Thursday, August 30, 2007

Moscow Patriarch Speaks on Meeting with Pope and Latin Mass

Interfax reports that Patriarch Alexy of Moscow again addressed the possibility of meeing with Benedict of Rome. Of course, the condition is that Greek Catholics cease to exist and all Roman priests and congregations do everything possible to be invisible lest Moscow have to deal with one Russian choosing Rome over Russian Orthodoxy. Meanwhile, Orthodox Churches flourish in Western Europe and North America.

Meeting with Pope possible on certain terms - Alexy II

Rome, August 30, Interfax - Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia welcomes Pope Benedict XVI's initiative to promote inter-church dialogue, but said some terms must be fulfilled before a personal meeting with the pope could take place.

"Pope Benedict has said on many occasions that he wants to promote dialogue and cooperation with the Orthodox Churches, and this is a positive occurrence," Alexy II said in an interview published by the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.

A meeting with the pope must be thoroughly prepared, he said.

"It must not be merely an occasion for a few photos or for an appearance before TV cameras. It must strengthen ties between our two Churches," Alexy II said.

"Even now, some of the Catholic bishops and missionaries see Russia as a territory of missionary activities. But Russia, Holy Rus, which has been permeated with faith for centuries and the Orthodox Church, guarded with God's blessing, is not a place for missionary activities," he said.

Alexy II said that it is the first issue to be settled before organizing a meeting.

The second one is the activities of the Greek Catholics Church. "We are concerned about the Uniates as a phenomenon and we can see this tendency even in the regions where it was not common - in eastern Ukraine, Byelorussia, Kazakhstan and even in Russia," the patriarch said.

"When these issues are settled an opportunity will emerge for a meeting, and it will have sense then," Alexy II said.
On the other hand, Sayidna Alexy speaks positively on the issue of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. (Interesting that so many Roman Rite Bishops aren't as positive.)

Alexy II greets Catholics as they reintroduce Latin Mass

Rome, August 30, Interfax - Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia has greeted the recent decree of Pope Benedict XVI providing more freedom to celebrate the ancient Latin Mass.

The motu proprio Summorum Pontificum that provides more freedom to use the pre-Vatican II Missal ‘is a positive fact,’ Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia said to comment on the Roman Catholic Church reintroducing her ancient liturgical form.

‘We strongly adhere to the tradition. Without being faithful to her liturgy the Russian Orthodox Church would have failed to survive persecutions in 1920s and 1930s,’ the Russian primate told the Italian daily Il Giornale a few days ago after celebration liturgy in the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Kremlin.

The patriarch opined that the pope’s decision might contribute to establishing closer links with the Orthodox Churches, the daily said.

The obligatory Latin Mass was abolished by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) when the Roman Catholic Church legalized liturgical use of modern languages hoping to attract more people. But the results were far from ideal, and the reform led to a schism as Archbishop Marcel Lefevre refused to accept it an faced excommunication in 1988.
I'll leave to others the misinformation about the Council and the history of hermeneutic of discontinuity.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Islam, Christianity and Conversion

How Islam views, and deals with, converts -- from Islam to Christianity is discussed in and article by Fr Samir Khalil Samir, SJ over at AsiaNews. It merits serious attention.

Hegazi case: Islam’s obsession with conversions

The case of Mohammad Hegazi, young Egyptian converted to Christianity, who wishes to be legally recognized as such, has opened a new debate in the Islamic world on conversions, which are often seen as acts of apostasy that merit death. What has emerged is a veritable obsession in Islam for personal conversions, this religion having been reduced more to an ethnic and sociological submission. There is even talk of a plan to convert Europe and the world to Islam, to which European governments are giving a hand. The first part in an analysis by Fr Samir Khalil Samir, Egyptian Jesuit, expert on Islam.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The case has received a lot of public attention: a young Egyptian, Mohammad Ahmad Hegazi, age 25, converted to Christianity some years ago (some say 9, others 6 years ago; according to the Islamic version, it was just a few months ago!). He then married a woman named Zeinab, who also became Christian, taking the name Cristina. In recent months, he asked that his documents show his new religious affiliation. In Egypt, identity cards must indicate the holder’s religion and, so far, Hegazi’s is officially Islam. This means that he is considered to be Muslim for various legal questions pertaining to inheritance rights, family law etc.

