Friday 1 October 2010

Monitor takes a holiday

The reporting on the UK papal visit now all but over, Monitor is taking time out to ponder its function and future. Judging by the many emails we have received, the demand for it to continue monitoring press reporting of the Church, pointing up the good, the bad, the marvellous and the mythical -- and offering expert briefings on key points -- is very great; and we are certain to be back, once plans for the future of Catholic Voices are more clearly defined. Comments and suggestions to are, as always, very welcome.

Thursday 30 September 2010

Revealed: secrets of the 'We love you papa more than beans on toast' campaign

Niamh Moloney, diocesan youth officer in Northampton, and creator of the vivid signs (and those yellow wellies) which attracted TV cameras and photographers during the papal visit, spills the, er, beans at the Catholic Herald:

We are just three normal young people. Brendon is 19 and Rachel is 21 and I am 25. The day the Pope arrived we went out and bought some permanent markers and some old pieces of cardboard and decorated them with messages such as the famous “We love the Pope more than beans on toast”. We had no idea that pictures of us would go around the world. We had been disheartened by the media in the week before the visit and we just wanted to make some joyful noise for the Holy Father. We only wanted the Holy Father to see our signs and know that the young people in England loved him ... 
We had some incredibly moving conversations with people who were from all sorts of different backgrounds. We were outside the nuncio’s residence in Wimbledon one morning and a young man going for a morning run stopped to get a glimpse of the Pope. He was an atheist but spoke of how he agreed with the Pope and had been truly touched by his words. Following the visit we have all been inspired to witness to our faith all the time with joy.  We are incredibly grateful to God that our little wacky message of love for the Holy Father was seen by millions.

The fictions of Geoffrey Robertson

A letter from Neil Addison in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Geoffrey Robertson is disingenuous in claiming he does not want the Pope arrested and blaming the media (''Holding Pope responsible for abuses is not too dangerous'', September 29).

In the British newspaper The Guardian on April 2, Robertson specifically accused the Pope of a ''crime against humanity'' contrary to the rules of the International Criminal Court. It is only the realisation that this suggestion has made him look ridiculous in the eyes of other lawyers that has caused him to backtrack.

As far as the legal status of the Vatican is concerned, Robertson is presenting his personal opinion that the Vatican should not be a state and pretending that he is putting forward a legal argument.

More importantly, Robertson is pretending that the legal status of the Vatican is protecting abusive priests, but the reality is that Catholic priests and bishops throughout the world are citizens of their individual countries and not the Vatican and they are answerable to national law.

No country has ever suggested that the legal status of the Vatican has prevented the proper investigation of any allegations of abuse by any Catholic priest.

Neil Addison national director, Thomas More Legal Centre, Warrington (England)

CNN film: 'What the Pope knew'

A documentary with an identical title to that screened by BBC Panorama on the eve of the papal visit was shown on American television last weekend. But unlike Panorama, CNN's documentary took at face value the wild assertions of the lawyer Jeffrey Anderson, who is seeking to lay the groundwork for legal action against the Vatican on clerical sex abuse. Monitor has not seen the CNN film, but recommends the comments on it by Greg Erlandson and Matthew Bunson at their Our Sunday Visitor blog, which monitors the reporting on Pope Benedict and the sex abuse crisis. Erlandson and Bunson are the authors of a useful book (photo) on the subject.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Papal visit inspires conference on equality and religious freedom

A conference on the tension between equality and religious freedom organised by the Iona Institute in Dublin has been inspired by Pope Benedict's call for Catholics in the UK to take a stand against "aggressive secularism". The Irish Times reports:
FREEDOM OF conscience and religion is meaningless if we do not allow freedom for beliefs and practices we do not share, a conference in Dublin was told yesterday.

“That is the foundation of democracy,” the conference organised by the Iona Institute in Dublin was told.

Prof Roger Trigg [photo] of Kellogg College, Oxford also described as “nonsense” the idea “that religious freedom is at odds with human rights”.

Religious freedom was “one of the most basic of human rights. It cannot be simply trumped by other rights,” he told the conference on freedom of conscience and religion.

When rights clash “the solution is not for one to override the other but for ‘reasonable accommodation’ of both”, he said.

He said that in Ireland “the recent debate about civil partnerships has exposed an unwillingness on the part of Government to allow any legal exceptions to cater for freedom of conscience or manifestation of religious belief”.

Similar attitudes were gaining ground in Britain, he said. “Because every exception cannot be allowed, it is assumed that none can be. Yet allowing conscientious objection in time of war provides a ready example of existing tolerance, in the face of deep principle. . .” he said.

In Europe “the pursuit of equality, non-discrimination and ‘human rights’ is seen as overriding any claim to freedom of conscience, or of religion”. An example of this in Britain was that Catholic adoption agencies had “recently been forced to give up rather than give children to homosexual couples”, he said.

Barrister Neil Addison, director of the Thomas More Legal Centre in England, told the conference that “religion is often subconsciously seen in Britain as not merely a harmless eccentricity but as a potentially dangerous eccentricity”.

The Irish Independent report is here. Neil Addison's speech is here.

Lord Patten: 'a visit to remember'

In an interview with the Rome-based news agency Zenit, the government representative who oversaw Benedict XVI's Sept. 16-19 journey to the United Kingdom says Pope Benedixt XVI's visit was a "huge success" and a "triumph."
"His four days with us in September were a triumph for His Holiness, for the Catholic Church and its partner Christian denominations, for other faith groups in our country and for all those from civil servants to police officers who helped to organize his visit," he said.
Lord Patten spoke of the "huge and enthusiastic crowds of well-wishers, Catholic and non-Catholic alike" who greeted the Pope.

"I will long remember the crowds in Edinburgh when he arrived, the throng along the Mall in London on his way to the Hyde Park prayer vigil and the mix of worshippers -- young, old, and from every race and class -- on all the pastoral occasions," he said.

Citing the role of Catholic education in the country and the government's partnership with the Church on certain issues, Lord Patten said that the visit "reminded us, in case we had forgotten, the role that faith groups play in our domestic life."

He affirmed that the Pope was "clearly impressed by the evidence that the Christian legacy is -- in his own words -- 'strong and still alive in every level of social life' in Britain."

Lord Patten called the Pope's series of speeches and homilies "remarkable," and said that he "challenged us all to observe the relationship between reason and religion and the importance of establishing an ethical foundation for political action and policy making in the public arena. Success is not just about advances in consumerism."

The government official made particular reference to the Pope's speech to representatives of British society at Westminster Hall. He said this address "will have a substantial impact on public debate for many years to come."

"So Pope Benedict’s stay with us was in the most profound sense a visit to remember," Lord Patten concluded. "Some of its lessons and messages will reverberate down the years.”

Westminster priest vocations on rise since 2005

There are 46 men studying for the Catholic priesthood at London’s Allen Hall seminary, according to figures put out today by Westminster Diocese. Eleven of them have just started. Of the 46, 33 are preparing for the priesthood for the Diocese of Westminster; three more are studying for Westminster diocesan priesthood at Vallodolid, Spain; one is at the Beda College in Rome;  and another is at the Venerable English College in Rome.

Between 2002 and 2005, numbers of men training for the priesthood at Allen Hall were never more than 34. In 2006, there were 37; in 2007, 40; 2008. 43; 2009, 45; and this year, 46.