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Category: Religion (Page 10 of 11)

Shroud of Turin Debunked (Again) (Not)

The Times reports that experts claim a first century shroud discovered in a tomb near Jerusalem proves the Turin Shroud could not have been used to cover Jesus’ body.

The Hebew University in Jerusalem said “Based on the assumption that this is representative of a typical burial shroud widely used at the time of Jesus, the researchers conclude that the Turin Shroud did not originate from Jesus-era Jerusalem … this discovery has laid to rest the myth of the Shroud.”

The ‘shroud’ the investigators investigated was a winding wrapped a round the body of a man who suffered from leprosy.

The leper’s shroud was a simple two way weave, the Turin Shroud is a three over one herringbone weave.

There is a very big assumption in the experts’ opinion, which they are kind enough to point out: “Based on the assumption that this is a representative of a typical burial shroud widely used at the time of Jesus …”

This is a bit like someone in the year 4,000 digging up a 20th century pauper’s grave, noting the plainess of the coffin, and claiming this proves other claimed coffins and caskets from the same period could not be genuine because they were made of metal or better quality wood, or had nicer trim.

Jesus, though himself poor, had wealthy friends. This is John 19: 38-40:

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.

100 pounds of spices – this is a huge amount of myrrh and aloes, and extraordinarily expensive.

It is hardly beyond imagining that Jesus’ body might have been wrapped in a better quality cloth than the single poor quality cloth wrapped around a leper that for no apparent reason is assumed by these experts to be the standard burial cloth used at the time.

I am agnostic about the Shroud, as I am about many relics.

But in this case, the experts are letting their agendas show a little too clearly.

Smug and Nasty

St Matthew’s Anglican church in Auckland is the epitome of everything a religious group should not be – self-righteous, inconsiderate of the feelings of others, happy to belittle the beliefs of people it considers inferior.

Like Christians.

Outside the church is a billboard featuring a bedroom scene. An unsatisfied Mary looks up to the heavens while Joseph lies beside her looking deflated.

The caption reads: “Poor Joseph. God is a hard act to follow.”

This kind of arrogant smart-arsery doesn’t do anything to make people think more deeply about their faith (which is claimed to be the intention).

It simply insults people who take their faith seriously.

The vicar, a moral moron named Glynn Cardy, excuses the hurt caused by pointing out that they considered and generously decided against a much more offensive option – a poster of fluorescent sperm floating down from heaven, saying ‘Joy to the World.’

If this guy had half a brain it would be lonely. If he had half a heart, he might have some care for the people he is supposed to be reaching out to.

I’m sure he imagines he is generous, caring, inclusive, and wise.

There are no limits to hypocrisy.

Will Rudd Do Anything For A Headline?

Apparently so.

Like Tony Abbott, I don’t object to Mr Rudd going to Mass.

I don’t even object to his interest in the canonisation of Blessed Mary Mackillop. I am interested in that too, and have blogged about it before.

There is a sense in which Mary Mackillop belongs to all Australians. We can all feel thankful for her example of faithful and courageous service.

Service which was the very opposite of self-seeking, or of seeking the company and attention of the powerful and famous.

I do object to Mr Rudd’s taking Communion.

This was unfair to the priest who celebrated, and unfair to the nuns who assisted.

If he has any respect for the Church to which he formerly belonged, Kevin Rudd should have known that it was not appropriate for him to present himself at the altar.

Understanding this does not depend on whether you are a Roman Catholic or not. I am not. Like Rudd, I am an Anglican.

But respect for the faith and conscience of others means that you do not put them in a position where they will be embarrassed or hurt so your ego can be stroked, or so you can make some sort of public statement, no matter how noble you imagine that statement to be.

Rudd is not a Catholic. He deliberately separated himself from communion with that family. Returning quite properly requires a period of public repentance and of re-learning the faith.

Rudd has no right to swan back in on a whim and expect to be given the most precious gift it is possible to receive in this life.

PS I will be attending Christmas Mass at the beautiful St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Geraldton. I will not be presenting myself for Communion.

