Voices Online Edition
Volume XVII, No. 3
News Review of Recent Events
September 11 Anniversary -- Zero tolerance for "zero tolerance"? -- Plenary Council? -- Shades of the Sixties -- Update on UNFPA -- India's Implausible Link -- Same old same old -- Catholic universities and "reproductive health" -- Planned Parenthood teen site "a web of lies" -- Weal and Woe in the Wake of WYD -- The Visioning Thing -- The Druid Prelate of Canterwar -- Depends on what you mean by "faithful" -- A note and a promise...
September 11 Anniversary
This suggestion from the Internet was making the rounds in August: At noon your time on September 11, 2002, no matter where you are or what you are doing, stop, put your hand on your heart, and say the Pledge of Allegiance out loud or to yourself and say a prayer for our nation.
This sounds like a fine idea to us. Events of the past year show how great is our need for prayer.
Zero tolerance for "zero tolerance"?
At the time of this writing, there are rumors that the Holy See will not approve part of the US bishops proposal for dealing with abusive priests - the part about "laicizing", or permanently removing them not only from priestly duties, but from the priesthood itself.
The priesthood has indelible character, like baptism, but "laicization" amounts, in practical terms, to annulment, in that it returns the priest to a lay state. In the past, this has always been requested by a priest who wishes release from his vows, for example to marry. There were many laicizations in the sixties and seventies, but in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, this has been very rare.
Some bishops have argued, in the troubled post-Dallas months, that laicizing priest-abusers may be unfair to men who "offended only once forty years ago", have repented and been faithful since. "Zero tolerance" and laicizing would be especially harmful in the case of aged repentant priests, some say, because it would mean the Church would no longer be responsible for supporting him financially.
"At least in large part, damage control was achieved [at the American Catholic bishops' June conference in Dallas], but at an unconscionable price", writes Father Richard John Neuhaus in his article, "Scandal Time III" in First Things (August-September 2002).
"Two orthodox stalwarts, Cardinals George of Chicago and Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, urged support of the charter, but with heavy hearts. Cardinal Bevilacqua said, 'It hurts to say I support zero tolerance. I wish I didn't have to do that. I wish our circumstances were different. But, at the same time, in our present crisis we must place the common good of our Church first'. With respect, isn't that the way of thinking that produced the crisis in the first place? The good of the Church was defined in terms of avoiding scandal; thus the pattern of evasion, denial, hush money, and cover-up. It was necessary, it was said, to do some shady things to avoid scandal, all of which resulted in monumental scandal".
Only a few weeks after their Dallas meeting in June, eight bishops wrote a letter proposing a "plenary council" of the nation's bishops to review the policies adopted in Dallas. A plenary council would differ from an ordinary meeting of the conference of bishops primarily in that it would not be subject to the structure of the conference offices. Some wonder if the results of such a meeting could be expected to be significantly different from the ordinary conference meetings - since it would consist of precisely the same members.
There is, nevertheless, building support among the bishops for the plan. By mid-August there were reportedly 88 supporters of the proposal. It is likely that this proposal will be introduced at the November USCCB meeting, discussed and voted upon. No timetable was suggested for the proposed "plenary council". The last (and only) such council of the US bishops was held in 1884 - before, of course, there was a national conference as such.
Shades of the Sixties
In an almost pitiable show of defiance and persistence by aging feminists who have spent several decades of their lives in a vain attempt to force the Catholic Church to self-destruct, eight of them decided to get themselves "ordained" by a renegade priest this summer - which they, naturally, publicized as best they could.
If they hoped for a high-profile confrontation with Church authorities, they were disappointed. A merciful letter from the Holy See warned the ladies that there would be penalties if they did not forswear their actions within a few weeks. They did not. So the "priestesses" incurred automatic excommunication - from a Church they have already convinced themselves is evil. So?
End of story.
Still, one cannot help a sad, uncertain rustling of sisterly sorrow for state of their souls. And a twinge of sympathy for their faithful Catholic mothers and fathers who must have had such hopes for their bright, promising girls.
