Archive for March, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI’s Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland

22/03/2010

In Pope Benedict’s letter to the Catholics of Ireland released on 20 March and signed the previous day there was a half hearted and at times confused response to the abuse that has ravaged Ireland and the Church in Ireland to its very core.

The letter was promised when Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and the scandal ridden Sean Cardinal Brady of Armagh visited the Vatican to brief Benedict on the then recently released Murphy Report.

In his letter Benedict addresses each group of what remains of the faithful in Ireland. He says that “I am confident that, as a result, the bishops will now be in a stronger position to carry forward the work of repairing past injustices and confronting the broader issues associated with the abuse of minors in a way consonant with the demands of justice and the teachings of the Gospel”.

While this maybe true he also lambasts the bishops for not acting properly when he says “the often inadequate response to them on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities”.

There is still more contradiction when he says that “It is true, as many in your country have pointed out, that the problem of child abuse is peculiar neither to Ireland nor to the Church. Nevertheless, the task you now face is to address the problem of abuse that has occurred within the Irish Catholic community”, thereby implying that it is only Ireland that has this problem.

He continues outrageously and disturbingly noting that “the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected.”

This shows he is either ignorant of Irish history, is unhinged from reality, or extremely badly advised. All three are not beyond the realm of possiblity. He is implying that the rise of secularisation is a contributary factor in the henious abuse of children. Even worse, some people actually believe it .

When he says “The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it”. What that has to do with the abuse and willful cover up of children I have no idea – and frankly don’t what to know. How can the victims get any kind of closure or indeed, know that the Church is trying to reform its ways when statements like these are being made!

The pope continues, saying that “Only by examining carefully the many elements that gave rise to the present crisis can a clear-sighted diagnosis of its causes be undertaken and effective remedies be found.” Yet those who believe this are extremenly naive. Rome will choose those bits that suit it and leave out any disucssion that doesn’t.

Many in the liberal media have pointed the finger at Latin Rite clerical celibacy – and while it would be misguided to blame this alone, it would be unfortunate to leave this topic off the agenda completely. Anything less is most certainly not a “clear-sighted diagnosis of its causes” as Benedict would have us believe is taking place.

Regretably he says that one of the causes was that there was “misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church”. It was not only “misplaced” it was down right WRONG. Placing innocent children in the care of known abusers is say it, evil.

Thankfully he does say when talking directly to the victims that “It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel.” However, when mixed with some of the comments above there seems to be little co-ordination in the response, or at least several authors, each with their own ideas and none consulting each other – if it is true – a worrying problem.

When addressing the bishops of Ireland, he says that “It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed”. He says that “Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives”.

Something that seems to be lacking, thus far, in the case when Ratzinger was Cardinal-Archbishop of Munich in the early 1980s. Even worse “Peter Hullermann, a priest who sexually abused minors in the late 1970s and was transferred to Munich in 1980, initially for treatment, but was later allowed to return to full pastoral duties”, when Ratzinger was still the ordinary of the diocese. It was only on the 15 March, that Hullermann was suspended from his current position – a damning indictment of the way the Church only responds when it has to.

Benedict continues in the Letter, saying that an “Apostolic Visitation of certain dioceses in Ireland, as well as seminaries and religious congregations” will take place. This goes against the very start of the letter where he states clearly that he is very “confident” that this bishops will do their duty. 

I can only hope that whatever happens is in the best interests of children and that the chaos that is engulfing the Church in Europe and now, Latin America, brings a Church that is ever closer to Christ himself.

2010 Dem meltdown?

13/03/2010

The Hill brings a note of reality to the upcoming midterms when they predict that the Dems will lose neither the House or Senate. It predicts the the stimlus coupled with the gradual uptick in the economy and subsequent fall in unemployment numbers will keep the Dems in control, though it would be foolish to expect no losses.