Sadly, we Anglicans are separated from our Roman brothers and sisters. It is right that we should feel the pain of that separation, that we may be encouraged to work towards the unity for which our Saviour prayed.

I think the Pope agrees.

Violence Due To Rising Fundamentalism

The Daily Mail manages to write nearly 1,000 words on the problem of increasing violence caused by a growth in fundamentalism, without once mentioning what kind of fundamentalism this might be.

Those pesky Baptists just won’t stop mutilating their daughters’ genitals. And they seem to have a predilection for killing them if they fall if love with the wrong bloke.

Detectives are still investigating the death of mother-of-two Geeta Aulakh, 28, who was hacked to death with a sword in Greenford, north west London last month. An 18-year-old student has been charged with her murder.

Oh, a student. Could have been Salvation Army. Or maybe some Anglicans were visiting from Sydney.

The closest the Daily Mail gets to giving the game away, you know, informing people about what’s going on, is this:

In July, a 24-year-old Asian man from Denmark lost part of his tongue and was left blind in one eye when he had acid thrown in his face in Leytonstone.  Police believe he was attacked over his relationship with a married Muslim woman.  Two men are awaiting trial over the assault.

Campaigners believe honour attacks are on the up due to rising fundamentalism in communities around Britain. …

Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Campbell, of the Metropolitan Police, said: ‘The description of this type of crime is misplaced. There is no honour in these crimes.’

He certainly got that right. But what about some honour in reporting?

via Jihad Watch.

The Date of Christmas

A common view about the date of Christmas goes something like this:

“Well, it was a pagan festival, something to do with the sun, and the Christians pinched it to try to make their religion more popular.”

This is one of those things people just ‘know’. But like many things everyone ‘just knew’ at one time (eg, the Sun goes round the earth, older women with moles are witches), we now know this to be false.

The belief that Christians appropriated a pagan festival and made it into Christmas started with Paul Jablonski, a German historian writing in the 17th century.

A radical protestant, Jablonski wanted to show that the Catholic faith was unreliable because it had almost immediately started absorbing pagan beliefs and customs. Jablonski believed, and wanted to prove, that ‘Sola Scriptura’ (Scripture alone) was the only safe foundation for faith.

In the Julian calendar, created in 45 B.C. the winter solstice fell on December 25th. It seemed obvious to Jablonski that the day must have had a pagan significance before it had a Christian one.

He was wrong.

In fact the feast of Sol Invictus, or the invincible sun, was instituted by the emperor Aurelian in 274AD. By this time Christians had been celebrating the birth of Jesus on that date for many years.

Hippolytus, a priest in Rome, wrote thirty years before this that Jesus’ birth “took place eight days before the kalends of January,” that is, on December 25th. St John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, also confirms that Christians had celebrated the birth of Christ on this date from the early days of the Church.

It was the pagans who attempted to bolster their falling numbers by appropriating a Christian festival, not the other way around.

How could the Church have known when Jesus was born? The simplest explanation is that Mary, Jesus’ mother, told His disciples what had happened, and they remembered and told those who came after, just as they related the other facts of Jesus’ life and teaching.

A little additional confirmation comes from John Chrysostom. He explains that the date is confirmed by Luke 1 which says Zechariah was performing priestly duty in the Temple when an angel told him his wife Elizabeth she would bear John the Baptist.

During the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Mary was also visited by an angel and Jesus was conceived. She then went immediately to visit Elizabeth, who was her cousin.

The 24 classes of Jewish priests served by roster in the Temple. Zechariah was in the eighth class. Jewish tradition tells us the class on duty when the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70.

Calculating back from that, Zechariah’s class would have been serving in October in the year before Jesus’ birth. That is when Elizabeth became pregnant.

Mary visited Elizabeth six months later, just after her visit from the angel Gabriel. That is, in March. Jesus was born nine months later – in December.

So Happy Christmas!

Iran Warns Switzerland of Consequences …

Iran has warned Switzerland of “consequences” over a referendum banning the building of new mosque minarets, and urged the Swiss government not to enforce the ban.

As I noted a couple of days ago, the Swiss decision is not about freedom of religion.