His request was effectively been turned down by administrative authorities, who did not see his request through. So, Hegazi went to the government direct. Why did he ask for this change to be made only now, years after his conversion? Perhaps because the couple is expecting a baby. And if they are registered as Muslims, the child will have to be as well, regardless of the parents’ wishes.

When administrative authorities balked at his request, Hegazi went to the courts to claim his rights, with the help of a lawyer from an NGO. The case is extremely important, more than it may appear, also because it has been reported by media around the world and now the press in Egypt is also discussing it. Initially, reactions came from imams, then from the general public. The vast majority is saying that Mohammad Hegazi must be killed as an apostate. Only a small part dares to quote the Koran – which states that “there is no compulsion in religion” – and states its support for his freedom.

Read the whole article by clicking here.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Kids Are Alright

Just a series of links to recent reports on young people and what they find important and attractive in life. After 40+ years of post-modern (read: "post-Christian") situation ethics, multicultural idealization, and political correctness, it should come as no surprise that today's young people are ready to take up the banner of revolution and change this broken world (and I don't mean by way of the upcoming CBS child-abuse reality series). The poll was sponsored by the Associated Press and MTV, which makes the results it reports even more dramatic!

Check out the links below!

Young women said to want to be 'countercultural' in religious life

Poll: Youths say religion, family make them happy

Today's Youth: Family friendly

AP Poll: God vital to young Amercians

Click here for a PDF of the actual study report

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Serbian Metropolitan Archbishop on Dangers of TV

Romanian Orthodox leader condemns TV for "poisoning souls"
August 20, 2007 11:19 AM

CLUJ, Romania-A Romanian Orthodox Church leader on Wednesday criticized television stations for manipulating viewers and "poisoning the souls of Romanians" with violent programs.

"We are becoming a savage and uncouth people," Metropolitan Bartolomeu Anania told a gathering of more than 100,000 pilgrims at the Nicula Monastery in northwest Romania.

Anania, who is one of the possible successors to Patriarch Teoctist, who died last month, contended that violence on television was harming people's personalities.

"It's a diabolical technique which causes people to not be able to discern good from evil," the 86-year-old Anania claimed. "It is a slow crime that destroys the conscience and personality."

He said, however, that he watches television and owns a computer. He added that he was not "against modernity" or television itself, though he disapproved of the way he said it was used.

The Orthodox Church, which is predominate in Romania, is to hold an election on Sept. 12 to choose a new leader to replace Teoctist, who worked to improve ties with the Vatican.

Observers believe that Anania, if elected patriarch, would reverse a trend toward dialogue with the Catholic church.

On Wednesday, pilgrims flocked to the Nicula monastery, where Anania spoke, to kiss an icon believed to have miraculous healing powers.

According to legend, the icon of the Weeping Virgin, painted in 1691, wept for 26 days in 1699. The first miracle is believed by the faithful to have occurred in 1701 when it is said to have cured an army officer's wife who was going blind.
Keep the Holy Church of Romania in your prayers!

Ukrainian Church in UK Collapses

This just in from the BBC.

Cathedral collapse sparks exodus

Worshippers at a Ukrainian cathedral in London's Mayfair have been offered space to pray at a Jesuit church after the ceiling of the cathedral collapsed.
The congregation of the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile will worship at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, also in Mayfair.

The damage was discovered on Monday 13 August and is likely to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to repair.

The Ukrainians are likely to worship in the Farm Street church for some weeks.

Interesting logistics

Jesuit spokesman Ged Clapson said: "It's lucky no-one was in the church when it happened.

"It's going to take 10 to 12 months to repair. That gives you an estimate of the damage."

