Archive for June, 2012

Merkel crumbles

30/06/2012

With the IMF, France, Spain, Italy as well as a host of other organisations and nations all agreeing a change is needed to solve the eurozone crisis German Chancellor Angela Merkel crumbled amid such an coherent and cohesive onslaught.

Reports note that “Italy and Spain plunged an EU summit into disarray by threatening to block ‘everything’ unless Germany and other eurozone countries backed their demands for help.  Mario Monti, the Italian Prime Minister, celebrated the agreement, reached in the early hours of Friday, as a ‘very important deal for the future of the EU and the eurozone'”.

Crucially it add that “Under the deal, Spanish banks will be recapitalised directly by allowing a €100 billion EU bailout to transferred off Spain’s balance sheet after the European Central Bank takes over as the single currency’s banking supervisor at the end of the year. The decision, taken by a meeting of eurozone leaders in the early hours of Friday morning, will be based on a move to put the ECB at the centre of a ‘effective single supervisory mechanism’ for banks after an EU summit in December”. The article goes on to mention that “Relief for Spain was accompanied by a pledge to begin purchases of Italian bonds using EU bailout funds to reduce Italy’s borrowing costs with a lighter set of conditions, based on meeting Brussels fiscal targets rather than intrusive IMF oversight. A promise was also made to ‘examine the situation of the Irish financial sector’ offering possible relief to Ireland by relieving the government balance sheet debt burden. The Spanish bank bailout, to be agreed on 9 July, will initially use the euro’s European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) before it is transferred into a new permanent fund later this year”.

While others report that “deal, sealed by leaders in the early hours of Friday morning in Brussels, will allow stricken banks to directly access the region’s rescue fund. The hope is it will enable Ireland to return to international bond markets. Eamon Gilmore, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, said: ‘This is a massive breakthrough for Ireland and it changes the game in terms of our bank debt. This deal will allow the country to recover much faster.’ Under previous rules, rescue funds first had to be handed to governments before being passed on to troubled banks. That way countries like Spain ,which has been forced to intervene to help its banks, had to take on additional debt, pushing up borrowing costs. Dublin has lobbied hard for the changes, along with Spain and Italy. Germany had previously been resistant to the idea. Enda Kenny, Ireland’s prime minister, said the decision signalled a significant shift in eurozone policy”.

The reaction from the markets was predictable with “Sinner states lead the rally as fears of immediate default dissipated. The Italian MIB climbed 6.6pc; the Spanish Ibex rose 5.7pc and the Athens stock exchange closed up 5.7pc. Bourses in France, Germany and Sweden rose more than 4pc each. In London concerns over the latest bank crises were swept aside as the FTSE 100 closed up 1.4pc”. Not only that but borrowing costs for both Spain and Italy fell.

There is however still an enormus amount of work to be done but if these steps can be consolidated and more like them follow then financial stability may occur in Europe in the long term.

Last hurdles

30/06/2012

Amid the recent changes to the Roman Curia, Archbishop Joseph DiNoia speaks against those who view the Council as being important, while in related matters the last hurdles to unification with the SSPX and the Church are discussed. Yet interestingly for DiNoia these disagreements that are allowed for the SSPX are not allowed for others.

More at it

30/06/2012

After Barclays was found guilty of setting interest rates to its own advantage other British banks have now accused of similar acts

The report notes that “Britain’s four main high street lenders have agreed to compensate small and medium sized businesses mis-sold interest rate hedging products after the Financial Services Authority said it had found “serious failings” in the way they marketed to some customers. Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland have all agreed to immediately halt the sale of complex interest rate hedges to smaller businesses and have pledged to compensate potentially thousands of customers who have been hurt by the products that have left some firms with hundreds of thousands and even millions in costs they say they were never warned about”.

The article goes on to note that “The FSA said about 28,000 businesses had been sold interest rate hedges following a two-month review of the product that was prompted by an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph and The Daily Telegraph that uncovered widespread evidence of mis-selling by banks”.

In a strongly worded attackthe governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King “refused to back Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond, added that the behaviour of Barclays’ traders underlined the need to separate high street banking from casino trading operations. ‘What I hope is that everyone now understands that something went very wrong with the UK banking industry and we now need to put it right,’ he said. ‘From excessive levels of compensation, to shoddy treatment of customers, to deceitful manipulation of one of the most important interest rates'”.

The article goes on to note that “Sir Mervyn’s comments came just days after Barclays was hit with record fines of £290m for trying to rig the inter-bank interest rate, and on the morning that regulators ordered several major banks to compensate small businesses who were mis-sold complex financial instruments pushed by their investment bankers. At the Financial Stability Report press conference, the Governor twice refused to comment on whether Mr Diamond was a ‘fit and proper’ person to be running Barclays. ‘That is for another day and another place,’ he said. Mr Diamond is facing calls to resign over the scandal”.

These words though vital, need to be followed up by action. The UK government is currently moving financial regulation through parliament and the hope is that banks will no longer be allowed to set the LIBOR rate themselves. Indeed, the Government have ordered an inquiry amid public pressure.

Immoral banks, again

29/06/2012

Barclays, just one of a host of banks that set interest rates to suit them to the detriment of their own customers and the common good. Yet another damning indictment of greedy, destructive neoliberalism.

The common good secured

29/06/2012

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided to deem constitutional President Obama’s health care law in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. The 5-4 majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Amid media confusion and political tactics many initially thought that law had been struck down, with Senator John Kerry (D-MA) interrupting hearings in the Senate to announce that the law had been upheld.

Reports note how “court said the health law’s individual mandate, which requires most taxpayers to either buy insurance or pay a penalty, is a tax and is constitutional. The court also altered the law’s Medicaid expansion without striking it down entirely”. The article  adds that “The fact that Roberts — a bona fide conservative appointed by former President George W. Bush — wrote the majority opinion is a blow to Republicans who had claimed the mantle of the Constitution in opposing the individual mandate. Republicans will press ahead with symbolic votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but they will have to make significant gains in November’s election to actually stop Obama’s signature domestic achievement from taking effect”. It goes on to note importantly that “The decision allows Roberts — whose legacy will rest in large part on this case — to avoid the severe repercussions that both sides of the case had feared. The court did not strike down the signature domestic achievement of a sitting president, nor did it give its approval to an expansion of Congress’s powers. The ruling will also change the way the political left and right view Roberts, who with his majority opinion became a target for conservatives. Roberts’ opinion on the mandate was joined by the court’s liberal members — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan”. The report goes on to mention how the “justices upheld the mandate as a use of Congress’ tax powers — not as a regulation of interstate commerce. Obama argued repeatedly during the legislative debate that the mandate is not a tax, and the law would have been even more difficult to pass if Democrats had described the mandate as a tax”. Lastly, the piece notes how the “five justices in the Supreme Court’s majority are the first judges in the country to side with the Obama administration’s tax argument. It was rejected in every lower court, even those that ultimately upheld the healthcare law”.

Others mention how President Obama “initially thought his healthcare mandate had been overturned due to erroneous reports on cable news, according to senior administration officials. Obama had been standing in a room outside the Oval Office staring at a muted television screen showing four networks — including CNN, MSNBC, FOX News and one other — when his general counsel, Kathy Ruemmler, came into the room flashing two thumbs up. Ruemmler was the one to tell Obama and his chief of staff, Jack Lew, that the administration’s signature legislation had actually been upheld, senior administration officials said”.

Naturally, the winners and losers of the decision have been examined. The article notes that “decision has significantly changed the electoral landscape, though it remains to be seen whether the decision will help Democrats or Republicans at the polls this November”.  The article notes that among the winners are President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, AARP as well as interestingly, GOP fundraising efforts. The article says that the losers are the Tea Party, industry and President Bush, who appointed Roberts to the Court.

Others mention the reaction of the GOP with Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL),  “a member of the Judiciary Committee who participated in Roberts’s lengthy confirmation hearings. ‘I think history may record that he was not right. I think he may have made a mistake.'” Yet such rhetoric belies not only the shock but the uncertainty and non committal attitude with what Sessions himself was saying. The report also notes the usual individualistic neoliberal hot air from Bachmann/Palin. It mentions how “Roberts ruled that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause did not allow the insurance mandate, but that it was constitutional under Congress’s power of taxation”. The usual common sense came from “Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), another member of the Judiciary Committee, said he was not surprised at all by Roberts’s opinion and said Republican colleagues should not be upset”.

In an attempt to scare the electorate, the shamelessly hypercritical Mitt Romney said that “hat the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Obama’s healthcare law would put an unprecedented burden on people, including raising their taxes. ‘ObamaCare raises taxes on the American people by $500 billion,’ Romney said Thursday at a press conference across the street from the U.S. Capitol. ‘ObamaCare cuts Medicare — cuts Medicare by approximately $500 billion. And even with those cuts and tax increases, ObamaCare adds trillions to our deficits and to our national debt, and pushes those obligations onto coming generations.'”

Finally, others have tried to tie the incorrect notion of American decline to the Court’s ruling. Even if it is a tax America’s, especially wealthy Americans need to pay more tax anyway. The Court can be proud that it guarded the common good for all, not just those who can afford it, despite protecting their previous decisions of Citizens United on super pacs.

Pallium ceremony altered

29/06/2012

First the consistory ceremony changes and now the pallium imposition changes on this the Feast of SS Peter and Paul.

Not a fair comparison

29/06/2012

Despite the endless harping on by many of the economic right, government is not like business and cannot accurately be compared to one another.

An piece in the Economist draws this contrast out with an article centred around, Rick Scott, Republican governor of Florida. It opens arguing that one of “the most enduring American political ideas is the notion that government can and should be run like a business. Candidates who have succeeded in the corporate world, the theory goes, can bring their no-nonsense, job-creating wisdom to politics”.