Muslims in Switzerland are free to worship, to proselytise, and to build more mosques. They just can’t build any more of those big towers with massive PA systems where people screech at the entire populace three times a day.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told Swiss counterpart Micheline Calmy-Rey that: Values such as tolerance, dialogue and respecting others’ religions should never be put to referendum.

Excuse me?

This from a country which two months ago formalised approval for the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam, and where it is illegal to publish the Bible or other Christian literature.

More Islamic Religious Persecution from Doug Bandow at National Review Online:

Islamic governments are in no position to complain about Western intolerance and “Islamophobia.” Most Muslim nations are repressive or offer only limited political freedom. More often than not, Islamic states violate basic human rights; and almost all persecute Christians, Jews, and other religious minorities.

If I Only Had A Brain

The Parliament of the World’s Religions 2009 opened this week in Melbourne. “Major speakers” include Jimmy Carter, Joan Chittister and Michael Kirby.

Miss Jean Brodie said it best: “For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.”

A visit to the Parliament’s website makes it clear that environmental issues are a key concern:

The Melbourne Parliament will draw forth the sacred nature of the environment from all religious and spiritual traditions, led by the Indigenous peoples of the earth. It will also showcase the partnership between communities and other guiding institutions in pursuing practical approaches for reversing climate change and its effects.

John Cleary, who presents a religious program on the ABC on Sunday nights, says there are parallels between the Parliament of Religions in Melbourne and the climate summit in Copenhagen.

Cleary does not have in mind any sense of religious fervour, which I suspect will be more in evidence in Copenhagen than Melbourne, but the fact that both are concerned with “healing the planet”.

George Browning, former Anglican Bishop of Canberra/Goulburn, says in the document Common Belief:  … if Christians believe in Jesus they must recognise that concern for climate change is not an optional extra but a core matter of faith.

But there is a huge leap in the claim that being a Christian means an obligation to take action to prevent climate change.

Being concerned for the responsible exercise of the Christian duty of stewardship for creation need not involve church leaders rushing to grab a share of the latest climate apocalypse action.

John Cleary said in his conversation with Derek Guille that the knowledge that “God so loved the world” should lead to a sense of global responsibility, and that such a sense of responsibility could add “real grunt” to the climate change debate.

Christians have two key things to offer to any debate about the environment and our role in it. But neither of them is a vague sense of responsibility, or “grunt”.

First is a right understanding of who we are in relation to the rest of creation. Because of the incarnation, we know that the material word is not evil, or something to be used or ignored. It is the product of a loving and rational God. It is good. It will be redeemed. On the other hand, it is not a god. There is no Gaia. Awe inspiring and beautiful as it is, the material world is not to be worshipped for its own sake.

Second, because Christianity is a faith based on reason and evidence, Christians ought to be buffered from, and help to buffer others from, ideology or wishful (or alarmist) thinking. Christians who are true to their calling will think, research, pray, consult and consider before arriving at a conclusion about how to respond to any particular issue.

Pope John Paul II pointed out that “Reverence for nature must be combined with scientific learning”. (Pastoral Statement, Renewing the Earth: An Invitation to Reflection and Action on Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching.)

Maybe the church’s climate scare collaborators could try it.

And maybe, as the scarecrow did, they will think of things they never thunk before.

One of the reasons I was not able to post anything on Friday was that I had a number of clients whose computers I needed to attend to urgently.

The other reason was that I was writing a longish article on climate change discussions at the Parliament of Religions in Melbourne.

The lines above are a brief summary. Visit The Australian Conservative to read the whole thing.

The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, an informal interdenominational network of Christian congregations, has released a statement saying:

Global warming alarmism is based on biased science, sloppy economics, and misguided theology …

Global warming policies would produce unethical results that would:

•destroy millions of jobs.
•cost trillions of dollars in lost economic production.
•slow, stop, or reverse economic growth.
•reduce the standard of living for all but the elite few who are well positioned to benefit from laws that unfairly advantage them.
•endanger liberty by putting vast new powers over private, social, and market life in the hands of national and international governments.
•condemn the world’s poor to generations of continued misery characterized by rampant disease and premature death

The result of all these sacrifices will be at most a negligible, undetectable reduction in global average temperature a hundred years from now. …

such policies are wrongheaded, destructive, and detrimental to the poor.

