Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It wouldn't happen to the Koran: Pope attacks Glasgow art gallery's invitation to vandalise a Bible
By Graham Grant

Pope Benedict XVI believes the stunt would not have been contemplated with a copy of the Koran.

The Pope has condemned a ' disgusting' taxpayer-funded exhibition in which visitors are urged to deface the Bible.

Visitors were offered pens by gallery bosses so they could scrawl comments on the text - leading to a host of puerile and obscene remarks.

Pope Benedict XVI believes the stunt would not have been contemplated with a copy of the Koran.

His anger over the show, organised by council-funded arts body Culture and Sport Glasgow, was expressed by a senior Vatican priest.

The adviser to the Pope said: 'It is disgusting and offensive. They would not think of doing it to the Koran.'

Public complaints about the exhibit at the prestigious Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow have forced organisers to put the vandalised Bible on show in a locked case, while still allowing visitors to write comments on blank sheets of paper.

The Made In God's Image exhibit is the work of Glasgow artist Anthony Schrag. He wanted gays and transsexuals who felt left out of religion to 'write their way back in' to the holy text.
Mr Schrag worked with members of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in Edinburgh on the project. But MCC minister Jane Clarke said: 'I had hoped people would show respect for the Bible.

I am saddened some have chosen to write offensive messages.'

Monday, July 20, 2009

And now on a lighter note - something irresistable

Holy hoon: nun clocked at 180km/h
July 21, 2009 - 11:41AM

Italian traffic police got an unholy surprise when they pulled over a driver clocked at 180km/h - it was a 56-year-old nun claiming to be on a mercy dash to the Pope.

The speeding nun, who was accompanied by two fellow Salesian nuns, aged 65 and 78, reportedly told police they were rushing to Pope Benedict's side out of concern for his broken wrist.

The Vatican had recently gone public with news the Pontiff had fallen in the bathroom during his summer holiday.

The nuns' Ford Fiesta was caught travelling at nearly 50km/h over the speed limit before it was pulled over on Friday, The Guardian reported.

"The police were shocked to find three nuns of a certain age in the Fiesta," the report quoted the speeding nun as saying.

"But we were afraid of getting there late. I know you shouldn't go so fast, but the news of his Holiness's injury had made us truly anxious."

Despite the urgency of the mission, the police chose not to overlook the traffic infringement, suspending the nun's licence for a month and issuing a $650 fine.

However, she was a "determined sort" who would contest the penalty, her lawyer told The Guardian.

"She is planning to appeal and we think we can invoke the 'state of necessity' in the law that allows speeding," Anna Orecchioni said.

Orecchioni has successfully defended a Muslim imam in Rome after convincing a judge that asthma medicine doubled his blood alcohol reading.

Also on her books is a priest who claims communion wine consumed at four consecutive masses pushed him over the legal limit.

After surgery on his damaged wrist, the Pope delivered a blessing on Sunday, his right forearm in plaster.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another point of view

What We Could Learn From Pope Benedict
Good Fences
By J.J. Goldberg

‘Turn it and turn it again, for everything is contained therein” — so says the Talmudic compendium of wisdom known as the “Ethics of the Fathers,” in trying to describe the value of the Torah. It’s got everything you need right inside, tradition teaches. It’s the all-in-one roadmap for living in this world. After all, people have been turning to it for thousands of years for guidance in times of crisis and doubt. There’s a reason they call it the Good Book.

You would think, then, that at moments of really big crisis — say, a global economic meltdown — we could look in the book and find some big idea that helps us make sense of it all. Alas, most of us gave up trying a long time ago. Some have turned it and turned it upside-down and shaken it, but what came out, it seemed, were mostly lists of who begat whom and how many cows to sacrifice on weekends and holidays. Even those who do believe usually find that we go there for the personal, small-bore things like practicing kindness and coping with loss, not redeeming society or saving the planet. For the big stuff we look to the politicians and scientists.

On July 7, however, a very, very big idea was drawn out of Scripture, offering a framework for fixing and humanizing the global economy so that it feeds and houses people instead of fattening offshore banks. The author is Pope Benedict XVI, formerly known as the very conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. What he has to say about the economy reads like a left-wing social-democratic tract, albeit overlaid with a lot of camp meeting-style calls to faith.

