Archive for May, 2011

To default, or not to default


After a recent post commenting on the merits of a bailout  for Ireland, what will happen if such a senario does occur has been discussed by a recent Irish Times article.

Discussing the Argentina default, “After the default came the meltdown: a 70 per cent devaluation of the peso in six months, a rapidly shrinking economy, an avalanche of poverty and unemployment. Millions of middle managers, salaried factory workers and state employees lost their jobs in the sell-off of state-run industries and the collapse of local companies. Bank accounts were frozen in an attempt to stem a bank run. US and European bank subsidiaries converted customers’ dollar deposits into devalued pesos, virtually wiping out their nest eggs. The income of Argentinians went through the floor: in 1999 it was the equivalent of $8,909 per capita, double that of Mexico and three times that of Poland; by 2002 it had shrunk to €2,500 per capita, about the same as Belarus.”

Interestingly however the article notes that currently in Ireland it is not a desperate as it was in Argentina with “Six out of seven jobs are still in place, notes Seamus Coffey, an economics lecturer at University College Cork. More than nine out of 10 mortgage holders continue to pay up on their original contract terms. Out of every €100 of disposable income, €12 is being used to pay off debt or to build up savings.”

On the question of the damage done to Ireland’s reputation “would pariah status matter once we had decided to be proudly self-reliant? That depends on the value you place on reputation.   ‘We are one of the economies in the world most dependent on international business,’ says Eunan King, of King Research. ‘We cannot walk away from 50 years of the Whitaker philosophy that we compete and co-operate on an international platform. EEC entry and the encouragement of foreign investment helped Ireland step away from protectionism and dependence on our major trading partner, the UK.'”

Many question whether there would be any money in the ATMs, in essence a shorthand for the citizens to buy the basics to survive. The article says that “‘we would be international pariahs without a functioning banking system. But as our money, or what’s left of it, is still in the bank, couldn’t we use the ATMs? ‘With no functioning bank system there’s no guarantee that the ATMs would continue to work,’ says Fergal O’Brien. Coffey thinks the notion of empty ATMs is a bit ‘overblown . . . The ATMs wouldn’t close, but we’d have no money in the bank accounts anyway, and that wouldn’t be the ECB’s fault’.”

It has been posited that the euro is the rooted of much of the current problems that face Ireland, yet “‘The EU has no provision to kick anyone out of the euro, and there’s no legal provision for handing banks back to the ECB either, for that matter,’ says Stephen Kinsella. ‘But if we did leave the euro I’d like to see the new currency being called the Anglo, so we’d never forget . Of course, the first item would be a 50 per cent devaluation, so all outstanding debt doubles immediately. And you’ve just burned €160 billion, so what central banks are going to hold our money?'” Secondly it is noted that “deposits would flee the system because the government guarantee to depositors could not be honoured, as Ireland wouldn’t be able to borrow abroad. Exchange controls would have to be reimposed. The Central Bank of Ireland would have to print money to keep the banks afloat.” As a result of this many argue that bartering would return with a lack of a real currency.

The article questions would Ireland survive if Ireland did default, “’Property prices would fall further, as there’d be no banks or Nama to prop up the market,’ says Coffey. And food? ‘Well, we’re food exporters. We’d eat a lot of dairy, but we wouldn’t starve.’ And oil? ‘The question is: if the government had it, could we afford to buy it from them?'”

Finally, “the external money supply would have been abruptly disconnected, our deficit of €15 billion to €19 billion (depending on who you talk to) would have to be wiped out – immediately. The Department of Finance warns that this would entail cuts of 30 per cent in public-sector pay and social welfare. Fergal O’Brien of Ibec suggests that the figure would be about 40 per cent.” This in turn “would trigger what economists call feedbacks: a crash in tax revenues as a result of pay cuts, zero consumption, a stalled economy and so on.  So the amount to be made up could rise from €15 billion to €30 billion, according to Coffey, which is why some see the short, sharp shock not merely as an implement of terrible suffering but also as a futile gesture.”

Would it be worth it?


About time


In a letter dated the 3 May but published on 16 May, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, William Cardinal Levada wrote to the bishops of the world saying “In order to facilitate the correct application of these norms and other issues related to the abuse of minors, it seems opportune that each Episcopal Conference prepare Guidelines whose purpose will be to assist the Bishops of the Conference to follow clear and coordinated procedures in dealing with these instances of abuse. Such Guidelines would take into account the concrete situation of the jurisdictions within the Episcopal Conference.”