Why is that kind of clear sightedness, attention to evidence, and moral sense so hard for mainstream Australian church leaders?

Diocese Of The Murray

I have a number of friends who are members of The Voice of the Laity, an organisation of lay people in the Anglican Diocese of The Murray.

Their website was recently hijacked. They have started a new website at

The contents are an older copy of the original website, so some updating needs to be done, but it is still interesting reading.

The situation in relation to the leadership of the Bishop of The Murray is complicated by two factors – one legal and one political.

The legal complication is that each diocese within the Anglican Church of Australia is a separate incorporated body.

The Primate or Archbishop can ask for an enquiry or tribunal into a diocesan bishop’s behaviour, but the bishop concerned is under no legal obligation to co-operate with any such enquiry, nor is he obliged to act in accordance with any recommendations such an enquiry may make.

In the case of the Diocese of The Murray, the Diocesan Council has already passed a vote of no confidence in the bishop. This was ignored.

The Bishop has indicated he will not co-operate with an enquiry, and that he will not comply with recommendations made by any tribunal.

In these circumstances the only purpose of an enquiry into his behaviour as bishop, or a tribunal to consider whether he has acted in ways which are scandalous or bring the church into ill-repute, is to give the Synod of the Diocese, or Diocesan Council, which is Synod’s standing committee, a clear and legally defensible reason for ending his employment, and the courage to do so.

The political complication is that there have also been moves in the Diocese of Ballarat to force an enquiry and tribunal into the behaviour of Bishop Michael Hough.

Enquiries and tribunals are expensive, time-consuming and embarassing.

But the real difficulty for the Primate and for the Archbishops of Adelaide and Melbourne is that the Dioceses of Ballarat and The Murray are the last two traditionalist Anglo-catholic dioceses in the country. Starting tribunals into both bishops at the same time may look like persecution by a large liberal power group of a small, unpopular and largeless voiceless minority.

The traditionalist minority in the Anglican Church of Australia (I am part of this minority) has been quick to claim persecution, and quick to demonise its liberal opponents. It is possible, even likely, that claims of theologically based persecution would be made in the media if tribunals were called into both bishops.

It would not be persecution. For the sake of the complainants, the persons complained of, and the wider church and community, allegations of abuse of any kind need to be promptly, carefully and impartially investigated.

I am not suggesting there is any parity between the situation in Ballarat and in The Murray. I have little knowledge of allegations made against Bishop Hough, and have deliberately distanced myself from events in The Murray.

From publicly available information and news reports, it appears the complaints in The Murray are largely from lay people, with some 200 written complaints made to the Archbishop over the course of Bishop Davies’ ministry, and nearly 100 statutory declarations made in support of a tribunal, the declarations alleging various kinds of verbal, spiritual and emotional abuse.

In Ballarat, the move for a tribunal seems to have come largely from a group of disaffected clergy.

In both cases answers and closure are needed.

Maryam and Marzieh

Maryam and Marzieh Languish in a Teheran Jail

Maryam and Marzieh Languish in a Teheran Jail

Maryam and Marzieh are Christian women. They are from Islamic families. They live in Iran.

So of course, they are in jail.

They are denied medical care or contact with the outside world. One of the prison guards told them they should be executed for apostasy. They were arrested in March. Neither has yet been charged, but when they are, the death penalty is a real possibility.

Maryam and Marzieh’s story in detail at Elam Ministries.

Elam is a Iranian Christian ministry and advocacy group. Support them if you can.

Fruits Of Muhammed’s Life: Death, Destruction, Lust

Two interesting articles from FrontPage Magazine.

The first is an interview with Coptic priest Fr Zakaria Botros. He has been denounced as Islam’s public enemy number one, and Al Qaeda has said they will pay $60 million for his head.

