FaithWorld

Sarkozy explains French laïcité to visiting Catholic bishops

bishops-elyseeFrench President Nicolas Sarkozy took time out from a busy schedule on Friday to welcome 18 Catholic cardinals, archbishops and bishops from across Europe into the Elysée Palace for a short talk about laïcité. The prelates were in Paris for an annual session of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), a Swiss-based body that brings together all those bishops’ conferences. Among the topics at the three-day conference are relations between church and state in Europe, so it was natural that they’d take the opportunity to learn more about France’s trademark secular system. (Photo: Zagreb Archbishop Josip Bozanic (L), Esztergom-Budapest Cardinal Péter Erdö (C) and Bordeaux Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard arrive to meet President Sarkozy, 2 Oct 2009/Charles Platiau)

Cardinal Péter Erdö of Esztergom-Budapest, current CCEE president, came out full of praise for the president’s presentation. It was “maqnifique”, he told waiting journalists in French. “We’re very pleased to hear the president’s point of view”, which he described as “a constructive way of interpreting laïcité”. Erdö recalled that France’s legal separation of church and state, imposed forcibly in 1905, had led to “great conflicts” in the past. “But today, I think it is one form of constructive collaboration and mutual respect” in Europe. He added that the bishops gave Sarkozy a copy of Pope Benedict’s encyclical “Caritas in veritate” (Charity in Truth) signed by the pontiff himself.

Outside of France, laïcité is sometimes seen as a hostile system the Catholic Church must be instinctively allergic to. It can give rise to some hostility, especially from officials who are actually what has to be called laïcité fundamentalists. And it can complicate life not only for the Catholic Church but all religious groups there. But in fact, most religious groups here have learned to live with the system and defend it to visiting foreigners who expect to hear them groaning about it.

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An Italian professor who conducted a study of church-state relations across the region for the CCEE reported that “religious freedom is assured everywhere, with one serious exception — Turkey”. The Vatican accepts that church-state relations will be different from country to country, depending on their histories, and there is no single model — such as the traditional concordat — that it considers to be better than others. “These relations are better right now in secular France than in Spain, which has a concordat,” Professor Giorgio Feliciani of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart  in Milan told journalists. (Photo: President Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni chat with Paris Cardinal André Vingt-Trois after the funeral of the popular French nun Sister Emmanuelle, 22 Oct 2008/Benoit Tessier)

French Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, who’s the Bordeaux archbishop and CCEE vice-president, said Sarkozy focused on his frequently expressed view that religions — not just the traditional Catholicism here, but all faiths present in France — played an important social role. Recounting the president’s presentation, he said: “He developed the point that we’ve heard him express before, namely that religions deal with the meaning of life, with the search for living together peacefully and seeking the common good, and act as a possible source of hope. We live in a society and in a Europe that needs that. The role of the state is not to give meaning to life, but to organise life. The meaning of life comes not only from religions, but from other schools of thought as well. Everyone develops his own convictions. But in this domain, religions have their place and their role to play.”

Anti-abortion rights activists target “personhood” amendments

When Americans go to the polls for the congressional elections in 2010, in some places they may also be asked to vote on state ”personhood” amendments that would effectively define life as starting at fertilization or the “start of biological development.”

A proposal like this was rejected by voters in Colorado in November but anti-abortion rights activists hope to get similar ballot measures together in at least a dozen states for 2010.

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This could have broader political implications as initiatives in the past on so-called hot button social issues such as gay marriage have brought conservative Christians — an influential voting block in the out-of-power Republican Party — to the polls.

Catholic editor who rapped Berlusconi resigns, but Church may have last laugh

giornaleIn the latest — but most likely not final — round in an incredible case of Italian journalistic pugilism, the editor of a Catholic newspaper sparring publicly for a week with the daily owned by the family of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has resigned.  Dino Boffo’s resignation as head of Avvenire, the daily of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, ended an Italian telenovela that had riveted the media for seven consecutive days and even saw indirect involvement by Pope Benedict. (Photo: Il Giornale fronts charges against Boffo, 3 Sept 2009/Stefano Rellandini)

In his three-and-a half page letter of resignation (here in Italian), which he said was irrevocable, Boffo  said the tussle with the editor Vittorio Feltri of the Milan daily Il Giornale had made his life unbearable. For his good, that of his family and that of the Church, he could not longer stay “at the centre of a storm of gigantic proportions that has invaded newspapers, television, radio, the internet and shows no signs of ending.”

Boffo said his only mistake was not taking his initial judicial problem seriously enough. As noted in my blog post here last Tuesday, Il Giornale editor Vittorio Feltri wrote last week that Boffo accepted a plea bargain in 2002 over a case in which a woman accused him of harassment. Il Giornale claimed that Boffo was having a homosexual relationship with her husband. It said Boffo should not have written editorials criticising Berlusconi’s sexual escapades when he was not exactly an an innocent altar boy himself.

Catholic comments on Ted Kennedy, pro and con

Much of the Roman Catholic commentary on the passing this week of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy — who was a practicing Catholic — has applauded his record on civil rights, immigration reform and economic justice but deplored his support for abortion rights. Kennedy died on Tuesday at the age of 77.

(PHOTO: A photo of Senator Edward M. Kennedy sits at the entrance to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston. REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

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The Catholic News Agency for example ran a report saying “Ted Kennedy leaves mixed Catholic legacy,” noting clerical discomfort with his support for the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that granted U.S. women a constitutional right to an abortion and related issues.

from Global News Journal:

How do you solve a political crisis? Hondurans try prayer

By Mica Rosenberg

TEGUCIGALPA - A month after a coup that has plunged Honduras into its worst political crisis in decades, the country's de facto rulers declared Tuesday an official Day of Prayer for peace.  

State television has been playing announcements for days with the slogan "Let us all pray for our Honduras."

Facing international condemnation of a June 28 coup that has led to a freeze on multinational lending and threats of wider sanctions, Honduras, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, needs all the help it can get.

Author of new Galileo book says old trial has current relevance

earthmovessThe current struggles between religion and science in areas such as evolution and “intelligent design” are thrown into sharp relief in a new book on the great Italian astronomer Galileo and his trial by the Roman Inquisition.

Author Dan Hofstadter says the Galileo affair was “the great religion-science clash of 1633 that in some form has persisted into our time.”

Indirectly verifying Hofstadter’s thesis, a Vatican official — Monsignor Sergio Pagano, head of the Vatican’s secret archives — said earlier this month that the Roman Catholic Church should not fear scientific progress and possibly repeat the mistake it made when it condemned Galileo.

Honduran Catholic hierarchy opposes Zelaya and Chavez

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, 12 April 2005/Alessandro Bianchi Honduras’ powerful Roman Catholic Church has backed the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, surrendering a chance to be an impartial mediator in order to counter the influence of Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chavez.

Leaders of the Catholic Church, the most respected institution in the country, have backed the ouster and thrown their weight behind the interim government installed by the Honduran Congress.

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, often mentioned as a possible future pope, has justified Zelaya’s ouster while opposing his expulsion from the country. “He doesn’t have any authority, moral or legal,” Rodriguez told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

Prominent cardinal backs coup and rule of law in Honduras

ormMen touted as a possible next pope of the Roman Catholic Church rarely get involved in public debates over a coup d’etat or wars of words with heads of state. But that’s what Tegucigalpa Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has done recently in the the political crisis in his country, Honduras. Before the overthrown President Manuel Zelaya made his failed attempt to return home, Rodriguez issued a statement in a televised address declaring his ouster legal and warning Zelaya could spur “a bloodbath” if he came back to Honduras. (Photo: Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, 16 April 2005/Kimimasa Mayama)

The July 3 televised statement, signed by the 11 bishops of Honduras, exhorted Hondurans to seek a peaceful solution to the political crisis and rejected international criticism of Zelaya’s ouster even as it condemned the manner he was kicked out of the country.

Rodriguez, one of the Latin America’s most prominent Catholic leaders, was frequently mentioned as a possible next pontiff in 2005 when he and his fellow cardinals gathered to elect a successor to Pope John Paul. There was much talk at the time that a cardinal from the developing world, where the majority of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics live, took over at the Vatican. When the conclave opted for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the German was called “the last European pope.” The Latin Americans could win the next conclave if they could only rally behind one candidate, the Italian media speculated. Rodriguez, then a young 62, was often mentioned as the man with the best chances.

Pope urges bold world economic reform before G8 summit

popePope Benedict issued an ambitious call to reform the way the world works on Tuesday shortly before its most powerful leaders meet at the G8 summit in Italy. His latest encyclical, entitled “Charity in Truth,” presents a long list of steps he thinks are needed to overcome the financial crisis and shift economic activity from the profit motive to a goal of solidarity of all people.

Following are some of his proposals. The italics are from the original text. Do you think they are realistic food for thought or idealistic notions with no hope of being put into practice?

    “There is urgent need of a true world political authority. .. to manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration… such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights.” The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly – not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred…” “Financiers must rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity, so as not to abuse the sophisticated instruments which can serve to betray the interests of savers. Right intention, transparency, and the search for positive results are mutually compatible and must never be detached from one another.” “Without doubt, one of the greatest risks for businesses is that they are almost exclusively answerable to their investors, thereby limiting their social value… there is nevertheless a growing conviction that business management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors, but must also assume responsibility for all the other stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business: the workers, the clients, the suppliers of various elements of production, the community of reference… What should be avoided is a speculative use of financial resources that yields to the temptation of seeking only short-term profit, without regard for the long-term sustainability of the enterprise, its benefit to the real economy and attention to the advancement, in suitable and appropriate ways, of further economic initiatives in countries in need of development.” “One possible approach to development aid would be to apply effectively what is known as fiscal subsidiarity, allowing citizens to decide how to allocate a portion of the taxes they pay to the State.”
(Photo: Pope Bendict, 1 July 2009/Tony Gentile)

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GUESTVIEW: Fellay ordains SSPX priests, hints timid opening

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Nicolas Senèze is deputy editor of the religion service at the French Catholic daily La Croix and author of La crise intégriste, a history of the SSPX. He wrote this for FaithWorld (translation by Reuters) after covering the ordinations in Ecône for La Croix.

fellay-alps1 (Photo: Bishop Fellay greets children in Ecône, in Valais canton in southwestern Switzerland, 29 June 2009/Denis Balibouse)

By Nicolas Senèze

Bishop Bernard Fellay has gone and done it. On the morning of June 29, before crowds of the faithful gathered on the large meadow outside the Saint Pius X seminary in Ecône, Switzerland, the Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (SSPX) ordained eight new priests. Just like Bishop Alfonso de Galaretta did on Friday in Zaitzkofen, Germany, and Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais 10 days ago in Winona, Minnesota in the United States. They went ahead and ordained these men despite the Vatican’s declaration that the ordinations were “illegitimate”, i.e. illegal according to the law of the Roman Catholic Church.