The Gospel According to Pelosi

The Gospel According to Pelosi

Ann Kane

Did Pope Benedict XVI give up his post as head of the Catholic Church, and make Nancy Pelosi the new pope?  By all indications from a speech on immigration reform she gave on May 6 at a progressive Catholic forum sponsored by Trinity Washington University and National Catholic Reporter — two of many liberal adjuncts to the American Catholic Church — she has taken on her new role as supreme pontifette with gusto.
In her sanctimonious manner, she commanded:
The cardinals, the archbishops, the bishops that come to me and say, ‘We want you to pass immigration reform,’ and I said, ‘I want you to speak about it from the pulpit. I want you to instruct your’ — whatever the communication is,” said Pelosi, who is Catholic, speaking at the Nation’s Catholic Community conference sponsored by Trinity Washington University and the National Catholic Reporter. [snip]
“The people, some (who) oppose immigration reform, are sitting in those pews, and you have to tell them that this is a manifestation of our living the gospels,” she said. [snip]
Pelosi said the church “has an important role to play” in teaching about dignity and respect, and “as a practical matter” it’s not possible to tell 12 million illegal immigrants to “go back to wherever you came from or go to jail.” 
Pro-choice Pelosi should be the last person the bishops turn to for advice.  Instead, the church leaders should be consulting their Shepherd in Chief over in Rome if they have difficulties in their dioceses. Immigration reform has been a hot button issue for the bishops in America since a large percentage of illegal aliens have Catholic roots.  
The strangest aspect of Pelosi’s instruction, however, is her desire to coalesce church and state.  For the past fifty years, pastors and bishops have been on guard about preaching politics from the pulpit in fear of jeopardizing their tax exempt status.
As recently as the 2008 elections, many Catholics rejected any clergy who spoke during a homily about why parishioners should choose one candidate over another.  Progressives inside the church cried foul whenever the church tried to step into the political arena.
Pelosi’s a clever woman.  She has a two-fold game plan going on here.  She makes it look like the government is softening its stance on that pesky separation of church and state issue, while she speaks in a commanding voice to church officials, thereby subordinating the church to the state.  In Marxist movements, the state must either do away with religion or control it; either way the bishops lose.

Clergy abuse threatens to tarnish pope’s legacy

Clergy abuse threatens to tarnish pope’s legacy

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON
The Associated Press
Friday, March 26, 2010; 9:06 PM

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is facing one of its gravest crises of modern times as sex abuse scandals move ever closer to Pope Benedict XVI – threatening not only his own legacy but also that of his revered predecessor.

Benedict took a much harder stance on sex abuse than John Paul II when he assumed the papacy five years ago, disciplining a senior cleric championed by the Polish pontiff and defrocking others under a new policy of zero tolerance.

But the impression remains of a woefully slow-footed church and of a pope who bears responsibility for allowing pedophile priests to keep their parishes.

In an editorial on Friday, the National Catholic Reporter in the United States called on Benedict to answer questions about his role “in the mismanagement” of sex abuse cases, not only in the current crisis but during his tenure in the 1980s as archbishop of Munich and then as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal and disciplinary office.

It all comes down to the question of what the pope knew and when. The answer will almost certainly determine the fate of Benedict’s papacy.

As he approaches Holy Week, the most solemn period on the Christian calendar, victims groups and other critics are demanding Benedict accept personal responsibility. A few say he should resign.

Some fear the crisis will alienate Catholics from the church, with a survey in Benedict’s native Germany already showing disaffection among Catholics while there is deep anger in once very Catholic Ireland.

As the climate worsens, the Vatican is showing increasing impatience and even anger, denouncing what it says is a campaign to smear the pope.

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said this week there was a “clear and despicable intention” to strike at Benedict “at any cost.”

But as attention focuses on Benedict, a perhaps thornier question looms over how much John Paul II, beloved worldwide for his inspirational charisma and courageous stand against communism, knew about sex abuse cases and whether he was too tolerant of pedophile priests.

John Paul presided over the church when the sex abuse scandal exploded in the United States in 2002 and the Vatican was swamped with complaints and lawsuits under his leadership. Yet during most of his 26-year papacy, individual dioceses and not the Vatican took sole responsibility for investigating misbehavior.

Professor Nick Cafardi, a canon and civil lawyer and former chairman of the U.S. bishops lay review board that monitored abuse, said Benedict was “very courageous” to reverse Vatican support for the Legionaries of Christ, a sex scandal-tainted organization staunchly defended by John Paul.

John Paul was already ailing from Parkinson’s disease when the U.S. scandal erupted, a factor supporters say may have kept him from initially realizing its scope.

While Cardinal Bernard Law became the most high-profile church figure to fall, resigning as archbishop of Boston over the scandal, John Paul gave him a soft landing, appointing him as head of a Rome basilica and keeping him on various Vatican committees.

The world-traveling John Paul has been put on a fast track for sainthood by Benedict in response to popular demand. Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the emeritus head of the Vatican’s saint-making office, said this week that historians who studied the pope’s life didn’t find anything problematic in John Paul’s handling of abuse scandals.

“According to them there was nothing that was a true obstacle to his cause of beatification. They are very strict,” Saraiva Martins said.

For Benedict, a quiet intellectual who will be 83 next month, the scandal must be trying.

Until recently, Benedict had received high marks for his handling of sex abuse – seen as a bright spot amid turmoil over his remarks linking Islam to violence and his rehabilitation of an ultraconservative bishop who denies the Holocaust.