Update on UNFPA
"The empire strikes back", writes Steve Mosher of Population Research Institute. "In response to the Bush Administration's decision to cut UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) funding, its supporters in Congress are attempting to strike Kemp-Kasten from the 2003 foreign aid bill and reward UNFPA with a big funding increase. 'If the UNFPA is violating US law by helping China to perform forced abortions more effectively, then we will just scrap the law', they seem to be saying. Talk about turning a blind eye to abuses", Mosher wrote in his August 2 PRI Weekly Briefing.
"President Bush deserves thanks for defunding UNFPA, for defending the women of China, and for defending Kemp-Kasten. The President can be reached via e-mail at President Bush; or via the White House comment line: 202-456-1414. Thank you, President Bush".
Excerpts from PRI Weekly Briefing, August 2, 2002:
Even UNFPA's allies in Congress agree with the conclusion announced by US Secretary of State Colin Powell last week. Or so it would seem. Powell issued a letter on July 21, 2002, which concludes that UNFPA supports forced abortion in China, is in violation of Kemp-Kasten, and is therefore ineligible for US funding.
What are pro-UNFPA members of Congress doing in response?
[T]hey are trying the change the law so that UNFPA's involvement in forced abortions would no longer disqualify them from US funds. Senator Patrick Leahy and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney have both advanced legislation which would effectively gut the Kemp-Kasten Amendment. Leahy would actually reward UNFPA for violating US law by increasing its funding to $50 million.
The UNFPA itself ... has just announced it will expand its operations in China. Nafis Sadik, the UNFPA's new China operative, says that "UNFPA and the Chinese Government are together developing the Fifth Country Programme, which will continue the reproductive health and family planning activities and will address new issues". (1)
The mainstream press has largely run with pro-UNFPA propaganda.... Many say that Colin Powell was "forced" by the administration to recant his support for UNFPA. Others repeat UNFPA drivel that depriving the UNFPA of $34 million will cost the lives of 4,700 women and more than 77,000 children.(2)
We prefer to believe that Powell is a reasonable man ... decided that the U.S. taxpayer should not be forced to subsidize such atrocities.
This decision was based on solid evidence. In May, a three-member State Department fact-finding team traveled to China to take a close look at UNFPA's "model family planning programs". The State Department delegation concluded that "in the 32 counties in which UNFPA is involved the population control programs of the PRC retain coercive elements in law and practice". (3) Based on this, and other evidence provided by the delegation, the US State Department concluded that UNFPA actually supports this coercion.
In one county, the team discovered that women who have more than one child are hit with a crippling fine equivalent to two or three years income. These "social compensation fees", as they are called, are set high in order to force mothers to have abortions.
The use of fines to coerce abortions has been implemented more fiercely than ever in Guangdong Province in China, since President Bush cut UNFPA funding.... UNFPA "works together" with the Chinese State Family Planning Commission in Sihui, and claims there is no coercion. The State Department delegation ... documented fines to coerce women. In response, Guangdong "has raised fines for second children to eight times an offending couple's annual income". (6)
According to the Powell report, "Not only has UNFPA failed to ensure that its support does not facilitate these practices; it has also failed to deploy the resources necessary to even monitor this issue. In the context of the PRC [People's Republic of China], supplying equipment to the very agencies that employ coercive practices amounts to support or participation in the management of the program". (7) Computers allow Chinese family planning officers "to establish a database record of all women of child-bearing age in an area and to trigger the issuance of 'birth-not-allowed' notices and the imposition of a social compensation fee". (8)
Powell concluded that "UNFPA is helping improve the administration of the local family planning offices that are administering the very social compensation fee and other penalties that are effectively coercing women to have abortions". (9)
We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Our own investigation of the UNFPA's activities in China, carried out in September of last year, reached the same conclusion. Visiting a UNFPA "model family planning program", we found abuses to be "rampant and unrelenting".
We should all thank President Bush and his administration for his decision not to fund these "crimes against humanity", as forced abortion was called by the Nuremberg Tribunals. We should thank him for his defense of Chinese women, victimized by UNFPA-supported forced abortion, and for his defense of Kemp-Kasten. And as far as saving lives is concerned, Bush's courageous decision will give pause to the masters of China's anti-natal program, and thus save the lives of tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of women and children.
1. State Family Planning Commission of China, "Population Prize Award Ceremony, Speech by Nafis Sadik", January 12, 2002; http://www.sfpc.gov.cn/EN/enews20020114-2.htm.
