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Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Church

If the Great Schism ended, what would the Church look like?

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Photo: Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I greet the faithful as they stand on the balcony of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul in 2006 (AP Photo/Kai Pfaffenbach, Pool)

What would full visible unity between Catholics and Orthodox believers look like? Eric Sammons has a go at describing it.

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Written by Luke Coppen

December 7, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Will the 21st-century public lose faith in scientists?

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The Catholic Church was just one of many institutions that received a battering in the 20th-century West. The scientific establishment was one of the few that survived the century relatively unscathed.

I wonder whether the “Climategate” furore is a sign that this is about to change. Could this century see more scientific scandals and public trust in scientists plummet? Will people begin to treat the pronouncements of scientists such as Richard Dawkins with the same cynicism they reserve for those of Churchmen?

The brilliant science writer Jonah Lehrer says he’s amazed it’s taken general public so long to realise that scientists are fallible human beings, rather than Olympian truth seekers. Nevertheless, he believes that science as a whole is robust enough to survive these crises.

He argues:

The larger point … is that the effectiveness of science has never depended on the inhuman objectivity of scientists. Instead, science works – and it really does work – because of the institutions that help correct for our innate imperfections. Scientists don’t have to be rational, because science is.

Here’s Richard Rorty:

‘There is no reason to praise scientists for being more ‘objective’ or ‘logical’ or ‘methodical’ or ‘devoted to truth’ than other people. But there is plenty of reason to praise the institutions that they have developed and within which they work, and to use these as models for the rest of culture. For these institutions give concreteness and detail to the idea of unforced agreement.’

Over at the First Things website, Stephen M Barr, a professor of physics at the Bartol Research Institute at the University of Delaware, picks up the theme:

Ideologues who would trample down legitimate scientific questions raised by their entirely qualified colleagues are risking terrible damage to science in the long run. If it turns out, as it might, that the global warming fears are overblown or ill-founded, the credibility of the scientific establishment will suffer a grievous blow from which it will be hard to recover. It will open the door for all the real kooks and purveyors of pseudoscience, who will be that much harder to resist in the future. And what if at some point in the future an environmental catastrophe looms about which there really is a solid consensus in the scientific community? And what if at that point it really is only kooks who deny it? Won’t non-scientists be disposed to say: ‘We’ve heard that all before? We believed you the last time and you led us astray?’

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PS If you are interested in the relationship between science and faith, do visit the Second Sight blog, run by The Catholic Herald’s science editor, Quentin de la Bédoyère.

Written by Luke Coppen

December 3, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Learning the lessons of the Dublin report

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My colleague, Quentin de la Bédoyère, is blogging on the Dublin report into clerical sex abuse. Join him here for a discussion of what Catholics must learn from the report.

Written by Luke Coppen

November 27, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Mass attendance up in England and Wales, latest figures show

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Next year’s Catholic Directory for England and Wales arrived in the office today. I eagerly flipped to the section called “Recapitulation of Statistics”. Beneath that rather dull heading are the latest figures for the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

These numbers are interesting and important because the Church in this country isn’t good at gathering statistical information. Outside these pages, with their bland rows of numbers, it is hard to find trustworthy data on the Catholics of England and Wales.

So what do this year’s figures (actually gathered in 2008) tell us? One or two interesting things.

First, there are more than 100 diocesan priests than in the previous year (3,614 compared to 3,506), but 300 fewer religious priests (1,069 to 1,312).

Second, the overall Catholic population is smaller than in the previous year (4,148,783 to 4,156,544), but weekly Mass attendance is higher (918,844 to 915,556).

Third, baptisms and receptions are up (63,533 to 58,991 and 4,378 to 4,239 respectively). But the number of marriages is slightly down (9,932 to 9,950).

All in all, this is pretty encouraging news.

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 26, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury in ‘cordial’ meeting

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The Archbishop of Canterbury had an approximately 20-minute meeting with the Pope today. The Vatican issued this statement afterwards:

This morning His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI received in private audience His Grace Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

In the course of the cordial discussions attention turned to the challenges facing all Christian communities at the beginning of this millennium, and to the need to promote forms of collaboration and shared witness in facing these challenges.

The discussions also focused on recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, reiterating the shared will to continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans, and recalling how, over coming days, the commission entrusted with preparing the third phase of international theological dialogue between the parties (ARCIC) is due to meet.

After the meeting, Dr Williams spoke to Vatican Radio.

