Thursday, June 12, 2008

More of the same...

From the Telegraph:
Thousands of leading Roman Catholics including Lord Patten and Baroness Williams are calling on the Church to allow women and married men into the priesthood.
Senior clergy are also among the 2,000 who have so far signed a petition demanding that action be taken to tackle the "major crisis" of dwindling numbers of Catholic priests.
One wonders about the author's definition of 'leading Roman Catholics' when coupled with the word 'thousands'. Are there 'thousands of leading Roman Catholics' in the UK? Also, one wonders why the report is so shy in naming the supposed 'senior clergy' who have signed the petition. If they were chuchmen of any note, then I'm sure their names would have been part of the report.
Looking at the online petition, I note that the wording is as follows:
We, the undersigned Catholics, wish to express our support for our bishops who are preparing the Catholic Church in England and Wales for new forms of ministry and leadership. We request the Catholic Bishop Conference to place the following items on the agenda for their next plenary meeting.
We ask that the bishops:
1.Acknowledge that there is a major crisis in ministry within the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
2.Acknowledge that there is no doctrinal or theological barrier to the ordination of married men. Our Church has already ordained married former Anglical priests.
3. Take practical steps towards ordaining suitably qualified married men.
4. Encourage a wide-ranging discussion of the role of women in ministry and in the authority structures of the church, including the question of women's ordination.
5. Establish appropriate scriptural, theological and pastoral training programs [campus, distance and on-line]to prepare suitable women and men for ministry. These candidates should have the recommendation of their parishes and communities, and should participate in mentored pastoral work.
6.Invite priests who have left the ministry to return to , subject to negotiation with the local bishop active priesthood.
Needless to say, it muddies the water significantly when the issued of married priests is linked to that of women priests. One also notes the vague talk about 'ministry' and 'authority structures'.
Point 6 is interesting - it's not unknown for priests who have left ministry to return. However, calling for some kind of general invitation to them and talk about 'negotiation with the local bishop' doesn't do justice to the delicate issue surrounding such a return. In general, the decision to leave active ministry is not taken lightly and there usually are serious issues at question.
Is there a crisis in ministry in much of the Western Church? Certainly. However, I suspect that Pope Benedict has a better awareness of what the real issues are. Let's be frank - if the life of the Church as a whole was healthy, then there would probably be no shortage of vocations. The fact that the organizers of this petition think that the question of women's ordination needs to be looked at again shows that their understanding of the faith is defective. They may be sincere and holy people, but that's a theological non-starter. Benedict said the following to the American bishops:
Let us be quite frank: the ability to cultivate vocations to the priesthood and the religious life is a sure sign of the health of a local Church. There is no room for complacency in this regard. God continues to call young people; it is up to all of us to to encourage a generous and free response to that call. On the other hand, none of us can take this grace for granted.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers. He even admits that the workers are few in comparison with the abundance of the harvest (cf. Mt 9:37-38). Strange to say, I often think that prayer - the unum necessarium - is the one aspect of vocations work which we tend to forget or to undervalue!

Nor am I speaking only of prayer for vocations. Prayer itself, born in Catholic families, nurtured by programs of Christian formation, strengthened by the grace of the sacraments, is the first means by which we come to know the Lord's will for our lives.
One needn't be in thrall to an exalted idea of 'authority' to recognize the simple good sense in what the Pope is saying.

And in other news...
Seraphic frequently blogs on free speech and religion issues in Canada. Today is no exception and she points to an article by a priest who is starting to worry. She (Seraphic, not the priest... see above) writes:
When I was 19 and heavily into the Canadian pro-life movement, my friends and I indulged in a little fantasy about persecution and the end times. I remember one adult pro-lifer who was allegedly told by police that if he didn't stop his kids from chaining themselves to clinic furniture, they'd be taken away from him. And there was some post-rosary conversation about demonic persecution or whatnot. One day there would be a big persecution of Christians, it was in Revelations, etc., etc.