The letter itself notes that the bishops’ “response will also make provision for the implementation of the appropriate canon law, and, at the same time, allow for the requirements of civil law”. It discusses the role of the priest and says that they “should be formed in an appreciation of chastity and celibacy”. This is an obvious reference to those who claim that it is priestly celibacy is one of the causes of this scandal and is in need of being re-examined at the very least.

The letter continues noting how “Priests are to be well informed of the damage done to victims of clerical sexual abuse”, it thereby implies that some priests are unaware of the horrors of sexual abuse. What is important to note however is that the priests and bishops are mentioned in depth before the laity or indeed those that have suffered.

Crucially however the letter says that ” relations with civil authority will differ in various countries, nevertheless it is important to cooperate with such authority within their responsibilities”, it is a pity however that stronger language was not used is this instance, however belatedly this is now the de facto policy of the Church.

As part of its coverage of the letter the UK Guardian, which is normally scathing in its reporting of the Church, and indeed most religion generally, noted that the Church is “clearly doing all they can” to stamp out this evil.

It was reported that the letter to the various Episcopal Conferences, instructed those “which don’t yet have policies on sex abuse to draft them by May 2012”. Allen continues saying that “While the new guidelines do not impose ‘zero tolerance’ around the world, they do aim to promote a more coordinated global approach. The Vatican guidelines do not, however, impose a single global rule for cooperation with civil authorities, they do not clarify what should happen in the case of a priest who commits abuse in one jurisdiction but relocates to another, and they insist that independent lay review boards ‘cannot substitute’ for the authority of individual bishops.”

The Church has only one path to follow if it wishes to act morally and for the common good, nothing less should be expected.

Waiting for Concordia


With world peace still immienent, social harmony is surely not far behind, but what about quotas for cats, dogs, zebra, lions, goldfish……………

Another new Major Archbishop


Today Pope Benedict announced the confirmation of Mar George Alencherry as the new major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly and thus the de facto head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. This ends the vacancy that was created with the death of Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil who died on 1 April.

It has also been reported that Pope Benedict has unusually received a new papal tiara from a German businessman who commissioned it with the tiara being created in Sofia, Bulgaria by Orthodox Christians.

Regrettably, although somewhat understandably, it is almost certain that this tiara will never be worn by Pope Benedict or any other pope. Having said that, no one really expected him to wear the wonderful winter mozzetta or bring back the dormant Roman chasuble.

Short sighted


How can anyone claim this, when taxs cuts are a thing of the past.

Laying the groundwork


John Allen in an excellent piece examines the day when the Apostolic See is vacant and what the media might think of the Church’s public face.

Allen says that Angelo Cardinal Sodano, as dean of the College of Cardinals, would during any vacancy, “preside over the daily General Congregation meetings of the cardinals, which shape the discussions leading into the election of the next pope. It would also be Sodano who would preside over the funeral Mass for the deceased pope, and who would celebrate the Mass Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice, the ‘Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff,’ which is the final public act before the conclave.”

Allen says that this would be a PR disaster for the Church, given Cardinal Sodano’s past history relating to the abuse crisis but also his relationship with Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who as has been mentioned here before, and reportedly paid Cardinal Sodano and other high ranking Curial officials, including the now cardinal-archbishop of Krakow, off in order for Rome to turn a blind eye to the Legion’s dubious internal pratices and the valid stories of the Legion’s founder.

Allen says that as a result of this to have Cardinal Sodano as the public face of the Church during what is perhaps the most important time for its message would be a disaster. Allen states the options that would allow a new Cardinal-Dean to be elected by the five other cardinal-bishops. 

He says names three possibilities for allowing Sodano to exit his current post. He says Pope Benedict could dismiss Sodano from or order him to resign the cardinalate. There is historical precedent for this yet as Allen says, “Such a step with Sodano, however, is deeply improbable. For one thing, he and Ratzinger served together under John Paul, and Sodano was actually Benedict’s Secretary of State in the early part of his papacy. Further, it’s not clear that Sodano is guilty of direct defiance of papal authority so much as suspect judgment.”

