The risks of associating the church with any secular political force were underscored this week, with news with that the Polish government under President Lech Kaczynski will campaign for a return of the death penalty in the European Union.
All Things Catholic
John L. Allen Jr., NCR senior correspondent, writes weekly on the goings-on in Vatican and in the church around the world.
How attitudes around the world are changing towards clerical sexual abuse, and the struggles that remain, were both on display this week in the story of Salvatorian Fr. Joseph Henn and his disappearance from Rome ahead of an Italian extradition order.
Even if they had no financial resources whatsoever, the Knights of Columbus would still be an important force in Catholic affairs. With 1.7 million members, principally in the United States, they are the largest lay Catholic organization in the world. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson is an influential Catholic intellectual and speaker. Members of the Knights are known around the world for their commitment, perhaps especially to pro-life causes.
This week saw some extraordinary engagement from the Catholic church on the crisis in Lebanon. The Holy See joined a 15-nation summit in Rome and the spokesman for the U.S. bishops on international policy, Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, was outspoken on the crisis in an exclusive interview with NCR.
The Vatican took part as an observer in the International Conference for Lebanon held in Rome on Wednesday, sending a three-member delegation led by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Secretary for Relations with States. Two officials from the Secretariat of State accompanied him, Monsignors Franco Coppola and Alberto Ortega Martin.
Apparently unfazed by criticism that his comments “deploring” the Israeli incursion into Lebanon amounted to a form of moral equivalence between terrorism and legitimate self-defense, Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano continued to speak out this week.
Faced with violence such as that in Lebanon, in which religious differences play a significant role, one temptation for believers is to retreat into a kind of vague humanitarian language, soft-pedaling any confessional approach for fear of making things worse. Some believers worry that striking spiritual notes while the world burns flirts with naiveté; as Woody Allen once put it, if there really is a God, the best that can be said of him is that he’s an under-achiever.
As a sidebar to the humanitarian mobilization for Lebanon, the German-based Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, released a statement on July 25 saying the number of families affected by the ongoing military clashes to be more than 100,000. The charity said many of these families are taking refuge in Catholic convents and other church buildings.
Embryonic stem cell research is shaping up as a critical “wedge issue” in American politics this November, and it’s no less volatile in Europe, where the European Parliament recently approved a measure theoretically liberalizing such research, but with enough unanswered questions to make its impact as yet unclear.
On the margins of Benedict XVI’s Angelus address on Sunday, outgoing director of the Vatican Press Office Joaquin Navarro-Valls gave a live interview to the main Italian television news broadcast Tg1, speaking about the pope’s new Secretary of State, Salesian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa.