FaithWorld

Malaysia canes women for having sex out of wedlock

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Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, due to be caned for drinking beer, 24 Aug 2009/Zainal Abd Halim

Malaysian authorities have caned three women under Islamic laws for the first time in the Southeast Asian country, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has said. The sentences were carried out on February 9 after a religious court found them guilty of having sex out of wedlock. Two of the women were whipped six times.

Hishammuddin’s comments signal that the mostly Muslim country is now prepared to flog Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a mother of two, for drinking beer, despite the international criticism that the case has garnered.

Malaysia has a dual-track legal system with Islamic criminal and family laws, which are applicable to Muslims, running alongside civil laws.

Read the full story here.

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A 7-year-old Rio Carnival queen parades in tears and controversy

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Julia Lira is led by her father Marco (L) to their contingent in the Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, 14 Feb 2010/Bruno Domingos

A tearful 7-year-old Carnival queen led exuberant drummers through Rio de Janeiro’s  Sambadrome stadium on Sunday, in a distressed state that may add to controversy over whether a tiny child should perform such a high-pressure, sexually-charged role.

Wearing a short purple dress, a sequined halter and a silver tiara, Julia Lira emerged blinking into the bright lights and deafening fireworks of the Sambadrome and soon burst into tears as photographers and reporters scrummed around her before her samba group started its parade.

Can we expect Freudian slips when Benedict meets Irish bishops?

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This week's cover of the German newsweekly Der Spiegel -- the title says "The sanctimonious ones -- the Catholic Church and sex"

If there ever were a time for Pope Benedict to commit a Freudian slip that we could all understand, it would be in his meetings next week with Irish bishops to discuss the clerical sex abuse scandals that have shaken the Emerald Isle.

It’s not hard to imagine him meeting the Hibernian hierarchy behind closed Vatican doors and occasionally referring to the scandals “in Germany” rather than “in Ireland.” If he does, the Irish bishops will certainly forgive him. Enough has been happening in his fatherland recently to distract him from the uproar about the recent reports of clergy excesses in Ireland.

Irish clergy abuse victims torn between Dublin monument and Haiti aid

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The Ryan report into child abuse, 20 May 2009/Cathal McNaughton

One of the healing measures suggested when Ireland’s Catholic clerical sex scandals shocked the country last year was a proposal to erect a monument in Dublin to all the youths abused for decades at schools and orphanages run by religious orders that looked the other way.  The idea, proposed by the government’s Ryan report last May, won so much support that half a million euros were earmarked for the project. The government appointed a group to consider what the Irish Times called “the most difficult public art commission in the history of the state.”

It’s just become even more difficult because one group of clerical abuse victims has now said the funds should instead be donated to victims of the Haiti earthquake. The gesture would genuinely mean more to victims of clerical abuse than a piece of stone on O’Connell Street,” the victims’ group Right of Place said last week at a meeting with Prime Minister Brian Cowen. O’Connell Street is Dublin’s main thoroughfare, an ideal place for any memorial.

Others disagree.

Christine Buckley, who works at the Aislinn Centre to support victims, said she recognised the deep suffering of Haitian people. But Ireland, whose government and citizens have already contributed millions in aid to Haiti, should still be able to afford just over 3 euros per each child affected by abuse, she said.

Vatican rebukes prelate denying heaven to gays and transsexuals

barraganA Roman Catholic Cardinal has told homosexuals and transsexuals  they would never get into heaven, prompting a rebuke from the Vatican itself.

“Transsexuals and homosexuals will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, it’s not me who says it but St. Paul,” said Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, a former Vatican official who recently retired, referring to one of St. Paul’s epistles. Asked if people were born homosexual Barragan, whose comments were posted on a conservative Catholic website called www.pontifex.roma on Wednesday, was quoted as saying:

“One is not born homosexual but they become that way. This is for various reasons: education, for not having developed their identity during their adolescence, maybe they are not guilty but by going against the dignity of the body they certainly will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

In abuse by Irish priests, a little “mental reservation”

irish-countrysideIt was a ride and I was hitchhiking around Ireland and the driver of a tiny Morris Minor who’d stopped was a priest, so what could be wrong?

This was the 1970s when I was fresh out of an American college, bumming around Europe on almost no money. But it was the Ireland of my ancestors and they had no money either, so we were all in this together. (Photo: Irish countryside, 26 Sept 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

A little too much so, I discovered shortly after getting into the front passenger seat when the priest — and he was wearing his clerical collar, so there could be no doubt — put his hand on my knee.