Allen goes on to say that “Benedict XVI could quietly ask Sodano to resign as Dean of the College of Cardinals. Cardinal Bernard Gantin did that back in November 2002, returning to his native Benin, where he died in 2008. Should Sodano step aside, the five remaining cardinal-bishops would elect one of their number to take over. The most likely choice would be French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 88, currently the vice-dean. Despite his age, Etchegaray is in good health. Moreover, he’s a veteran goodwill ambassador for the Vatican, with a gracious and affable personality and no troubling history on the sexual abuse crisis”. Finally he says that Benedict could issue a document that would allow the cardinals to vote to chair the meetings and say the public masses.

There is another option however. Benedict could issue a document saying that the dean and vice-dean must resign their office at 80, when they lose their voting rights anyway allowing for the other cardinal-bishops to vote for a new dean/vice-dean as appropriate.  

To leave Cardinal Sodano in his post would be a truly sinful act, getting rid of him, one way of the other, would lay the groundwork for a better relationship with the media, and the outside world generally. If not, how the Church is viewed would sink even lower, somehow.

A roaring success


 No one would have thought that the British queen could free Ireland, but she did help to free us from the crippling insecurities of false choices. Before, the choice was to hate England or to be a West Brit. Now there’s the healthy option of simply getting on with the neighbours.”

You know it’s bad when…..


Baroness Ashton has come in for more, wholly justified criticism, except this time from an unexpected source.

In a recent interview given by the Belgian foreign minister,  Steven Vanackere, said that “While accepting that Lady Ashton ‘cannot be everywhere at the same time’ in response to the pace and pressure of world events, Belgium’s foreign minister nevertheless questioned her personal track record.’We can accept that some react faster than Ashton, but with the condition that she can prove that she is working for the medium-term and long-term on very important issues like energy, for example. But I have not seen this either'”.

Apparently, “A growing number of countries, including France, are angry that Lady Ashton’s political failure has meant that her newly created European External Action Service (EEAS) has not helped the EU ‘to speak with one voice,’ an objective she set herself when taking the job”, speaking with one voice however is just one of the many problems that always beset EU “foreign policy”.

It was reported that “Mr Vanackere lamented deep divisions that emerged within the 27-nation EU during the ‘great test presented by the Arab awakening'”. He continued saying that “‘We have always wanted the External Action Service to be the central axis around which member states might organise,’ he said. ‘But in the absence of a central player that reacts, makes analyses and conclusions quickly, it is the Germans today, the French tomorrow or the English who take up this role. The result is centrifugal, not centripetal.'”

Stanuchly Eurosecptic “Nigel Farage MEP, the leader of Ukip, described Lady Ashton’s ‘incompetence’ as being a major obstacle to the EU’s attempts to develop European foreign policy at the expense of national sovereignty.’Ashton is not fit for purpose. She’s so bad, it’s good,’ he said”.

Just goes to show running foreign policy on the French revolution/gender politics doesn’t work, as if it ever would.

One rule for you, a different rule for us


Maybe,  the EU is unravelling before our very eyes. With the “leaders” struggling to find a way out of the euro crisis, and a Greek default immenient the preeminence of the nation state is coming to the fore on the continet yet again.

Only a few months after “Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, said there must be ‘more convergence’ between the economies of all EU members and not just those using the euro”. This  continues the general direction of the EU for more power at the central always at the expense of the nation-state.

France and Italy, have in recent weeks, demanded an exception to this general trend, when it suits their interests by reintroducing border controls, admitting that the nation-satate remains the primary actor despite the whole mission of the EU itself.  It seems that “Nicolas Sarkozy is holding emergency talks in Rome with Silvio Berlusconi after a row over Tunisian refugees threatened to spiral out of control and lead to the reintroduction of French border controls”.

There are of course, political concerns behind the decision, with a French presidental election due next year, yet even so the, “Italian prime minister called the meeting after his decision to give more than 25,000 Tunisian refugees residence permits caused the worst border crisis since the EU’s 1995 Schengen Treaty”. Even more laughable is that fact the France and Italy have stark disagreements as “France has accused Italy of violating the EU’s ‘Schengen’ free movement rules by giving the Arab migrants, who are mainly French-speaking, permits and encouraging them to travel to France.”