The document, titled “Charity in Truth,” was published as a papal encyclical. That means it is a letter to the church, spelling out a doctrine with all the authority of the papacy — and, according to an earlier pope, it “ends theological debate” on the topic at hand.

Here’s what has just been put beyond debate:

All people have a fundamental human right to food, clean water and a job.

Economic decisions are not neutral. “Every economic decision has a moral consequence,” and economic activity must be regulated by “just laws” enacted through the political process.

The current state of economic inequality is a “cultural and moral crisis of man,” and demands “distributive justice” through a redistribution of wealth.

Profit should not be the goal of a business, but a means by which it achieves the goal of providing human needs.

Investment and incentives should be structured to encourage long-term business development rather than short-term profit.

Managers should be accountable not just to investors and shareholders but “to all stakeholders,” including workers, consumers and surrounding communities.

Society must protect the right of workers to form unions “that can defend their rights.”

The globalized economy requires a global economic authority that can prevent companies from escaping national regulation by moving offshore, and can negotiate a fair distribution of capital and resources among rich and poor countries.

There’s much more, of course, in the 130-page document. It speaks several times of what Catholicism calls protection of life — partly to say that economic justice must flow from a value system that respects human life, and partly to say that protecting life is incomplete unless it includes human dignity and economic justice.

The encyclical also says that moral values underpinning this doctrine can be found in many religions, not just Christianity — and that believers and non-believers should work together in alliances based on shared human values.

Commentators have been falling over themselves to insist it isn’t left or right wing, since it mentions abortion along with unions and redistribution. But nobody seems to be fooled. One leading Catholic neoconservative philosopher, George Weigel, wrote in National Review Online that the encyclical reads like a “duckbilled platypus,” meaning an incoherent mishmash. It’s not clear how much longer a defender of church authority can get away with that. After all, it is a papal encyclical, not a Twitter tweet.

As for other religions that don’t have a papal authority, they can only look on in wonder and envy, and perhaps seek ways to link hands. Judaism has a long tradition, older than Christianity, of reading the Bible in very much the same way, as Rabbi Jill Jacobs argues elegantly in a new book called “There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice Through Jewish Law and Tradition” (Jewish Lights).

But Jacobs’s views are all too rare in Judaism these days. For a long time now, those Jews who seek the sort of structural justice that Benedict is talking about haven’t been very interested in Jewish law, and those most attached to Jewish law aren’t jumping into the sorts of coalitions Benedict proposes.

It used to be different. In the Middle Ages, communities were governed by their rabbis as mutual aid societies, following the sort of biblical principles the pope writes about. But rabbis don’t govern the community anymore, now that the ghetto walls have come down.

A century ago the voice of the community was its working class, the unions and populist community organizations that answered to their public. Nowadays the organizations answer to their donors, and rabbis are afraid to preach unionism when the synagogue president is around.
Reading the papal encyclical is a reminder that we’re quickly losing a big part of our tradition. It’s part of what made the Jews a light unto the nations. Look, even the pope is copying us.
The Pope, the Rabbi, and the Moral Economy
by Samuel Gregg D.Phil.

In our oh-so-secular age, it’s paradoxical that religious leaders’ pronouncements on subjects ranging from marriage to markets invariably receive considerable media attention. This makes it even more surprising that no one seems to have noticed the parallels between Benedict’s XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, released on July 7th, and a provocative op-ed written by Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, in the London Times two weeks earlier.

The pope and the rabbi had a similar message, which amounts to the following. Some of our contemporary economic problems reflect a deeper moral crisis within Western civilization. Until we acknowledge this, shifts in economic policy and business practice will only provide limited solutions.

To be sure, it’s not a message everyone will appreciate. But that doesn’t diminish its accuracy.
As individuals, there are many striking analogies between Pope Benedict and Rabbi Sacks. Both are widely recognized as formidable intellectuals in their own right. Each has unapologetically and directly challenged secularizing trends within his own faith-tradition. Neither is afraid to question the secularist zeitgeist which thoroughly intimidates so many rabbis and Christian clergy today.

In their recent reflections, both rabbi and pope underlined what a morally-confused, even dysfunctional, world we live in. It’s not that they consider the pre-1960s era as somehow morally superior. In Sacks’ view, more people today genuinely do care about issues that received less attention from our grandparents, such as extreme poverty in developing nations.