From the FrontPage article:

I am a Copt. In my early 20s, I became a priest. Of course, in predominantly Muslim Egypt, Christians—priests or otherwise—do not talk about religion with Muslims. My older brother, a passionate Christian learned that lesson too late: after preaching to Muslims, he was eventually ambushed by Muslims who cut out his tongue and murdered him. Far from being deterred or hating Muslims, I eventually felt more compelled to share the Good News with them. Naturally, this created many problems: I was constantly harassed, threatened, and eventually imprisoned and tortured for a year…

Ibn Taymiyya, who happens to be the hero of the modern mujahid movement, explained the prerequisites of prophet-hood very well.  One of the things he stressed is that, in order to know if a prophet is in fact from God, we must study his sira, or his biography, much like the Christ’s statement that “You shall know them from their fruits.”  So, taking Ibn Taymiyya’s advice, I recently devoted a number of episodes analyzing the biography of Muhammad, which unequivocally proves that he was not a prophet, that his only “fruits” were death, destruction, and lust.  Indeed, he himself confessed and believed that he was being visited and tormented by a “jinn,” or basically a demon, until his wife Khadija convinced him that it was the angel Gabriel—which, of course is ironic, since Muhammad himself later went on to say that the testimony of a woman is half that of a man.

And from an article about Fr Botros on National Review Online:

The result? Mass conversions to Christianity — if clandestine ones. The very public conversion of high-profile Italian journalist Magdi Allam — who was baptized by Pope Benedict in Rome on Saturday — is only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, Islamic cleric Ahmad al-Qatani stated on al-Jazeera TV a while back that some six million Muslims convert to Christianity annually, many of them persuaded by Botros’s public ministry. More recently, al-Jazeera noted Life TV’s “unprecedented evangelical raid” on the Muslim world. Several factors account for the Botros phenomenon.

Another reason for Botros’s success is that his polemical technique has proven irrefutable. Each of his episodes has a theme — from the pressing to the esoteric — often expressed as a question (e.g., “Is jihad an obligation for all Muslims?”; “Are women inferior to men in Islam?”; “Did Mohammed say that adulterous female monkeys should be stoned?” “Is drinking the urine of prophets salutary according to sharia?”). To answer the question, Botros meticulously quotes — always careful to give sources and reference numbers — from authoritative Islamic texts on the subject, starting from the Koran; then from the canonical sayings of the prophet — the Hadith; and finally from the words of prominent Muslim theologians past and present — the illustrious ulema.

Typically, Botros’s presentation of the Islamic material is sufficiently detailed that the controversial topic is shown to be an airtight aspect of Islam. Yet, however convincing his proofs, Botros does not flatly conclude that, say, universal jihad or female inferiority are basic tenets of Islam. He treats the question as still open — and humbly invites the ulema, the revered articulators of sharia law, to respond and show the error in his methodology. He does demand, however, that their response be based on “al-dalil we al-burhan,” — “evidence and proof,” one of his frequent refrains — not shout-downs or sophistry.

More often than not, the response from the ulema is deafening silence — which has only made Botros and Life TV more enticing to Muslim viewers.

The second FrontPage article is by David Horowitz. Horowitz points out that despite the distortions of history, and the failure to mention terrorism or Islam’s history of vicious conquest of Christian and other countries, there were some good things in Obama’s Cairo speech.

I certainly agree that ather than simply condemn Obama’s failures, we should applaud what he gets right – and amidst the jumble, he got a lot right in Cairo.

Here is a substantial chunk, but the whole thing is worth reading:

As for the Middle East conflict, Obama  began – began – by telling the Muslim world that the bond between Israel and the United States is unbreakable, and by opening the wound of the Jews that made a homeland for them a moral imperative: “America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.”

And then he characterized Holocaust deniers like Ahmadinejad as despicable, and identified them as a cause of war in the Middle East, and announced that he was going to Buchenwald the next day (clearly to underscore that fact): “Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.”

And while Obama made false parallels between Jews and Arabs as contributors to the intractability of the Middle East conflict and rewrote some history, he also said in no uncertain terms that it was Palestinians who had to renounce violence (and here he drew no parallels and no moral equivalence) and had to recognize the Jewish state — something even the “moderate” terrorist Abbas refuses to do.

