Is It just all about sex?

 

The impact of Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling on Propostion 8, the California ban on Same Sex Marriage continues to unfold, though with surpirsing questions from the heart of the matter San Francisco. On Monday there were two very provocative arguments by two very different types of Catholics. Andrew Sullivan the openly gay, defiantly Catholic columnist at Atlantic and the keeper of the most popular blog in America, The Daily Dish, riffs off of a column by Ross Douthat, the former Atlantic Monthly editor and 'conservative' Catholic Op-Ed columnist with the New York Times. Douthat's column on Monday is a defence of the ideal of the life long monogamous heterosexual marriage. It is nuanced, thoughtful and as Sullivan, in his comment on the commentary, puts it 'Douthat at his most Catholic'. Both pieces are truly well worth reading and are stirring up loads of further comment.

Anne Rice's decision to 'quit christianity' continues to roil observers in agreement and disagreement, as you'll note on her own webpage. She includes all the commentary that comes her way, both supportive and dismissive. There is a quite reflective piece by Lily Burana in today's Salon Magazine which tries to frame the argument in a slightly different way, asking whether disagreeing with others in the Church forces you out or keeps you in. Reflecting on Anne Rice leads to refelctions on Proposition * and vice versa.

And whenever Anne Rice or Same Sex marriage is being discussed you can win easy money by betting that the issue of sexual abuse is also going to arise. William Oddie, former editor of the Catholic Herald in Britain, takes on the issue of clerical sexual abuse with a column that examines the idea of media bias and news that doesn't make the front page: in this case yet another analysis of whether sex abuse is greater within the Church or outside it.

State Slams Up Against Church

 

The news this week is squarely under the heading Faith in a Secular world.

In the United States, the latest ruling on California’s Proposition 8, banning same sex marriages has proponents of gay marriage cheering and Catholics experiencing a range of emotions.  The U.S. Bishops were disappointed and more so. U.S. Catholic called for rethinking the definition of family and perhaps moving on. MercatorNet, out of Australia, published a conversation with Ruth Institute founder Jennifer Morse on what she sees is the disconnect between the Court's ruling and the operating definition of family, while the National Catholic Register has a dialogue with William May, who led the Catholic Campaign on Proposition 8.

As to what happens next? Politicians are split, President Obama is still opposed to same sex marriages, even though he is pleased with the decision on Proposition 8. And Republicans don't seem to be sure how to react but some analysts are suggesting that this is just the beginning of the return of 'social issues' to the political scene. The general public according to polls is tending to side with the ruling. One thing is clear, the story and the legal arguments are far from finished.

Europe on the other hand is another country as they say.

The Economist magazine has a fascinating piece on the state of the Catholic Church in Europe today. It is a mix of the expected and the surprising and suggests that matters are not as dire as some predict. The Christian Science Monitor on the other hand sees gloom and blames it all on a 30 year crusade on the part of Pope Benedict to recreate a conservative Catholic Church. Italy might actually be a true indicator or at least that is the argument of Sandro Magister in a truly detailed and intriguing report on who goes to Church and why. All three pieces are provocative reading and raise important questions about the near and long term future of the Church in Europe.  

The Continuing Controversy over Stem Cells

The decision on the part of the Obama administration to move forward on embryonic stem cell research has provoked anger from the Vatican. Ironically at the same time the announcement was being made there was startling news suggesting that experiments in adult stem cell research was proving significantly more promising than Embryonic. In the United Kingdom, money being raised by Catholic Pro-Life groups is being directed at intensifying the Adult Stem Cell research. The Obama Administration move comes in the face of organized opposition on the part of the U.S. Bishops.

Canadian Bishops Weigh in on Census Debate

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops have called on the Harper Government to reverse its decision to cancel the 'long form census'. The Bishops argue that the information gathered in the 'long form census' helps in planning and 'meeting the needs of Canadians'. The controversy has pre-occupied the Canadian political scene for much of July. The Bishops have joined in with most economists and social service organizations as well as the majority of provinces in opposing the decision to scrap the mandatory long form census, which is normally distributed to about 20% of Canadian Households. The Conservatve government is standing by its decision and has the support of libertarians and some conservative think tanks.

 

Anne Rice Leaves Catholic Church and Christianity but not Christ

Anne Rice, famous her Vampire novels as well as her novels about Christ announced late last week that she was leaving the Catholic Church and Christianity. On her blog and in an interview with NPR she explains that the decision is prompted by the Church's stance on same sex marriage and contraception. The story is getting huge play with hundreds of news stories and thousands of comments, some deeply supportive and others some what cynical. I interviewed her a couple of years ago and was struck by how deeply she thinks about issu. The story of her return to the Church is heartfelt and moving. I suspect we haven't heard the last of this story.