Shortly before his election as pope in 2005 he had denounced “filth” in the church – widely viewed as a reference to clerics who abused children. He proclaimed a policy of zero tolerance for offenders and met and prayed with victims while traveling in the United States and Australia.

Benedict won praise for moving against the Legionaries of Christ, the conservative order once hailed by John Paul that fell into scandal after it revealed that its founder had fathered a child and had molested seminarians.

The Vatican began investigating allegations against the Rev. Marcial Maciel of Mexico in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 2006, a year into Benedict’s pontificate, that the Vatican instructed Maciel to lead a “reserved life of prayer and penance” in response to the abuse allegations – effectively removing him from power.

But reaction changed as the abuse scandal moved across Europe and into Benedict’s native Germany in recent months, touching the pontiff himself with a case dating to his tenure as archbishop of Munich.

The former vicar general of the Munich archdiocese has absolved the pope of responsibility in the case of the Rev. Peter Hullermann, accused of abusing boys.

While then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was involved in a 1980 decision to transfer Hullermann to Munich for therapy, Ratzinger’s then-deputy took responsibility for a subsequent decision to let the priest return to pastoral duties. Hullermann was convicted of sexual abuse in 1986.

However, the New York Times reported Friday that Ratzinger was copied in on a memo stating Hullermann would be returned to pastoral work within days of beginning psychiatric treatment. The archdiocese insisted Ratzinger was unaware of the decision and that any other version was “mere speculation.”

In another case, documents show the Vatican office responsible for disciplining priests, while headed by Ratzinger, halted a church trial of a Milwaukee priest accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys from 1950-1975.

Two Wisconsin bishops had urged the Vatican to approve the proceeding against the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, arguing that even though it was years after the alleged abuse, the deaf community in Milwaukee was demanding justice. The trial was approved in 1997, only to be halted after an appeal by the priest to Ratzinger. Murphy died in 1998.

Murphy’s eventual punishment was a restriction on celebrating Mass and on visiting the deaf community.

Such light disciplinary measures remain the norm in the majority of sex abuse cases.

Of the 3,000 cases the Vatican has received since 2001, only 20 percent have gone to a full canonical trial, the Vatican’s chief prosecutor Monsignor Charles Scicluna said. Disciplinary sanctions were imposed in 60 percent, such as priests being ordered to live a retired life of prayer and not celebrate Mass publicly; in only 10 percent were the accused priests defrocked.

The abuse crisis in the United States, which involved 4 percent of the American priesthood, showed a pattern of bishops covering for errant clerics, at times moving them from parish to parish. The latest documents point to Vatican complicity, although the Vatican denies there was any cover-up.

Defenders of Benedict, such as British Archbishop Vincent Nichols, say that as cardinal he made important changes in church law to crack down on offenders and was not an “idle observer.”

French bishops rallied around Benedict in a letter on Friday, saying while they deplored clerical sex abuse, the issue “is being used in a campaign to attack you personally.”

Still, it is in Germany where Benedict’s popularity has taken a real hit.

A poll in Stern magazine released this week shows only 39 percent of Germany’s Catholics trust the pope, down from 62 percent in late January. Some 34 percent trust the Catholic church as an institution, down from 56 percent in January. The margin of error was 2.5 percentage points.

Rainer Kampling, a professor of Catholic theology at Berlin Free University, says the idea that the pope might resign – slipping polls not withstanding – is hardly realistic. “The pope is not a politician,” he said.

Herbert Kohlmaier, chairman of an Austrian Catholic group that has criticized Benedict, also said a resignation shouldn’t be expected. “They certainly won’t let a symbolic figure like that go.”

While church law allows for the resignation of a pope, there are few precedents over the church’s two millennium history. The last was by 15th-century Pope Gregory XII, and that was not over scandal but rather a schism in the church.