It mentions how Scott, a multimillionare ventre capitalist, ” spent more than $70m of his own money on his campaign, boasting of his business acumen while deriding his opponents as insiders and ‘career politicians'”. The article goes on to note that “he has never been particularly well liked: he entered office with a 33% approval rating, which dipped last December to 26% before rising, by April, to 34%, making him one of America’s least popular governors”. It adds that these figures are exercabated by the fact that, with no political support base, and at the same time have to cut state spending and freeze pay, these figures will doubtless drop further.

Getting to the real point of the article it mentions how “He has also seemed hazy on the distinction between what government and private entities are allowed to do. Mr Scott has pushed two blanket drug-testing bills, one for people on welfare and one for state employees. The former was put on hold in October and the latter struck down in April, both on the grounds that they violate the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. Mr Scott has promised to appeal against the state-employee ruling, arguing that many private employers test their entire workforces. True enough, but the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the government, unlike private employers, cannot simply test everyone who draws a pay-cheque”.

It gives another example that the influential Cuban-American community became frusterated with Scott when “he held a signing ceremony in Miami for a bill that bans Florida’s government entities doing $1m or more of business with companies operating in Cuba or Syria”, yet it continues, “Just after he signed, however, and unbeknown to the enthusiastic Cuban-American politicians who appeared with him, he released a letter in which he stated that the bill he had just signed was ineffective because it conflicted with federal law”. The whole debacle is far from over as the article notes that “David Rivera, a Cuban-American congressman from south Florida, threatened to sue Mr Scott if the law did not take effect”.  It concludes “Scott quickly backtracked, promising to enforce the law (which may, however, be legally impossible)”. This highly inaccurate and flawed premise is the entire basis for Mitt Romeny’s campaign.

Yet besides these examples, on a  more basic level there are rightly, fundamental differences between industry and government. The former seeks only to make a profit, increasingly irrespective to the cost to the common good. Government almost be definition, must protect all citizens. Much of shrinking of the state should not be for ideological reasons but merely pragmatism. Allowing companies to  provide security in place of government is a dangerous precedent that must be stopped before the state cedes more to the private sector that it would eventually regret. States, can, normally, run deficits, due to the fact that the services governments should and must provide. Many services government provides are not “cost effective”. There are many buses and trains that run throughout the day but are only used in any volume during rush hour. Yet, they are run anyway as a result of this idea that profit is not the goal of government.

A delivery for Mr Assange

28/06/2012

After his numerous appeals failed, white terrorist, Julian Assange, was visited by “officers from the Metropolitan Police’s extradition unit delivered a note to the embassy this morning saying Mr Assange has to present himself to Belgravia police station at 11.30am tomorrow [29 June]”. Assange  who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London seeking refuge will be arrested once he sets foot on UK soil.

Arrogance and stupidity

28/06/2012

Merkel has brushed asidepleas from Spain and Italy for financial aid, she “angrily rejected desperate pleading by Italy and Spain as a Franco-German rift over eurozone debt sharing threatened to unravel efforts to find a fix for the single currency at a meeting of European leaders”. The report adds that Merkel told German MPs “that instead of more cash the eurozone needed to step up debt reduction and economic reforms”, the report notes that she said “‘I fear that at the summit we will talk too much about all these ideas for joint liability and too little about improved controls and structural measures,’ she said. Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish Prime Minister, said he would plead with other leaders to allow euro bail-out funds or the European Central Bank to stabilise financial markets by helping to reduce borrowing costs, running at nearly 7pc for Spain”.

A separate report produced by president of the European Council, Herman van Roumpy sets out a plan for a full banking union. The plan  “would be the first step in a long-term roadmap to political union that he will outline to EU leaders, with dates and institutional problems such as treaty change set out by year’s end. ‘Banking union is a fundamental element,’ he told German paper Welt am Sonntag, in an interview published on Sunday. ‘I think we can move forward there more quickly than in other areas.’ The success of his plan depends on whether EU leaders can overcome opposition to increasing the role of the European Central Bank”.

Yet, the reactionfrom Merkel was met with predictable flexibility, “In a speech to parliament in Berlin the German Chancellor said that agreeing to the popular eurobond debt pooling proposal would violate Germany’s constitution: ‘Euro bonds, euro bills, debt redemption funds are not only unconstitutional in Germany but also economically wrong and counterproductive'”.

However, some have tried to defend Merkel claiming that she is protecting her national sovereignty. This argument is laughable, with Merkel being a key driver of gradual and deeply undemocratic EU unification before the crisis. Now suddenly she has found her inner nationalist  at the worst possible time.

When it comes to paying for their beloved EU project those previously most in favour of it are now against it, to the detriment of not just Europe but the rest of the world economy.

Sounding tough

28/06/2012

After the still murky clash between Syria and Turkey, “Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, has threatened Syria with military retaliation if their border is encroached upon”. Even Syria would not be stupid enough to attack Turkey, hopefully.

Justice done

28/06/2012

The highest Church official in American history has been found guilty in a recent verdict in a Philadelphia  trial.

Rocco writes that “After a 12-week trial and 13 days of deliberations” adding that the “jury announced that it found Msgr William Lynn — the beleaguered archdiocese’s clergy personnel chief from 1992 to 2004 — guilty on a single count of endangering the welfare of a minor”.

He goes on to write that “The charge having stemmed from a grand jury’s indictment that Lynn covered up the history of another priest who, on the eve of the landmark trial, pled guilty to having abused a 10 year-old boy in the late 1990s, the conviction marks the first time a church official in the English-speaking world has been criminally punished for his handling of an allegation”.

He mentions that the only parrell is a now retired French bishop, “Pierre Pican, was convicted in 2001 for failing to report a predator priest to the authorities, and was given a suspended sentence. Later this year, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St Joseph is slated to stand trial on a local charge of failing to report a priest whose alleged possession of child pornography was found to have been known by officials in the Missouri diocese for months before civil authorities were alerted”. Rocco  notes that “Lynn was seen to be weeping as he was immediately remanded into custody pending an August sentencing. According to wire reports, the single guilty count is likely to bring a jail term of three and a half to seven years; the defendant is said to have turned down a plea bargain prior to the trial’s late-March start”.

Lynn’s defence was predicated “on the testimony of the former secretary and his aides to assert that the policy was carried out on the orders of the then-archbishop, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua”. Indeed, although Lynn rightly was found guilty, Cardinal Bevilacqua would have had significant questions to answer, and no doubt had to answer similar questions before God.

Interestingly, Rocco makes note of “the jury’s stalemate elsewhere led to a mistrial on the charges against the monsignor’s co-defendant — the suspended priest James Brennan, who last year’s second grand-jury probing the Philadelphia church’s response to allegations accused of abuse and a conspiracy to conceal it, likewise dating to the late 1990s”.

Others who have focused solely on the trial have noted “the jury’s repudiation of the prosecution’s central allegation in the priest abuse case: that Lynn had somehow conspired with predator priests to keep them in ministry, so they could abuse new victims. The prosecution’s conspiracy theory was basically that the monsignor got up every morning and said, hey, what can I do today to keep our bad boys in collars, so they can continue to rape, pillage and molest more innocent children”. The writer adds that “the jury foreman in the case went on Fox 29 and said that nobody on the jury bought the prosecutors’ conspiracy theory that sounded far-fetched when the trial began back in March, and seems even more absurd now that the three-month trial is over, and no evidence was ever presented to back it up”.

The entry goes on to note that Lynn will appeal the verdict. For the sake of what is left of the Church’s credibility, he should not.

Transparent

28/06/2012

The Vatican City State looks set to pass international regulations and come off the international black list for states that do not comply with international transparency standards. Pope Benedict will be extremely pleased, Bertone will not.

Morsi vs SCAF?

27/06/2012

After the announcement of Mohamed Morsi was elected president of Egypt there has been discussion as to what will happen next. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces obviously made a decision that ignoring the election result and giving the presidency to Ahmed Safiq would be a step to far, which the people might not tolerate.

Some have argued that Morsi said he was quitting the Brotherhood and inviting other parties into his government in the interests of a united country. But Robert Danin, a Middle East expert for CFR, is skeptical about Morsi’s bid to rule a united Egypt. ‘I don’t think Egyptians are buying it,’ says Danin. ‘The real test will come with the policies that he promulgates, and to whom he really turns.'” The article goes on to note that “he was the default candidate when Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater was barred from running”.

Others have noted that “Over the course of Egypt’s troubled transition, the Brotherhood has become increasingly, and uncharacteristically, assertive in its political approach. Renouncing promises not to seek the presidency and entering into an overt confrontation with the ruling military council, the Brotherhood’s bid to “save the revolution” has been interpreted by others as an all-out power grab. Egypt’s liberals, as well as the United States, now worry about the implications of unchecked Brotherhood rule”. Thankfully SCAF have stepped in to protect the Christian minority and check the powers of a totally untested Brotherhood. The article goes on to mention that “Under the repression of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, the Brotherhood’s unofficial motto was ‘participation, not domination.’ The group was renowned for its caution and patient (some would say too patient) approach to politics. When I sat down with Morsi in May 2010 — just months before the revolution and well before he could have ever imagined being Mubarak’s successor — he echoed the leadership’s almost stubborn belief in glacial but steady change”. Worryingly he goes on to say that “Like many Brotherhood leaders, he nurtured a degree of resentment toward Egypt’s liberals. They were tiny and irrelevant, the thinking went, so why were they always asking for so much? “. The article adds that “Historically, the Brotherhood has been one of the more consistent purveyors of anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment. While some Brotherhood leaders, particularly lead strategist Khairat El Shater, are less strident in their condemnations and less willfully creative with their conspiracy theories in private, Morsi is not”. Yet an organisation’s history may only have a minor impact on its modern day form, especially one as large as the Brotherhood.