2. "Denying UN aid works against Bush belief", Ellen Goodman, Washington Post Writers Group; appeared in The Augusta Chronicle, July 26, 2002.
3. "Report on the China UNFPA Independent Investigative Team", US Department of State, May 29, 2002.
6. "China's one-child policy fines rise", The London Telegraph, July 30, 2002.
7. "Analysis of Determination that Kemp-Kasten Amendment Precludes Further Funding to UNFPA under Pub. L. 107-115", Attachment to letter from Colin Powell, The Secretary of State to Sen. Patrick L. Leahy, Chairman, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Committee on Appropriations, July 21, 2002.
Population Research Institute
India's Implausible Link
Femfacts, an e-letter from Concerned Women for America, notes the "implausible link" of two separate news items from India. An article, "India's Lost Girl Babies: What Might They Have Become?" by Janice Shaw Crouse, Senior Fellow, (Femfacts August 15) juxtaposed these news items:
"Mother Teresa has been voted India's greatest citizen. Indira Gandhi, India's Prime minister for 15 years, placed 4th". (Associated Press - August 13, 2002)
"Killing of unwanted baby girls in India continues to increase". (CNSNews.com - August 8, 2002)
What's wrong with this picture? Dr. Crouse explains:
"Two separate items from India this week seem implausibly linked: Mother Teresa was voted India's greatest citizen since independence in 1947 and it was reported, separately, that the killing of unwanted baby girls is increasing in spite of legislation enacted to curb the practice.
"The latter is especially ironic in light of the former: the poll identifying Mother Teresa as the 'greatest Indian' and another woman, India's own Indira Gandhi - who was prime minister for fifteen years - at number four. How tragic that a nation which recognizes the extraordinary service of a Macedonian nun who poured out her life as an adopted citizen in the slums of Calcutta and a distinguished woman of political accomplishment and statesmanship like Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, will at the same time turn a blind eye to the abortion of millions of baby girls who are a potential Mother Teresa or prime minister Gandhi.
"These items caught my attention in part because the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently endorsed passage of the United Nation's sponsored treaty CEDAW (the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women), a treaty that is supposed to end practices like sex-selection abortions that overwhelmingly target girls. (CEDAW, of course, is the treaty that would supposedly help women around the world; while it would prohibit that type of discrimination it does nevertheless, aim to assure a woman's so-called 'right' to have an abortion - just as long as it wasn't aimed at sex selection.) Yet, India already outlaws the custom of killing unwanted baby girls. The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Test Act, that outlaws using ultrasound to determine the sex of unborn children and outlaws attempts to conceal a birth by secretly disposing of bodies, is widely violated around the nation with an estimated 5 million baby girls aborted every year and, according to a recent survey, there are a tragic 10,000 cases of female infanticide annually.
"The liberal proponents of CEDAW would have us believe that the UN, armed only with a paper treaty, can end such 'discrimination' against women, if only the US Senate would hurry up and ratify it. I doubt it. There are deeply-rooted cultural reasons why families in India want sons. Eighty percent of the mothers who abort their baby girls say that they were forced to do so by their husbands or in-laws. According to local beliefs, nirvana is ushered in by the birth of a male child. Cultural practices such a female dowry, funeral pyres, and care of elderly parents perpetuate the desire to avoid having daughters - only a son can light the funeral pyre, sons assume care of elderly parents, whereas daughters care for the in-laws, and the wedding dowry is often an unbearable, even devastating, financial burden for a family.
"These cultural practices are grounded in religious myths and human selfishness and thus are largely impervious to outside intervention. It will take much more than mere human laws and treaties to make a dent in the kind of values that justify and embrace abortion of girls and female infanticide. The real solution is a change of heart - spiritual transformation. The Good News must be spread - we all, male and female, are created equal in the sight of God.
"Mother Teresa, with her servant's heart, illustrates the widespread impact that a woman, though poor and in an adopted country, can have when her life is totally committed to serving the least among us. Indira Ghandi, with her statesmanship and astute political instincts, illustrates what a wealthy and privileged woman can do with her life when she has vision and is dedicated to her country. These women were distinctly different in personality and gifts; they moved in very different circles and they were motivated by very different goals and ambitions. Both, however, had dramatic positive impact on the nation of India. Both illustrate the tragic loss that India is suffering from the destruction of its girl children".
