man for All Seasons, a lecture by Fr Anthony Fisher OP on the art of Fra Angelico, and a finale performance of Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli in St Patrick's Cathedral. The Palestrina Mass will be celebrated by Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, who is a world-renowned liturgist, with choral singing provided at the Mass by a leading Renaissance choir, the Palestrina Project.

Ms Houlihan says that the aim of the Carnivale Christi festival is not only to celebrate the great traditions of Catholic art, but also to encourage modern Catholic artists. For that reason, the festival will also include an art exhibition, curated by leading Australian portrait painter Paul Fitzgerald.

The festival has also been strongly backed by leading arts patrons and arts community figures. The official patrons include the distinguished conductor, Mr Richard Divall, former Victorian Governor, Sir James Gobbo and Archbishop Denis Hart.

The festival dates are Friday 27 September to the following Friday 4 October. It is expected that the festival will appeal both to "churched" Catholics and to people who are not currently church attenders, with a view to inspiring the latter to become interested in the faith once again. It will present another side to those people who are worried about being Catholics, or embarrassed about being Catholics," Ms Houlihan says.

For Carnivale Christi tickets and bookings, tel (03) 9583 9494.

President George Bush signs Born-Alive Law

Delivers strong pro-life speech

President George W. Bush used the occasion of his signing of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act on 5 August to encourage pro-life efforts. The legislation, according to the President, "ensures that every infant born alive - including an infant who survives an abortion procedure - is considered a person under federal law."

At the signing, the President acknowledged the presence of Gianna Jessen, herself an "abortion survivor and pro-life advocate." While the President was pleased to "extend the promise of life and liberty and protection to the most vulnerable members of our society" - those born alive after an abortion - he did not stop there. He went on to indicate that he looks forward to the day when all unborn life is protected.

"The Born Alive Infants Protection Act is a step toward the day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. It is a step toward the day when the promises of the Declaration of Independence will apply to everyone, not just those with the voice and power to defend their rights. This law is a step toward the day when America fully becomes, in the words of Pope John Paul II, 'a hospitable, a welcoming culture'," said the President to resounding applause.

He added that "Today, through sonograms and other technology, we can see clearly that unborn children are members of the human family, as well. They reflect our image, and they are created in God's own image."

He concluded by thanking the pro-lifers in attendance. "I'm grateful for your perseverance on behalf of this noble cause. I want to thank you for your hard work," he said.

Uganda's successful anti-AIDS strategy

Abstinence education more effective

Uganda may be on its way to wiping out AIDS by using a strategy based on chastity and fidelity, according to findings in a Harvard University study. The Harvard study credits abstinence education with "significant effectiveness in reducing AIDS in Uganda ... with the HIV infection rate dropping 50 percent between the years 1992 and 2000."

Uganda uses billboards, radio announcements, and chastity-based curricula to promote abstinence and faithfulness. The result has been a gradual, steady drop in HIV infection rates. If the report is welcomed honestly and with a real commitment to reduce suffering, then Uganda could become a model for worldwide AIDS prevention.

Harvard's study found that from the late 1980s to 2001, the number of pregnant women infected with HIV dropped from 21.2 percent to 6.2 percent. By contrast in Botswana, where condoms are officially promoted as the solution rather than part of the problem, 38 percent of pregnant women were HIV-positive in 2001.

"Much of the program's success," the report said, "is due to the nation's willingness to look beyond the sexual revolution to the past, before the adoption of corrupt Western sexual mores."

Catholic World News

Australia's changing religious affiliations

Latest census figures published

The Anglican decline has slowed, atheism has jumped more than 200 per cent while the number of people taking part in "new age" religions has also dramatically increased, the 2001 Australian census has revealed.

Analysing the results, which were released on 17 June, Professor Gary Bouma of Monash University's School of Political and Social Inquiry said there had also been a significant increase in religious diversity.

"The proportion of Australians identifying with a form of Christianity, which decreased from 74 per cent in 1991 to 70.5 per cent in 1996, decreased at about the same rate of decline to 68 per cent in 200l," he said.

"And for the first time in Australian history, the number of people declaring no religion has decreased to 15.4 per cent, after increasing from 12.9 per cent in 1991 to 16.5 per cent in 1996.

"Many people had expected this rise to continue, possibly eclipsing Anglicans in 2001, but Anglicans have refused to decline as rapidly as in the past, slipping only from 22 per cent in 1996 to 20.7 per cent in 200l."

The number of Catholics stayed virtually the same at 27 per cent, while the Uniting Church declined from 7.5 per cent to 6.7 per cent.

Atheism also increased, from 7469 in 1996 to 24,464 in 2001 (a growth rate of 228 per cent), as did new age religions. Wicca/Witchcraft increased from 1849 to 8755 (a growth of 374 per cent) while Paganism increased from 4353 to 10,832 (a growth rate of 144 per cent) and spiritualism rose from 8141 to 9279.

Exercising their freedom of privacy, 9.8 per cent chose not to respond to the religion question. However, combining those who do not respond to those who declare that they have no religion is a mistake and, according to Professor Bouma, gives a false reading of nearly 25 per cent of people with no religion.

US opinion poll on abortion

Present policy represents only 25 percent of Americans

A slight majority of Americans are philosophically "pro-choice," according to polls by the Gallup organisation in July. But the vast majority consistently say that abortion should be legal "only under certain circumstances."

Gallup's polling consistently reveals that from 51 percent to 54 percent of Americans believe abortion should be "legal only under certain circumstances" - while just 25 percent to 27 percent says it should be "legal under any circumstances" and 18 percent to 22 percent that it should be "illegal in all circumstances." Furthermore, these breakdowns in opinion have largely prevailed since the 1970s.

What that means is that status- quo abortion on demand does not reflect the beliefs of 75 percent of Americans, and that since the 1970s, the view of only 25 percent of Americans has been imposed as law by activist court judges and abortion-supporting politicians.

In addition, 86 percent of Americans support restrictions on abortion in the third trimester, and 69 percent in the second trimester. 62 percent support restrictions when a woman says she "can't afford" the baby; and 51 percent would support restrictions on abortion of children diagnosed as mentally handicapped.

Most also support informed consent, "requiring doctors to inform patients about alternatives to abortion before performing the procedure." Only 11 percent were opposed. Similarly, a Gallup survey in 1996 found 74 percent favoured parental consent for minors seeking an abortion.

Catholic World News

Anglican women priests

Survey shows dissent against Christian teachings widespread

Female priests in the Church of England are more likely than their male counterparts to reject traditional Christian doctrines, the London Times reported last month.

The Times, citing a study of 2,000 clerics commissioned by a group called Cost of Conscience, said that only 3 of 10 women priests accept the Virgin birth, only 5 of 10 believe in the bodily Resurrection, and only 6 out of 10 believe that the suffering and death of Jesus Christ brought salvation from sin. By contrast, 7 of 10 male priests believe in the Resurrection, and 8 in 10 accept the traditional Christian understanding that Christ's suffering atoned for sin.

Rev Robbie Low, a spokesman for Cost of Conscience, told The Times that the survey results showed a widespread rejection of Christian belief among Anglican clerics. "What is quite apparent is that there are effectively two churches coexisting comfortably in the Church of England," he said. "One what is overwhelmingly convinced of the historic truths of the Christian faith, and one that is at best dubious and at worst frankly disbelieving."

Catholic World News

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