Others have written that “‘complementary constitutional declaration‘ withdrew most powers from the presidency, rendering the position only slightly more politically relevant than the Queen of England. You may remember that the SCAF dissolved parliament last week by way of the constitutional court and effectively assumed legislative powers. It then arrogated to itself the authority to decide on all things military: appointing the minister of defense and army leaders, extending their terms, and making the president’s authority to declare war — traditionally exclusive to the commander-in-chief — conditional on the SCAF’s approval”. He concludes arguing that “There is also speculation that the Brotherhood will again cut a deal with the SCAF whereby they will acquiesce to the Constitutional Declaration in exchange for a Morsi presidency. If that happens, the Brotherhood would pull out its supporters, leaving the activists, outnumbered, to pay in blood in a possibly open confrontation with the military. All these elements mean that the main revolutionary groups and leaders are unlikely to come out in support of the Brotherhood on this one, both in distrust of the Islamists, but also in a bid to watch the SCAF and the Brotherhood weaken one another”.

Lastly, an article discusses Egypt’s constitutional crisis.  Although this is really only secondary to the various security issues that best the region. With Honsi Mubark chronically ill, his legacy is assessed.

Women in politics

27/06/2012

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in the current issue of the Atlantic has sparked a firestorm of debate, with deeper meaning for America and “the West”, but crucially, Who Cares How Many Women Are in Parliament?

All but one

27/06/2012

Yesterday, 26 June, Pope Benedict appointed Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, OP who had been serving as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments since 11 July 2009, as vice-president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. With the regularisation of the SSPX into the Church imminent Benedict obviously feels that Archbishop Di Noia’s talents are best at Ecclesia Dei. Archbishop Di Noia has been credited with reorganising the congregation after “Pope Benedict’s ‘motu proprio’ of 30 August 2011, ‘Quaerit Semper'”. Others note that “The doctrinal congregation also emphasized that Archbishop Di Noia enjoys ‘broad respect’ in the Jewish community, which ‘will help in addressing some issues that have arisen in the area of Catholic-Jewish relations as the journey toward reconciliation of the traditionalist communities has progressed.'” The article adds that “Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told journalists that the new position is a sign of ‘the importance and delicate nature of the kind of difficulties’ with which the commission is dealing and should not be seen as an indication of how things are proceeding with the society”.

At the same time Benedict appointed Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds to replace Archbishop Di Noia. On the same day Ennio Cardinal Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family was retired having been appointed in 2008. He was replaced by Vincenzo Paglia, formerly bishop of Terni with close links to the Sant’Egidio movement. Unusally, Cardinal Antonelli did not complete his five year term but was allowed to retire early.

Cardinal Farina who retired from his post of archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church on 9 June had his successor named, as expected, Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès OP formerly secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education. Benedict obviously chose not to appoint a senior curial cardinal near the retirement age as was previously thought.

Also on 26 June Archbishop Piergiuseppe Vacchelli, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples was retired and Protase Rugambwa, formerly bishop of Kigoma, Tanzania. Lastly, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv. was retired as regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary with Fr Krzysztof Józef Nykiel appointed as his replacement. Fr Nykeil, a former CDF official, was not appointed a bishop although this is not unusual for holders of his new post.

Interestingly, some of the appointments where not Italian, with Polish, Tanzanian, French and English priests all receiving posts in the Curia. This is amid increasing resentment by some who view the Curia as once again being dominated by Italians.

Naturally, Archbishop Paglia and Archbishop Brugues will be created cardinals next year just behind the next CDF prefect, the announcement of which did not come, but one is expected in the next few days.

Getting heated

26/06/2012

Syria shoots at a Turkish jet(s), in unknown circumstances, but rules out war.

Chatter from Rome

26/06/2012

This week is expected to bring the confirmation of what has been thought for many months, the appointment of Bishop Gerhard Muller, 64, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith replacing Cardinal Levada, 76.

Despite Muller’s connections to the much despised, in Rome at least, liberation theology, there seems to be no real obstacles to his appointment for Pope Benedict. It is well known that the then Cardinal Ratzinger cracked down on liberation theology in the 1970s.  That is not to say that Benedict certainly knows about Muller ties to it. When Cardinal Rosales of Manila was being replaced by then-Bishop Luis Tagle of Imus, the Congregation for Bishops seemed to be unaware of Tagle’s support for the idea of Vatican II as a break from the past. Indeed, Benedict has spent much of his pontificate redefining the Council, sometimes ignoring it completely, in order to meet other ends.

The article adds to the talk of the succession of Cardinal Bertone, the much criticesd Secretary of State. The piece quotes Andre Cardinal Vingt-Trois who “stressed recently in an interview: ‘Cardinal Bertone is 78 years old. It is no secret that his departure from the Secretariat of State is imminent‘”. It is uncertain whether this view can be taken as truthful, as it is thought that Cardinal Vingt-Trois and Cardinal Bertone have differening views on many subjects. It should not be ruled out that the former may wish the latter to leave office.  Talk of a temporary measure, a pro-secretary, seems to have faded, with Cardinal Bertone either leaving or remaining on. The newsarticle notes that the successor, if there is one, is likely to be an Italian who is close to Pope  Benedict, liturgically, theologically and personally. This could be almost anyone but some of the names who fit this category are, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, or a host of other diplomats, should he chose to go down that particular route.

Lastly, report aslo mentions that a successor to Cardinal Farina, who retired as archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church earlier this month, is also about to be named. Instead of the usual assortment of diplomats such as Archbishop Franco, the report named Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, OP currently serving as secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education as the most likely person to be appointed. Archbishop Brugues who has been serving since 2007 under the longtime prefect, Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski.

Yet, as has been mentioned here before, Benedict could move Cardinal Grocholewski from his job at Catholic Education and appoint him to the Vatican Archives. As was argued before the best choice, Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J.  currently serving as secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would be most suited to the role and appointing Ladaria Ferrer would keep the custom of CDF secretaries becoming cardinals.

However, moving Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer at the same time, or very soon after the arrival of a new prefect at the CDF might be considered unwise. Benedict could therefore named Muller as expected and wait until September, or even the new year before appointing Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer to Catholic Education. Though, Benedict would not necessarily have to wait to move Cardinal Grocholewski to the archives but could leave Archbishop Brugues in charge over what would be the quiet summer months anyway.

All will be revealed soon enough.

Crown Prince Salman

24/06/2012

After the sudden death of Crown Prince Nayef, as expected Prince Salman was appointed as the new crown prince. Regrettably, Prince Ahmed, 71, was appointed to lead the Interior Ministry instead of a younger man. Now attention must turn as to who will become second deputy prime minister.

Unusual comparison

24/06/2012

After Cardinal Levada was interviewed by John Allen, now it is the turn of the head of the LCWR.

While this is occurring, others have noted that that is a strange comparison between the generally LCWR and the Society of Saint Pius X who, it is thought, are on the cusp of re-entering the Church. He writes in Jesuit magazine America, that “it pays more to rebel than to faithfully question. The Vatican, under Benedict XVI, is doing somersaults to get the excommunicated, anti-semitic Lefebvrists back into the church’s tent”. Indeed, as has says, Pope Benedict has fundamentally changed the position of the Church from the Second Vatican Council being the test of acceptance of the SSPX to the Council being sidelined thus removing the last effective block of the SSPX readmission.

He goes on to write that “what parts of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council will SSPX get to pick and choose? I bet some of those teachings they want to get rid of are those crazy Vatican II decrees on the priesthood of the laity (Lumen Gentium), on the rights of Christ’s faithful (Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes), and certainly those nutty things the Council said about the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), about religious liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) and the unacceptability of ant-semitism (Nostra Aetate)”.

Indeed, while Benedict does accept these documents, his reading of them is substantially different to the standard reading that has prevailed over the course of the last five decades. Yet, as has been argued here before on these matters, Benedict is going too far, giving away too much, in accommodating a tiny sect, in some ways, detached from reality. Yet, Benedict’s vision for a smaller, more doctrinally pure Church seems to be the driving force for this change in thought from Vatican II.

As the writer acidly, though correctly says, “So now it is SSPX (flip!) that gets to tell the pope what he needs to believe? And what is even more troubling in this bizarre roundelay is that it is the Vatican that is pursuing the Lefebvrists, and not the other way around”.  He invites the reader to compare “this jilted lover’s pursuit of SSPX with the Vatican’s treatment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)”.

He goes on to stoutly defend the LCWR writing “according to the Vatican, the good sisters are too much concerned about the poor and the marginalized and not enough about crucial  church teachings against abortion and contraception. But helping the poor is the best way of fighting abortions, since the vast majority of abortions are economic ones. And as for fighting contraception, well, we all know what the church teaches, and we can judge for ourselves the acceptance of that teaching by Christ’s faithful. The nuns have absolutely nothing to do with that”. This does overlook the fact the the LCWR have only made things worse for themselves in high Church circles  by acting deliberately aggressively, thus putting those who support them in a harder position.

He concludes playfully, ” To get the Vatican to begin pursuing instead of persecuting them, the good sisters need to go into schism. They need to find a bishop or two with apostolic succession to get them started. Citing the findings of the Pontifical Biblical Commission that there is no scriptural basis for the prohibition on female priests, they could declare John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be heretical”.

And so it continues.

Origins of failed states

24/06/2012

Reasons why countries become failed states.

Not the first time

24/06/2012

Not for the first time talks with Iran over its nuclear programme have failed. Reuters notes that Baroness Ashton “said after two days of talks in Moscow that significant differences remained and the two sides had agreed only on a technical follow-up meeting in Istanbul on July 3. A deal had not been widely expected and although experts said the sides were far apart, they welcomed the fact talks had at least not broken down completely”.

It adds that “If talks do eventually collapse, financial markets could be hit by fears of war and of higher oil prices because Israel has threatened to attack Iranian nuclear sites to prevent Tehran getting the bomb”, yet there is some doubt as to whether Israel has the ability or permission, from the United States, to carry out such an attack.

The report mentions that Ashton “added: ‘The choice is Iran’s. We expect Iran to decide whether it is willing to make diplomacy work to focus on concrete confidence-building steps, and to address the concerns of the international community.’ Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, told a separate news conference that he hoped a date would be agreed for new political talks after the Istanbul meeting, which will address unspecified technical details. He said the talks were more serious than two other meetings since April, but condemned U.N. resolutions that have pressed Iran to suspend nuclear enrichment and Iranian officials at the talks repeatedly denounced international sanctions on Tehran”.