And to underscore this point he drew a parallel between the struggles of American blacks for civil rights and Palestinians. But unlike Condoleeza Rice who not too long ago drew the same parallel to aggrandize the PLO terrorists as civil rights activists, Obama drew a sharp and revealing line of distinction between them: “Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding.“

And that was really the core of Obama’s speech. It was a defense of America’s founding and America’s mission. We are a tolerant nation and a peaceful nation Obama told 1.5 billion Muslims and we will accept and embrace you if you reject the violent and hateful among you and walk a peaceful and tolerant path. And this tolerance must extend not only to the Jews of Israel, and other infidels, but to Muslims among you who are oppressed, specifically Muslim women:  “The sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights. I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the Wes that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality.. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.”

Of course the good things do not excuse the distortions. Robert Spencer points out in a careful, step by step review of Obama’s speech, also on FrontPage, that those distortions are substantial and damaging.

Muslim Inventions

I forgot to mention, when talking about my islamic teacher friend, that she had also told her class about the many islamic inventions taken for granted and not acknowledged in the West.

She talked about the number system, coffee, chess, arches (in architecture). Students were sceptical. And rightly.

I am not sure whether she had read this article from The Independent a couple of years ago. It lists 20 world changing islamic inventions.

Except not one of them really is an islamic invention.

This Is Kind Of Fun

If you don’t know whether you are a Mennonite, a Muslim or a Mormon, this quiz will help you work out where you belong.

I found a few of the questions had no right answer, so a couple of times I had to pick the least wrong answer.

My results were:

1.  Eastern Orthodox (100%) 
2.  Roman Catholic (100%) 
3.  Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (94%) 
4.  Seventh Day Adventist (88%) 
5.  Orthodox Quaker (79%) 

There was no listing for disgruntled Anglican.

Homophobia And Heterophobia

Some interesting observations here on healing, hope, and homosexuality.

The article is not long, and is worth reading in its entirety. This is an excerpt:

I saw a genuine love and acceptance of men and women who were struggling to move away from behaviors they themselves viewed as destructive and dangerous, possibly deadly. They were choosing it, freely and voluntarily.

Psychiatrist and physicist Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a world authority on homosexuality, a man who describes himself as a skeptic about religion, says that the scientific evidence all points to the possibility of change. For over 35 years, his profession has believed the lie that homosexuals form a “class” whose boundaries are defined by a stable “trait”. It is not true, he says.

Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, whose new ground -breaking book, “Shame and Attachment Loss: The Practical Work of Reparative Therapy”, says homosexual change is both possible and advisable. His book shows that initially conceptualizing homosexual attraction as a striving “to repair gender deficits,” has moved to the realization as a striving “to repair deep self-deficits” and as a “defense against trauma to the core self.”

Writes Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, after he attended a Leanne Payne conference, “I met a large number of people who had left the lifestyle and changed their sexuality. There I met hundreds of people struggling with that issue, and many who had successfully emerged on the other side and were married with children. As I got to know them, I found them to be quite remarkable. The struggle to be healed had left an indelible imprint. I saw a humility, an empathy and a fearlessness about life. They knew exactly what it meant to stand up for what they believed in, since the struggle to become who they truly were had exacted such a cost in suffering. Since then I have met plenty of people who have moved away from same sex attractions.”

Obama And Notre Dame

I am trying hard to imagine what the real Notre Dame, the Blessed Virgin Mary, would make of a Catholic university named in her honour, and I presume, relying on her patronage and intercession, inviting someone who publicy opposes Catholic teaching on the sancitity of human life to speak to students at commencement.

Speaking at commencement is about giving students direction for their lives as they complete their studies. At a Catholic university, or any Christian university,  it is also about the reason for those studies in the context of the needs of the world and the mission of the Church.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Notre Dame University is also presenting Obama with an honorary degree. For what? A book of memoirs written by Bill Ayers, an unrepentant terrorist?

Local diocesan bishop John D’Arcy said ‘President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.’