Taxpayer-Funded Abortion on Demand, Courtesy of a Catholic and a Mormon

Taxpayer-Funded Abortion on Demand, Courtesy of a Catholic and a Mormon

By Eileen McDevitt and Larrey Anderson

It is beyond ironic that a Mormon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and a Catholic, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, are in charge of passing ObamaCare. If passed, the legislation will federally fund elective abortions in every state. Reid’s and Pelosi’s respective religions, both of which (at least according to the churches’ official doctrines) ardently oppose abortion, are letting them get away with it. Apparently, in this day and age, the powerful are exempt from following God’s laws.
While having been formed centuries apart and on different continents, the Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, or Mormons) share some strikingly similar attributes. The leader of the Catholic Church, its Pope, and the leader of the LDS Church, its President, are selected from the innermost ring of their churches’ hierarchies. In each church, this ring is representative of the original twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. Each church believes that its respective leader is divinely inspired and speaks for God.
Both churches have clear and exacting positions on what they believe to be God’s teachings and the tenets to which humans must adhere in order to live a morally honorable life. Failure of a church member to adhere to core and fundamental doctrines results in discipline — and can even lead to excommunication (expulsion).
Yet it appears that both churches are becoming more humanistic by turning a blind eye to some of their core teachings — as well as by making exceptions to crucial doctrines for the political class. Did God stop talking to these leaders?
The Catholic Church has ten core tenets referred to as the Ten Commandments. The fifth of these commandments includes a provision that prohibits the killing of humans, commonly referred to as murder. For centuries, the Catholic Church has held that abortion is murder and accordingly has forbidden the practice.
In November of 1974, Pope Paul VI, considered the most open and modernizing Pope in recent history, set forth a twenty-seven-point “Declaration on Procured Abortion.” It remains the current position of the Catholic Church:
The right to life is no less to be respected in the small infant just born than in the mature person. In reality, respect for human life is called for from the time that the process of generation begins. From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother, it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already.
Nevertheless, a small group of sixty American nuns, who have allegedly devoted their lives to the Catholic Church, sent a letter to the U.S. Congress supporting abortion. This is a position in direct contravention of the divinely inspired teachings and declarations of the Catholic Church.
In response, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the sanctioned society representing women of over 103 Catholic service organizations in America, sent a letter to Congress officially opposing the proposed health care bill:
In a March 15th statement, Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke on behalf of the United States Bishops in opposition to the Senate’s version of the health care legislation under consideration because of its expansion of abortion funding and its lack of adequate provision for conscience protection…. Protection of life and freedom of conscience are central to morally responsible judgment.  We join the bishops in seeking ethically sound legislation.
No action has been taken by the Vatican to discipline the sixty rogue nuns who chose to openly and defiantly misrepresent the Catholic Church’s position on abortion to Congress, to U.S. citizens, to the world.
Pope Paul VI was equally clear that it is a violation of the Catholic Church’s basic tenets to support and/or vote for abortion:
It must in any case be clearly understood that whatever may be laid down by civil law in this matter, man can never obey a law which is in itself immoral, and such is the case of a law which would admit in principle the liceity of abortion. Nor can he take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it.
Nancy Pelosi, purportedly Catholic, has long been an open proponent for abortion and today is the leading champion for nationally funded abortion. Pelosi was granted an audience with the sitting Pope. The Pope merely criticized Pelosi for her position and failed to take any disciplinary action for Pelosi’s open “propaganda campaign in favor” of abortion. Meanwhile, Pelosi’s local priest in San Francisco continues to give her communion — even though the Pope has stated that those who support abortion should not take part in the Catholic sacrament.
The official position of the LDS (Mormon) Church on abortion closely mirrors that of the Catholic Church. The LDS Presidency has emphatically stated the position of their church, likening abortion to murder:
Abortion must be considered one of the most revolting and sinful practices in this day, when we are witnessing the frightening evidence of permissiveness leading to sexual immorality.
Members of the Church guilty of being parties to the sin of abortion must be subjected to the disciplinary action of the councils of the Church as circumstances warrant. In dealing with this serious matter, it would be well to keep in mind the word of the Lord stated in the 59th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 6, “Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it.” [Emphasis added.]
But the Mormon Church has taken no “disciplinary action” against Harry Reid. According to the Salt Lake Tribune:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid keeps a copy of the Book of Mormon in his office just off the chamber floor. There’s a second copy handy to give away to someone in need of spiritual guidance.
The Temple-recommend-carrying Reid is very active in his church, say fellow members in the Washington area.
Only the most obedient of Mormons are given “temple recommends.” These recommends allow faithful members access to the Church’s sacred temple ceremonies. Harry Reid, despite his vocal and public support for legislation that provides federal funds for abortion, is known to have such a “temple recommend.”
Abortion is murder unless one is the Senate Majority Leader or Speaker of the House, just as advocating abortion is a sin unless one is the Senate Majority Leader or Speaker of the House.
In the ultimate slap in the face to the Catholic Pope and the Mormon President, Pelosi and Reid have joined in the demand that the congressional health care vote be set for Sunday. Under both Catholic and Mormon doctrines, Sunday is a day of rest, a day set aside for the worship of God. Yet on this Sunday, in the middle of Lent, America’s most powerful Catholic and Mormon are abandoning God in favor of nationally funded abortion on demand.
Eileen McDevitt is a retired attorney. Larrey Anderson is a writer, a philosopher, and submissions editor for American Thinker. He is the author of The Order of the Beloved, and the memoir Underground: Life and Survival in the Russian Black Market.

Child abuse claims sweep Catholic Church in Europe

Child abuse claims sweep Catholic Church in Europe

By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press Writer Shawn Pogatchnik, Associated Press Writer Sat Mar 13, 11:40 am ET

DUBLIN – It often starts as a voice in the wilderness, but can swell into an entire nation’s demand for truth. From Ireland to Germany, Europe’s many victims of child abuse in the Roman Catholic church are finally breaking social taboos and confronting the clergy to face its demons.

Ireland was the first in Europe to confront the church’s worldwide custom of shielding pedophile priests from the law and public scandal. Now that legacy of suppressed childhood horror is being confronted in other parts of the Continent — nowhere more poignantly than in Germany, the homeland of Pope Benedict XVI.

The recent spread of claims into the Netherlands, Austria and Italy has analysts and churchmen wondering how deep the scandal runs, which nation will be touched next, and whether a tide of lawsuits will force European dioceses to declare bankruptcy like their American cousins.

“You have to presume that the cover-up of abuse exists everywhere, to one extent or another. A new case could appear in a new country tomorrow,” said David Quinn, director of a Christian think tank, the Iona Institute, that seeks to promote family values in an Ireland increasingly cool to Catholicism.

Quinn noted that stories of systemic physical, sexual and emotional abuse circulated privately in Irish society for decades, but only moved aboveground in the mid-1990s when former altar boy Andrew Madden and orphanage survivor Christine Buckley went public with lawsuits and exposes of how priests and nuns tormented them with impunity.

Floodgates opened for Irish complaints that have topped 15,000 in this country of 4 million. Three government-ordered investigations have shocked and disgusted the nation, which has footed most of the bill to settle legal claims topping euro1 billion (nearly $1.5 billion).

“A lot comes down to: When does that first victim gather the courage to come forward into the spotlight?” Quinn said. “It seems to take that trigger event, the lone voice who says what so many kept silent so long. That’s basically happening now in Germany. It could happen next in Spain, Poland, anywhere.”