“But,” Sacks writes, “note this: the things we care about are vast, distant, global, remote.” When it comes to matters closer to us such as trust or simple truth-telling, Sacks says we have more or less abandoned notions of right and wrong. Instead the West has embraced a morality in which what ultimately matters, ethically-speaking, is whether we choose something.
Choice has become its own justification and the only sin is to question anyone’s moral choices. To do so is to be “intolerant” or “judgmental.” Who are you to question my choice to lie on my mortgage-application or my choice to betray my wife?

According to Sacks, one effect of this relativism is that we tacitly and increasingly rely upon the state to regulate our behavior. Nature abhors a vacuum, but especially moral voids. Thus instead of an all-seeing God to whom we must eventually account for all our choices, we have video surveillance. “The result,” Sacks claims, “is that we have created the most regulated, intrusive society ever known.”

In Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI makes a similar point. It is good, he writes, that people care about the environment. But, Benedict comments, “Human beings interpret and shape the natural environment through culture, which in turn is given direction by the responsible use of freedom, in accordance with the dictates of the moral law.” It follows that if we ignore this moral law, we are likely to treat nature as “a heap of scattered refuse” or, conversely, embrace “attitudes of neo-paganism or a new pantheism.”

The other intersection between these pontifical and rabbinical reflections is their mutual insistence that we must look beyond what Benedict calls “the exclusively binary model of market-plus-State.”

Let’s be clear: Benedict and Sacks rigorously deny that markets are intrinsically flawed. Each also maintains that there are fundamental limits to state power. They do, however, insist that morality’s ultimate sources come from neither state nor market.

Instead they unabashedly nominate a divine foundation for morality that’s also accessible to human reason. Once this basis is forgotten, they contend, societies and economies are in deep trouble.

For years, Benedict has been spelling out the consequences of living and acting as if God doesn’t exist. Likewise, Sacks underscores the insight of the great Oxbridge philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe (a Catholic convert) that words like “courage” and “criminal” only made sense in the moral world created by Judaism, the Greek Stoics, and orthodox Christianity.
Such expressions make no sense at all, Sacks states, in our world dominated, as it is, by a philosophy as incoherent as utilitarianism. “Concepts like duty, obligation, responsibility and honour,” he stresses, “have come to seem antiquated and irrelevant”. This also helps to make cheating and lying in commercial life more palatable.

None of this is to suggest that Benedict and Sacks are knee-jerk anti-moderns. Their respective faiths affirm that people have lied and stolen from history’s beginning. All of us, they say, are sinners. Hence the good achievable by fallen humanity, Benedict notes, “is always less than we might wish”.

What the pope and the rabbi question are those who limit morality to politically-correct causes and the associated refusal of many working in our economies to acknowledge, in the rabbi’s words, that “Without a shared moral code there can be no free society”.

To which this Catholic can only say “Amen!”


Monday, July 13, 2009

Something positive out of San Francisco Newspapers

The pope pays the economy some attention
Discussing the latest encyclical with social ethics Professor William O'Neill
David Ian Miller
Monday, July 13, 2009

You know you're living in interesting times when the pope decides to write about the economy.
As the Wall Street Journal pointed out on Tuesday after Pope Benedict XVI released his 44-page encyclical, titled "Caritas in Veritate" or "Charity in Truth," popes only address financial issues in encyclicals "during moments of tectonic shift" such as the Industrial Revolution (1891, Pope Leo XIII, argued for workers' rights) and the Great Depression (1931 Pope Pius XI, warning about the dangers of capitalism run amuck).

In the Catholic tradition, encyclicals are open letters written by the pope to the bishops of the church, addressing big issues ranging from dangers to the world at large or the souls of church members. Although the Vatican does an outstanding job of utilizing modern communications -- Pope Benedict XVI has a Facebook page (you can be his friend, but you can't poke him) and his Web site,, offers iPhone content -- videos of the pope's travels and speeches -- encyclicals remain a critical form of discourse.

Caritas in Veritate addresses very modern issues such as globalization, market economy, hedge funds, outsourcing, and alternative energy, calling for people to put aside greed and let their consciences guide them in economic and environmental decisions. Many of the ideas put forward would likely rankle conservatives, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne wrote that the encyclical "places the pope well to Obama's left on economics..."