The piece goes on to say that “the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain – say Iran must do more to prove that its program, some of which was concealed from inspectors for years, is truly peaceful and not intended to build weapons”, adding later that “the failure to achieve progress towards a deal prompted a swift call for new pressure on Iran by U.S. Republican Senator Mark Kirk, who co-authored U.S. sanctions on Tehran”.

Under the guise of a false realism, Dr Walt has called for sanctions to be lifted on Iran. Sanctions should not be lifted now when the regime is split and but Walt’s fear of a war is over exaggerated, with the usual “neocons” to blame for the “drum beat for war”.

The new Saudi Arabia?

24/06/2012

An article notes that “Venezuela has surpassed Saudi, and become the world’s largest reserve of oil. With 296 billion barrels, Venezuela has 18 percent of the oil on the planet; Saudi Arabia, with 265 billion barrels, has 16 percent (Canada’s 175 billion barrels make it third, with 11 percent of the global total). Yet, oil is one sphere where possession is not nine-tenths of the law. Saudi Arabia remains king because of what it does and, more important, can do with its oil. For starters, the Saudis are the world’s biggest oil exporters (10.1 million barrels a day in April); Venezuela exported 2.1 million barrels of oil a day, the seventh in rank, according to OPEC. But the more salient factor is Saudi’s residual capability — it is the sole country able to add meaningful daily volumes to global production in a pinch; Venezuela’s spare production capacity is effectively zero”.

Cornered

22/06/2012

The euro crisis rolls on with “European leaders hoped the ECB would re-start its bond buying programme to bring yields down. But the central bank apparently ‘declined’. ‘Leaders will claim that this is their ‘decisive’ response but actually its because the ECB has said it won’t buy any more bonds. This has left leaders with very little choice,’ said the source. The European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) and European Stability Mechanism (ESM) were set up to buy eurozone sovereign bonds. But the capability has never been used because the ECB has been the main buyer of bonds through its securities market programme (SMP)”.

Crucially the piece adds that “Experts said markets were unlikely to be convinced by the plan unless Germany agrees to some concessions, particularly giving the ESM a bank licence”.

Amid usual German intransigence  continues unabated, Spanish borrowing costs soar, with “Madrid was forced to offer 6.07pc yield on five year bonds to raise €2.2bn – the highest rate since the euro was launched and strongest signal yet that the door to the capital markets is closing to Spain. By comparison, France sold five year paper at all-time low yield of 1.43pc. European stockmarkets slid marginally”, adding that “Another audit of Spain’s banks is due in September. Experts welcomed Madrid’s efforts to expose the real state of its banks but plenty warned the numbers were deteriorating fast. The economist Nicholas Spiros said: ‘In the space of a fortnight we have already gone from a €37bn forecast for Spanish banks’ capital needs in a stressed scenario to a €52-62bn one. This begs the question: what will the more detailed audit in September reveal?’ The finance ministers were urged to boost the role of the eurozone’s bailout funds – to help both Spain and Greece”.

With Merkel, Mario Monti, Mariano Rajoy and Francois Hollande meeting at Rome’s Villa Madama today to discuss the introduction of a financial transaction tax across Europe. However, the German constitutional court ruled that they would need three weeks to see whether the ESM was complied with German law, a massive setback for Merkel. Also on the agenda will surely be some discussion of the increasingly difficult Spanish situation and Monti’s hope to bring something positive back to Italy before he is forced to leave office.

Yet, amid the talks in Rome the IMF have unveiled a plan to save the euro, essentially calling for massive German action. With senior eurocrat, Jean Claude Juncker saying Greece could be given some additional time in dealing with its debt. This is in direct contradiction to what Merkel has been repeatedly saying.

Perhaps now Frau Merkel will realise that she might be wrong given that her plans are tearing her beloved “European project” apart?

Oil aplenty

22/06/2012

To understand why companies wish to drill off the U.S. eastern seaboard, you need only make a beeline 5,000 miles southeast — straight to Jubilee, an oilfield off the shore of the west African nation of Ghana. Because there are an estimated 1.5 billion barrels of oil in Jubilee, the reckoning goes, there just might be oil off the coast of Virginia. The reason is ancient geology — Africa and the Americas were once one gigantic continent“.

Pakistan = Egypt?

22/06/2012

After the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces helped dissolve the Egyptian parliament and took sweeping powers for themselves, there has been further developments. SCAF seem to know just how much the Egyptian people will tolerate.

An article mentions how the Muslim Brotherhood “led a fresh demonstration in Tahrir Square to protest against the army’s decision to dissolve the Brotherhood-led parliament and seize veto powers over the constitution”. All this amid the fact that there has been a significant delay in declaring a new president, despite most observers think that the Brotherhood candidate has won.

It continues “the Brotherhood stepped back from mooted plans to force a confrontation at the parliament building, which was surrounded by troops and riot police. Just two MPs arrived to try to force their way in, but left after being repelled”, adding that the army could still award the presidency to former prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq. Yet, the Brotherhood, know that they could gain a huge sympathy vote in the next elections, whenever they are, if they play their cards right. Understandably, almost the entire Christian population in Egypt back SCAF and Shafiq as they are still unsure as to what path the Brotherhood will take Egypt on.

He goes on to write that if the presidency was handed to Shafiq, the consequences of that “would undoubtedly reignite the possibility of conflict, possibly violent, between the Brotherhood’s supporters, secular activists and the authorities”. Yet, this is far from certain. He goes on to say that “Assuming Mr Morsi is confirmed as president, the stage is set for a new period of uneasy co-operation between the army and the Brotherhood. The army has reserved to itself a control over all military and security matters, and will have the legislative and budgetary powers of parliament until new elections. But the presidency still has the right to form a government, which in Egypt has until now been independent of parliament”. If all this happens, and there is no certainty that it will, SCAF will have to play a careful balancing act and hope that the Brotherhood get the blame for the country’s increasingly dire economic state. If SCAF can then improve this, they may be able to hold onto power with tacit assent from the people.

Shashank Joshi has taken the situation and blown it out of all proportion, comparing Egypt to Pakistan. He argues that SCAF “are turning it into a new Pakistan: a self-destructive and stagnating military dictatorship, limping along in sporadic democratic spurts. It is a squalid and tragic outcome for a country that should have been leading a political renaissance of the Arab world”. Firstly, in Pakistan there has also been an effective coup with the Prime Minister stripped of his office but while this might bear some comparison to Egypt the Pakisatani SIS is riddled with Islamists who wholeheartedly back the Taliban/al-Qaeda axis both out of conviction and in an attempt to weaken India. So now a slow motion coup is underway in Pakistan with the Islamist armed forces taken over the country. In Egypt, things are rather different. Their the Muslim Brotherhood have been elected(?) and while elections are generally good things, they are a disaster when they come at the expense of stability and a reasonably pro-American government.

The great unknown is that the Brotherhood could tip yet another country in the Middle East into a radical Islamist base that supports terrorism.  Of course, the Brotherhood have never held power anywhere so this is merely a theory, but what if it turned out to be true? He goes on to argue that SCAF’s “members could not stand losing their economic empire, political perks, and status as Egyptian national heroes. But like most armies that think they can govern, they have driven the economy into the ground”. This is correct and the perks of these generals do need to end, but with outside assistance the economy could recover, given time.

He goes on to write that “Egypt might have been Turkey – a flawed but booming Islamist-led democracy, which succeeded in putting its coup-prone military back in the box. Instead, with every passing day of this car-crash transition, Egypt heads further in the direction of Pakistan”. He again seems to entertain only the best scenario for Egypt.

Yet, the fundamental reason why Egypt is not Pakistan, it does not have a virulent Islamist infected military with ties to terrorists that could, in  the extreme, hand over nuclear weapons to them. For that, we should all be pleased that the comparison if fatally flawed.

 

Burke on SSPX

22/06/2012

Cardianal Burke speaks on the talks of reconcilition.

Good news for some, bad news for others

22/06/2012

As the price of oil falls, largely as a result of the seemingly never ending euro crisis.

LeVine in an article on the consequences of this notes that this drop in oil prices means while citizens are pleased, “Less so are the world’s petro-rulers, who are watching the price of oil — their life blood — plunge at a rate they have not experienced since the dreaded year 2008. Industry analysts are using phrases such as ‘devastation’ and ‘severe strain’ to describe what is next for the petro-states should prices plummet as low as some fear. No one is as yet forecasting a fresh round of Arab Spring-like regime implosions. But that’s the nightmare scenario if you happen to run a petrocracy”.

He adds that “The price of U.S.-traded oil fell to $83.27 a barrel on Monday, and global benchmark Brent crude to $96.05 a barrel; now juxtapose that against the state budgets of Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, which require more than $110-a-barrel Brent prices to break even”. As he mentions this drop in prices not only affects the Middle East but also Venezuela where Hugo Chavez is ill and it is far from certain what could follow after him.

Things could get much worse, or better, depending on what position you are in as he writes that “prices drop another $20 a barrel for an extended length of time. Oil economist Philip Verleger’s forecast is even gloomier — a plunge to $40 a barrel by November. Or finally, what Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez fears — $35-a-barrel prices, near the lows last seen in 2008. In Russia, for instance, ‘$35 or $40, or even $60 a barrel, would be devastating fiscally,’ says Andrew Kuchins of the Center for Strategic and International Studies”. It would only be a slight exxageration to say that Putin’s entire presidency and economic and military plans, rely on a high oil price. Without this, Russia has little real power with a country in demographic freefall, a poor equiped and trained army and a host of economic problems that retard sustainable growth.

He goes on to write that “Saudi Arabia can balance its budget as long as prices stay above $80 a barrel, according to the International Monetary Fund, although projected future social spending obligations will drive its break-even price to $98 a barrel in 2016”, adding that “only Qatar — with a requirement of about $58-per-barrel to balance its budget — appears to have sufficiently disciplined state spending to weather all but the most dire forecasts”. LeVine writes that the price will fall further, but the real question he asks is how long it will stay low enough to cause trouble.