Farm Street's parish priest Father William Pearsall said: "Our capacity isn't as great as the Ukrainian Cathedral, and we have only limited facilities, so there are going to be some interesting logistics.

"But this is the least we can do to help out our fellow Catholics at this time of crisis."

The two churches belong to the same groups of parishes - otherwise known as a deanery - but their styles of worship are quite different. The Ukrainian Catholic Church is the largest of the Catholic Church's eastern branches.

Mr Clapson said: "The churches are both part of the deanery, and they meet occasionally. It's going to brings us together more closely."
Click here for photo of the damage.

Dominicans in Kiev

Dominican monastery being built in Kiev

Kiev, August 22, Interfax - A Roman Catholic Chapel of St. Hyacinth was dedicated in Kiev a few days ago.

On the same site the Dominican Order plans to built a cloister and a St. Thomas Aquinas Institute of Religious Sciences.

Bishop Jan Purwinski of Kiev-Zhitomir, who presided over the liturgy in the new chapel, said that the future Dominican center was called ‘to shape the culture of the spirit in today’s uneasy circumstances,’ Religious Information Service of Ukraine reported.
I have mixed feelings about this one. The spread of the Faith is a beautiful thing, but on the one hand, in an historically Byzantine nation I am concerned that the implanting of "western" institutions may be counterproductive. But, on the other hand, our separated Eastern Brethren have no scruples about organizing "eastern" institutions, etc., in the West.

On balance, I realize that my hesitation arises from the desire to "not offend" the Orthodox. ("How pleasant in is when brothers dwell in unity!") Yet, experience has long since taught me that some people are especially prone to take offence no matter how polite one tries to be.

I must spend more time in prayer on this one!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More on the Pope and the Patriarch

Benedict XVI Sends Letter to Alexy II

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 20, 2007 ( Cardinal Roger Etchegaray delivered a letter written by Benedict XVI to Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow, but says "trust must be built" before the two leaders can meet.

The retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said this on Vatican Radio upon returning from his trip to Russia. He visited Siberia, Irkutsk and Novosibirsk, and celebrated Mass on the feast of the Assumption in the Catholic cathedral in Moscow.

The cardinal said of Alexy II that "in the last 30 years we have worked a lot together for Europe. I can say that I feel very close to him: I consider him as a brother."

"We talk as friends, and among other things I delivered to him a personal message sent by Benedict XVI. It was a message that Alexy II appreciated very much. All this demonstrates the fluid relationship that exists between us two," Cardinal Etchegaray added.

The 84-year-old cardinal said that a possible meeting between the Holy Father and the Russian patriarch has been "talked about for a long time. I am sure that the patriarch and Benedict XVI, just as Pope John Paul II before him, sincerely and ardently desire this encounter, but no one knows when it will take place."

"No one can say," he confirmed, "because for both men, the greatest concern is that it be an encounter in truth and not a mediagenic spectacle, so that it can simply be said that the met."

The prelate said the desire of both is "that the meeting be well-prepared and that it take place in the best conditions of truth."

"Many times," added Cardinal Etchegaray, "the media exaggerate events, simplify or idealize the reality, which, it must not be forgotten, is normally quite complicated."

The prelate said he spoke with the patriarch about "the numerous projects that Catholics and Russian Orthodox run together, and it is impressive all that is done in various ways: It is a great novelty. Therefore it is necessary to not speak so much of the date and time of the meeting: Trust must be built."

ZE07082008 - 2007-08-20

Magdi Allam on Life and Death Cultures - John Allen

John Allen reports in the National Catholic Reporter on Magdi Allam. Below are a few excerpts.

His most recent book is titled Viva Israele, in which Allam argues that Israel represents a culture of life, in contrast with militant Islam’s culture of death. Allam minces no words in making the point. In a recent interview with an Israeli news agency, for example, Allam was asked about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His lapidary response: “I hope that someday Israel will capture Ahmadinejad and force him to live the rest of his life between the walls of Yad Vashem.”