I spoke about the encyclical with William O'Neill, a professor of social ethics at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and a visiting professor of ethics at the Jesuit School of Theology in Nairobi, Kenya. O'Neill has worked with refugees in Tanzania and Malawi, and conducted research on human rights in South Africa and Rwanda. His writings address questions of human rights, ethics, social reconciliation, and conflict resolution. We discussed the politics of the encyclical, tensions within the church, and how the current economic crisis might reshape our world.

Let's start with your general take on the new encyclical. What were your first impressions?

I was very impressed, both with its scope and its depth. It is, I think, a remarkable document that raises very difficult questions, particularly for many Americans, partly because it speaks to the possibility of economic redistribution.

It seems that Pope Benedict is offering a much more radical set of economic prescriptions than even the most liberal Democrats in this country. Does that surprise you?

I wasn't surprised as much as I was delighted to see that so many of the fundamental themes that have been a part of the heritage of modern Catholic social teaching were articulated in such a profound and theologically grounded way. Benedict is a theologian, and you see the theological wisdom permeating the entire encyclical. But the concern of mediating the tradition to the specific problems that we are facing in light of the economic crisis and the suffering of so many of the people in our world today -- that, to me, was very heartening. I think what he is doing is taking a rich tradition and trying to apply it to novel circumstances. And I think he does that quite well.

Will the encyclical, in your opinion, actually change anything?

That's the question. How will it be received? I suspect, had this been issued prior to the economic crisis, it would have been met with a kind of constrained interest. Today, we would almost say it's prophetic, because there is a general understanding that the failures of international regulation, the crises of a globalizing economy, will require a kind of profound ethical appraisal.

This encyclical comes at a time when many of us would say business as usual is no longer acceptable. We need significant structural change rather than just making minor modifications and hoping that the great capitalist engine will continue to function. It doesn't give a precise prescription for policy. But it does give a moral perspective for thinking about global economic integration. In many ways, I think it is the beginning of a conversation, rather than the end.

What are the main themes of that conversation?

Some of the central themes are his emphasis upon a kind of integral humanism and a concern that the market must be made moral from within, that the economy is one of the most socialized activities we engage in today, and consequently our economic interdependence has to be leavened with moral solidarity.

Another theme is recognizing the need for appropriate measures, given the vast economic shifts that have occurred just within the last decade of the globalizing economy. The question is, how do we regulate the financial and capital markets in a way that will protect fundamental rights, especially for those who are least prosperous? These are concerns that go back to the gospel, and I think Benedict is trying to cultivate them in a way that could actually make a difference in terms of prevailing policies.

Do you know if encyclicals are written primarily by the pope, or are they a group effort?

Sometimes they are the product of a number of authors. I would say this encyclical bears the imprimatur of Benedict himself, to use a very papal term, just given the coherence of the text and its theological density.

This isn't the first time that he has spoken out about the lack of ethics in capitalism. In 1985, for example, he presented a paper entitled "Market Economy and Ethics" warning that the lack of ethics could cause financial markets to collapse. Is this pope particularly well-educated in financial issues?

He's certainly not an economist or a financier. But there has been a rich tradition, not only for Benedict, but really since 1891 when the first major social encyclical dealing with the massive dislocation of workers at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, a whole history of Catholic social thinking in this regard. This encyclical is the 40-year commemoration of Paul VI of Populorum Progressio, which was the first encyclical to deal with the problems of development and globalization in such detail. It emphasized not only the rights of Western workers, but the profound systematic deprivation of underdevelopment in so many parts of our world.

One of the encyclical's more controversial elements is a call for a "world political authority" to play a central role in regulating the economy. This has been interpreted by some critics as an endorsement of a new world government, though Vatican officials have taken pains to deny that was Benedict's intention. What do you make of the pope's statements on this issue?

He is certainly not calling for a new world government. I think this has to be put into context. One of the key themes in Catholic teaching for many many years is that effective participation for the common good is going to involve different levels of authority. In other words, we have a global common good, so how is that to be implemented? It would be implemented through appropriate international structures and regulations, but also through the appropriate activities of state and regional actors. One of the keys is that the state, or in this case a global authority, should never absorb the appropriate authority of so-called intermediate associations, or hosts.

So it's not a recommendation for world centralized government but an attempt to develop the kind of wise appropriate redistributive measures that would allow an economy to satisfy its moral purposes -- to provide a decent standard of living, especially for those who have been effectively marginalized by the processes of globalization. I think what he is looking for is appropriate redistributive measures that would regulate the economy rather than displace it. That's at least how I would understand it.