In January, an elite Jesuit school in Berlin declared it was aware of seven child-abuse cases in its past and appointed an outside investigator, Ursula Raue, to seek testimony. Within weeks, she had gathered stories of long-suppressed woe from more than 100 ex-students abused by their Jesuit masters, and from 60 molested by parish priests.

“I always thought that at some point the wave would reach us,” said Petra Dorsch-Jungsberger, a commentator on Catholic affairs and retired University of Munich communications professor.

She credited heavy German media coverage of the latest Irish abuse scandal — a November report into decades of cover-up in the Dublin Archdiocese involving approximately 170 priests — with inspiring similar soul-searching in Germany.

“Once the door had been opened, then many others felt they were able to step up and say: That happened to us too,” she said.

In recent weeks, new German abuse claims have surfaced on a near-daily basis and spread to Pope Benedict’s Bavarian heartland and the Regensberg boys’ choir long directed by the pope’s brother. Benedict was Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger of Munich from 1977 to 1982, and questions now focus on what role, if any, the pontiff, played in handing pedophile priests to new parishes rather than to the law.

A Swiss abbot said in an interview published Saturday that 60 people have reported being victims of abuse by Catholic priests in Switzerland.

Abbot Martin Werlen of the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln told Swiss daily Aargauer Zeitung that the allegations were reported to the Swiss Bishops Conference, which is investigating them.

The Vatican on Saturday denounced what it called aggressive attempts to drag Pope Benedict XVI into the spreading scandals of pedophile priests in his German homeland, and contended he has long confronted abuse cases with courage.

In separate interviews, both the Holy See’s spokesman and its prosecutor for sex abuse of minors by clergy sought to defend the pope.

“It’s rather clear that in the last days, there have been those who have tried, with a certain aggressive persistence, in Regensburg and Munich, to look for elements to personally involve the Holy Father in the matter of abuses,” Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio.

It’s inevitable that all bishops of the day, including Ratzinger, handled abuse complaints against priests in-house, said the Rev. Fergus O’Donoghue, editor of the Irish Jesuit journal Studies.

“The pope was no different to any other bishop at time. The church policy was to keep it all quiet — to help people, but to avoid scandal. Avoiding scandal was a huge issue for the church,” he said. “Of course there was cover-up,” he added. But worse was “the systematic lack of concern for the victims.”

In the Netherlands, a former Catholic boarding-school abuse victim is leading a campaign for accountability. Bert Smeets, 58, has formed Mea Culpa, a victims group that has collected testimony from hundreds of abuse victims and is mulling a class-action lawsuit against the Dutch church.

The church has apologized to the victims and set up an inquiry headed by a former government minister, a Protestant. Smeets dismisses that effort as “a typical Vatican cover-up.” He said the pressure on the church came from aggressive investigations into abuse in Ireland and the U.S.

In other predominantly Catholic areas of Europe, child-abuse scandals have tarnished individual priests and even a Polish archbishop, but have not mushroomed into a mass movement. In Spain, more than a dozen priests have been convicted of child abuse in recent decades and two potentially larger-scale cases are attracting attention.

Ireland was until relatively recently the most enthusiastically Catholic country in Europe. Its half-dozen seminaries exported priests worldwide. All but one of those seminaries is closed now, illustrating the rapid falloff in Mass attendance as the economy has advanced and secularism has spread.

Quinn, the Dublin think-tank director, noted that a few Irish dioceses are openly warning that they’re struggling to pay bills stemming from abuse claims. In the southeast diocese of Kells, the archbishop’s house has had to be remortgaged.

“The church is asset-rich but cash-poor,” Quinn said, noting that it’s the biggest property owner in Ireland but has comparatively little cash in the bank. He said the Vatican, too, has less money on tap than resides in the endowment fund of a typical top-tier U.S. university.

___

Associated Press Writers Melissa Eddy in Berlin, Ciaran Giles in Madrid, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw and Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, contributed to this report.

Catholicism and Islam: Seeking Common Ground — Very Disturbing

Catholicism and Islam: Seeking Common Ground

Created 2008-09-21 09:14

The Catholic Church, its leadership if not its flock, seeks common ground with Islam. It has been said that the Church sees in Islam a ray of hope for the re-spiritualization of Europe. Priests see empty churches while mosques are bulging with true believers. They see the secular society addicted to pornography, abortion, and sexual promiscuity, while the Islamic society is tightly controlled. They see the French State divided by “laïcité”, while Muslim nations do not recognize separation of Church and State. And they admire Islam to the point where they overlook the dark side and delude themselves into believing that the two religions can not only co-exist, but become strengthened through mutual contacts and understanding.

Here are excerpts from the comments of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, published in the Vatican newpaper L’Osservatore Romano, on the reactions of the Muslims who heard the Pope’s speech at the Collège des Bernardins on September 12:

The Pope spoke of the Holy Scriptures, of the Christian book which certainly is not the Muslim book. I believe however that the representatives of the Muslim community followed it with much interest.
 
I noticed, for example, that they shared openly the urgings of the Pope to seek God. In that respect, their way of thinking does not differ from our own, and can even constitute a point of contact.
 
And I can say that, when the Pope finished his meeting, and conversed with them, exchanging a few words with each one as he greeted them, I could tell from their faces that they were in agreement.
 
They were very happy and congratulated the Pope. So I think they were satisfied.

Cardinal Bertone is one of the highest-ranking officials in the Catholic Church.

 

Another message from the Vatican goes even further than the preceding comments of Cardinal Bertone, in its conciliatory approach to Islam. Here are excerpts from of a message sent to Muslims by the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The message was sent on the occasion of the end of Ramadan.