Same old same old
The August 15 edition of the New York Times reported rumors and speculation about Pope John Paul II's imminent retirement or demise. The Times story reveals that the media have gone to great lengths to get ready for the next conclave, and notes how many book deals are lined up, etc.
It is interesting that the article also lists names of the "experts" the networks have on contract to be in studio for commentary during that momentous occasion -- "the Reverend Richard McBrien", "the Reverend Andrew Greeley", Newsweek's Blair Kaiser, et al.
As Sheila Liaugminas observes in her article in this issue of Voices, these are the "same tired old voices we've been hearing for decades" explaining the Catholic Church and her teachings in nearly every media venue in the United States. Now they are lined up to be the voices of expertise who will be "illuminating" the whole Roman experience to the American public -- Catholic and non-Catholic.
Catholic universities and "reproductive health"
The Saint Louis Post Dispatch proclaimed approvingly that Saint Louis University "does well in reproductive health survey". The story appeared August 14, 2002, after Catholics For a Free Choice announced the results of a survey of all 191 of the nation's four-year Catholic schools commissioned by CFFC in 2000 - with 165 responding.
Post-Dispatch reporter Susan C. Thomson's story, "Saint Louis University provides more sex-related health services than most other Catholic colleges and universities in the United States, a new study reports", said that the survey, called "Student Bodies: Reproductive Health Care at Catholic Universities" reports that SLU's student health center offered services including sexuality education, pregnancy counseling and screening for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.
Saint Louis University is a Jesuit institution, founded in 1818.
"Like the vast majority of its peers, SLU did not offer students contraception, which is forbidden by traditional Catholic teaching. But unlike most of them, according to the survey, SLU refers students elsewhere for contraceptive services", Thomson wrote.
"SLU was among the 117 of the schools reporting that they did not make contraception available to students for birth control. Of the 16 schools that did, only two offered a full range of contraceptive drugs and devices.
"Twenty-seven schools, SLU included, responded that they referred students to outside sources such as Planned Parenthood for contraceptive advice".
The CFFC study says: "Clearly, the provision of contraception is a contentious issue on Catholic university campuses, with health care providers torn between responsibility to the students' health and well-being and Catholic doctrine". According to CFFC, Catholic colleges in general endanger students by failing "to integrate sexuality education and treatment into their general health program".
SLU officials could not be reached for comment, Thomson reported. (Susan C. Thomson:/e-mail: Susan C. Thompson /Phone: 314-209-1315)
A story by David Crary for Associated Press, published August 10, "Catholic Colleges Debate Sex Policy", reported on other Catholic schools who participated in the CFFC Survey.
Crary wrote, "With sexually active students on their campuses and the Vatican unswervingly opposed to premarital sex, America's Roman Catholic colleges face difficult choices on such sensitive matters as condom use and unwanted pregnancies".
Following are some responses from Catholic university officials Crary interviewed:
"Our doctors understand they're working on the campus of a Catholic college - we don't fill prescriptions for birth control," said Linda Timm, vice president of student affairs at the all-women's St. Mary's College in South Bend, Ind. "But if a student inquires, we'll sit down and discuss the choices involved in being sexually active. Ultimately it's going to be a student's choice what she decides to do off campus regarding birth control."
Of 133 Catholic colleges responding to a survey about health services, only 16 reported making contraceptives available to students, the group said. When contacted by The Associated Press, three of the 16 denied providing contraceptives.
Officials at others among the 16 didn't dispute the survey listing but said there was no formal policy for providing contraceptives. Instead, campus medical professionals had the option of helping students obtain birth control, they said.
"We protect the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship", said Brad Winkler, dean of student development at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "In the context of that relationship, a physician can prescribe contraception if requested, through the medical plan".
Winkler said the Catholic school believes unmarried students should be chaste, but noted 40 percent of Aquinas's 2,100 students are not Catholic.
"We want to make sure students are aware of the position of the college and Church", he said. "We also want students to have accurate information, and let them make their own decisions".
Several college officials said medical personnel might help individual students obtain contraceptives without the explicit approval of administrators.
"If there are schools that do provide contraceptives, there would be a problem if it became public knowledge", said the Reverend Robert Friday, a religion professor and former vice president of student life at Catholic University in Washington, DC.