The report states that “Berlusconi will argue that he gave the Tunisians permits after the EU refused to activate a refugee burden-sharing scheme when Italy faced an influx of Arabs fleeing regional conflict. He has accused the EU of failing to help Italy and even questioned the value of belonging to the Union.President Sarkozy will accuse him of deliberately issuing the immigrants with permits, releasing them from detention centres and directing them towards France; even buying their train tickets.”

In response to the very public disagreement it was said that, “‘We must draw the lessons of this crisis together,’ said Laurent Wauquiez, France’s secretary of state for European affairs”.  If that we possible the EU would never be in this mess.

Turning a corner?


The start of civil discourse?

Universal Church


The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, under its president, William Cardinal Levada issued an instruction on 13 May, Universae Ecclesiae (The Universal Church), on the Tridentine Mass that clarified Summorum Pontificum of 7 July 2007.

The document was called for in Summorum Pontificum itself which says that after three years the bishops of the world should write to Rome to report on its implementation and take up by the faithful. The statement that goes with the instruction notes that “We must remember that ‘Instructions… clarify the prescripts of laws and elaborate and determine the methods to be observed in fulfilling them” (CIC, can. 34). As indicated in n.12, the instruction is issued ‘to ensure the correct interpretation and proper application'”.  

The instruction, as Rocco reports, is “intended to reinforce the 1962 Missal’s lasting place in modern ecclesial life and urging ‘generous’ provisions for its use, albeit with no illusions of the post-Conciliar rites’ being eclipsed by the Tridentine books.

Rocco reports that Universae Ecclesiae, has three aims are to: “offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved; “effectively guaranteeing and ensuring the use of the forma extraordinaria for all who ask for it, given that the use of the 1962 Roman Liturgy is a faculty generously granted for the good of the faithful and therefore is to be interpreted in a sense favorable to the faithful who are its principal addressees; and “promoting reconciliation at the heart of the church.”

He goes on to report that the document says that “The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church”. This is a recognition of the Society of Saint Pius X who refuse to acknowledge the validity of the post Conciliar vernacular Mass.

Rocco also reports that the document encourages that seminarians “should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and, where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.”

However as was predicted earlier, the instruction orders that “Only in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life which are under the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and in those which use the liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria, is the use of the Pontificale Romanum of 1962 for the conferral of minor and major orders permitted”.

Traditionalist friendly websites have praised the instruction while others have dissatisfied with the supposed limitations. It is in the interests of the Church that this ancient liturgy be given due respect and be as widely available as possible.

Benedict the liberal?


Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI appointed Prof. Guzmán Carriquiry as the new secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. Not only is he the first layman to hold the post but hthe appointmnet makes him the highest ranking layman in the Roman Curia.

Carriquiry had been the long serving Under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity before the appointment. Rocco says that the move makes the new secretary “Rome’s top full-time official on the continent’s affairs”, the presidency of the commission is held concurrently by the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Marc Cardinal Ouellet.

Rocco notes that the Uruguayan has long experience of the Curia becoming “the first non-ordained male to be named to the level of ‘capo ufficio’ — department head — then the first to reach ‘superior’ rank of a top-level office on his appointment as Laity’s third in command in 1991”.

Rocco adds that “Two other laypeople and a religious sister now hold under-secretary posts, the most recent of them being Flaminia Giovanelli, the politics and development expert who was named #3 of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in early 2010”.  

These appointments are noted not only for their historic nature but also for the fact that they were made under the supposedly more conservative Benedict than any moves made under his predcessor, John Paul II. Yet, ithe case could be made that there should not  such surprise at the moves. Benedict is a noted supporterof John Henry Cardinal Newman who as well as railing against relativism, which Benedict whole heartedly supports, Cardinal Newman also advocated a responsible and active laity.

Is there more to come?

One down, four to go


Today marks the first anniversary of the UK coalition government. Much has happened over the last year, but perhaps among the most important was the government’s desire, and moderate success, at cutting the budget deficit that was inherited from the previous government.

In an article reviewing the last year, The Economist, says that “”pollsters reckon that when the coalition was formed, most people thought that both David Cameron, the Conservative prime minister, and Nick Clegg, his Liberal Democrat deputy, were right to share power”, yet in seems now this trend is reversing with “52% said that a hung parliament was bad for the country in principle, a figure that has now risen to 58%. The shift comes entirely at the expense of those who had said it was a good thing”.