They also predict the some form of the health care bill will be passed – however something to watch out for is if they use it as a campaign tactic or not. It says that the David Paterson’s will give way to the Andrew Cuomo’s and former Houston mayor, Bill White’s of the party as the GOP ie Rick Perry in this case run on “the Civil War-age anachronisms of secession, nullification and interposition that will not create one job, build one business or educate one child in Texas.”

If all goes to plan in November, Obama will have enough time to get re-elected in 2012 – if that’s a good thing or not it’s too early to tell.

Chinese power

11/03/2010

In a recent article in Foreign Policy by Drew Thompson is director of China studies a senior fellow at the Nixon Centre about the state of the state of preparedness of the military of China – important points are raised.

There is the usual awareness of the increased spending of China on its armed forces, but also the important point is raised that “the ability to project force tells us very little about China’s willingness to use it.”

This begs the question, how willing is China to use its new equipment? The fact that the Chinese have new equipment such as a “massive subterranean naval base on the southern island of Hainan, presumably a staging point to launch naval operations into the Pacific” does not of course mean that they are going to use it to attack US interests in the region directly. They could of course just be prepared to excert a far greater regional role.

However, Thompson points out that Secretary of Defence (yes I know that’s not the “correct” spelling) in a speech said that the rise in Chinese power “could threaten America’s primary means of projecting power and helping allies in the Pacific: our bases, air and sea assets, and the networks that support them”

Thompson makes the point that despite this massive arms buildup “they also don’t explain why they are investing so heavily in this new arms race.” Which, if viewed by the wrong people could lead to dangerous consequences.

That is not to say that the China’s rise  must be viewed as peaceful, indeed it would be at the least naive, and perhaps dangerous, to think that it can only be viewed this way. Thompson says that “Beijing’s official line is that it wants to be able to defend itself against foreign aggression and catch up with the West”.

Firstly, who has China to defend itself against? What regional powers currently threaten it? China, as it stands has the power to overwhelm all, but potentially Russia, in a regional conflict, and the only other country that could pose a possible threat is Japan, but its Self Defence Forces  are currently constitutionally forbidden from engaging in war except for self defence purposes. The only conflict that is worth considering is with India, over the border dispute.

Secondly, China says that it wants to catch up with the West – which can only mean America – as I doubt the Europe Union is hard to beat when it comes to defence spending. Yet for the last full available year, the U.S. spent only 4.3% of GDP on defence, even with this, China would have to spend everything on defence to even begin to catch up with American military power and this would also mean that America would have to cut all defence spending for several years, perhaps even decades for China to catch up. This is simply because America was still spending no less than 3% of GDP on defence at the end of the Cold War, while Europe – mired in their postmodern mentality – reduced defence spending to almost nothing which allowed America to entrench its dominant position. Yet even now “the U.S. military is still, for all its troubles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most capable fighting force on the planet.”

Thompson backs this up in raw figues when he says that “In 2009, the U.S. military spent $738 billion on defense and homeland security. Estimates for China’s annual military budget vary considerably, ranging from $69.5 billion to $150 billion, but it’s clear that U.S. military spending is still several times higher than China’s, the world’s second highest.”

Yet in China “Deng Xiaoping began the process of reform and opening in 1979, he decided that bolstering the civilian economy would take precedence over military investments” Thompson says that the overwhelming power of the US forces in the 1991 Gulf war showed China that they could not simply rely on men alone. So, from “the early 1990s, China’s defense planners began intensively studying doctrine and sought to acquire superior foreign technologies for their People’s Liberation Army”

Many point out that the Chinese army is the largest in the world, but “The PLA has the most people on its payroll — 2.2 million active personnel (though between 1985 and 2005, it shrank by 1.7 million soldiers and is still shrinking today). That’s still far more than the 1.4 million active service members in the U.S. military.”

Thompson then discusses the role of China’s one child policy, Taiwan, which he says that China’s”armed forces today are developing capabilities and doctrine that will eventually enable them to protect China’s expanding global interests.”

Finally he says that gradually “China is steadily building its ability to project power beyond its shores”. He says the inevitably “there is deep strategic mistrust” between the US and China. 