Interestingly he mentions how Saudi Arabia, a country that more than most, depends on high oil prices, seems to be doing itself damage by pumping more and allowing prices to keep falling. Yet, he writes that “the Saudis are out for blood when it comes to fellow petro-states Russia and Iran, the former for failing to help calm the fury in Syria, and the latter for refusing to go to heel and give up its nuclear ambitions; in both cases, the Saudis think lower prices will produce a more reasonable attitude. In addition, Saudi Arabia is terrified of a current U.S. boom in shale oil; it is hoping that lower prices will render much of the drilling in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale and Canada’s oil sands uneconomical. Finally, the Saudis are well aware that low oil prices helped to turn around the global economic downturn in 1998 and 1999, and they hope to help accomplish the same now, and perhaps win new affection from the world’s leading economies”.

However, by inflicting pain on Iran and Russia, Saudi Arabia is also hurting itself, yet as writes that they are able to take this pain and “are willing to suffer the consequences, knowing that their own financial reserves (some $700 billion) give them staying power”.

He concludes noting that there is some disagreement as to whether the price will fall to $90,$70 or $35 a barrel, but the potential for enormous political ramifications is unmistakable. He notes, with great realism that, “The conditions that led to the string of Arab Spring ousters were not so much the lack of democracy as widespread public dissatisfaction with personal economic prospects”. He adds that when Chavez “can no longer milk the state oil company for public payouts, for instance, his political support could be in jeopardy”.

If this price does fall significantly from what it is now, this summer could be more restive in Moscow and Caracas that the last two years.

Pakistan slides further into chaos

21/06/2012

The PM has been effectively sacked by the Supreme Court with “The move to disqualify Mr Gilani however means months of wrangling and government inaction ahead of elections next year, at a time when Pakistan is struggling with a Taliban insurgency, fraught relations with the US and crippling countrywide power cuts that have prompted riots. It is the latest twist in a long-running tussle between the energetic Chief Justice and a weak civilian government that has stumbled from crisis to crisis”.

The time is now

21/06/2012

Osborne has decided to secure the common good and encact, more or less, the banking reforms proposed by Sir John Vickers.

A piece in the Guardian mentions that Osborne “is to announce that he has faced down strong lobbying pressure from the City and is to press ahead with plans to ringfence the high street operations of Britain’s major banks from their higher-risk investment banking arms. In an attempt to prevent a repeat of the crisis that saw a run on Northern Rock and the part-nationalisation of Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group, a government white paper to be published by the Treasury includes the bulk of the recommendations made by the independent commission on banking (ICB) headed by Sir John Vickers”.

The report goes on to mention how Osborne “has agreed to only three significant changes from the Vickers report, but has not changed his mind about the need to ensure that banks’ customers are protected from losses generatedby the speculations of investment bankers”. The article goes on to mention how “UK banks have been urging Osborne to ensure that the ringfencing does not impose onerous restrictions on their businesses. The chancellor said in the 2011 Mansion House speech that he supported the Vickers approach to banking reform and will say that Thursday’s white paper demonstrates how the coalition plans to have a new structure for the industry in place within seven years”.

It concludes that “The chancellor will tell City grandees at Mansion House that legislation must be on the statute book by the end of the current parliament in spring 2015 and implemented by 2019 at the latest”.

As expected the drumbeat on behalf of individualistic neoliberalism is not far behind these sensible and hugely necessary reforms. The opinion piece says that “With the world economy heading for hell in a handcart – all the conventional measures of financial and economic stress are again flashing extreme, pre-Lehman-like, danger – we can be thankful for one thing. Never mind the impending doom, those clever clogs at the Treasury have been beavering away on a programme of banking reform that ensures this kind of thing can never happen again”. Yet this is the argument used time and again to frustrate the common good and protect the citizens of the state, and therefore the state itself. If regulation is not to be implemented now then when?

He goes on to describe it as “an expensive waste of effort” going on to argue that  the “Government has already dealt with failings in banking supervision by deciding to get rid of Gordon Brown’s hopelessly misconceived Financial Services Authority and reuniting prudential oversight with its natural home at the Bank of England.Yesterday we were presented with yet another White Paper on financial reform, this one intended to give substance to the Vickers proposals for changing the architecture of the banks themselves. What’s proposed is essentially just the G20 agenda for winding up problem banks, but with bells and whistles attached – a capital surcharge, depositor preference and, most controversial of all, ring-fencing of ordinary retail banking from wholesale banking”.

He concludes that “There is, of course, nothing wrong with this kind of slamming of barn doors long after the horse has bolted. After messing up so monumentally, shredding the public finances in the process, bankers have surrendered any right they might once have had to self-governance. But if we take the banking crisis now tearing the eurozone apart as an example, there is not a single thing in this White Paper which would have prevented it”, adding later that the proposed reforms are useless and implies that they do not go far enough, when he says “Large parts of yesterday’s reform agenda are just costly window dressing, a triumph of political posturing over economic sense”.

He ends saying that the present crisis should take precedence over all else, but when growth begins again it will be too late and there will be no mood for regulation. Now is the time.

A route to legitimacy

20/06/2012

It is thought that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Mursi, has won the presidential election. However, the power of the presidency have been reduced by the SCAF, while others argue that another uprising is likely. With legislative powers now in the hands of the SCAF as a new constitution is being drafted at the same time, with no sign of elections until the drafting is finished. With the dangers of subsides as well as general economic problems rife. If these problems can be solved, or lessened, the people may consent to SCAF rule.

Superficial healing

20/06/2012

With the end of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress now concluded in Ireland it is perteninent to note the main events.

Among an unusual speech by the archbishop of Manila, Luis Tagle, and a liturgy of reconcilition by Peter Cardinal Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. the papal legate, Marc Cardinal Ouellet, PSS, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown went to a traditional place of Irish penitence, Lough Derg.

On 13 June Ouellet met victimsand “has asked for forgiveness from victims of clerical child abuse during his visit to Co Donegal. The papal legate, who is representing Pope Benedict XVI at this week’s International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, met victims of abuse yesterday while on a pilgrimage to Lough Derg”. The article goes on to note that “The meeting lasted two hours, during which survivors spoke of his or her own personal experience of abuse and its impact on their lives. After the meeting, the former archbishop of Quebec celebrated Mass in St Patrick’s Basilica on the island with about 100 pilgrims. ‘I come here with the specific intention of seeking forgiveness, from God and from the Victims, for the grave sin of sexual abuse of children by clerics,’ he said during his homily”. The piece concludes noting that he “and his delegation, including the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, along with the Bishop of Clogher, Dr Liam MacDaid, stayed overnight on the island during which time they fasted and participated in other penitential exercises with the pilgrims on the island”. His homily can be read, herehere and here.

Rocco notes that Oullett was “dispatched this week as Papal Legate at the International Eucharistic Congress — Cardinal Marc Ouellet is spending the night at the site known as “St Patrick’s Purgatory,” where barefoot faithful traditionally fast and stay awake in prayer and reparation. While the exceptional gesture had been announced on Sunday, earlier today a Vatican statement revealed that the Canadian prelate — the head of the all-powerful Congregation for Bishopsand an increasingly oft-cited papabile — was making the trip ‘at the express request of Pope Benedict XVI, to pray for forgiveness, reconciliation and healing in the wake of the sex abuse scandal in Ireland.'” Rocco adds that “Even if the Congress’ opening days have borne witness to a rarespirit of unapologetic zeal amid Irish Catholicism’s two-decade “long Lent,” Ouellet’s penitential turn is perhaps the starkest contrast yet to this gathering’s landmark predecessor in 1932, when the scarlet-clad emissary of Pope Pius XI, Cardinal Laurenzo Lauri, arrived at Dun Laoghaire to the panoply of a state welcome (above) before parading through the city center in a cappa magna, its train stretched full-length as throngs lined the streets”.

In a separate piece Rocco writes that “In one early response, Marie Collins — one of the country’s most prominent survivors — mused whether ‘the Papal Legate [saw] it as part of his penance to talk to survivors.’ Collins was the lone victim to speak at the first-ever Vatican-sponsored conference on clergy sex-abuse at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University held in February, during which Ouellet led a liturgy of repentance”.

Others have reportedthe reaction of victims with “Oliver Burke of Munster Survivors Support Services was at the meeting with papal legate Cardinal Marc Ouellet.* He said there were seven people at the meeting in Lough Derg but they were asked to respect each other’s privacy by not discussing who was there. The meeting was ‘absolutely excellent’, he said. ‘We were very pleased with it. We believe we were heard and it will not finish there. We certainly won’t allow it to finish there.’ He said he felt Cardinal Ouellet was sincere in his offer to meet abuse survivors. ‘I saw how it affected the cardinal. I’m around too long not to recognise genuine sincerity and he was extremely affected by our stories,’ he said. ‘I was very impressed with the cardinal and the papal nuncio also impressed me'”. Naturally not all victims had these attitudes, the article goes on to note that “Michael O’Brien of the Right to Peace group and Christopher Heaphy of Voices of the Existing Survivors said they had applied in writing for an audience with the papal legate but did not get one. In a joint statement, they said the church was ‘now picking and choosing which survivors are invited for a blessing’. They described the meeting as ‘once again nothing more than a big public relations exercise to whitewash the sins of the many’. Mr O’Brien said he would have ‘walked to Lough Derg’ if the papal legate had asked him but he had not been contacted. Abuse survivor Marie Collins said she had not been asked to the meeting but had no issue with that. However, she said abuse victims did not need any more words and gestures. ‘We need action and that should start with the removal of Cardinal Brady,’ she said”.