Among other things, Allam called upon Italian universities that have signed agreements for cultural collaboration with Al-Azhar to renounce them. One of those institutions is the Pontifical Oriental Institute, which is affiliated with the Gregorian University, the Jesuit-run flagship pontifical university in Rome.

His willingness to take such bold public positions has made Allam a sign of division in both the Muslim and Catholic worlds. Among Muslim radicals he’s seen as a traitor, one sign of which is that Allam is always surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards.

Among moderates in both the Muslim and Catholic camps, meanwhile, Allam is often seen as a provocateur, painting anyone who expresses sympathy with the Palestinians or with other Islamic causes as a dupe of the terrorists.


In Viva Israel, Allam recounts growing up as a convinced supporter of the Palestinian cause, believing that Israel was a racist state invented by the West as a compensation for the Holocaust. What turned him around, he wrote, was getting to know Yasser Arafat, which convinced him of the bankruptcy of terrorism.
For the whole article, click here.

For more information on Magdi Allam, go here, here, or here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Father Tadeusz on Moral Blindness

Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk has yet another of his excellent reflections over at the Boston Pilot. Below are the opening paragraphs to whet your appetite.

Ethical blind spots

When I traveled to Auschwitz a few years ago, one question played over and over in my mind: Did they know? Did the German people know what was happening in this camp near their own border, in their own occupied territories? With the trains coming and going year after year, with the long lines of prisoners and the billowing smokestacks, did they just turn a blind eye to the atrocities? Had they become desensitized to the point that they could no longer see the carefully choreographed death operations nearby?

Some concentration camps, like the one in Dachau, were set in comfortable suburbs right inside Germany itself, and the townsfolk could stroll past them during their daily routine. The grass in those suburbs continued to grow as green as anywhere else, young people got married, babies were born, men went to work, and life went on.

Walking through a place like Dachau or Auschwitz, one wonders: could it ever happen again? Could a similar scenario play out today in middle-class America? Most would instinctively say “no” -- after all, we live in a more enlightened time and culture. A more perceptive eye, however, can discern troubling parallels. Nowhere are these parallels more evident than in the bioethical issues of our day. Our society, in fact, faces virtually the same temptation that Germany did: the temptation to normalize certain well-scripted death operations in the midst of polite society.
For the entire article, click here.

The "Real Face" of Turkey

Turkey bars Orthodox prelate from visiting

Ankara, Aug. 14, 2007 ( - The Turkish government has barred a proposed visit by the Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus, for the second time in 4 months, the AsiaNews service reports.

Archbishop Chrysostomos had planned the August visit in order to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the leading prelate in the Orthodox world. Earlier plans for a meeting in May had also been thwarted by Turkey's refusal to admit Cypriot prelate.

Orthodox officials stressed that the visit by Archbishop Chrysostomos would have been entirely religious, rather than political. But the Ankara government has been displeased with the archbishop's strong criticism of Turkish involvement in Cyprus.

Moreover a Turkish court recently announced that Patriarch Bartholomew has authority only over the small Orthodox community in Istanbul; the government refuses to recognize his status as the "first among equals" in the world's Orthodox hierarchy. The Ankara does not recognize any reason for an Orthodox leader from Cyprus to visit the Ecumenical Patriarch.

The government's refusal to allow a visit by Archbishop Chyrsostomos will strengthen the arguments that have been raised against Turkey's admittance into the European Union. Critics of the regime have repeatedly insisted that Ankara should not be allowed entry into the EU until the government shows a willingness to respond the religious freedoms of the Christian minority.

Responding to the Turkish government's decision to bar his entry, Archbishop Chrysostomos remarked that "Ankara has shown its real face."

Zenit has this version of the story.

Pax Americana: The Decline and Fall....?

Over at London's Financial Times, Jeremy Grant reports that David Walker, comptroller general of the United States, has made a comparison of the US to Rome (the old Empire, not the Holy See). The article is interesting in that the specific areas of concern noted only find correpondence with pagan Rome, but also substantiate the warnings the Holy Father and others have been pointing out for years. Below are a few excerpts.