Ultimately the US-China relationship depends on where they both see themselves in the region and where China sees itself in the future, either as a regional power or alternatively as a global power.

Immorality

08/03/2010

Disgraced former England football captain John Terry had an injunction imposed by a judge preventing the media from reporting that Terry had had a four-month affair in late 2009 with Vanessa Perroncel, the former girlfriend of Wayne Bridge, current England teammate. The injunction was lifted a week later, England manager, Capello then dropped Terry from the England captaincy on 5 February 2010.

However there was little sense of moral outrage at the fact that this very public personality who was obviously admired by many could have acted so appallingly. Many people just issued a collective shrug of their shoulders and carried on. People like Terry show the dangers that making people like him into role models, when once it was teachers and priests.

Society seems to have lost the sense of moral outrage that brought it together and ensured that there was a certain moral standard that was upheld. Now however there is this all envoloping relativism that clings to everything and drags us further into the moral abyss. Instead there should be a dramatic rethink on why these people are our de facto role models and what we have done that led us down this path.

Naturally, politicans and the clergy are by no means blameless, (perhaps even the opposite?) but unless there is a radical overhaul on how we think about our moral lives then we might as well give up now.

Church and homosexuality

05/03/2010

The “conservative” Andrew Sullivan, in a post some time ago noted how when a group of gay Catholics staged a protest at the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. However much their cause is just and correct Dr Sullivan describes how “We need to do this more and more”.

Does he not realise that these tactics, however right are totally useless? They will regrettably not affect any of what the Church says on this issue and will bring no change. He either forgets or ignores that the Church is not a democracy (and neither should it be) but coupled with the fact that there are now more praticising Catholics in Africa and Latin America where homosexuality is still taboo does not mean the Church will change its teachings to what is correct and risk alienating the areas where it is undergrowing rapid growth.

It is however commendable that the more extreme elements of the Church on this issue are corrected, as was the case with Javier Cardinal Lozano Barragán’s statement some time ago.

All that can be done is wait and hope that it will change.

New cardinals

02/03/2010

Seems as if the date for the upcoming consistory has shifted from mid this year, ie sometime around the 29 June to the end of November, around the Christ the King weekend.

Rocco with all his usual connections says that the names will consist heavily of curialists, headlined by Archbishop Angelo Amato, former CDF No. 2 and Ratzi favourite, along with another former CDF staffer, Velasio De Paolis, Fortunato Baldelli, unusually, Paolo Sardi, who is currently Vice-Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church, and holds the post of Pro-Patron of Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, who already have a Grand Master in the form of Fr Mathew Festing . Other names on the list are Francesco Monterisi, fomer Bishops secretary who took over from Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo as archpriest of Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, Francesco Coccopalmerio, Gianfranco Ravasi. Antonio Maria Veglió and Claudio Celli are also mentioned as likely names.

From diocesan bishops the usual suspects of Paolo Romeo of Palermo, Thomas Collins of Toronto, Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw, Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Laurent Monsengo Pasiya of Kinshasa, Braulio Rodríguez Plaza of Toledo, the infamous Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo dominate.

What seems to be a common thread in the wires that Rocco also picks up is that there seems to be substantive talk of sees that already have an elector, getting a second. He mentions, Orani João Tempesta of Rio de Janiero, and most notably, Timothy Dolan of New York and Vincent Nichols of Westminster.

Simon-Victor Tonyé Bakot of Yaoundé, Cameroon, which Benedict visited on his African tour last year and.Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal also get a mention.

Bear in mind names that have been left out aren’t small fry either, Allen Vigneron of Detroit, Odon Marie Arsène Razanakolona of Antananarivo, Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovitvanit of Bangkok, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala,  Donald Wuerl of Washington, Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan, João Bráz de Aviz of Brasília, Giuseppe Betori  of Florence and Georges Pontier of Marseille, and their not the only ones!

With several curial heads past the retirement age, notably, the prefects of the Congregation for Clergy and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life. There is also a possibility that some names might not make it but be replaced by others, if of course there aren’t already cardinals.