I didn't really listen. Searching Revelations for references to current events is not really a Catholic thing anyway. Yes, I thought that eventually--at the end of the world--things would get really tough for Christians. But not any time soon. Even the pro-choice activists screaming hate and blasphemy couldn't make me believe that. I mean, this is Canada.

Well, well, well. Was I wrong?

When the "Catholic" Prime Minister Paul Martin shoved gay marriage down the throats of his cabinet, I wrote my frantic letter to my MP. After I finished it, I thought the man would write me off as a weirdo. Gay marriage, I said, would open Christians (and orthodox Jews, and observant Muslims) to all kinds of persecution. I found my own letter paranoid. But it sure looks like I was right after all.


Via the Telegraph:
A new internet service allows Christian subscribers to send emails to non-believing friends and relatives after they have died. offers users a facility to store emails and documents that are sent to up to 63 email addresses six days after the sender and fellow believers have been transported to Heaven.
(snip) was created by Mark Heard, a 49-year-old supermarket shelf-stacker from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
He said he got the idea in 1999 while trading in shares online. It suddenly occurred to him that he would not be able to send his trading password to his wife if the Rapture suddenly took him, he said.
Recognising when the Rapture has actually happened is obviously an issue for the email server.
The service will be triggered if any three of Mr Heard's five employees fail to log on to their work accounts for six days.
"We don't want these things to go out early," said Mr Heard.

And from the website itself:
We all have family and friends who have failed to receive the Good News of the Gospel.
The unsaved will be 'left behind' on earth to go through the "tribulation period" after the "Rapture". You remember how, for a short time, after (9/11/01) people were open to spiritual things and answers. (We are still singing "God Bless America" at baseballs' seventh inning stretch.) Imagine how taken back they will be by the millions of missing Christians and devastation at the rapture. They will know it was true and that they have blown it. There will be a small window of time where they might be reached for the Kingdom of God. We have made it possible for you to send them a letter of love and a plea to receive Christ one last time. You can also send information based on scripture as to what will happen next. Each fulfilled prophecy will cause your letter and plea to be remembered and a decision to be made.

"WHY" is one last chance to bring them to Christ and snatch them from the flames!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A farewell!

It's often a pity when a blog closes down, but I think that in this case we also have cause to rejoice. Mary Gibson, aka The Roaming Roman, entered Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Kansas City MO.
I invite my readers to say a prayer for Mary as she seeks the Lord's will by trying her vocation in the cloister. Whilst her entering is the work of the Holy Spirit, I think that it's also fair to applaud the courage of a young woman who discerns a call to the contemplative life. Wherever the Lord leads her, I pray that Mary's warm personality and her enthusiasm for faith, truth and holiness will bear witness to His love, and that she will never lack for His presence.

Pray too on this memoria of St Barnabas that young people everywhere will listen attentively to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Miss Headscarf 2008