It is interesting that to me that the pope's thinking on issues like globalization, the economy, outsourcing, and alternative energy, are in line with liberal or progressive thinking in this country. Yet, he is very conservative on social issues like gay marriage, abortion, and stem cell research. How do you explain that dichotomy?

I think that it represents the tension within church teachings generally between personal and social morality on the one hand, and economic ethics on the other hand. Since the end of the 19th century the church social teachings have emphasized workers' rights, appropriate (wealth) redistribution measures, and the common good, while emphasizing more traditional morality relating to sexual ethics and family life. The teachings are not opposed, but they overlap. It's a matter of different emphases rather than fundamental conflict.

Do you feel the church in its recent history has done enough to address economic inequality?

I think in some ways we have been excessively lacking, and of course, I include myself in this as well. One of the problems is how Catholic teaching becomes Catholic learning. I think one of the tragedies is that we often have done very good social analysis, for instance, on the rights of workers or migrants, but we haven't done a very good job in disseminating that research, and as a result so often the church's moral teaching seems to be reduced to the popular mind largely to its views on sexuality.

What, if any, changes in your work and spiritual practice will you make in response to the teachings of this encyclical?

It will probably take a little more discernment for me to see what this would mean, to be very honest, in my own life. It does suggest to me that I haven't strayed as widely as some might think in emphasizing, for instance, the importance of global solidarity or defending the rights of migrants. The inmates at the federal women's prison where I am a chaplain are mostly migrant women. They are not non-persons. Their lives matter. That's one of the hallmarks of this encyclical, and it's something I can actually bring to my preaching in prison -- that they appear in the text, these women who in many ways are marginalized by a global economy and largely forgotten, even in our criminal justice system.

What does it mean, ultimately, to go back to Jesus' first words in Luke, to preach good news to the poor? If Catholic social teaching means anything, it's at the service of this gospel. So I take from that a sense of being heartened that my church has not forgotten the least among us, and that Benedict, who has been criticized in many ways for being excessively cautious and conservative, has taken such a prophetic view. I think that's both courageous and wise, and I really applaud him for that. Differ as I might with some of his other teachings, I really think that he has effectively spoken the gospel today for us.

Do you want to say anything more about the teachings you disagree with?

I would say here, and maybe this is going a little astray, but I think that for the American church to be prophetic, it first has to be repentant. We have to recognize our complicity in the sexual abuse crimes, for example, and that's a language that Benedict would probably not apply to the institutions of the church, but I think that to recognize the sinful structures of the church and to repent of them is a real condition for allowing the grace of the spirit to be prophetic.

For some to believe that, if we truly repent then we foreclose the possibility of prophecy, that we abdicate our moral authority, is a mistake. I think we have to recognize that the church, in its official and institutional structures, has contributed to social sin. In many ways Benedict has done this in his text by speaking with courage about an integral need to restore the human purposes to our economy. Those are noble sentiments, but I think they will be received, if we recognize that prophecy always requires a certain ability to repent.

Does the Vatican have a history of repentance?

Yes, actually. Benedict wrote a rather remarkable apology to the bishops for lifting the excommunication order on Richard Williamson (a bishop who publicly stated that the Holocaust never happened). And there has been a series of papal apologies beginning with John Paul and others, for anti-Semitism in the church.

I just returned from a week-long conference at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, looking at the behavior of the churches during the Holocaust, and again, it's very sobering to see what happened there. I think of what Martin Luther King speaks of in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," of the silence of the good, the appalling silence of the good. That is perhaps the greatest malaise for Christians. It's not our overt racism and anti-Semitism but rather the complacency of the good. And my hope is that this encyclical may in subtle ways be a subversive antidote to that tendency, that it may help us imagine our world a little differently and call us to action. If it does that, then it has achieved its purpose.

During his far-flung career in journalism, Bay Area writer and editor David Ian Miller has worked as a city hall reporter, personal finance writer, cable television executive and managing editor of a technology news site. His writing credits include, Wired News and The New York Observer.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Faithful Catholic Commentary on Pope Benedic XVI's Caritas in Veritate
July 11, 9:11 PM · Denise Hunnell, M.D. - DC Catholic Living Examiner
. (AP Photo/Tiziana Fabi, POOL)

So many voices are rushing to comment on Pope Benedict’s latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. There has been a great deal of cherry picking of this portion or that portion in an attempt to score political points. However, as Pope Benedict XVI himself said in his Wednesday Audience, the aim of this document is not about technical solutions to specific problems. It is about principles.