Rosanne Zudekoff, communications director at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut, agreed: "No school is going to want to see headlines saying, 'Catholic college gives out condoms'".
Michael James, assistant director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, suggested any variance with Vatican doctrine was being initiated discreetly by health professionals.
"I'm not aware of any school taking this on with some kind of bravado", he said. Most students at Catholic colleges expect policies that conform with Catholic teaching, he added. "I don't think any student comes to a Catholic campus thinking this is their forum to change the Church".
However, Catholic and non-Catholic students at Georgetown University have formed Hoyas for Choice, which is pressing the school to distribute condoms and be more open about sexual issues.
"The biggest problem is that sex isn't talked about", said Marlo Huang, 21, of Los Angeles, who will be a senior this fall. "It's ridiculous to pretend that college students don't have sex".
Sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Associated Press.
Planned Parenthood teen site "a web of lies"
"It's appalling that Planned Parenthood's web site for kids has received a Webby Award for Best Health Site", said Ed Szymkowiak, national director of STOPP International, a division of American Life League. "This site is a web of lies designed to entrap innocent children", he stated in a news release issued by ALL June 27.
According to ALL, Planned Parenthood reported the site got 300,000 hits per month in 2001. Szymkowiak noted that on May 31, a federal court handed Planned Parenthood a major victory by declaring the anti-pornography Children's Internet Protection Act unconstitutional. "Planned Parenthood was a party to this suit because it knew the law would result in its teen web site being blocked on computers at federally funded libraries", he said.
"This web site is so disgusting that when a father in Coronado, California, recently showed some of its pages to the local school board, the shocked board members promptly canceled Planned Parenthood presentations in the school's health classes", said Szymkowiak. "Citizens should be telling their state and federal representatives that they do not want their tax dollars going to any organization that maintains such a vile web site for kids".
In its annual report, Planned Parenthood said it received $202.7 million from government sources (American taxpayers) in the fiscal year that ended in 2001.
Source: American Life League news release - http://www.all.org/stopp/st020627.htm
Weal and Woe in the Wake of WYD
No Catholic who followed the World Youth Day events in Toronto could fail to be moved by Pope John Paul II's courageous and inspiring presence amidst the crowds of cheering young people.
As in many past WYD celebrations, the enthusiastic youth gave hope not only to the aging pope, but to many Catholics, who need such encouragement -- especially in this troubled year. Since today's young Catholics hold the Church's future, the beneficial long-term effects of the few days of these gatherings is a basis for hope as well.
There are also matters for concern about how such gatherings are organized, and who is running the show.
What did the Toronto World Youth Day and Sydney's Gay Mardi Gras have in common? For one thing, both are drowning in red ink.
The demise of Sydney, Australia's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was followed by recriminations and accusations, according to Sydney reporter Kathy Marks for Britain's News Independent. The hedonistic extravaganza had grown into the world's largest celebration of gay culture, attracting 750,000 people.
But this year's Mardi Gras saw a sharp decline in numbers, leaving it $400,000(au) in the red, Marks reported August 11. (http://news.independent.co.uk/world/australasia/story.jsp?story=323283)
Some blamed the failure on infiltration by "straights", while others accused "politically correct lesbians". The event was hugely lucrative for local businesses, pouring big bucks into the New South Wales economy, and was also a big fund-raiser for the main AIDS charities, Marks wrote.
Meanwhile, Toronto's World Youth Day officials report a deficit of $30,000,000(ca), instead of a hoped-for financial boon for the city. They expected an attendance of 750,000, but a paid attendance of only about 180,000 accounts for the deficit, they say. An estimated 600,000 attended the Vigil with the Pope July 27 and the final Papal Mass on July 28 - most without registering or paying. The thirty dioceses of Canada will pick up the tab, and WYD officials are now passing the hat to try to make up the deficit.
Toronto WYD Chairman Mihevic
Toronto World Youth Day (WYD) Chairman and City Councilman Joe Mihevic was a speaker at an April 3 press conference supporting a Catholic 17-year-old male student who successfully lobbied his school board to allow him to bring his 21-year-old "boyfriend" to the school prom. Speaking alongside gay activists, Mihevic, a Catholic, urged the Durham Catholic School Board to grant student Marc Hall's request.