Via The Telegraph, this slightly surreal offering:
Denmark is facing a renewed bout of Muslim protests after a television station chose an Iraqi woman to be Miss Headscarf 2008.
The television programme reviewed videos posted online by 46 woman wearing the veil prescribed by Islamic ideals of modesty before choosing 18-year-old Huda Falah.
But there was a furious reaction from some members of the Islamic community which is already antagonised by the Scandanavian nation's role in a cartoon scandal involving the Prophet Mohammad.
"The whole point of the headscarf is that it's a symbol of chastity," said spokeswoman Bettina Meisner. "We don't wish young women to expose themselves as objects."
Public broadcaster DR1 declared Falah the winner with a commentary that attempted to avoid inflammatory commentary on her looks. Falah was chosen because the light blue Islamic headscarf was "a fantastic and shocking colour," said Uffe Buchhardt, one of the judges.
The Iraqi victory lives in Denmark and in the tradition of beauty contest winners said she had come forward in the noble hope of promoting understanding between the country's youth. She was insistent that a headscarf is a girls best friend.
She said: "The woman is like a diamond and you don't show it to everyone."
The contest highlights a continuing debate over Islamic traditions in Denmark, which drew world attention in 2006 when Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad triggered violent protests in Muslim countries.
Denmark's embassy in Islamabad was bombed by al-Qa'eda last month, an attack that fulfilled Osama bin Laden's promise to avenge reprinting in Danish papers of a cartoon depicting Islam's Prophet Mohammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban.
Organisers of the month-long television competition said they started it as "an alternative way of encouraging young people to participate in the debate, by addressing them on their terms," DR1 said, adding it was a fashion – not a beauty – contest.
First prize in the contest included an iPod, a headscarf designed by a Danish fashion boutique and a one-year subscription to the English-language Muslim Girl Magazine.
She said by participating in the contest she hoped to help remove barriers between young Muslims and Danes "who don't talk easily because of the image [of Muslims] created by the media."
The contest has sparked little debate in Denmark where the government has said it will introduce laws to bar judges in court from wearing religious attire or insignia, including Islamic head scarves, crucifixes, Jewish skull caps and turbans.
But the Islamic Faith Community, a small Copenhagen-based Muslim organisation, had advised young women not to participate in the contest.
I'm sure that Miss Mantilla can't be far behind!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

UK Catholic Adoption Agency to Stand Firm

Via the Daily Mail:
A Roman Catholic adoption agency headed by Britain's most senior Catholic churchman is to defy the Government over its controversial gay equality laws.

The Westminster Catholic Children's Society, whose president is Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, will ignore new rules that require it to place children with same-sex couples.

While other Catholic adoption agencies are caving in to the legislation by severing their ties with the Church or even closing, the Westminster Society will continue its policy of placing children only with married heterosexuals and single people.

Its stance will set the Cardinal - who welcomed Tony Blair into the Catholic Church last December - on a collision course with New Labour and the gay rights lobby.
It is a high-risk strategy that could provoke a costly and bruising test case in the courts, with campaigners determined to see the Society closed down.

But advisers to the Cardinal, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, believe they have found a legal loophole that could allow the Society to remain open and loyal to Catholic teaching, which opposes gay marriage and adoption by gay couples.

The Society, which was founded in 1764, has been advised by lawyers that if it amended its constitution it could comply with the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which take effect next year and aim to end discrimination against gays by businesses.

At the moment, the constitution simply refers to helping couples who wish to adopt. However, a quirk in the wording of the regulations means that the Society may be able to protect itself by amending its constitution to refer directly to married heterosexual couples.

The Cardinal said yesterday: 'I fully support the decision of the trustees in their endeavours to continue the valuable work of the Society.'

His defiance could influence Catholic agencies that are still considering their fate, although some have already thrown in the towel.

And it will be welcomed by London's Catholics, who raise thousands of pounds each year for the Society. In 2001 the comedian Frank Skinner donated £125,000 he won on ITV's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Shelly of At Home in Rome is back with a post about some very Italian concerns:
1. Air conditioning “fa male.” It’s just generally “bad for you.”

How did I live nearly three years in Phoenix, Arizona, without dying? (Italians are so attached to this one, I’ve no doubt I’ll get at least a few angry comments telling me that it does “FA MALE” and explaining all the reasons why. I give up.)

2. Sweating.

There’s a whole encyclopedia of italianate on sweating. If you sweat, you have to change clothes before it evaporates or you can get pneumonia. Don’t stand in front of a fan if you’ve been sweating. God forbid the air conditioner.

3. Wet hair.

Not using a hair dryer can cause any number of ailments, not the least of which is a migraine in the exact spot where you neglected to dry your hair. However, for example, when my husband didn’t dry his hair thoroughly the other day and I pointed out this grave error, he merely laughed and said, “But it’s summer, that’s different.” Doh!
There's more... and her readers remind her about the Italian obsession with the fegato (liver).

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The times we live in...

