National Catholic Reporter

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Pope calls for religious freedom, end to violence


VATICAN CITY -- Opening 2011 with a strong call for religious liberty, Pope Benedict XVI condemned deadly attacks against Christians and announced a new interfaith meeting next fall in Assisi, Italy.

At a Mass Jan. 1 marking the World Day of Peace and a blessing the next day, the pope voiced his concern about fresh episodes of violence and discrimination against Christian minorities in the Middle East.

The Vatican's condom evolution


While it’s no secret that many liberal Catholic theologians have long questioned church teaching on birth control, an equal-and-opposite row among conservatives has often flown below radar. In those circles, the question isn’t so much whether devices such as condoms ought to be embraced, but whether they’re so intrinsically evil that they necessarily add an element of sin to any sexual act.

Some prominent Catholic observers say that question has now been settled by the Vatican, and in a way that pulls the rug out from under some of the church’s most unyielding pro-life voices.

English Catholic writer Austen Ivereigh claimed in an analysis yesterday for America magazine that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has, in effect, rejected what he called a “Pharisaical” position on condoms that Ivereigh associates primarily with “pro-life ultras in the English-speaking world.”

Condoms not a 'lesser evil,' Vatican insists


Responding to the media sensation created by Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks on condoms in a recent book-length interview, the Vatican’s doctrinal office has released a statement insisting that the pope has not softened the church’s traditional ban on contraception, and that condoms cannot be viewed as a morally justified “lesser evil,” even in the context of HIV/AIDS.

Irish church 'begged' Vatican to dismiss abusive priest


DUBLIN -- A newly released chapter of the Murphy Report into the handling of clergy sex abuse allegations in the Archdiocese of Dublin between 1975 and 2004 shows Cardinal Desmond Connell "begged" Pope John Paul II to dismiss an abusive priest from the priesthood.

Chapter 19 was withheld when the report of Judge Yvonne Murphy's commission was published in November 2009 because the abuser involved -- former priest Tony Walsh -- was awaiting trial. Walsh was sentenced to 16 years in prison for abuse in early December, clearing the way for publication.

Referring to Walsh, the inquiry noted, "his pattern of behavior is such that it is likely that he has abused hundreds of children." The newly published chapter reveals that allegations of abuse made just days after Walsh's ordination in 1978 were largely ignored by church authorities and he went on to abuse freely for almost a decade, being moved from parish to parish when fresh allegations emerged.

WikiLeaks: US sought Vatican help in anti-terror plans


VATICAN CITY -- The United States sought to engage the Vatican in joint crisis management training in hopes that it would further anti-terrorism cooperation, according to a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Rome released by WikiLeaks.

The cable, dated Dec. 19, 2008, was approved by the outgoing ambassador to Italy, Ronald Spogli.

"The known al-Qaida antipathy to the pope" was cited as one of the reasons the embassy was keen to get the Vatican on board with an anti-terrorism plan.

The dispatch said that while Domenico Giani, the Vatican security chief, had been cool to U.S. offers of direct cooperation in dealing with threats from al-Qaida, he had in the past sought FBI training in specific areas. It said agents from the Vatican gendarme agency had received explosives handling training at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Va.

Classified as "secret," the cable was addressed to the U.S. State Department and titled "Request for Crisis Management Training for Vatican."

WikiLeaks documents lift veil on Vatican diplomacy



Secret diplomatic cables revealed today, as part of the WikiLeaks releases, that while the Vatican was appalled by revelations of clerical sexual abuse in Ireland in 2009 and 2010, it was also offended by demands that the papal ambassador participate in a government-sponsored probe, seeing it as an insult to the Vatican’s sovereign immunity under international law.

That stance, according to the cable, came off in Ireland as “pettily procedural” while failing to confront the reality of clerical abuse, and thereby made the crisis worse.

The cables also contain critical diplomatic assessments of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decision to create new structures to welcome disgruntled Anglicans, as well as the perceived technological illiteracy and communications ineptitude of some senior Vatican officials.

PR woes in the Vatican, according to one cable, have lowered the volume on the pope’s “moral megaphone.”

To read the entire story click on this link.

Vatican, PLO resume talks


VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican and the Palestine Liberation Organization have resumed diplomatic talks and agreed to establish a working group dedicated to drafting a comprehensive agreement between the two parties.

The talks are aimed at establishing "a comprehensive international agreement regulating and promoting the presence and activities of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian territories, so strengthening the special relations between the Holy See and the PLO," said a joint statement released by the Vatican Dec. 9.

The statement was issued at the end of initial talks, which were held Dec. 7 "in a cordial atmosphere" at the headquarters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

The joint statement said the talks were designed to elaborate ways to implement the "Basic Agreement" between the Vatican and the PLO, an agreement signed in 2000 spelling out principles for guaranteeing church rights and religious freedom in territories administered by the Palestinian Authority.



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