Christians and Muslims: Together for the dignity of the family
 
Dear Muslim friends, […] Christians and Muslims can and must work together to safeguard the dignity of the family, today and in the future. Given the high esteem in which both Muslims and Christians hold the family, we have already had many occasions, from the local to the international level, to work together in this field. The family, that place where love and life, respect for the other and hospitality are encountered and transmitted, is truly the ‘fundamental cell of society.’
 
Muslims and Christians must never hesitate, not only to come to the aid of families in difficulty, but also to collaborate with all those who support the stability of the family as an institution and the exercise of parental responsibility, in particular in the field of education. I need only remind you that the family is the first school in which one learns respect for others, mindful of the identity and the difference of each one. Interreligious dialogue and the exercise of citizenship cannot but benefit from this.
 
Dear friends, now that your fast comes to an end, I hope that you, with your families and those close to you, purified and renewed by those practices dear to your religion, may know serenity and prosperity in your life! May Almighty God fill you with His Mercy and Peace!

I didn’t realize that polygamy, forced marriages, honor killings, using children as human shields, etc… were family values espoused by the Church.
 
In February 2006, I posted a long article by Anne-Marie Delcambre on Europe’s infatuation with Islam. Here is one excerpt from that essay:

First of all, these “ecclesiastics, alarmed by the loss of interest in faith and church attendance in Christian countries, particularly Europe, admire Muslim devotion. [...] They feel it is better to believe in something than in nothing at all [...]” They see the near-empty churches and in contrast, they note that the mosques are full, even if these mosques are cellars or run-down buildings. The churches three quarters empty, the triumphant secularism, the contempt for the religious life all have become unbearable to Catholic priests [...] they feel sympathy for the community of Islam where everyone is close, where “the believers are brothers”! But they forget rather quickly, or they don’t realize that “the Muslim is the brother of the Muslim”, not the brother of the non-Muslim.

Meanwhile, in France, the number of converts to Islam is roughly 18X that of the converts to Christianity. Between 150 and 200 Muslims convert to Catholicism each year in France, compared to some 3,600 people who convert to Islam every year. However, Muslim converts to Christianity face a lot of difficulties.

 


Why the Pope should call for the return of the Hagia Sophia

Why the Pope should call for the return of the Hagia Sophia

Here is an extraordinary piece by Bruce S. Thornton, “Holy Wisdom: Why the Pope should call for the return of the Hagia Sophia,” that pinpoints exactly why I have felt so uneasy about the Pope’s trip to Turkey.

Many in the West are congratulating Pope Benedict XVI’s recent trip to Turkey, where in the Blue Mosque he prayed facing Mecca and made other gestures meant to salve the wounds raised by his references to Islam’s history of violence. Personally, I found the whole scene a depressing exhibit of the West’s terminal failure of nerve, one particularly distressing given this Pope’s documented understanding that what we call the “war on terror” is in fact the latest episode in the centuries-long struggle with a militant Islam.In the Pope’s visit and the media response to it, we once again witnessed the one-way street of “religious tolerance” and “respect.” In other words, the West is supposed to respect and tolerate Muslims and Islam, all the while that no such respect is afforded to Christians and Jews. The West is supposed to feel guilty and obsess over its putative crimes against Islam, all the while that the longer chronicle of Islamic assault against the West is forgotten. Hence the ridiculous ignorance of those who think the Crusades were “holy wars” akin to jihadic aggression. Somehow it’s forgotten that the Holy Land was Greco-Roman and Hebraic and Christian for centuries before the armies of Allah destroyed that cultural continuity and imposed a new culture and religion at the point of a sword.

This double standard was particularly obvious given the backdrop of the Pope’s visit –– the city of Istanbul. Once known as Constantinople, this was one of the great cities of Classical and Christian culture, home to one of Christendom’s most magnificent churches, Hagia Sophia, the church of the Holy Wisdom. On May 29, 1453, Constantinople ceased to exist, falling to the armies of the Sultan Mehmet II: “By noon,” John Julius Norwich writes, “the streets were running red with blood. Houses were ransacked, women and children raped or impaled, churches razed, icons wrenched from their golden frames, books ripped from their silver bindings. . . . In the church of St. Saviour in Chora the mosaics and frescoes were miraculously spared, but the Empire’s holiest icon, the Virgin Hodegetria, said to have been painted by St. Luke himself, was hacked into four pieces and destroyed. The most hideous scenes of all, however, were enacted in the church of the Holy Wisdom. Matins were already in progress when the berserk conquerors were heard approaching. Immediately the great bronze doors were closed; but the Turks soon smashed their way in. The poorer and more unattractive of the congregation were massacred on the spot; the remainder were lashed together and led off to the Turkish camps, for their captors to do with as they liked. As for the officiating priests, they continued with the Mass as long as they could before being killed at the high altar.”

Ancient history, you say, irrelevant to the present? But do not the Muslims repeatedly invoke the historical crimes of the West to justify terrorism? Are not the sins of colonialism and imperialism continually cited, even though France and England’s 150 years in the Middle East and North Africa are dwarfed by Islam’s several centuries in Spain and the Balkans and the cradle of the West, Greece? Is there some statute of limitations on conquest and the transfer of territory that attends it, so that the conquests of Islam are legitimized by time, while those of the West can never be?