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 21, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Mixed reactions to Dr Williams’s Rome speech

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, delivered an impassioned, far-reaching and controversial speech in Rome yesterday on the future of Anglican-Catholic relations. Not surprisingly, it’s generated a great deal of equally impassioned comment. Here’s a selection:

Carl Olson of Ignatius Insight:

Dr Williams seems to be concerned more about arranging deck chairs than dealing with the massive holes in the hull of the Anglican ship. And that, of course, is his business. It’s understandable he might be feeling a bit concerned about the shaking and splintering of the ship beneath him. But why does he think the Catholic Church would ever consider climbing aboard to accept his sad offer of weak tea and stale cookies?

“Spirit of Vatican II”, an anonymous writer who left a comment on the Thinking Anglicans blog:

Rowan Williams’ speech is a glorious statement – majestically mature theology that shows up the pettiness of curial obsessions, without using a single ungracious word. At long last Anglicanism has given its reply to years of petty carping from the Vatican. The reply is just common sense at one level: ‘Cannot we agree to disagree fraternally about minor matters?’ On another level it reflects the full tide of ecumenical dialogue over the last century and the mind of one steeped in New Testament ideals and praxis of koinonia.

Is anyone in the Vatican, even Cardinal Kasper, capable of responding to this with equal breadth and wholeness of vision?

Fr Dwight Longenecker, author of the Standing on My Head blog:

What is really revealed is the depth of his blindness about the real situation between the churches. Can it be that even now he is defending women’s ordination and therefore women’s elevation to the episcopate? He may defend it in his own backyard, but is it possible that he really thinks the Catholic church has not decided on this? Does he honestly think the Pope is going to say, ‘Errm. I guess we flubbed on that one. For you guys it is obviously working really well. I mean your church is going from glory to glory. Is it too late to jump on the bandwagon?’

Blogger and Anglican Bishop Alan Wilson:

Rowan Williams’ lecture in Rome marks an interesting reframing of ecumenical futures. There is, of course, the conventional RC model. The Church achieves the Unity for which Jesus prayed when every Christian in the world submits to it as a Divinely sanctioned Imperium. Or try the Protestant version. Structural and organisational convergence will somehow produce a complex multiplanar hybrid. Everyone trades in their old but coherent structural and accountability models to the shining new one. Unity remains a future goal, and we all have to make it happen.

Blogger and ex-Anglican Fr Jeffrey Steel:

What stands out to me as most frustrating is that this speech seems to want to dismiss with the wave of the hand something that Rowan and Anglican ecclesiology (if there is such a definable thing!) often forgets, which is that what he/Anglicans sees as ‘secondary’ issues cannot within Catholic theology as a whole be disregarded as secondary.

The blogger Anglican Samizdat:

Where has Rowan been for the last three years? The Anglican communion is proof that the church can’t stay together once internal differences become as stark as they are now. I understand that once Rowan has convinced the Pope of the benefits of women bishops he will be travelling to Saudi Arabia to plead the case for women imams.

Andrew Brown of the Guardian:

The nearest I could get to his message to the pope is ‘Forgive us our women, as we forgive those who trespass against us’ but that can’t be right. For one thing the church of Rome is not about to forgive women priests.

Orthodox Christian blogger Ad Orientum:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has effectively told Pope Benedict XVI where to put his proposed Anglican Ordinariate… I am going to take an educated guess that this is not going to go over well in the Vatican. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when he meets the Pope in private.

Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid:

In related news, a junior-high science teacher in Dismal Seepage, Illinois, is urging the dean of the MIT science department to change his mind about the law of gravity.

Tom Heneghan of Reuters:

His argument seemed unlikely to convince the Vatican, which sees the disarray among Anglicans as proof that churches need clear doctrines and firm leadership.

You can watch part of Dr Williams’s speech here and read the full text here.
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Written by Luke Coppen

November 20, 2009 at 10:45 am

Rowan Williams: ‘The ecumenical glass is half-full’

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has just delivered a major speech on Anglican-Catholic relations in Rome. The full text is up on the archbishop’s website.

Here’s the conclusion:

All I have been attempting to say here is that the ecumenical glass is genuinely half-full – and then to ask about the character of the unfinished business between us. For many of us who are not Roman Catholics, the question we want to put, in a grateful and fraternal spirit, is whether this unfinished business is as fundamentally church-dividing as our Roman Catholic friends generally assume and maintain. And if it isn’t, can we all allow ourselves to be challenged to address the outstanding issues with the same methodological assumptions and the same overall spiritual and sacramental vision that has brought us thus far?

Dr Williams’s website provides the context: “The Archbishop of Canterbury is today giving an address in Rome, as the guest of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The address is part of a symposium being held at the Gregorian University, to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Cardinal Willebrands, the first president of the Council.”

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 19, 2009 at 5:01 pm