What has become apparent is the government as a whole has suffered a number of humilating crises. Including, but not limited to, rushed plans to privatise large sections on public forest, which was then reversed and ill thought out and dangerous plans to radically alter the structure and ethos of the state health provider, the National Health Service, into a more commercialised, market driven service, seemingly regluated by the famous “invisible hand”, with current plans said to be currently on hold with a “listening excercise” said to be underway.

After the junior coalition party, the Liberal Democracts having suffered huge losses in the local elections and with it the regretabable loss of the referendum on the Alternative Vote both of with have lead the party leader, Nick Clegg, calling for a more “musclar liberalism” after heavy criticism of his leadership for being seen as being too close to the Conservative leader and prime minister, David Cameron.  

Many have lambasted Clegg for supporting NHS reform only to be one of the most vocal driver of the dangerously individualistic proposals to be watered down leading to tensions within the government. In addition to this the conflict in Libya which will purportedly cost £1 billion with outgoing Defence Secretary Dr Gates saying the figure for the US is $750 million.

However, it is unlikely the government will fall with both parties agreeing that the deficit must be dealt with perhaps the thing that will see the government through to the next election which is due in May 2015.

Here’s hoping.

Dias out, Filoni in


As has been predicted earlier, Archbishop Fernando Filoni was formally appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

Archbishop Filoni replaces Ivan Cardinal Dias who reached the retirement age of 75 in April but his worsening diabetes lead to the appointment of a repalcement being found sooner rather than later. Archbishop Filoni is as a result of his appointment in line for a red hat at the next consistory in 2012 or 2013. Rocco says that “continue its predominant modern tradition of going to a diplomat — an especially useful background for the job, given the church-state clashes that often arise in places where Catholics are a pronounced minority”. Rocco goes on to note that the appointment “an ever more pressing area on the Prop’s docket is China, as shown by Pope Benedict’s late 2010 appointment of the Hong Kong Salesian Savio Hon as the office’s new #2, becoming the first ever Chinese named a senior Vatican official. While the freshly-elevated deputy is now understood to be serving as Rome’s lead point-man on matters pertaining to Beijing and the Mainland’s difficult divide between the state-sanctioned Patriotic Catholic Association and the sizable underground church which has maintained its loyalty to Rome, Filoni likewise happens to bring an unusual amount of his own Chinese exposure”.

While at the same time Archbishop Giovanni Becciu was appointed Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State replacing Filoni who was in the post after only four years. Rocco notes that “given the difficulty the Holy See’s had in its communications efforts and getting up to speed with new technologies — all of which falls within the Sostituto’s remit — if Becciu’s presence on Facebook is any indicator, the process should jump-start in short order”.

Next on the list of moves is the new grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

Increasingly paranoid


It has been discussed here before, but China is a deeply unstable country,not just economically but also politically.

In an article in the UK Economist, it was noted that China is behaving not like a responsible, emerging power but as a paranoid lunatic. The article notes how after a recent defence review was conducted it stated that “‘Suspicion about China, interference and countering moves against China from the outside are on the increase.’ The white paper claims ‘the armed forces resolutely subdue all subversive and sabotage activities by hostile forces.'”

It article reports that “According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an NGO, by April 4th some 30 people had been detained and faced criminal charges relating to the so-called “jasmine revolution”—an inchoate internet campaign to emulate in China recent upheavals in the Middle East and north Africa”.

It is reported that “is the increasing resort to informal detentions, punishments and disappearances. These are outside the law, offering the victim no protection at all. The government now dismisses the idea that one function of the law is to defend people against the arbitrary exercise of state power”. 

It concludes arguing that the chance for “revolution in China is small, events elsewhere have demonstrated the long-term corrosive effect on repressive regimes of the internet, mobile telephones and social networks. Better, the party seems to have concluded, to crack down long and hard now than to wait and see”.

Fundamentally, China as it is currently constitued is unstable and will either be changed by internal force or otherwise. The nightmare senario is that internal repression goes too far and there is a backlash leading the ROC to declare indpenedence leading to a possible US military intervention.

Évreux contd?


Is history repeating itself again with Bishop Morris the new Bishop Galloit?

Trump’s stupidity


After this, Trump responds.