Why do we accept this double standard? Why are the continuing persecution of Christians today, despicable anti-Semitic slanders, and the desecration of temples and churches in Muslim lands shrugged away in the West, while trivial cartoons and mere statements of historical fact are met with hysteria, violence, and threats? Why are churches disappearing throughout the lands of Christianity’s birth and growth, while huge mosques are going up in London and Milan? Why are Christians and Jews forbidden entry into Saudi Arabia, while Muslims in Europe demand special privileges and recognition of their faith?

Nowhere is this insane, groveling capitulation of the West more obvious than in its treatment of Israel. By all rights, when Israel recaptured Jerusalem from Jordan –– in a defensive war Israel did not want, a war Israel literally begged Jordan to stay out of –– Israel could have razed the Aqsa mosque and rebuilt the temple on the site it had stood on for centuries before Islam even existed. Instead, the Temple Mount is still controlled by Muslims, who are free to worship in the mosque all the while they allow the children of Allah to throw stones on the Jews who come to worship at the few scraps of the temple wall, all that is left to them of their holiest site. Meanwhile the countries of the West decry the “illegal occupation” of Jerusalem and Judea and Galilee, refuse to put their embassies in the capital of Israel, and continually demand more and more concessions to a people who have made it clear that their conquest of Jerusalem is legitimate, that Israelis, not they, are the interloper in the Jews’ historical homeland, and that violence against innocents is justified to undo a history deemed to violate Allah’s will.

When will we learn that this forbearance is not a testimony to our strength but rather a sign of our cultural sickness? Would that the Pope had stood in Hagia Sophia and asked the Turks to restore this Christian monument to the Orthodox Church, as a sign that Turkey is sincere about entering the modern world and accepting its canons of reciprocal tolerance, not to mention showing the sort of regret for its ancestors’ crimes that the West is continually dunned to show. What do you think the reaction would have been? How many Christians would have died in the ensuing riots by the adherents of the “religion of peace”? And how many Western commentators would have scourged the Pope for his blinkered intolerance and insensitivity?

No, the enemy knows that what we pretend to be “tolerance” and “respect” are merely the camouflage of spiritual exhaustion and fear. We have fewer and fewer men like those who created the West in the teeth of Islamic aggression, men like the Byzantine Greek Lucas Notaras. After the sack of Constantinople, the Sultan demanded Notaras’s beautiful 14-year-old son for the royal harem: “When Notaras still defied the Sultan,” Steven Runciman writes, “orders were given for him and the two boys [his son and son-in-law] to be decapitated on the spot. Notaras merely asked that they should be slain before him, lest the sight of his death should make them waver. When they had both perished, he bared his neck to the executioner.” As Nestor says in the Iliad, “Men like those I have not seen again, nor ever will.”

Under the Turkish Guns, the Christians Roar

Under the Turkish Guns, the Christians Roar

It is the peculiar genius of Byzantine history that its glory reached its apogee in the era known to the West as the Dark Ages. It has no great literary heritage – a half-millenium of Muslim domination ensured the annihilation from memory of its major works beyond the Alexiad of Anna Comnena, the anonymous epic of Digenes Akritis, and various religious texts. The latter survived because the Church survived, even as the Empire did not. Chief among them are the great liturgies, and chief among the great liturgies is the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. It is the queen of liturgies: a Greek epic of its own, also of the Western Dark Ages, emphatic and deliberate in its insistent worship of Christ. The liturgy has a heavenly glory in its song and prayer. It also has a mundane length to it. Properly done, it lasts hours. Yesterday, it lasted five hours, from 8am to 1pm. It’s a feat of endurance for the best Christian – particularly as the great majority of it has one standing. I am not among the best Christians. But yesterday, I did it.
 
Yesterday, I was in the Church of St George at the compound of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Fener district of Istanbul. Across from me sat the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, holder of the last office of the Eastern Empire, and spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christians of the world. Mere feet away, within arm’s reach, sat Pope Benedict XVI.
 
The Patriarchal compound is a small place, kept deliberately so by the Turkish authorities who object to the claim of an ecumenical title by the Patriarch. No matter that the Patriarchate in Constantinople has been the Ecumenical Patriarchate since nearly eight hundred years before the Turkish seizure of this city, and no matter that even the Ottoman Sultans acknowledged this fact: the modern Turkish state believes the Patriarch to be merely the religious leader of the Orthodox Christians of Turkey – reduced from a thriving community of millions to a mere two thousand in Istanbul proper in the 20th century – and nothing more. So vehemently do they deny any greater role for the successor to St Andrew, that in this very week, they sent police personnel to tear down English-language banners with the phrase “Archon Pilgrimage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate” on it. The Archons are properly the Order of St Andrew, and they are a collection of lay worthies of the Greek Orthodox Church in America. They also had passes allowing them entry into the Patriarchate for this Liturgy with the Pope, and to the previous night’s Doxology; but because it too mentioned an “Ecumenical Patriarchate,” they were made to put them away before the Turkish police would allow them entry into the Patriarchal compound. They complied – what else could they do? – and in a nice irony, were issued badges by the Turks which read, “Istanbul Rum Patrikhanesi.” The Patriachate of the Romans of Istanbul. Even now, five hundred fifty-three years after the conquest, Turkish idiom acknowledges what the Great Church and its people once were.
 