Via the Telegraph:
Emma and Michael Wing from Plymouth were astonished to learn that they were expecting four babies.
"We weren't actually trying for a baby," said Mr Wing, 22, a Gunner with 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery. "But we didn't mind if one came along."
Mr and Mrs Wing had vague hopes for a girl to complete their family of two sons Mason, 3, and Callum,10 months.
Instead, a scan revealed that their brood is about to treble in size.
Mrs Wing, 23, is only 12 weeks pregnant, but is already suffering from the strain of carrying four babies.
[Snip: Pregnancy details]
The hospital has offered them a selective reduction, removing one or more of the foetuses to increase the others' chances of surviving. But the couple are determined to let Nature take its course.
"Both of us are against abortion," Mr Wing said. "We decided to take the risk. Selective reduction results in a five times greater risk of total miscarriage.
"We wanted a girl so how would we feel if we had selective reduction and found out that the ones we selected were girls? Anyway, we didn't want to say, 'Right; you can live and you can die'.
"It was horrible even when the consultant was talking to us about it."
"Selective reduction"... another chilling euphemism.

"I cannot shut God's house"

A year after the killing of the Chaldean Catholic priest Fr Ragheed Ganni,
Asianews publishes this account:Damascus (AsiaNews) - He could have run away, saved himself, but he went to meet his destiny without fear. Fr Ragheed Gani, killed one year ago in Iraq, died because up until the very end he remained convinced that Christians should not be afraid, that "God's house cannot be closed!". On the first anniversary of the "martyrdom", the only witness to it is speaking out: Bayan Adam Bella, wife of one of the three subdeacons murdered in cold blood together with their pastor on June 3, 2007, in Mosul. This is the same diocese that last March lost its bishop, Faraj Rahho, also a victim of terrorism.
The woman, interviewed by, is now a refugee in Syria together with her four children. They live with her brother-in-law's family. She suffers greatly and is full of questions over a fate that she is still not able to understand, and over her continuing difficulties in obtaining a visa. But now, twelve months later, she finally has the strength to give a more complete account of those tragic moments. After celebrating the Eucharist in his parish, the Church of the Holy Spirit, Fr Ragheed had departed by car together with one of the deacons, his cousin Basman Yousef Daud. Bayan was in a car behind them, together with her husband, Wahid Hanna Isho, and the other deacon, Gassan Isam Bidawed. Recently the three had begun to accompany the priest wherever he went in an effort to protect him after repeated death threats.
"At a certain point", the woman recounts, "the car was stopped by armed men. Fr Ragheed could have fled, but he did not want to, because he knew they were looking for him. They forced us to get out of the car, and led me away. Then one of the killers screamed at Ragheed, 'I told you to close the church, why didn't you do it? Why are you still here?'. And he simply responded, 'How can I close the house of God?' They immediately pushed him to the ground, and Ragheed had only enough time to gesture to me with his head that I should run away. Then they opened fire and killed all four of them". At this point, Bayan fainted. In the hours immediately after the killing, the bodies remained abandoned on the road because no one dared to get close to them. They were all buried in Karamles.
Bayan has many questions: "Why did they make me a widow, why did they tear the word 'papa' from the mouths of my children? What did we do wrong? What did my husband do?", she asks, addressing the terrorists. In August of 2007, she asked the UNHCR for humanitarian asylum in the West, but the difficulties are enormous. "At first no one believed my story. How can they shut the door in the face of such suffering?". In January of 2008, she met again with UN staff. Now she is waiting for nothing more than to start life over for herself and her children.
Ceremonies commemorating the four martyrs were held in northern Iraq. In Rome, the Pontifical Irish College organised a conference last May 31 entitled "Witnesses to Christ, Past and Present", to recall the sacrifice of Ragheed, a former student of the college. Cardinal Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, and Monsignor Parolin, undersecretary for relations with states, participated in the event.
Laodicea has an account of the Ugandan Martyrs who are commemorated today.

Desperate and needy...