The Truth about Residential Schools

The story that needs to be read, absorbed and reflected on appeared in the Toronto Star this weekend. It is a gripping though somewhat tragic recap of the progress, or actually lack of progress, being made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in wrestling with the history and impact of the Indian Residential School System. Everyone has a stake in getting this story right and Linda Diebel's article is an important starting point. Ironically also dealing with education is this story out of last week's Assembly of First Nation's general assembly. The relationship between the Church and Canada's Aboriginal People's is not without controversy but if you haven't checked out how it all started, you should take a look at this piece by Carolyn Girard in the Catholic Register last month.

Making Sense of the Economic Crisis and Church Social Doctrine

Most countries in the world are still wrestling with the fallout of the collapse of the financial markets in the fall of 2008. In the U.S. there is an intriguing argument brewing over what if anything the USCCB should be advocating in terms of Government intervention in the economy. The Acton Institute, a conservative/libertarian economic think tank has recently decided to dwell on the meaning of the Church's doctrine of subsidiarity and how it should or shouldn't be applied to current economic thinking. Catholic Culture in the U.S., a news aggregator and commentator on all matters Catholic has also weighed in, but with a slighty more intense assertion about the real meaning of 'social doctrine'. It's worth reading both and as a thought experiment, substitute the word Canada everytime the words America, The United States or U.S.A are used.

On the Papal Front

Benedict XVI tends to attract attention, even if it is for something as relatively meaningless as the factoid that he is now the 7th oldest Pope in history. But the more interesting news the past few days is the extent to which the former professor and active intellectual continues to turn out new books. His latest one is aimed at the children among us or in us all. And if telling the story of Jesus and the Apostles in a child-friendly way isn't sufficient, don't worry, he is not done yet. He is at work on the third and final volume of his 'Jesus of Nazareth' scheduled to be published in the spring of next year.

Most of the attention he is garnering these days, at least in Britain, concerns his forthcoming Papal visit. While some, Dawkins and company, mainly are speculating about ways of arresting the Pope when he arrives on British soil, others are clamouring for tickets to his scheduled masses. And if trying to score a ticket to the masses is insufficient entertainment, much of the intellectual buzz surrounds the Beatification of Cardinal Newman, something that Michael Coren has written about recently. By the way, in case you were worried, the British Government now has a plan to insure that his Holiness is not arrested when he arrives.

Linking abuse with ordination a cheap ploy

Without doubt the story that snagged everyone's attention this week, and not always positively, came out the Vatican. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith outlied new procedures dealing with major crimes. News organizations as different as The New York Times , The Muslim News and The Catholic Register rightly felt compelled to cover the story. Unfortunately, few in the mainstream media seemed able to resist the cheap urge to link the new rules on the ordination of women and new procedures for dealing with the sexual abuse of children. And even fewer could resist using the conjunction as an excuse for ridicule or indignation. The indignation rings a bit hollow given that The New York Times ran their editorial condemming the new procedures as inadequate almost a week before the new procedures were published.

One of the clearest explanations of the announcement and the history behind it is found in a column by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, whose explanation of the reasoning for the 'conjunction' of the two 'crimes' actually makes logical sense if not public relations brilliance. It's this lack of deft touch when it comes to public communication that most concerns R.R. Reno, senior editor at First Things. Reno steps back in a provocative editorial and asks if the entire scandal has still worrisome surprises and twists to come.

MORE

Pope is evangelizing in midst of storm

It may not seem like it but there are other issues demanding attention as the secular media focuses on the sexual abuse scandal. At the end of June, Benedict XVI announced the creation of the Pontifical Council for new evangelization. The Boston Globe, in a detailed examination of a new campaign by the Archdiocese to 'Call Catholics Home', and Foreign Policy magazine's examination of Benedict's hope to re-evanglize Europe give a real sense of the issues being confronted at the global and local levels. And it is not an issue the new Prefect of the Congregation For Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet is unfamiliar with. In 2008, the then Primate of the Canadian Catholic Church penned a fascinating essay on evangelization and the Province of Quebec.

U.N. study supports Vatican approach to AIDS

Mid-week, news broke on the results of a new U.N study released at the World Aids Conference in Vienna. According to some reports, the study gives credence to the Church's long held belief that changes in behaviour are effective in dealing with the scourge of AIDS. The 'odd' thing is that as of Thursday morning only Catholic news outlets were reporting the story.