The Church of St George, sole church in the Patriarchal compound, acknowledges it as well. Embedded in its walls, and strewn about its tiny grounds, are fragments from the hundreds of churches of old Constantinople that were demolished in the centuries of Muslim rule. Here there is a frieze of Christ. Here there is an Apostle. Here there is a slab of marble in which a scarred IC XC is inscribed. And here there is an imperial double-headed eagle, symbol of the Eastern Imperium. It is a bit of symbology that has been inherited by several nations of the old Byzantine commonwealth, among them Russia and, improbably, Albania. The Patriarchal compound is strewn with them, giving truth to the phrase Istanbul Rum Patrikhanesi. For a moment, one may lose oneself in the fantasy that it is all still real, and all still alive – but then you look up, and see the mosque that the Turks have built athwart the compound on the overlooking hillside. The minarets peer down in the very courtyard of St George’s itself, and the message is clear: five times a day, every day of every year, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Christians of the world must hear the muzzein at close quarters. The temporal victors are deeply unsure, even now, of their victory.
 
On this day, the minaret and all the surrounding rooftops are occupied by Turkish soldiers. They look down upon us in the courtyard and glare. There is security and insecurity in their presence: they will assuredly protect us from any Islamist who would seek to wreak mayhem – though none, not even unfriendly crowds, are in evidence – and they are assuredly not our friends. The Patriarch himself, Bartholomew I, once served in the Turkish Army, in keeping with the Turkish state’s stricture that the occupant of that office must hold Turkish citizenship. I looked up at the soldiery, and reflected on the pity of this state, which he served, that is now bent upon squeezing his ancient office out of existence.
 
Inside the chapel all is gilt and gold, a nineteenth-century version of Orthodox splendor, and it is possible to forget the scene outdoors. The place is suffused with holy relics: among them, the remains of Ss John Chrysostom, whose liturgy we celebrate, and Gregory the Theologian – both recently returned by the Vatican. Across the chapel, a supposed piece of the True Cross, and the purported pillar upon which Christ was scourged. There are sarcophagi in which various saints rest, and niches in which holy icons are venerated. It is a wonderland for the faithful. But not only the faithful are there: there is also the media of the world, armed with telephoto lenses and cameras, and looking shabby in the way that media typically do. It does not occur to them to dress appropriately – one may wish, after all, to look presentable before the putative Vicar of Christ on Earth – but then, it wouldn’t. They crowd onto platforms along the periphery of the chapel, and wait.
 
Patriarch Bartholomew I arrives, decked in brilliant finery and surrounded by black-clad deacons and Metropolitans. Pope Benedict XVI arrives, dressed in thick red robes, and accompanied by bright red-and-purple Cardinals. The Liturgy, which has already been underway for an hour, assumes a new pitch. The lights brighten. The gold upon the icons flare. We pray. We worship for another four hours, with varying levels of comprehension of the thousand-year-old Greek of the Liturgy. I scurry about from point to point, taking photographs and looking on in awe.
 
Finally, it comes time for Communion. My father asks me if I will go, and I reply that I probably should not. He urges me to, and I give in. Now, we file forward, toward the Ecumenical Patriarch His All-Holiness Bartholomew I, holder of the last office of the Eastern Empire, who gives us the Body of Christ. Mere feet away, Benedict XVI sits on the Papal throne, looking down upon us supplicants. I am overcome and cannot glance toward him. Behind me, others have more courage: they break from the line, rush forward, and kiss Benedict’s hand. He is calm and gentle. He smiles and clasps their hands, saying a few words in German and English, before urging them to go receive the Eucharist. It is profoundly moving too see these devout Orthodox who have come to pay homage to the bishop of the New Roman, and who are so overwhelmed with the presence and love of the bishop of the Rome that they must give him the same. The small space encompasses a universe, and we are at its center.
 
Bartholomew ascends to the iconostasis and welcomes Benedict in Greek. Benedict, aware of the cameras surrounding him, replies in English. We must, he says, recall Europe to its Christian heritage before it is too late – and we must do it together. Then they emerge into the cold sunlight of a cold day. They ascend to a balcony overlooking the courtyard where we gather in expectation. They speak briefly. And then, they clasp hands, Pope and Patriarch, smile and raise their arms together. Tears come to my eyes, and I am shocked to see several media personnel crying openly. For an instant, the Church is one. For a shadow of a second, the dreams of Christendom are again real.

Pope turns other cheek to Muslim Turkey

Pope turns other cheek to Muslim Turkey
Richard Owen, Ankara

30nov06

THE Pope has reversed his opposition to Turkey’s efforts to join the EU, appearing to back the overwhelmingly Muslim country’s hard-fought push towards membership at the start of his visit.

Benedict XVI appealed for Christian-Muslim reconciliation and called on all religious leaders to “utterly refuse to support any form of violence in the name of faith”. His controversial and potentially hazardous visit – originally intended to improve relations between Catholics and Orthodox Christians – was “pastoral, not political”, he insisted late on Tuesday. But there were immediate tensions after the country’s top Muslim official accused him of stirring up Islamophobia.

The build-up to the Pope’s four-day visit has been marked by setbacks in Turkey’s bid for EU membership – which the Pope as a cardinal once called a “grave error” – and anger in the Muslim world over the Pope’s contentious remarks about Islam in a university address two months ago.

But Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan put resentments aside on Tuesday by agreeing to greet the Pope at Ankara airport and hold talks there.

Following the meeting, he was quick to claim the Pope had expressed hope that Turkey would join the EU.

A papal spokesman later clarified the remarks, saying the Pope had told the Turkish leader the Vatican did not have the power to intervene, but “viewed positively and encouraged” the process of Turkey’s entry into the EU “on the basis of common values and principles”.

In a break with protocol, Mr Erdogan greeted the Pope, 79, at the steps of his plane, a mark of respect from a leader who had initially said he was too busy to meet the pontiff.

The Pope in turn appeared to nod understandingly when Mr Erdogan explained he had to attend the NATO summit in Riga. Mr Erdogan said: “The most important message the Pope gave was toward Islam, reiterating his view of Islam as peaceful and affectionate.”