New red pope


Amid the musical chairs in D.C there seems to be more going on in Rome.

Pope Benedict is expected to name Archbishop Fernando Filoni, 65, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, (effectively chief of staff) since 1 July 2007 as the new, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Archbishop Filoni would replace Ivan Cardinal Dias who has served since 20 May 2006 and although just 75 is in poor health. This would keep the custom of substitutes, after their time in office, getting a job that leads to a red hat. Archbishop Filoni’s predcessdor in the job is now Cardinal Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Archbishop Filoni would jump to the top of the line for a red hat at the next consistory, expected sometime between late 2012 and early 2013.

It is thought that the choice of the new substitute, has fallen on Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, 63, who currently serves in the difficult position of nuncio to Cuba. Archbishop Becciu was nuncio to Angola when in March 2009, he welcomed Benedict during the second leg of his African trip.

The annoucnement is said to be in May. Not far off however is the appointment of a new archbishop of Milan, with Pope Benedict recieving Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi, 77, recently to discuss a successor. Lead among the candidates is  Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, 68, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture since November 2007.

We got him


In a dramatic speech that further underlined the fundamental continuity in US foreign policy President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden.

President Obama, in his speech, openly used the word “war” to describe the actions of his administration and said that “justice has been done”. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton said to supporters of al Qaeda that “Let us remind ourselves: This is America. We rise to the challenge, we persevere, and we get the job done”. Anyone who thinks the Democrats are weak on national security or put people at risk  in favour of civil liberties have been proven wrong yet again.  

Obama in a pointed reference said that “it is essential that Pakistan join us in our fight against al Qaeda and its afillates” criticism has been leveled by some at not informing the Pakistani authorities at the action the US was about to take. However past instances have shown Pakistan to be at best, a half a half hearted ally. Importantly, news quickly spread that bin Laden recieved an Islamic burial showing no disrepect to Islamic custom, as Obama underlined toward the end of his speech and the United States or “the West” has no issue with the millions of Muslims living peacefully all over the world. The fact the he was buried at sea also shows prudence with no grave for supporters to make a shrine of.

As news spread, Tony Blair, Bush 43 and David Cameron all giving a cautious welcome to the news. While another striking a broadly similar tone said that “bin Laden’s strategic ideas for beating a superpower (which U.S. planners never fully understood) have permeated his organization, and are widely shared by al Qaeda’s affiliates. Second, one critical lesson of 2001 is that we should not allow bin Laden’s death to cause us to lose sight of the continued threat that al Qaeda poses”. The writer makes the interesting point that is borne out by bin Laden’s most infamous attack that “One lesson bin Laden learned from the war against the Soviets was the importance of his enemy’s economy”. The writer argues that “when al Qaeda later engaged in a global fight against America, bin Laden and his companions similarly understood the media and the struggle for sympathy and allegiance throughout the Muslim world as crucial battlefields”.  He goes on the argue that “AQAP’s ability to get the disguised explosives aboard planes, and thus significantly drive up the West’s security costs, made the plot a success”. While this is true the fact “the West” has an imperfect market economy as opposed to a communist model means that we are better able to withstand this tactic.

Crucially and rightly, he says that “We should neither declare al Qaeda dead nor declare the fight against jihadi militancy over”. In a similar piece Daniel Byman says that “terrorist organization and the movement it leads now face a potential leadership void and internal divisions.  But the battle is far from over: aggressive U.S. and allied action — including military, and particularly, intelligence measures — are necessary to make a bad situation worse for al Qaeda”. He notes how the threat level in many cities across the world will spike over the coming days and weeks.

He makes the point that only raises (hopeful) questions by saying “One of bin Laden’s most important characteristics was that he tolerated different points of view within the extremist community, unifying a movement prone to divisions. Some terrorists have tried to undercut, weaken, or even kill rivals and dissenters, but bin Laden was a unifying figure”. He notes how “Bin Laden’s death is particularly timely because of the democratic wave now sweeping Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere. These revolutions sent the message that Arabs can seize their own destiny and bring about change peacefully, a message very much at odds with the violent extremism at the heart of al Qaeda’s mission”. Indeed some are already calling al-Qaeda “irrelevant”.  