Most important among these is human life itself, the centre of all true progress. Additionally, it speaks of the right to religious freedom as a part of human development, it warns against unbounded hope in technology alone, and it underlines the need for upright men and women – attentive to the common good – in both politics and the business world.

Still, there is a lot to unpack in this encyclical. Catholic World Report has pulled together a cohort of reliably Catholic intellectuals to offer a round table discussion of this profound document. The panel includes: J. Brian Benestad, professor of theology at the University of Scranton; Francis J. Beckwith, Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, and Resident Scholar in the Institute for the Studies of Religion, Baylor University; Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, editor of Ignatius Press; Richard Garnett, professor of Law at University of Notre Dame; Thomas S. Hibbs, Distinguished Professor of Ethics & Culture and Dean of the Honors College at Baylor University; Paul Kengor, professor of political science at Grove City College; George Neumayr, editor of Catholic World Report; Joseph Pearce, writer-in-residence and associate professor of literature at Ave Maria University; Tracy Rowland, Dean of John Paul II Institute, Melbourne Australia; Fr. James V. Schall, professor of government at Georgetown University; Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute.

The comments of this esteemed assembly are not a substitute for reading Caritas in Veritate. Rather, they offer faithfully Catholic guidance in the interpretation and application of the Holy Father’s words.

Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Two Articles of Interest

Pope gives Obama 'unannounced' gift: Vatican document on right to life and bioethics

.- Pope Benedict XVI received President Barack Obama this afternoon in his private library, and after 36 minutes of private conversation, the pair emerged without providing any details about their topics of conversation. Nevertheless, the Holy See revealed that the Pope gave Obama an “unannounced gift”--a Vatican document on bioethics and the right to life.

"The G8 has been very productive, 20 billion dollars have been allocated [to poor countries]; that's something concrete," President Obama told the Pope when he asked about the summit, as photographers and journalists were ushered out of the Papal library.

The meeting between the Pope and the U.S. President started at 4:25 p.m. local time, after an unusually short meeting of ten minutes with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

After the private conversation, and again in front of the cameras, President Obama gave the Pontiff a stole that was drapped upon the body of St. John Neumann from 1988 to 2007. The Pope instead presented the president with a mosaic portraying St. Peter's Square and the Vatican Basilica, and an autographed copy of his latest social encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.”

“I will have something to read on the plane,” President Obama joked after receiving the encyclical.

At the end of the meeting, the Pope said in English, "I pray for you and bless your work."

"I am very grateful, I hope we will have fruitful relationships," the President responded.

Despite the fact that the Vatican did not release an official statement about the nature of the meeting, the “unannounced” gift to Obama of the 2008 document "Dignitas Personae" on bioethics and the right to life, could be a signal of the nature of at least part of their conversation.

Pope Benedict Spoke to Obama on Right to Life, Freedom of Conscience

<>By Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, July 10, 2009 ( - Pope Benedict gave US President Barack Obama a surprise gift of the Vatican bioethics document "Dignitatis Personae," and discussed the ethics of abortion and embryo research in their first meeting in Rome this afternoon.

A Vatican statement has said that in their private discussion, the pope addressed issues of "the defense and promotion of life and the right to abide by one's conscience."

At the customary exchange of gifts, Obama presented Pope Benedict with a relic - a stole that had been draped over the body of the US's most popular Catholic saints, St. John Neumann, Bishop of Philadelphia from1852 to 1860. The pope also offered the president religious medals and rosaries, as well as a copy of his latest encyclical, signed this week, "Caritas in Veritate."

A lengthy live feed video of the meeting showed a relaxed Obama greeting the pope warmly and sitting down immediately at his desk to a conversation that began with the recently concluded G-8 summit meeting in the earthquake-struck city of L'Aquila.

"Dignitatis Personae" (On the Dignity of Persons) is a 2008 instruction by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that gives the Catholic teaching on the ethics of embryonic research and reiterates Church opposition to contraception and abortion, mentioning new methods of birth control such as female condoms and the morning-after pill.