That's what this proposal sounds like:
The August bank holiday should become the UK's "national day" as part of a drive to promote a common British identity, the immigration minister is to say.
Liam Byrne will argue that a national day should become the focal point of a campaign for "stronger shared standards" and a cultural code to which immigrants should be expected to adhere.
"Britishness Day" should be a "celebration of what we like and love about living in this country", Mr Byrne will say in a speech to the think tank, Progress.
Trying to build up a national celebration around something as abstract as 'Britishness' is not going to work, and sounds like something a Communist government would try to do.
All the best national holidays seem to be based around a concrete event or person. We therefore have Independence Day which marks the signing of the Declaration of Independence, St Patrick's Day, Bastille Day and so on... Even Canada Day (anniversary of quasi-independence) isn't 'Canadianess Day'.
The problem is, of course, that Mr Byrne can't come up with a single event or person that reflects 'Britishness' and that isn't liable to offend some section of the British population or (more importantly!) his own New Labour political sensibilities. The obvious thing for the British to do would be to make a bigger deal of the Queen's Birthday. That, however, would be politically unacceptable for a Labour government.
Of course the trade unions know what's really important:
Some, including trade unions, have argued that any national day should be on a new bank holiday, giving workers an extra day off each year.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Most Unfortunate Medjugorje Article

I'm decidedly skeptical about Medjugorje, and with all due respect for the sincere and holy devotees to this place, I don't mind folk knowing that I doubt the authenticity of the visions and have grave reservations about the seers and the Franciscans of that place. However, I realise that this is a personal conclusion, albeit one founded on what I believe to be solid reasoning, and recognise that other Catholics of good will could reach the opposite conclusion.
That's why I find this article by the Daily Mail most objectionable:
Vatican denounces group's claim of seeing the Virgin Mary more than 40,000 times as 'work of the devil'
The Vatican has denounced a group who claim to have seen the Virgin Mary more than 40,000 times in the past 27 years.
The six Bosnian 'seers' attract five million pilgrims a year to their home town of Medjugorje, providing a lucrative trade for local businesses.
Hundreds of thousands travel there each year from Britain alone.
But now one of the most respected voices in the Roman Catholic church has accused the visionaries of perpetuating a 'diabolical deceit'.
Andrea Gemma, 77, a bishop and once the Vatican's top exorcist, told a magazine in Italy: 'In Medjugorje everything happens in function of money: Pilgrimages, lodging houses, sale of trinkets.
'This whole sham is the work of the Devil. It is a scandal.' He said the Vatican would soon crack down on the group.
The Medjugorje phenomenon began on June 25, 1981, when six children told a priest they had seen the Virgin on a hillside near their town.
A church investigation dismissed the vision, and the Vatican banned pilgrimages to the site in 1985. But many Catholics ignored the ban.
Today, the seers own smart houses with security gates and tennis courts and expensive cars. One is married to a former U.S. beauty queen.
Catholic officials in the U.S. have recently banned the group from speaking on church property during their world tours, on which they allegedly take the Virgin with them.
It's the usual media blunder - a retired Italian bishop says something, and the press present it as being an authoritative Church or Papal statement. Whenever the press reports 'The Vatican' saying or doing something, one needs to ask the question, who really said this, and in what context? Are we dealing with a Papal encyclical or (as we see in this case) a magazine interview with a retired bishop. Of course, what will happen is that many sincere and devout Catholics will be very shaken by this article. It will raise in them a genuine distrust of the Holy See. It may be that in the future the Church will formally say some very negative things about the alleged visions - then devotees of Medjugorje may have a difficult time accepting this, but I'm sure the vast majority have a love for the Holy Father and will listen to the voice of Peter. However, the Holy See has not decided that that Medjugorje is a diabolical deceit, and this article will be the source of much upset and confusion.

Edited to add:
Here's what seems to be the original interview
- in Italian. I don't have time to translate, but Bishop Gemma certainly doesn't pull any punches.