Learn from the fall of Rome, US warned
By Jeremy Grant in Washington

The US government is on a ‘burning platform’ of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon, the country’s top government inspector has warned.


Drawing parallels with the end of the Roman empire, Mr Walker warned there were “striking similarities” between America’s current situation and the factors that brought down Rome, including “declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government”.


“I’m trying to sound an alarm and issue a wake-up call,” he said. “As comptroller general I’ve got an ability to look longer-range and take on issues that others may be hesitant, and in many cases may not be in a position, to take on.

“One of the concerns is obviously we are a great country but we face major sustainability challenges that we are not taking seriously enough,” said Mr Walker, who was appointed during the Clinton administration to the post, which carries a 15-year term.


“Our very prosperity is placing greater demands on our physical infrastructure. Billions of dollars will be needed to modernise everything from highways and airports to water and sewage systems. The recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis was a sobering wake-up call.”

To read the entire article, click here.

The full text of Mr Walker's speech may be found here.

The Martyrs of Otranto

Please forgive, but Sandro's latest article has personal meaning for me.

Summer Reading: How the Eight Hundred Men of Otranto Saved Rome

They were martyred five centuries ago in the easternmost region of Italy, the spot most exposed to attack from the Muslims. The objective of the caliph Mohammed II was to conquer Rome, after having already taken Constantinople. But he was stopped by Christians who were ready to defend the faith with their blood

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, August 14, 2007 – The Roman Martyrology, the liturgical calendar of saints and blesseds updated according to the decrees of Vatican Council II and promulgated by John Paul II, shows that today the Church remembers and venerates...

“... the approximately eight hundred martyrs of Otranto, in Puglia, pressured to renounce the faith after the crushing assault of the Ottoman soldiers. They were exhorted by blessed Antonio Primaldo, an elderly tailor, to persevere in Christ, and thus through decapitation they obtained the crown of martyrdom.”

The martyrdom of these eight hundred men took place in 1480, on August 14, the day of their liturgical commemoration.

It was because of them that five centuries later, in 1980, John Paul II visited Otranto, the Italian city in which they were martyred.

And this year, on July 6, Benedict XVI definitively authenticated their martyrdom, with a decree promulgated by the congregation for the causes of the saints.

But who were the eight hundred men of Otranto? And why were they killed? Their story is of extraordinary relevance – just like the conflict between Islam and Christianity, in the midst of which they sacrificed their lives.

This is presented in the account that follows – it appeared last July 14 in “il Foglio” – written by Alfredo Mantovano, a Catholic jurist, senator, and a son of the same land that produced those martyrs, born in southern Puglia, the region of Otranto.

“Ready to die a thousand times for Him...”

by Alfredo Mantovano

On July 6, 2007, Benedict XVI received a visit from the prefect of the congregation for the causes of saints, cardinal José Saraiva Martins, and authorized the publication of the decree of authentication for the martyrdom of blessed Antonio Primaldo and his lay companions, “killed out of hatred for the faith” in Otranto on August 14, 1480.

Antonio Primaldo’s is the only name that has come down to us. His companions in martyrdom were eight hundred unknown fishermen, craftsmen, shepherds, and farmers from a small town, whose blood, five centuries ago, was shed solely because they were Christian.

Eight hundred men, who five centuries ago suffered the treatment reserved in 2004 for the American antenna repairman Nick Berg, captured by Islamic terrorists in Iraq and killed to the cry of “Allah is great!” His executioner, after cutting his jugular, drew the blade around his neck until his head was detached, and then held this up as a trophy. Exactly as the Ottoman executioner did in 1480 to each of the eight hundred men from Otranto.