This support for the direct destruction of human life extends to withholding care from children born alive after an attempted abortion.

I am not a Catholic, and I find this baffling. It is hardly surprising that it has turned into a public relations disaster for both Notre Dame and the White House.

A petition of more than 300,000 signatures has been delivered to Notre Dame’s fellows and trustees, asking them to think again.

The University hoped to soften some of the (clearly unexpected – and that tells a story in itself) backlash by awarding the Laetare Medal to Mary Ann Glendon, a pro-life Harvard law professor.

It then announced: “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former US ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

But Glendon would not be used in this way, and said she would not accept the medal. This is the first time the award has been declined.

The always interesting Amy Welborn has posted a homily by Bishop Wenski, preached at a Mass of reparation prompted by Notre Dame’s decision to honour Obama.

In his homily Bishop Wenski says:

Notre-Dame chose to defy the Bishops of the United States who have said that “the Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

The hurt felt by many throughout the United States is real, for Notre-Dame’s actions, despite its protests to the contrary, seem to suggest that it wishes “to justify positions that contradict the faith and teachings of the church; to do so, as Pope Benedict reminded Catholic educators in Washington, DC last year “would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission.” At the very least, Notre-Dame’s actions suggest that, unlike a beauty queen from California, it lacks the courage of its convictions.

Some of the comments to this post on Amy’s blog are dismaying, if they come from Catholics. To paraphrase:

‘We live in a diverse society, and have to accept that others have beliefs which are different from our own.’

Yes, but accepting that others believe differently does not mean we have to deny what we believe.

‘We have to respect the views of others.’

Do we? Do we have to respect the views of a religious leader who says it is OK to have sex with a nine year old girl? Do we have to respect the views of a man who thinks it is his right to beat or rape his wife?

Then why do we have to respect the views of a man who thinks it OK to partially deliver a living human baby, and then crush its head?

Anglican Priest Jailed For Molesting Boys

Canon Barry Greaves pleaded guilty in the Brisbane District Court last Thursday to seven counts of indecent treatment of boys under 17 and two of indecent treatment of boys under 12.

I was sorry to read this. I know Barry a little, and had always liked and respected him. He seemed a straightforward, caring and intelligent person.

Barrister Mark Johnson said Greaves was deeply ashamed and sorry for what he had done to the boys. Mr Johnson said Greaves was also remorseful for the shame he brought upon himself, his family and the Anglican Church. ‘He deeply regrets what’s happened,” he said.

Any kind of sexual interaction with children is appallingly wrong. And in Barry’s case, a betrayal of the trust of the church, and of the boys and their families.

But in a way I cannot help feeling sorry for Barry and others whose sexual attraction is towards adolescents.

No one would choose to have those kind of feelings. I have visited protection prisons including Ararat in Victoria. Most of the convicted child sex offenders I spoke to there had struggled all their lives to overcome or redirect that attraction, and were deeply ashamed of the times they failed.

Most of them had naively hoped that the boys (it was usually boys) returned their affection, and enjoyed the attention. Often they did, but harm was still done.

Boys (and girls) in their early teens and younger cannot give meaningful consent to sex with an older person. Even if they seemed to consent at the time, even if they seemed eager at the time, they almost always ended up feeling used, sullied and hurt.

No matter how willing the young person seemed to be, harm was done. It was up to the adult to set the boundaries and keep to them. There is no excuse for not doing so.

Some of those who ignore those boundaries are monsters who knowingly and uncaringly hurt children and use them for their own pleasure. Such people deserve our anger and condemnation.

But not all are monsters.

Most people who are disorded in their affections, and whose only feelings of sexual attraction are towards young people, know all of the things I have written above. Many go their entire lives without any genital expression of their sexuality at all. This seems to me an almost heroic level of self-denial – one we would not expect of any other group.

It is easy to judge – and sometimes that judgement is right. But it is not so easy to know, if we were in their place, whether any of us would have the strength of will required to deny ourselves any form of physical expression of our sexuality for the whole of our lives.

I am not surprised that some fall, and while I condemn their behaviour, I cannot so easily condemn them.

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