In his reaction, Cardinal Ouellet “met male and female survivors from the Republic and Northern Ireland. The meeting lasted two hours, during which survivors spoke of their experience of abuse and its impact on their lives. He said he was ‘deeply moved’ and would be reporting on the meeting to the pope. Cardinal Ouellet celebrated Mass in St Patrick’s Basilica on the island with about 100 Irish and international pilgrims later on Tuesday. The Catholic Communications Office released the homily yesterday but said it could not reveal who the cardinal had met as it wished to protect their privacy. The cardinal told the congregation that ‘Pope Benedict XVI asked me, as his legate to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, that I would come to Lough Derg and ask God’s forgiveness for the times clerics have sexually abused children not only in Ireland but anywhere in the church'”.

In related news “The Healing Stone unveiled as part of the opening ceremony of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress will move to a permanent home at the ancient sanctuary of St Patrick’s Purgatory at Lough Derg in Co Donegal. Fr Kevin Doran, Secretary General of IEC2012 announced details of the Healing Stone’s permanent home at a press conference in Dublin”.

Yet, despite the efforts that have taken place, there is still a sense that much more could be done to bring a glimmer of credibility back to the Church.

Rigid as ever

20/06/2012

Merkel refuses to help the new government of Greece amend, slightly, the austerity package. She will rue the day.

The race to be dirty

20/06/2012

The ever interesting Steve LeVine makes an unusual point about Mitt Romney.

He writes that “Calculating that clean energy is passé among Americans more concerned about jobs and their own pocketbooks, Romney is gambling that he can tip swing voters his way by embracing dirtier air and water if the tradeoff is more employment and economic growth”. Indeed, as has been noted here before, there is now so an abudence of energy resources that policy makers have to decide which to priortise.

The article argues that “Romney’s gamble is essentially a bet on the demonstrated disruptive potency of shale gas and shale oil, which over the last year or so have shaken up geopolitics from Russia to the Middle East and China. Now, Romney and the GOP leadership hope they will have the same impact on U.S. domestic politics”. Importantly he adds that “A flood of new oil and natural gas production in states such as North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas is changing the national and global economies. U.S. oil production is projected to reach 6.3 million barrels a day this year”.  Naturally, this will have great relevance for the United States when it comes to its dealings with the Middle East, yet perhaps of more relevance for Romney and the election in November, he writes that, President Obama’s “critics say an unfettered fossil fuels industry could produce 1.4 million new jobs by 2030. They believe that American voters won’t be too impressed with Obama’s argument that he is leading a balanced energy-and-jobs approach that includes renewable fuels and electric cars”.

Indeed, almost anthing that is “unfettered” is extremely dangerous. Obama deserves support, although some of his decisions are politically motivated, he will be proved right in many decades hence. It is a great problem to democracy, as has been witnessed in Europe and America, that it does not make long term planned politically useful. Dictatorships have no elecotrate to face every four or five years and so can can into account demographics and other factors, that ordinarily would be of little importance to politicians.   

Crucially LeVine points out that “The GOP’s oil-and-jobs campaign — in April alone, 81 percent of U.S. political ads attacking Obama were on the subject of energy, according to Kantar Media, a firm that tracks political advertising — is a risk that could backfire. Americans could decide that they prefer clean energy after all. Or, as half a dozen election analysts and political science professors told me, energy — even if it seems crucial at this moment in time — may not be a central election issue by November”.

He argues correctly that there has been a long history of clean politics, with Richard Nixon founding the EPA and that “President George W. Bush also famously declared that ‘America is addicted to oil’ in his 2006 State of the Union address, and initiated most of the energy programs for which Obama is currently under fire. And Palin’s drumbeat [to increase drilling in Alaska] in the end seemed to fall flat”.

He ends noting that “Romney grants that Obama is not precisely Mr. Clean — while the president has championed clean energy technologies, he has also stewarded over the greatest buildup in U.S. fossil fuel production since the 1990s. But Romney insists he will be dirtier: He vows to open more land to oil and gas drilling, approve the import of more Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, and allow more coal mining”. Whether a President Romney would really pass all these measures is highly doubtful, so it should simply be taken as telling people what they want to hear, nothing more.

Where Greece goes next

20/06/2012

After the Greek election concludes with the “right” result, the EU still has planned for a Greek exit.  What happens next has been thought through by Open Europe.

“Need everything to break their way”

20/06/2012

Amid the Democrats hope the keeping the Senate, there is less and less that they could gain 25 seats and take back the House.

An article in The Hill “projects that Democrats will net somewhere between 10 and 15 seats, assuming the presidential election remains a close contest”. The article goes on to note that “missed opportunities in specific races and increasing economic worries have put that prediction in doubt. ‘The environment certainly isn’t as good as it was six months ago for Democrats,’ a senior Democratic strategist who works on House races told The Hill, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to comment candidly”.

The piece goes on to mention importantly that “Democrats lost a prime pickup opportunity in California earlier this month when they failed to get a top recruit through the state’s new ‘top two’ primary system. Instead, two Republicans will face off for control of a seat that would have given President Obama 56 percent of its vote in 2008 — a result that Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) admitted to The Hill was a ‘setback.’ They also suffered blows recently in Arkansas and South Carolina, where the party’s preferred recruits failed to win their primaries in three GOP-leaning districts.”

The article adds that a similar situation is occurring in “Arkansas and South Carolina seats were going to be difficult for Democrats to win even with their favored candidates, in a year in which they need everything to break their way, the results further limited the number of seats they have a chance at”. It goes on to say that predictions are split on party lines, an indication that it is too close to call and will only reinforce the extremely close contest between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

This pattern is exemplified when the article says “House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in late April that there was a ‘1 in 3’ chance his party could lose the chamber, while National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) predicted in early May that the GOP would expand its majority”. However, Boehner’s comments are as much about protecting himself and his own position that any real analysis.

Interestingly the piece adds that “Presidents rarely have long coattails during their reelection campaigns. A party with a sitting president has only picked up more than 25 seats in a presidential year once in the last half-century: President Johnson helped 36 Democrats into the House in 1964”. Of course, this was the year that President Kennedy was assassinated with a huge resultant impact for President Johnson.

As ever it looks as it will be close with America becoming more divided and harder to govern with its current system.

Nein!

18/06/2012

Amid previous talk of a banking union, Chancellor Merkel has refused to endorse such an idea, a plan that could potentially save the euro and economic (and political) collapse.

Week of the big guns

18/06/2012

Last week saw the some of the most powerful people in the British political sphere attend the Leveson Inquiry, that was started as a result of the ongoing phone hacking debacle.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in giving evidence said that “Brown also strongly rejected claims that he declared ‘war’ on Mr Murdoch in a telephone call after losing the support of The Sun newspaper. He described the allegations as ‘gossip, rumour, innuendo’ and even accused Lord Mandelson and Alistair Darling of putting ‘tittle-tattle’ about alleged plots in their memoirs”. This directly goes against what Rupert Murdoch said in his evidence. The report adds that “admitted that he spoke to Rupert Murdoch on the phone in early November 2010 to complain about The Sun’s coverage of the war in Afghanistan, but denied evidence by Mr Murdoch that there was an angry call between the two men after The Sun withdrew its support for the Labour Party”, the piece concludes “News Corporation immediately released a statement saying that Mr Murdoch ‘stands by his evidence'”.

The same day the chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, widely considered close to the Murdoch empire, said that “gave an insight into Downing Street’s fears about the BSkyB deal and Dr Cable’s influence as he appeared before the Leveson Inquiry. His evidence places him at the heart of many key events linked to the Murdoch media empire, including the Conservative Party’s decision to hire former News of the World editor Andy Coulson. But he denied being too close to Mr Murdoch and his executives, arguing it is natural for politicians to ‘hang out’ with newspaper owners and journalists. He also sent a strong warning to the Leveson Inquiry that the Government would not support any proposals that ‘damage democracy’ or ‘cross a line’ in restricting free speech”. It was Osborne that sent the text message to Jeremy Hunt after Vince Cable had been removed from deciding on the BSkyB bid. The piece adds that Osborne “said his main concern was that Mr Murdoch’s controversial £8 billion bid for BSkyB was a ‘political inconvenience’ that would inevitably cause trouble for the Government”.

The piece concludes that Osborne “said the main priority was to stop Mr Cable resigning as this could pose a threat to the Coalition. ‘My principal concern was that this is not something that should lead to the resignation of Dr Cable,’ he told the Inquiry. ‘Frankly I also had concerns about the impact of such a resignation on the coalition and the unity of the government.’ He said Jeremy Heywood, a senior civil servant, was actually the one to suggest that the role should be handed over to Mr Hunt”. Interestingly, the piece finishes with “Osborne also robustly defended his ‘friend’, Andy Coulson, the former Downing Street media chief, who had resigned as a News of the World editor over phone-hacking”. This seems strange, politically dangerous and immoral given that Coulson has been both arrested and charged.

While this was occurring, Nick Clegg, the “Deputy Prime Minister has repeatedly confronted David Cameron about the refusal to order an inquiry into the Culture Secretary, it emerged yesterday. Sources close to Mr Clegg took the unusual step of providing details of the Liberal Democrat leader’s concerns over the Prime Minister’s handling of the issue. Mr Cameron has refused to refer the Culture Secretary to the independent adviser on ministerial interests after it emerged that Mr Hunt and his advisers had privately communicated with News Corporation executives when the company was attempting to take over BSkyB”. Clegg has ordered his MPs to abstain from a vote “on whether Mr Hunt should face an independent investigation” in the House of Commons. The article notes that “the latest row threatens to be the most personal disagreement between the Coalition partners. It is also being waged on an issue close to the Prime Minister, which threatens his own integrity”. The piece ends that “Bernard Jenkin, a senior Conservative MP, said civil servants should decide whether Mr Hunt was investigated, not the Prime Minister”. Jenkin, one of the hard right Tories disagrees with much of what Cameron has done, or intends to do. The Labour proposed motion was defeated with 18 Tories voting against the Government.