* * *

There is a prologue to this mass execution. In the early morning hours of July 29, 1480, from the walls of Otranto there could be seen on the horizon an approaching fleet composed of 90 galleys, 15 galleasses, and 48 galliots, with 18,000 soldiers on board. The armada was led by the pasha Ahmed, under the orders of Mohammed II, called Fatih, the Conqueror, the sultan who in 1451, at just 21 years of age, had become head of the Ottoman tribe, which had replaced the mosaic of Islamic emirates a century and a half earlier.

In 1453, at the head of an army of 260,000 Turks, Mohammed II had conquered Byzantium, the “second Rome,” and from that moment he developed the plan of wiping out the “first Rome,” Rome true and proper, and of turning Saint Peter’s basilica into a stall for his horses.

In June of 1480, he judged the time was right to go into action: he lifted the siege from Rhodes, which was defended courageously by its knights, and directed his fleet toward the Adriatic Sea. His intention was to land at Brindisi, which had an excellent, spacious harbor: from Brindisi, he planned to move northward up Italy until he reached the see of the papacy. But a strong contrary wind forced the ships to touch ground fifty miles to the south, and to disembark in a place called Roca, a few kilometers from Otranto.

* * *

Otranto was – and is – the easternmost city in Italy. It has a rich history: the immediate vicinity was probably inhabited in the Paleolithic period, and certainly from the Neolithic age. It was then populated by the Messapi, a race prior to the Greeks that was conquered by them, migrated to Magna Graecia, and fell into the hands of the Romans, becoming a Roman town.

The importance of its harbor had given it the role of a bridge between East and West, a role consolidated on the cultural and political level by the presence of an important monastery of Basilian monks, the monastery of San Nicola in Casole, of which a couple of columns remain on the road that leads to Leuca.

In 1095, in its splendid cathedral church built between 1080 and 1088, the blessing was imparted to the twelve thousand crusaders who, under the command of prince Boemondo I d’Altavilla, were leaving to liberate and protect the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. And on his return from the Holy Land, it was in Otranto that saint Francis of Assisi landed in 1219, and was received with great honor.
For the rest of this beautiful article, click here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Christian Persecution in Egypt

Egypt arrests Christian activists

Cairo, Aug. 10, 2007 ( - Egyptian state security agents have arrested 2 Christian community leaders in Cairo, Christian Solidarity International (CSI) reports, saying that the arrests "are part of Egypt's alarming and growing trend of state-sponsored persecution of Christians."

Adel Fawzy Faltas and Peter Ezzat Mounir-- members of the Canadian-based Middle East Christian Association (MECA)-- were being held at police headquarters in Cairo, CSI reported. Lawyers have been unable to contact them, and their supporters fear that they will be tortured.

Although no charges have yet been brought against the two Christians, they are reportedly accused of insulting Islam. They were arrested shortly after MECA filed a lawsuit against Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and other members of the Egyptian government on behalf of victims of the anti-Christian al-Kosheh riots of 2000.
Other information about MECA and their experience may be found here, and here, and here,and here, and at their current web site here,

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Secular Relativism in Spain (and at the IHT)

The International Herald Tribune weighs in on the Spanish Zapatero government's actions to take over the moral training of its citizenry's children. The the article seems to view the Church's opposition as somehow anti-pluralistic.

A new secular civics class riling Catholic Church
By Victoria Burnett

Tuesday, August 7, 2007
MADRID: As Spanish children sun themselves on the beach this month, classrooms and curricula will be far from their thoughts. But a dispute over a new civics education class that awaits them in September is adding to the heat of the summer.

The government says the new class, "education for citizenship," aims to teach values consistent with a modern, diverse democracy. It will be introduced in five of Spain's 17 regions next month, and in the rest by the end of 2008. Starting around age 11, students will be required to take the course an hour or two a week at four stages in their school career.

According to Victorino Mayoral, a Socialist lawmaker and president of the CIVES Foundation, which was involved in crafting the course, students will receive a mix of ethics, civics and study of human rights. Based on the values enshrined in Spain's 1978 Constitution, the course will cover issues ranging from domestic violence to dangerous driving, which claims thousands of Spanish lives every year.