Swedish Lutheran church to allow gay marriages from Nov. 1

gay-cake-ornamentSweden’s Lutheran church, the Church of Sweden, has decided to conduct gay weddings in the Nordic country from Nov. 1. “We are the first major church to do this,” said Kristina Grenholm, the church’s director of theology. The decision came after the Swedish parliament earlier this year passed legislation allowing homosexuals to legally marry, changing a previous law permitting legal unions but not formal marriage.

“For my part, the right decision was taken, but I can empathise with the many who believe this has gone too fast,” Archbishop of Sweden Anders Wejryd told a news conference.

Sweden’s Lutheran church, which split from the state in 2000 but remains the country’s largest religious community, had previously said it was open to registering same-sex unions but wanted to reserve the term matrimony for heterosexual marriages.

Would Polanski get a pass if he were a paedophile priest?

polanskiIt’s hard to watch France’s political and cultural elite rush to support filmmaker Roman Polanski against extradition to the United States on a decades-old sex charge and not wonder exactly how they interpret the national motto liberté, égalité, fraternité.” It’s tempting to ask whether they’re defending the liberty to break the law and skip town, respecting the equality of all before the law and championing a brotherhood of artists who can do no wrong. (Photo: Roman Polanski, 19 Feb 2009/Hannibal Hanschke)

Here in Paris, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner declared the arrest was “a bit sinister … frankly, (arresting) a man of such talent recognised around the world, recognised in the country where he was arrested — that’s not very nice.” He and his Polish counterpart have written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the issue. Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand said “just as there is a generous America that we like, there’s also an America that scares us, and that’s the America that has just shown us its face.” Directors, actors and intellectuals have been signing a petition demanding Polanski’s immediate release.

Almost all the focus is on the argument that Polanski is a brilliant director, the charge of unlawful sex with a 13-year old dates back to 1977 and the victim herself says she wants the whole issue to be forgotten.  Almost completely ignored is the fact that he fled the U.S. to escape sentencing, which added a crime to the original crime. There is such a widespread assumption that all artists and intellectuals would automatically support Polanski that Paris papers today — both the left-of-centre Libération and the conservative Le Figaro — wrote with an air of surprise that Hollywood was not storming the barricades to back him.

Artist takes on censorship, porn law amid Indonesia restrictions

suwageIndonesian artist Agus Suwage knows what it is like to run up against the religious conservatives. Four years ago, he was hauled into parliament, where lawmakers accused him of blasphemy and of producing pornography dressed up as art. Today, facing an even more restrictive climate in Indonesia, Suwage refuses to be silenced and has made those restrictions the focus of his art.

His latest exhibition, which opened at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute this month, highlights what he sees as a growing conservatism in majority Muslim but officially secular Indonesia. Many of the works probably could not be shown at a big public exhibition space in Indonesia following the passage of a controversial anti-pornography law last year.

“There are more important things to address in law than pornography, like education. But everyone wants to win a political point and on this issue the politics come easily,” Suwage told Reuters in an interview.

Italy’s Catholic Church vs. Berlusconi drama, Act II

famcriA running crisis in relations between Silvio Berlusconi’s government and the Church deepened when Italy’s top Catholic weekly accused him of acting like a “prince” while many Italians were struggling financially.  A scathing editorial in Famiglia Cristiana, Italy’s largest circulation weekly news magazine, also indirectly criticised the media mogul’s private life and attacked the type of women politicians he has promoted in his centre-right party. And it did so without naming him once. The clever editorial in its online edition on September 16, here in Italian, was unsigned, meaning it was written by the magazine’s editor, Father Antonio Sciortino.

The editorial came several weeks after relations between the government and the influential Church nose-dived when a newspaper owned by the Berlusconi family launched a personal attack against a top Catholic editor, forcing him to resign. Read our previous blogs on that episode here and here.

In the latest episode of a duel between the Church and the prime minister, the Famiglia Cristiana editorial made a number of clear references to Berlusconi and scandals or controversies that have surrounded him recently. In a laundry list of what it said were examples of the country’s moral degradation, it spoke of “escorts” and “high-class prostitutes.” Berlusconi has been at the centre of media attention in Italy and abroad over patriziaallegations that he spent a night with a call-girl in his Rome residence. The woman, Patrizia D’Addario, taped their private conversations and says she and other escorts were paid to attend his parties.