In the same week Sir John Major KG also gave evidence in which he said that Murdoch told him to change his policy on Europe. Also giving evidence was Clegg who reported that “A Liberal Democrat minister was told his party would not get “favourable treatment” in Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers if they opposed the BSkyB bid, the Leveson Inquiry has heard”. The article adds that “Clegg confirmed ‘veiled threats’ were made to the Liberal Democrats about their perceived lack of support for News Corporation’s £8 billion bid. The Deputy Prime was told by Norman Lamb, his chief parliamentary and political adviser, that News Corporation was pressing the party to be ‘open’ to the takeover”. This is usual treatment for those who oppose Murdoch and shows, as if it were necessary, the depths to which Murdoch would go to make a profit. Clegg while giving evidence said that he met the Murdoch’s a mere five times.

Yet in another blow to Hunt reports mention that “Labour accused the Prime Minister of a ‘smokescreen’ and a ‘stitch-up’ after Downing Street released a staged exchange of letters between Mr Cameron and Sir Alex Allan”. The piece goes on to say, “Sir Alex, whose job is to rule on any breaches of the code, replied that Mr Hunt’s ‘adherence to the ministerial code’ was a matter for the Prime Minister, and that he could not ‘usefully add to the facts of this case'”. This is hardly a ringing endorsement of Hunt or Cameron.

Lastly, the incumbent Prime Minster, David Cameron gave evidence before the inquiry. Chief among what was revealedwas that the disgraced Brooks sent a text message to Cameron saying that they were “in this toghether” and that suggesting that the neighbours go for a “country supper”. The article mentions that “Cameron said the Conservative Party had never made secret deals on a ‘nod and a wink’ with Rupert Murdoch. The Prime Minister admitted he tried to win support from Mr Murdoch’s newspapers during at least 10 meetings in the run-up to the election. But he said it was ‘nonsense’ that the Tories ever traded policy in return for favourable coverage from Mr Murdoch’s Sun and Times titles. He told the inquiry his party had no idea that Mr Murdoch would try to buy BSkyB straight after the 2010 election, so it could never have been the subject of a grand bargain”. Is is clear from this just how close Murdoch/Brooks were to Cameron, a closeness he is now rightly suffering for. Others have argued how Cameron’s whole strategy during his questioning failed. Other reportage has paid attention to how Cameron seems to have forgotten much of what happened with the Murdoch’s, while others mention his embarrassment, numerous meetings with the Murdoch’s as well as admitting the fact that the appointment of the immoral Andy Coulson as his director of communications has “haunted” him. Even Lord Justice Leveson questioned Cameron’s judgement when it came to hiring Coulson.

Indeed the only politician who came out of the week with anything sensible to say was leader of the Labour Party who, while given evidence argued for a media ownership cap.  Where this leaves the sleaze encrusted, government of Cameron that seems not only to lack creditability but also competence is anyone’s guess, but Cameron’s government now almost looks as greedy and amoral as the newspaper group whose approval he begged for.

Who would have thought?

18/06/2012

China’s government lying about pollution, its slowing economy, crime figures and instability.

Now is the time

18/06/2012

With the death of Nayef, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia the lucky hand that the House of Saud were dealt was wasted. Nayef is “the second Saudi crown prince to die in the last seven months”. Nayef, who was thought to be 77 or 78, died in Geneva was buried yesterday.

Nayef, who was also prime minister and minister of the interior was only appointed crown prince in October on the death of the previous heir apparent, Sultan. Reuters reports that “Among the mourners was the man most likely to be named as successor: Prince Salman, 76, who is seen as more likely to continue the 89-year-old King Abdullah’s cautious economic and social reforms than the conservative Nayef”. Indeed as has been noted here before Prince Salman is thought to be the only candidate for the post of heir apparent. Who will fill the now vacant post at the Interior Ministry will give a clue as to where the long term succession of the kingdom.

The Reuters article goes on to note that “Although most analysts believe it is highly likely Salman will be named as heir, King Abdullah may choose to activate the Allegiance Council, a body he set up in 2006 to supervise succession decisions after his death”, it goes on to mention that “While the Allegiance Council will not formally start to operate until after King Abdullah’s death, the monarch last year chose to put his nomination of Prince Nayef to the body before his choice was announced”. The article ends noting that “Grandsons with the experience and qualifications to rule include Prince Khaled al-Faisal, the governor of Mecca province, who is 71, and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the deputy interior minister, who is 52”.

This problem has never really been addressed but will only be exacerbated if a younger generation is not promoted quickly. The problem of course is that there are so many candidates that the House of Saud will have to come an arrangement quickly or else the House could break apart, and in an extreme case, allow a power vacuum which could then be used for terrorists as a base. There are of course other problems not least of which is the economy that needs direction instead of drifting, in addition to a host of international problems such as Iran, Syria (in which the Saudi’s are heavily invested) as well as Yemen.

The New York Times notesthat King Abdullah “though ailing, remains at the helm, and the Sauds successfully bought at least temporary social peace last year when they rolled out a $130 billion public welfare program”. It goes on to mention that “Once Prince Salman is named crown prince, most Saudi analysts say that just two younger sons of King Abdulaziz are considered by the family to be monarch material — possessing the needed blend of shrewdness, government experience and rectitude. The roughly 10 other surviving sons are marred by ill health, a lack of ability, a whiff or worse of corruption, or a reputation for practices that violate the tenets of Islam, like drinking alcohol”. It adds that “One of the two possible future kings is Prince Ahmed, believed to be 71, the deputy interior minister since 1975 and the man expected to succeed his full brother Prince Nayef as the kingdom’s law enforcement czar. The other is Prince Muqrin, in his 60s and the head of intelligence, although many members of the royal family are sticklers for pure Saudi genealogy and his mother was reportedly a Yemeni. But it could get more complicated, and quickly”. The writer mentions that ” it is not clear if age or patrilineage will be the primary factor in deciding succession. One of those slightly older, experienced grandsons is Prince Khaled al-Faisal, the current governor of Mecca whose appointment as defense minister could be a sign that age might triumph”.

The House of Saud must act now for its own interests in naming Salman as Crown Prince and a young(er) man as second deputy prime minister, before the moderate reforms that King Abdullah himself dies and there is a real power vacuum.

Obama, clamping down on (some) leaks

18/06/2012

Leaking when it suits them, “There’s something troubling about the recent leaks to the New York Times about President Barack Obama’s involvement in authorizing the targeted killings of suspected terrorists and launching cyberattacks against an Iranian nuclear enrichment facility: they’re coming from the same administration that has prosecuted more government officials under the Espionage Act of 1917 for sharing classified information with the media than all previous administrations combined“.

Several safe pairs of hands

17/06/2012

Ever since the Supreme Court of Egypt declared the parliamentary election invalid there has been much talk of how much power the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces wishes to keep for itself.

Some have written that the Court “ruled that a third of the country’s new MPs, winners in the first fully free parliamentary election in Egypt’s history, had stood illegally. Its head, Farouk Sultan, said this effectively meant parliament would have to be dissolved, with the whole vote having to be rerun at an unspecified time in the future. The ruling, which means power will remain in the hands of the generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), was bitterly condemned. The activists who led last year’s revolution to overthrow the former president Hosni Mubarak and the Islamists whose domination of parliament was spectacularly brought to an end accused the military of using the court as a proxy to preserve the hold of the ousted leader’s authoritarian regime”. He adds that “In a separate ruling, the court also allowed an appeal by Ahmed Shafiq, a Mubarak-era general and former prime minister, against a parliamentary decree that would have banned him from taking part in the presidential election run-off”.

It should come as no accident that these two judgements were made within a short space of time from each other. The writer adds that “Shafiq is facing Mohammed Morsi, the leader of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Muslim Brotherhood’s political front. A victory for Mr Morsi would have consolidated an Islamist stranglehold on the main organs of civil power, and threatened not only the military’s political grip but its many other privileges. Essam al-Erian, a senior member of the Brotherhood’s leadership, said the rulings represented the start of a “dark tunnel” for the country. Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, an independent and self-styled “moderate” Islamist who came fourth in the first round of presidential elections, said the country had been victim of a ‘coup'”.

Others at Foreign Policy have noted that the “moves by the Constitutional Court on behalf of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) seem difficult to overcome and likely to push Egypt onto a dangerous new path. With Egypt looking ahead to no parliament, no constitution, and a deeply divisive new president, it’s fair to say the experiment in military-led transition has come to its disappointing end”.   He gives context adding “the first round of the presidential election went about as badly as it could have, leaving voters with a choice between the champion of the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, after the failure of the political center to unite on a candidate and the arbitrary disqualification of several top candidates from the race”.

He goes on to say that “Weeks before the SCAF’s scheduled handover of power, Egypt now finds itself with no parliament, no constitution (or even a process for drafting one), and a divisive presidential election with no hope of producing a legitimate, consensus-elected leadership. Its judiciary has become a bad joke, with any pretence of political independence from the military shattered beyond repair”.

Yet, perhaps this is the best outcome that could be hoped for. The SCAF certainly has its problems but maybe it is the best guarantor of peace and stability that Egypt can hope for, at least for now. With the untested Muslim Brotherhood having held the most seats in parliament and their policies far from clear at least the SCAF gives certainty in the medium term. As one article was entitled, Down with Mubarak, Long live Mubarakism.

The long term however is another matter.

What hope is there?

16/06/2012

If the German’s can’t/refuse to understand a simple cartoon?

“We’re not picking on people”

16/06/2012

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) recently went to Rome to meet the outgoing prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, William Cardinal Levada.

As ever, Rocco notes the that Press Office of the Holy See published a statement which said, among other things that, “According to Canon Law, a Conference of Major Superiors such as the LCWR is constituted by and remains under the supreme direction of the Holy See in order to promote common efforts among the individual member Institutes and cooperation with the Holy See and the local Conference of Bishops (Cf. Code of Canon Law, cann. 708-709). The purpose of the doctrinal Assessment is to assist the LCWR in this important mission by promoting a vision of ecclesial communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church as faithfully taught through the ages under the guidance of the Magisterium”.

The fact that such statements had to be made at all shows that there is great tension between the LCWR and the Roman authorities. Rocco goes on to mention that “the story takes another prominent turn this morning as the president and executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious return to the Vatican’s guardian of orthodoxy to ‘to raise and discuss [their] board’s concerns.'”