But the course will also deal with issues like gender, sexuality and the family, and the church is up in arms.

Catholic bishops say the new course usurps the family's freedom to shape a child's morality and will impart values that in some instances diverge radically from their own. The Episcopal Conference has called on parents to protest the new syllabus by any legitimate means, and several bishops have called for a boycott.

In an open letter to his parishioners in July, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, archbishop of Toledo, said the course would force society to accept "a particular vision of man that diverges from the reality of man and from the Christian vision."

Cardinal María Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, called the course a "serious problem" because it aims to "shape the individual, which is not the remit of the state."

The course "clashes with the fundamental principles of the Constitution and with the right of parents to choose their children's moral instruction," Varela declared at a seminar on religion organized by King Juan Carlos University in Madrid last month.

Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero countered last month by warning the bishops that "no faith is above the law" and said it was society's job to "teach citizens the values of respect" and harmony.

"Spain is a lay country, and its lay principles guarantee pluralism and tolerance," Zapatero said at a Socialist youth conference on July 22.

Prominent members of the conservative opposition Popular Party also oppose the syllabus, as do some teachers and parents.

Alfonso Aguiló, a Catholic headmaster and head of the Madrid Association of Private Education Companies, said that 2,500 parents of the 40,000 students the association represents do not want their children to take the course. In an interview by telephone, he said he was worried about textbooks that put heterosexuality on an equal footing with homosexuality, bisexuality or transsexuality.

"There are a lot of people who don't want their children to think there are five types of sexuality, five types of family," he said.

Aguiló argues that individual morality is being supplanted by secular dogma. He and other critics say the course smacks of classes in "formation of the national spirit" that were obligatory school fodder under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

"The government cannot say, 'There is no religion, the only religion is my religion: secularism,' " he said.

Mayoral says the course is not intended to promote one social model at the expense of another, but rather to inform students, for example, of the fact that same-sex marriages are now legal in Spain.

"The reality of the classroom reflects every kind of family - single parents, gays, divorced parents," he said by telephone. "We want the course to reflect what is real and what is legal."

While the Catholic Church sees a conflict between its morality and Zapatero's liberal social model, data indicate that the general population does not. About three-quarters of parents opt to have their children take Catholic studies in school, while two-thirds support gay marriage.

Raquel Mallavibarrena, spokeswoman for Christian Networks, a Spanish umbrella group of progressive Christian associations, said, "There is a plurality in the Catholic community that the bishops don't reflect."

"It's a shame there isn't more dialogue, more flexibility," she added.

People like Mallavibarrena say that this intransigeance is the reason the church is losing its struggle to retain influence in a society where it once enjoyed uncommon privilege. In a July survey by the Center for Sociological Research in Madrid, 77 percent of respondents described themselves as Catholics, but only 16 percent of those said they went to church every week - and 55 percent said they almost never went. Spain is now home to an estimated million Muslims and more than a million Evangelicals and Protestants.

The church hierarchy also seems to view the course as a challenge to its influence in the education system, an area where it still wields tremendous power. About a quarter of the country's children are educated in Catholic schools that get about half their funding from the state and the other half from nongovernment sources.

The church retains the power to hire and fire teachers of religious education in the public school system and scrutinize their private behavior. However, the extent of that power has come into question as a result of a recent court ruling on unfair dismissal in the Canary Islands. The court in July awarded €16,000, or $22,000, in damages to a teacher who was fired by the church in 2000 because she lived with a man to whom she was not married, the newspaper El País reported.

Critics say the dispute has been stirred up by a conservative minority to mobilize opposition to Zapatero and has eclipsed what could have been a healthy debate about how to educate Spain's youth.

"In a plural society like Spain's, which is changing so quickly, it's important for students to reflect, to learn to think and to consider different options," Mallavibarrena said.

But instead of debating how best to implement the new course, she said, the bishops and politicians "just throw stones at each other."

What Price Peace?