However, Byman falls short of calling an end to operations saying they may need to be stepped up in the short to medium term. Others however understandably, disagree. With AQAP still in operation and Anwar al-Awlaki still causing problems it is perhaps too soon for this step. What is clear however is that Pakistan has questions to answer.

On the domestic front, Mike Steele has said that the death of bin Laden should not stop GOP candidates from challenging President Obama. Although if the economy visibly turns a corner in the next year or so with this event as well, the controversy over “Obama care” will be forgotten or at least sidelined in light of these achievements.

Thus far and no further


Today marks the beatification of Pope John Paul II in record time, only six years after his death on 2 April 2005. The late pope’s achievements are profound and should indeed be recognised. Yet, there are critics who say that after John Paul’s death the world witnessed a whitewashed version of events of his life.

The fact that he was a holy man who did his best to live out his faith in the world is almost unqestioned.  Many have reported after his death that John Paul was a living saint who should be seen as one. Crowds, shouted Santo subito (Saint now) at his funeral which shows not only the level of popular devotion.

Not only that, but a look at the guest list shows that in addition to the usual guests, there many Muslim heads of state, and a delegation from the Arab League, and members of other religions especially the Orthodox Churches who John Paul did much to foster relations with as well as representatives from Judism who the pontiff rightly, did much to heal past wounds and injustices.   

When he famously visited his assassin, Mehmet Ali Ağca, in a  Roman prison he showed that it is not revenge, but mercy and forgiveness that sets us free.  

A somewhat representative picture shows that “78% of Americans – along with 95 percent of Catholics and 98 percent of practicing Catholics – admire Pope John Paul II at least somewhat”. Interestingly, the survey shows the overwhelming numbers supporting his beatification with “Nearly three out of four Americans (74 percent) believe that Pope John Paul II is a good candidate for the honor of beatification. So do 9 in 10 Catholics (90 percent) and an even greater number of practicing Catholics (94 percent)”. What is not clear however, are the numbers who support his canonisation.

The Society of Saint Pius X has already made its views clear on the beatification. Indeed, many consider it part of the reason why the discussions on unification between the SSPX and the Church are  coming to an end. Bernard Fellay, superior general of the SSPX has said that “a pontificate that caused things to proceed by leaps and bounds in the wrong direction, along ‘progressive’ lines, toward everything that they call ‘the spirit of Vatican II.’ This is therefore a public acknowledgment not only of the person of John Paul II, but also of the Council and the whole spirit that accompanied it”.  The writer explains that many would not see John Paul in these terms but “John Paul’s ecumenical and inter-religious outreach, his social teaching, even the style of his liturgical celebrations (think World Youth Day) — one can begin to see how a traditionalist might style him a terribly ‘progressive’ pope”.

However the biggest block to John Paul being declared a saint is his treatment of priests and bishops accused of covering up child abuse. The case of Hans Cardinal Goer is just one example of many. Cardinal Goer who was archbishop of Vienna was a known abuser and while there was an investigation into him by the CDF in the early 1990s but it was largely blocked by Cardinal Sodano perhaps not with the direct approval of the pope but it is not hard to imagine Sodano taking his cue from the pope. Not only that but the promotion of Bernard Cardinal Law as archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore after he resigned in disgrace as archbishop of Boston having knowningly moved abuser priest from parish to parish smacks of a slap in the face.

While in Ireland, it was made known that Archbishop Luciano Storero, the nuncio, gave orders to bishops to relax their abuse policy, the “document appears to contradict Vatican claims that church leaders in Rome never sought to control the actions of local bishops in abuse cases, and that the Roman Catholic Church did not impede criminal investigations of child abuse suspects”. Speaking on the beatification, “prelates who knew the pope argued that a tight focus on the sexual abuse crisis misses the big picture of what John Paul II was all about. ‘If you take his personality as a whole, you’ll have the measure of the man,’ said Cardinal Jozef Tomko, who worked in the Vatican under John Paul II in various capacities throughout his entire papacy. ‘He was so clear, so transparent, and so honest,’ Tomko said”. Cardinal Tomko however is deluding himself. Therefore the official line is that he is being beatified in spite of what he did.

But for all the praise heaped upon him, much of it worthy, as David Gisbon said people “loved the singer not the song”. People weren’t rushing back to the Church’s teachings on homosexuality or not living together before marriage.

Was it all just a personality cult? No, but after today he has been honoured enough.