Interestingly from a PR point of view, Rocco adds that “even as the dicastery cautioned that “this doctrinal assessment concerns a particular conference of major superiors and therefore does not intend to offer judgment on the faith and life of Women Religious in the member Congregations which belong” to LCWR, the storyline of a “War on Nuns” quickly took hold regardless”.

He concludes saying “LCWR’s earlier response said that the conference would consult its membership in regional groups, culminating at its already planned national assembly in August in St Louis, to form a full response to the reform plan”.

In an extremely public act of defiance, the New York Times reports that the nuns, “In a spirited retort to the Vatican, a group of Roman Catholic nuns is planning a bus trip across nine states this month, stopping at homeless shelters, food pantries, schools and health care facilities run by nuns to highlight their work with the nation’s poor and disenfranchised”. The article, almost as an aside goes on to say that “The sisters plan to use the tour also to protest cuts in programs for the poor and working families in the federal budget that was passed by the House of Representatives and proposed by Representative Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who cited his Catholic faith to justify the cuts”. Indeed, it it true that Ryan’s faith distorts everything that the Church teaches about the common good and attempts to further concentrate wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people. The article goes on to mention how “The bus tour is to begin on June 18 in Iowa and end on July 2 in Virginia. The dates overlap with the ‘Fortnight for Freedom,’ events announced by Catholic bishops to rally opposition to what they see as the Obama administration’s violations of religious freedom. The bishops object in particular to a mandate in the health care overhaul to require religiously affiliated hospitals and universities to offer their employees coverage for birth control in their insurance plans”. The piece goes on to say that “Sister Simone, a lawyer who ran a legal clinic for the poor in Oakland, Calif., for 18 years, is not completely on board with the bishops’ religious liberty campaign. She said that financing for Catholic social services had increased significantly in the three years since President Obama took office: ‘We’re celebrating the religious freedom we have.'”

John Allen sat down for an interview with Cardinal Levada to discuss the LCWR issue. As ever no-one really knows where this will lead, but the LCWR will probably submit to Rome.

What next for Putin’s Russia?

16/06/2012

After protests in Russia seem to have petered out, some think that it is merely the calm before the storm.

Moving toward a decision

16/06/2012

Pope Benedict seems to be moving toward a decision on a replacement William Joseph Cardinal Levada, 76, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Rocco makes the important point that Cardinal Levada’s expected successor, Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller of Regensberg was appointed as a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education and at the same time a member of Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Rocco makes the point that Muller, “Said to be particularly close to Benedict — whose held his last professorship in Regensburg during the 1970s — the 64 year-old theologian (above) was surreptitiously added to the memberships of the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity”.

He adds that “Levada is the lone senior Curialist who currently has a vote in both offices”, he goes on to mention that “the announcement is likely to spike chatter as, at least for some, today’s move recalls an apparent precedent”. In May 2008 the then Archbishop Burke was named a member of the Congregation for the Clergy and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Rocco notes that the next month Burke was called to Rome and named prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.

Named to the Congregation for Catholic Education at the same time was Peter Cardinal Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as well as “Manila’s Archbishop Chito Tagle” who is seen as a rising star at 54, though attached to a controversial school of thought of Vatican II that Pope Benedict fundamentally disagrees with.

Rocco concludes noting that Cardinal Levada, is the “highest-ranking American in Vatican history, the tenure of the LA-born prefect has seen the CDF largely immersed in high-profile matters largely focused on the English-speaking church, from overseeing the handling of clergy sex-abuse cases to facilitating the establishment of the Anglican ordinariates and, of course, the four-year doctrinal assessment of the superiors’ conference of the US’ religious sisters. Beyond principally Anglophone affairs, meanwhile, since 2010 the CDF’s head has likewise doubled as president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei — the Curial arm which manages relations with traditionalist groups. As few would need reminding, topping that office’s plate is the ongoing reconciliation effort with the Society of St Pius X”.

Among the other prelates past the age of retirement are Ennio Cardinal Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Francesco Cardinal Monterisi, archpriest of the Basilica  of Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls, Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz, the dean of the Roman Rota and Santos Cardinal Abril y Castelló, archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Though Cardinals Monterisi and Abril y Castello are not expected to retire for some time due to their posts which are not especially onerous. Raffaele Cardinal Farina, S.D.B. was recently retired as archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church but no replacement was named.

On 15 June, the creation of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross was announced. The ordinariate covers Oceania for those conservative Anglicans who wish to join the Catholic Church.

The responsible power

14/06/2012

China selling weapons to North Korea, behaving as any power with “peaceful development” does. It will only increase China’s already vast soft power.

Drawing close?

14/06/2012

Rocco reports that on 13 June “According to a report from Catholic News Service, the superior of the Society of St Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, entered the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio — the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — at 5pm Rome time (11am Eastern) for the aforementioned meeting to possibly convey a papal decision on the breakaway traditionalist group’s reconciliation with Rome”.

Rocco goes on to note that divisions emerged between Bernard Fellay, superior general of the SSPX and the three other bishops with Rome then saying that they would be dealt with individually.   He writes that “should a reconciliation deal be reached, a special canonical structure to accommodate a restored Society (or, most likely, the portion of it that seeks to return) is almost certain to be established. Years of indications have most often pointed to an extraterritorial set-up akin to either a personal prelature — a status currently enjoyed only by Opus Dei — or the new Anglican Ordinariates as the likely arrangement”.

However, it will be a blow to Pope Benedict if he and Fellay are unable to bring the entire SSPX back to the Church.

In a separate post on 14 June, Rocco mentions that the statement issued by the Press Office of the Holy See notes that “The purpose of the meeting was to present the Holy See’s evaluation of the text submitted in April by the Society of St. Pius X in response to the Doctrinal Preamble which the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith had presented to the Society on 14 September 2011”. It goes on to mention how “Also during the meeting, a draft document was submitted proposing a Personal Prelature as the most appropriate instrument for any future canonical recognition of the Society”.

It would be hard not to miss the significance of these words. It is clear that a deal is imminent with Rocco saying that “Fellay’s response would be unlikely to come until after the lead traditionalist group’s next general chapter, scheduled for 11-13 July at its headquarters in Econe, Switzerland”.

Others close to the SSPX have noted that Bernard Tissier de Mallerais has called Rome “modernist”. By saying this, he has made clear that he has no interest in reconciling with the Church.

Where is this going?

14/06/2012

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi recently ousted president of the IOR/Vatican Bank holds archive on senior Church figures in case he was blackmailed.

Gays and the GOP

14/06/2012

A piece in the New York Times discusses the Republicans’ relationship, or lack thereof, with homosexuality.

It mentions how New York, Maryland and Washington, all with Democratic governors, now have gay marriage. The article notes “at subplot just added a new twist to the narrative, one that suggests the rapidly changing political dynamics of this issue and its potential import to a party dogged by an image of being culturally out of touch”.

It goes on to say that “That character is Paul E. Singer, 67, a billionaire hedge fund manager who is among the most important Republican donors nationwide. In just one Manhattan fund-raiser last month, he helped to collect more than $5 million for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. He steadfastly supports conservative candidates. He also steadfastly supports gay rights in general and marriage equality in particular.”

Interestingly, the piece adds that “He has given nearly $10 million of his own money to gay-rights initiatives, including the same-sex marriage efforts not only in New York but also in New Hampshire and New Jersey. And that figure doesn’t include his assistance in tapping a broad network of donors for individual candidates. He was pivotal in rounding up about $250,000 apiece for the Republican state senators in New York whose votes for same-sex marriage provided its margin of victory in the Legislature”.

The article mentions that Singer has established a super PAC known as American Unity PAC with “its sole mission will be to encourage Republican candidates to support same-sex marriage, in part by helping them to feel financially shielded from any blowback from well-funded groups that oppose it”. Indeed, this blowback was the main reason for opposing any gay issues whatsoever. From the point of view of a candidate, nothing could be lost, any much gained, from opposing gay issues. It mentions Singer’s own background, ” Although he is straight, he has a gay son and son-in-law who were married in Massachusetts, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2004″.

The consequences of the issue for the GOP would be “embracing marriage equality could broaden the party’s base and soften the party’s image in crucial ways. Many swing voters who find elements of Republicans’ limited-government message appealing and have doubts about Obama’s economic stewardship are nonetheless given serious pause by the party’s stances on abortion, birth control, immigration and homosexuality”.

The writer goes on to note that the numbers don’t stack up for the GOP, “In a CNN/ORC International poll released Wednesday, a whopping 73 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 said they favored marriage equality. That’s the clear future of this issue, and Republicans are keenly aware that while the party’s formal opposition to abortion rights, for example, doesn’t contradict the prevailing sentiments of a majority of Americans or buck voter trends, opposition to same-sex marriage does”.

Yet, only a few months ago Mitt Romney’s foreign policy adviser left the campaign staff after only a few weeks in the job with some calling his hiring a new beginning for the GOP. Yet, despite this obvious setback, there does seem to be movement, with the writer citing “The shifting Republican reality was underscored when 119 Republicans joined 92 Democrats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives three months ago in a vote to keep same-sex marriage legal in the state. Just three years ago, when it was legalized, only nine Republicans supported it”.

Banking union?

14/06/2012

Open Europe notes that “In an interview in today’s FT, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is raising the stakes in the talks on a ‘banking union’ in the EU and/or eurozone, involving an EU-wide deposit guarantee scheme, a rescue fund paid for by financial institutions and giving an EU-wide supervisors the power to order losses on banks, without the approval of national authorities. The Commission, keen to get back in the game following the shift in focus to national capitals in the wake of the crisis, says it’ll present a proposal for a banking union at the EU summit at the end of June. According to the FT, Barroso said all of this could be achieved within the next year and didn’t necessarily require an EU Treaty change. He said, ‘there is now a much clearer awareness’ in national capitals, including Berlin and London, that Europe needed to press ahead with more integration ‘especially in the euro area.'”