At the end of the meeting, Pope Benedict told the president, "A blessing on all your work and also for you." The president responded, "Thank you very much. We look forward to a very strong relationship."

According to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, "Obama told the pope of his commitment to reduce the number of abortions and of his attention and respect for the positions of the Catholic Church."

Barack Obama told Pope Benedict XIV it was "a great honor" to meet him in what may be one of the US President's most successful PR ventures in his presidency to date. The meeting in the pope's private office lasted forty minutes and consisted of what White House spokesmen described as "frank but constructive" private discussion on world issues.

After eight years of friendly Vatican relations between former President George W. Bush, observers have eagerly awaited this meeting. Despite differences between the Bush administration and the Vatican on the war in Iraq, the former president's relationship with the Catholic Church was strengthened by his initiatives in defence of human life.

With Obama's zealous support for legal abortion, even to the point of having opposed legislation to protect children born alive after failed abortions, it is expected that tensions with the current administration will be higher.

The Vatican has made unusual accommodations for the visit, scheduling it in the late afternoon before Obama proceeds to a visit to Africa and allowing extensive live video coverage. The Vatican normally schedules such meetings for midday.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Encyclical links, and etc.

I found a site with several link discussing Holy Father's recently published third encyclical. You may find something of interest here. There are several other matters also listed here but it seems to be a good selection, over all, to examine.

Pope hosts G-8 leaders' wives (clearly, Holy Father understands the influence wives's have)

VATICAN CITY - POPE Benedict XVI on Wednesday hosted the wives of world leaders who were in Italy attending the G-8 summit, the Vatican said.

Following his weekly general audience in the Vatican City, the pope received the group, which included five wives of country leaders.

Among them were Sarah Brown, the wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Margarita Calderon, wife of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, and Filippa Reinfeldt, wife of Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt.

Nompumelelo Ntuli Zuma, wife of South African President Jacob Zuma, and Gursharan Kaur, wife of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, were also at the audience along with Margarida Barroso, wife of European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

The three-day G-8 summit started Wednesday in L'Aquila, central Italy. -- AFP

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Love in Truth - Holy Father's Encyclical

Pope Benedict's encyclical on social matters was released today. Deep reading but he is so readable, I expect to eat it up. It's title is Love in Truth

Pope Benedict appeals for less greed and more soul

In the third encyclical of his papacy, Pope Benedict has appealed to the leaders of the world's wealthier nations not to ignore the needs of the poor in the face of the global economic crisis.

Published on the eve of the L'Aguila G-8 summit scheduled to focus on the global economy, climate change and aid for developing nations, "Caritas in Veritate" (Charity in Truth) says that poorer countries should be given "an effective voice in shared decision making."

The encyclical says the "primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his and her integrity."

The 82-year-old Pope Benedict used the document, which is his first encyclical on social issues, as a platform to denounce what he sees as the unjust nature of globalised capitalism, and to call for "greater social responsibility."

He urged fairer trade practices, citing outsourcing to countries where labour is cheaper, as bad business which could "weaken the company's sense of responsibility to the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment.

World body with "real teeth"
Furthermore, the pontiff stressed the need for a reform of the United Nations and economic and financial institutions in order to lend some "real teeth" to the idea of a family of nations.
He said there was an urgent need to establish a true world political authority in order to "manage the global economy, revive economies hit by the crisis, to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis."

Such a body, he wrote could work "to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace, to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration´."
The 144-page letter sharply criticised "badly managed and largely speculative financial dealing," and said the world was now in the thick of a greed-induced depression.

Yet for all of the ills the global economic crisis has visited on millions of people across the world, Pope Benedict said it also offered an opportunity to "replan our journey, set ourselves new rules, and to discover new forms of commitment."

Message applauded by German bishops
The encyclical, which the Pope began writing in 2007 but held off publishing in order to reflect the current economic climate, has been welcomed by German bishops.

Speaking in the southern city of Freiburg on Tuesday, the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Robert Zollitsch, described the encyclical as a "great piece of work", which embodies the basic conditions for humane and dignified development.

He said Pope Benedict had made a significant contribution to the current debate on globalisation and justice, and added that the timing of the publication highlighted "the urgency of the issue".
Zollitsch praised the pontiff for appealing to industrialized nations to implement good ethical practises and encouraging individuals to see themselves as contributors to the current global developments rather than victims thereof.

"Everyone needs to have a rethink," he said.