The Toronto Star reported on April 4: "[Mihevic] who is also a Roman Catholic theologian, said he doesn't know of any church teaching or edict that would prevent someone from attending a dance or other event with a same-sex partner".
Mihevic's pro-homosexual activism is long-standing. When Toronto's Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic condemned, on behalf of the Catholic community in Ontario, the same sex marriage legislation being introduced by then-Premier Bob Rae, Mihevic objected strenuously to the cardinal's stand, according to a report of LifeSite News April 5. (http://www.lifesite.net/interim/2002/april/index.html. Mihevic's web site: www.joemihevc.com)
Inukashuk Memorial of WYD 2002
A huge vaguely cross-shaped, vaguely humanoid sculpture of native granite will be the permanent memorial to World Youth Day 2002, according to Toronto organizers who commissioned it. Pictured at right in a photo from the WYD web site, the rough-hewn 30-foot-tall "Inukashuk" is described is as a place-marker traditional to Canadaian Indian tribes.
Youth, CFFC and CCCB: "The Church is stuck with its position on this"
The radically anti-Catholic Catholics for a Free Choice took advantage of WYD also, announcing that it would distribute free condoms to youth during the festival.
Monsignor Peter Schonenbach, general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, was quoted in the Toronto Globe and Mail February 1, "It's a free country. They can do what they want . The Church is stuck with its position on this".
The Globe and Mail reported that Monsignor Schonenbach "said the issue has been difficult for the global Church, which embraces different social viewpoints; he likened it to Pope Paul VI's controversial and unexpected decision to ban the birth-control pill in 1968". (http://globeandmail.ca)
We should not be surprised that there would be what seems a preternatural effort to subvert so signal an event as World Youth Day -- or any other gathering that centers on the person of the Vicar of Christ. (Remember the female Jesus mime at WYD 1993? Sister Theresa Kane's famous challenge to the Holy Father about ordination of women on the occasion of his first papal visit to the United States in 1979? The list could go on and on.)
Still, Catholics have the right -- even the duty -- to say no to the subverters. Otherwise we become "enablers". Accentuating only the positive does not, unfortunately, eliminate the negative. We have seen this fact revealed in devastating clarity during this year of the pederasty scandals.
The Visioning Thing
"People are right now so focused on the immediate concerns of the Church, what we need is to look at the Church of today before we can look at the vision of the Church for the next 10 years", said Mary Jo Murphy, spokeswoman for the Saint Petersburg, Florida diocese. "The visioning, we can put off for a while". We are inclined to agree.
Saint Petersburg Bishop Robert Lynch, former General Secretary of the US Bishops Conference, has been preoccupied with "immediate concerns" since he was accused of sexual harassment by a man who was a former chancery staff member early this year (which the bishop denied), and again when questionable dealings involving construction contracts were reported in the Tampa Tribune.
The Druid Prelate of Canterwar
Saint Thomas a Becket would surely be turning in his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral (if only he were still in it) when the new occupant of the See of Canterbury arrives this fall.
The new Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, appointed head of the Church of England in July, is the first Welshman -- and the first Druid -- to hold that office. Williams, though said to be "pro-life", is a vigorous supporter of ordination of women and has publicly criticized America's War on Terrorism.
The London Times reported July 19: "As the sun rises over a circle of Pembrokeshire bluestones, the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams, will don a long white cloak while druids chant a prayer to the ancient god and goddess of the land". He will be accepted into the white druidic order, the highest of the three orders of the "Gorsedd of Bards, the Welsh body of poets, musicians, writers and artists", according to the Times.
Williams was chosen by Prime Minister Tony Blair, with the approval of the Crown, as the 104th archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the world's 70 million Anglicans. He follows Archbishop George Carey, who retires this year.
Scripps Howard religion columnist Terry Mattingly noted that Williams will lead "a global communion that is bitterly divided -- primarily between First World liberals and Third World conservatives -- on issues of sex and biblical authority".
In his July 31 column (www.tmatt.net), Mattingly cited an article by Williams, "The Body's Grace", in which the 52-year-old Welsh prelate questioned traditional definitions of "sexual fidelity", sharply criticizing conservatives who would attempt to "legalize" such a term. Sexual bonds can lead to spiritual transformation, even in relationships outside of marriage.