The Pope’s visit is sensitive – a closely watched pilgrimage full of symbolism that could offer hope of religious reconciliation or deepen what many say is the growing divide between the Christian and Islamic worlds.

He clearly made reconciliation a priority on his first day.

Among a series of taxing meetings was a dialogue with Ali Bardakoglu, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate and Turkey’s top Muslim official.

Dr Bardakoglu accused the Pope of encouraging Islamophobia with his remarks at Regensburg University two months ago, when the Pope quoted a medieval Christian emperor who had linked Islam to violence and inhumanity.

He lectured an uncomfortable-looking Pope, telling him: “When religious leaders come together, they should concentrate on solving the common problems of mankind without trying to demonstrate the superiority of their own beliefs.”

Islamophobia was regrettable and based on prejudice, rather than any “scientific or historical research or data”, he said.

“We are members of a religion which assumes that killing an innocent person is a heavy crime and a sin.”

Sitting on the stage next to Dr Bardakoglu, the Pope did not react to the statement. But he did retract comments he made in 2004, opposing Turkish membership of the EU, saying he now favoured the move.

The Pope praised “the flowering of Islamic civilisation” in Turkey and said Christians and Muslims both valued the sacred and “the dignity of the person”.

“This is the basis of our mutual respect and esteem,” he said. “We are called to work together via authentic dialogue.”

The Pope later told diplomats that leaders of all religions must “utterly refuse to sanction recourse to violence as a legitimate expression of faith”.

Those comments could be reinforced later this week when the Pope meets in Istanbul with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians

Al-Qaida denounces Pope’s visit to Turkey, calling it part of a “crusader campaign” against Islam

Al-Qaida denounces Pope’s visit to Turkey, calling it part of a “crusader campaign” against Islam

The disjunction between the idea that he is waging a “Crusader campaign” and what he is actually doing is of Grand Canyon proportions, but when has a disconnect from reality stopped them before? “Al-Qaida denounces pope visit to Turkey,” by Maamoun Youssef for Associated Press, with thanks to CGiddens, Jr.:

CAIRO, Egypt – Al-Qaida in Iraq on Wednesday denounced Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Turkey, calling it part of a “crusader campaign” against Islam.In Istanbul, Vatican officials said the remark shows the need for faiths to fight “violence in the name of God.”

The trip is Benedict’s first visit to an Islamic country as pontiff, seeking dialogue with Muslims who were angered over a speech he made in September in which he cited a medieval text that linked Islam and violence.

Al-Qaida in Iraq issued its statement on an Islamic militant Web site it often uses to post messages.

“The pope’s visit, in fact, is to consolidate the crusader campaign against the lands of Islam after the failure of the crusader leaders … and an attempt to extinguish the burning ember of Islam inside our Turkish brothers,” it said.

Erdogan: Pope says Islam “peaceful and affectionate”

Erdogan: Pope says Islam “peaceful and affectionate”

Yes, well, what else could he say after all the affection and warmth the Muslims in Turkey have shown him?

“Pope defuses tensions on visit to Muslim Turkey,” by Philip Pullella and Selcuk Gokoluk for Reuters:

ANKARA (Reuters) – Pope Benedict told Turkey on Tuesday he backed its bid to join the European Union and believed Islam was a religion of peace, hoping to soothe rows overshadowing a delicate visit to the mainly Muslim country.Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan hailed the comments, which he said Benedict made to him in their private talk at the airport, and Turkish commentators said they changed the tone of a visit clouded by disputes over the Pope’s view of Islam.

Asked about Turkey’s EU entry bid, which Benedict opposed before his 2005 election as Pope, spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Vatican took no political stand but supported Turkey’s entry “on the basis of common values and principles.”

And what are those common values and principles, exactly?

Security was heavy but protests rare under Ankara’s sunny skies as Benedict arrived, laid a wreath at the mausoleum of the republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and met Turkey’s president and director of religious affairs.Erdogan, who had originally said he was too busy to meet the Pope, greeted Benedict warmly as he descended from his airplane and held short talks with him before leaving for the NATO summit in Riga.

“He said we are not political but we wish for Turkey to join the EU,” Erdogan told journalists after meeting the Pope.

Erdogan, who began his career in Islamic politics, added: “The most important message the Pope gave was toward Islam, he reiterated his view of Islam as peaceful and affectionate.”

Yes. Cuddly, even. No Salman-Rushdieism here about Islam being the “least huggable of faiths.” The intellectual acrobatics required for this aren’t really all that difficult. Just decide a priori that all those committing violence in the name of Islam aren’t really Muslims. Then all that are left are the poor victims of “Islamophobia.”

Posted by Robert at 04:14 PM | Comments (52)
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Pope sells out Europe, says Erdogan

According to Erdogan, Benedict now endorses the “grave error.” But it is still a grave error, regardless. “Pope Benedict Backs Turkey’s European Union Bid, Erdogan Says,” by Flavia Krause-Jackson and Mark Bentley for Bloomberg, with thanks to Andrew Bostom:

Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) — Pope Benedict XVI said he backs Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after meeting the pontiff upon his arrival in Ankara for his first visit to a Muslim country.The Pope told Erdogan that while the Vatican seeks to stay out of politics it “desires Turkey’s membership in the EU,” Erdogan said at a news conference after the 15 minute meeting that initiated his four-day visit to Turkey. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he had said in 2004 that allowing Islamic Turkey to join the EU would be a “grave error.” The Vatican has yet to confirm Benedict’s comments today.

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