Peace is God's gift that requires human cooperation, pope says

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Prayers for peace demonstrate a recognition that peace is a gift of God that requires human cooperation, Pope Benedict XVI said in a message to a summit of religious leaders meeting on Mount Hiei in Japan.

"Peace is both a gift from God and an obligation for every individual," the pope said in the message to the Aug. 3-4 summit organized by the leader of the Tendai Buddhist community.

Members of the community consider Mount Hiei to be the holiest site in Japan; the Tendai school of Buddhism was founded on the mountain in the 9th century.

When Pope John Paul II invited religious leaders from around the world to gather in Assisi, Italy, in 1986 to pray for peace, the leader of the Tendai Buddhists accepted the invitation. The next year, the community began hosting Japanese religious leaders for an annual prayer for peace service on Mount Hiei.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the head of Tendai Buddhism began inviting international representatives of Christianity, Islam and Judaism to join Japanese religious leaders for the prayer service.

In his message to the 2007 summit, Pope Benedict said, "The world's cry for peace, echoed by families and communities throughout the globe, is at once both a prayer to God and an appeal to every brother and sister of our human family."

The pope expressed his hope that the religious leaders gathered for the summit would be filled with God's peace and strengthened in their resolve to give witness to the logic of peace, which surpasses "the irrationality of violence."

Benedict praises Teoctist

Late Romanian Orthodox leader saluted by Pope

Castel Gandolfo, Aug. 6, 2007 ( - During his Sunday public audience on August 5, Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) paid tribute to the recently deceased leader of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Teoctist.

The Pope characterized Teoctist as a "noble pastor" who had done a great service for ecumenical relations by visiting the Holy See and welcoming the 1999 visit to Romania by Pope John Paul II (bio - news)-- the first trip by the Roman Pontiff to a predominantly Orthodox country.

Noting that Patriarch Teoctist's funeral had been held on August 3, with Cardinal Walter Kasper (bio - news) present as a papal representative, the Holy Father eulogized the Romanian prelate by invoking the final words of the Orthodox liturgy: "May his memory be eternal."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Relativism of Multicultural Education

The Catholic Education Resource Center has a very good article by Roger Scruton on modern secular education and multiculturalism. Mr Scruton perceptively notes the irrationality of multicultural emphases. The inherent contradictions of relativism come to the fore in this well written piece. Below are several excerpts.

Multiculturalists argue that our curriculum has focused on the works of “dead white European males”, with the tacit or conscious intention of excluding the achievements of people regarded, on account of their race, sex, culture or locality, as “other”.


To someone educated in Britain during the postwar period, at a time when the old curriculum was assumed as the norm, the thesis is not only astonishing but also a vivid testimony to our cultural decline. Like others of my generation I was brought up on the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament, on the Thousand and One Nights, Kim and The Last of the Mohicans; at school I was taught to love Virgil’s Aeneid and Homer’s Iliad; I was encouraged by my teachers to read Confucius in Pound’s translation and the Vedas in the edition by Max Müller, and I encountered through LP records and the concert hall amazing vistas of other worlds, from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Britten’s The Prince of the Pagodas, to Ravi Shankar playing evening ragas to packed halls of the young.


Although it was probably no part of Said’s intention, the combined effect of his attack on western “orientalism”, Foucault’s attack on bourgeois “discourse”, Derrida’s “deconstruction” and the general crushing of the old curriculum under a weight of inquisitorial “theory” has led to an orthodoxy of nihilism in the western academy. The effects of this nihilism are widespread, as in the addictive drumbeats and soundbites that form the background of popular culture.


Culture inherits this “knowledge of the heart” from a religious tradition. And one reason for the prevailing scepticism is that our religious tradition is in decline. But a culture can be passed on and enhanced, even when the religion that first engendered it has died. Art has an added importance, since it has become the sole communicable testimony to the higher life.

For the entire article, click here.

MAC vs PC? How about this ad....

It's from a Blog by Saginaw Seminarians, where you may find two other "commercials". Or, you can view them at YouTube.