FaithWorld

German minister raps Catholic bishops over cancelled sexual abuse study

(German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger speaks during a session of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament in Berlin, about a neo-Nazi group that had been on a nationwide ten-year killing spree, November 22, 2011. REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

Germany’s justice minister said on Thursday the country’s Roman Catholic Church appeared to be shrinking from independent scrutiny after bishops sacked a top criminologist they had hired to investigate clerical sexual abuse.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said the German bishops had initially committed to an outside study after devastating abuse revelations in 2010 which saw 600 people file claims against priests, but said they now seemed to want to control which findings would be published.

Victims’ groups and sympathisers were outraged by the Catholic bishops’ decision on Wednesday to sack Christian Pfeiffer, a man described by Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger as one of Germany’s foremost criminal experts.

“It appears that conducting an independent, serious study into the abuse cases, as originally intended, is impossible for the Church,” she told Deutschlandfunk radio. “This is a shame, as it gives the impression that ultimately they (the Catholic Church) did not want everything to be independently studied.”

German Catholic bishops sack head of independent sex abuse study

(Stephan Ackermann, Bishop of Trier attends a news conference on the launching of a telephone hotline for victims of sexual abuse, in south western German city of Trier March 30, 2010. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele.)

Germany’s Roman Catholic bishops sacked a criminologist studying sexual abuse of minors by their priests on Wednesday, prompting him to accuse them of trying to censor what was to be a major report on the scandals.

The independent study, examining church files sometimes dating back to 1945, was meant to shed light on undiscovered cases of abuse after about 600 people filed claims against molesting priests in 2010 following a wave of revelations there.

Guestview: Yes to interfaith harmony, no to religious police in Egypt

(Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Ali Gomaa at the opening ceremony of the 15th General Conference of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman September 27, 2010. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Ali Gomaa is the Grand Mufti of Egypt.

By Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa

The beginning of a new year presents us with an opportunity to engage in serious introspection and take account of ourselves and the communities in which we live. This is a particularly pressing need within the context of contemporary Egypt, which continues to pass through a sensitive period of transition. The events of the past year, indeed of the past two years, underscore the absolute necessity of maintaining national unity in our beloved land. Acrimonious political debates must not detract us from this overriding imperative.

from The Great Debate:

Demography as destiny: The vital American family

Recent reports of America’s sagging birthrate ‑ the lowest since the 1920s, by some measures ‑ have sparked a much-needed debate about the future of the American family. Unfortunately, this discussion, like so much else in our society, is devolving into yet another political squabble between conservatives and progressives.

Conservatives, including the Weekly Standard’s Jonathan Last, regularly cite declining birth and marriage rates as one result of expanding government ‑ and a threat to the right’s political survival. Progressives, meanwhile, have labeled attempts to commend a committed couple with children as inherently prejudicial and needlessly judgmental.

Yet family size is far more than just another political wedge issue. It is an existential one – essentially determining whether a society wants to replace itself or fall into oblivion, as my colleagues and I recently demonstrated in a report done in conjunction with Singapore’s Civil Service College. No nation has thrived when its birthrate falls below replacement level and stays there – the very level the United States are at now. Examples from history extend from the late Roman Empire to Venice and the Netherlands in the last millennium.

God’s gender divides German government in pre-Christmas row

(God creates the Sun and Moon, Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo)

A minister in Angela Merkel’s government has sparked a pre-Christmas row among Germany’s ruling parties by suggesting God be referred to with the neutral article “das” instead of the masculine “der”.

Family Minister Kristina Schroeder made the comments when asked in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit how she explained to her young daughter the use of the masculine form for God.

“The article is not important,” she responded, adding that it was fine to use “das” instead of the traditional “der” when referring to God.

from Photographers' Blog:

Christmas in Afghanistan

Baghlan, Afghanistan

By Fabrizio Bensch

There are thousands of miles that separate the German soldiers in Afghanistan from home.  For up to one year, they may be stationed in Afghanistan, but for most of them no more than four to five months.

The lead up to Christmas in Germany has a very long tradition and the arriving season is dominated by beautifully decorated shop windows in department stores and the smell of gingerbread and cinnamon. Christmas trees are festively illuminated in the streets with Christmas decoration and Christmas markets and Santa Claus are in every city.

But for the German armed forces Bundeswehr soldiers far away, each of them tries to maintain a little bit of these traditions and so everywhere in the camps are signs of Christmas.

Guestview: America – a nation in spiritual crisis

(A hearse carrying the casket of of six-year-old Jack Pinto passes a makeshift memorial on its way to Newtown Village Cemetery in Newtown, Connecticut December 17, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Thayer)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is a freelance writer and columnist in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania

By Elizabeth E. Evans

It seems that times of spiritual agony are not pretty – and sometimes they don’t even seem particularly holy.  But sacred moments they are, nonetheless.

Germany passes law to protect circumcision, overruling court decision

(Protestors wearing overalls daubed with red paint on the genital area, demonstrate against male circumcision, in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin December 12, 2012.  REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski )

German politicians passed a law on Wednesday to protect the right to circumcise infant boys in a show of support for Muslims and Jews angered by a local court ban on the practice in May.

The ban – imposed on the grounds that circumcision amounted to “bodily harm” – triggered an emotional debate over the treatment of Jews and other religious minorities, a sensitive subject in a country still haunted by its Nazi past.

from Edward Hadas:

A tale of two half-centuries

The future rarely turns out as expected. Imagine, for example, two sets of economic predictions for the half-century that began in 1962. The first, the Blind Guide, is written with only the knowledge available then. The second, the Retrospective Guide, is based on what actually happened.

The biggest economic issue a half-century ago was the battle of economic systems: communism versus capitalism. The Blind Guide would have predicted a lively rivalry in 2012. True, communist countries were already falling behind economically in Europe, but political oppression would keep the system well entrenched. Besides, 50 years ago many Western experts still believed that communism’s social levelling and central planning offered poor countries the best hope of rapid economic growth.

In the retrospective volume, the future abject failure of communism has a prominent place. The decline would be slow, but the people would inevitably become increasingly disenchanted with the system’s incompetence, hypocrisy and cruelty. The will of the people ultimately prevailed.

German Catholic Church says most sex abuser priests psychologically normal

(Munich’s Catholic cathedral Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), 30 September 2012/Dguendel)

A German Catholic Church study showed most priests found guilty of sexually abusing minors were psychologically normal, according to survey results.

Only 12 percent of those surveyed were diagnosed as paedophiles, said the report released by Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann, the church’s spokesman on abuse cases.