"The realities of our experience in looking for such possibilities suggest pretty clearly that an absolute declaration that every sexual partnership must conform to the pattern of commitment or else have the nature of sin and nothing else is unreal and silly", he wrote. While many worry about the impact of this viewpoint on Christian morality, "more damage is done ... by the insistence on a fantasy version of heterosexual marriage as the solitary ideal", wrote Williams.
Mattingly, who teaches at Palm Beach Atlantic University and is senior fellow for journalism at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, also quoted a passage from Williams's essay that sharply attacked traditional Catholic teachings on natural law.
"In a church which accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts, or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures."
Williams voted against a 1998 resolution at the global Anglican Lambeth Conference stating that sex outside of marriage is "incompatible with scripture" and urging a ban on same-sex unions and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals. The vote was 526 bishops in favor, with 70 opposed and 45 abstentions.
While conservative Anglicans are upset by the appointment, "progressive" factions are delighted.
"For the first time lesbian and gay Anglicans can feel that they have a real friend at Lambeth. No longer will we need to feel shut out of the heart of the curch", said the Reverend Richard Kirker of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.
"The new archbishop's intellect is outstanding. He will apply intellectual rigor to the deliberations of the church. There will be no woolly thinking in a church led by Rowan Williams. Homophobia will be challenged and intolerance rooted out".
A Druid High Priest as the Archbishop of Canterbury, is, we think, even more -- well -- weird than the Wiccan High Priestess hired to teach at Heythrop College, a leading Catholic university in England. As we reported in Voices Lent/Easter issue, Vivianne Crowley's appointment as a visiting tutor was defended in the London Telegraph in January by principal Father John McDade, SJ, who denied that she would be promoting witchcraft in her "psychology of religion" lectures to Heythrop students.
Weirdness is relative, apparently.
Depends on what you mean by "faithful"
In the confused aftermath of the revelation of scandals, a group giving itself the appealing title, Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) quickly organized on the East Coast, and as quickly claimed a huge "membership" of 30,000 and 68 parish chapters, and, of course, announced a fund-raising campaign.
But -- and there seems always to be a "but" -- the group does not match its very appealing title. Oh, there are voices, allright. The same ones that have for years been promoting radical "restructuring" of the Catholic Church, such as Call to Action, CORPUS (a group of married priest), "We are Church", Association for Rights of Catholics in the Church, Women's Ordination Conference, and other similar agenda-driven organizations.
You get the picture.
Regrettably, in a word, "Voice of the Faithful"-- isn't. It does not intend to build up the Church, but to "change" it -- root and branch. It is hard not to see this effort as opportunistic as a vulture that circles a sick animal.
I say regrettably, because Catholics have a genuine need for positive prayer and action in common. This is especially true in the present situation in the Church that reached crisis proportions in recent months when nearly every newspaper we pick up bears still more revelations about scandalous behavior of Catholic priests or bishops.
We were, thus, pleased to learn, as we were going to press, that some bishops publicly object to VOTF.
Bishop William Lori, of Bridgeport, said in a statement:
"I cannot support an organization like Voice of the Faithful, which appears to promote dialogue and cooperation but in reality prosecutes a hidden agenda that is in conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Faith. For this reason I cannot sanction Voice of the Faithful groups meeing in parishes or other property in the Diocese of Bridgeport".
It is most cheering to hear such words from our shepherds.
A note and a promise...
We had many responses to our letter in the Pentecost issue on the MOMS program. Most agreed with our critique, but also asked for alternatives for use by groups that want to pray and study together.
Clearly there is a great -- and growing -- need for faithful Catholics to find sound sources for spiritual support in addition to Mass. They truly benefit from the reassurance that comes from fellowship with other believers. It is heartening to see the dramatic increase in Eucharistic Adoration and Holy Hours.
We know this is happening. Within the past year, our sister organization, Adoremus, has distributed more than 30,000 booklets for Eucharistic Adoration. (For your free copy, contact Adoremus Information.)
We are planning a very simple, straightforward list of suggestions. We will put this on the web very soon, God willing -- and plan to publish it in Voices next time.
Meanwhile, we ask for your prayers for the first-ever meeting "live" of the Voices editorial board, November 1.
Helen Hull Hitchcock is the director of Women for Faith and Family and editor of Voices. She is also editor of the liturgical journal, Adoremus Bulletin.
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