Fr Stephen Smuts

Archive for July 22nd, 2011

The Catholic Church is Booming

with one comment

Catholic League has the news:

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on new survey data profiling Catholicism:

All we ever hear from the wild-eyed critics of the Catholic Church, including the dissidents within, is that the Church had better “get with it” and change its teachings on abortion, homosexuality and women’s ordination. Yet it is precisely those religious institutions that are the most liberal on these issues—the mainline Protestant denominations—that are collapsing. Not so the Catholic Church. Indeed, its numbers are going north while the mainline denominations are going south.

The latest findings by the “Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership” project, a collaborative effort with Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, are illuminating. In the last 40 years, the Catholic population has increased by 75 percent; it has grown by 50 percent since 1990. More important, Catholic attendance at Mass is up 15 percent since 2000. And in the last five years, contributions have increased by 14 percent. It is also important to note that there has been a 40 percent increase in Latinos in the Church over the past five years.

Shedding more light on the statistics is a study released a few months ago by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion. Its “Landscape Survey” found that of those Catholics who have left the Church, roughly half became unaffiliated while the other half became Protestant. Regarding the latter half, only 23 percent did so because of the Church’s teachings on abortion and homosexuality; only 16 percent left because of the way women are treated. Importantly, two-thirds of these Catholics elected to join a Protestant evangelical church.

In other words, disaffected Catholics who left for another religion opted to join a more conservative church. That they did not run down the block in search of a mainline denomination—one that entertains the liberal agenda on issues governing sexuality and women—is telling.

It’s time some people took a hard look at the data and made some hard choices. This is great news for the Catholic Church.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 22, 2011 at 21:45

Post 1000

leave a comment »

On this blog…


My thanks go to you, dear reader. It’s you that make it all worthwhile!

Do keep on reading, linking, and commenting… and stay tuned for more.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 22, 2011 at 21:02

Posted in Church

Tagged with , , , ,

Terror in Norway

with 2 comments

Oslo (Reuters) – A bomb killed seven people in Norway’s capital Oslo on Friday and a gunman opened fire at a youth camp on an island, police said.

Police said they believed the bombing and the shooting were connected, but could not immediately confirm Norwegian media reports that several people at been killed at the youth camp.

A Reuters witness said several army soldiers had taken up position around the centre of the city.

With police advising people to evacuate central Oslo, apparently in fear of more attacks, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told Norwegian TV2 television in a phone call that the situation was “very serious.”

He said that police had told him not to say where he was speaking from…

The BBC has photos and Twin Attacks.

Islamists are suspected.

And the Telegraph has the history of Islamic militant attacks in Europe.

UPDATE:  At least 80 dead in Norway youth camp attack.

 At least 80 people were killed in a shooting attack on a youth camp in Norway, police said early Saturday, a devastating elevation of the death toll in twin attacks that included a bomb attack in Oslo.

National police Chief Oystein Maeland said the attack had reached “catastrophic dimensions.”

Police arrested a 32-year-old Norwegian man at the youth camp on the island and linked him to both assaults but said they did not know the motive.

Norwegian media identified him as Anders Behring Breivik and said authorities searched his home.

At least seven people were killed Friday when the bomb exploded in the Norwegian capital in mid-afternoon, blowing out the windows of the prime minister’s building and damaging the finance and oil ministry building. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was not in the building at the time. The blast scattered glass, shattered masonry and twisted steel across the streets…

More here.

UPDATE:  The police have arrested a suspect, Anders Behring Breivik.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 22, 2011 at 20:44

Posted in Church

Tagged with , , , , , , ,

Creepy and Evil Scientific Experiments

with one comment


Extreme Evil Science:

The full title on the cover of the August issue of WIRED is 

Extreme Science
7 Shocking Experiments That Would Teach Us So Much
(If They Weren’t So Wrong)

The cover tagline for the Aug 2011 issue is: Ethics, Shmetics

The article inside says that, “nurture vs. nature, the causes of mental illness, even the mystery of how humans evolved from monkeys. These discoveries are just sitting out there, waiting for us to find them, if only we were willing to lose our souls.” Why the article doesn’t exactly advocate doing them, it does say, “don’t pretend you wouldn’t like to learn the secrets that these experiments would reveal.” The Seven:

1) Spilt up twins after the moment of birth–and then control every aspect of their environments. This would benefit psychology enormously.

2) Remove brain cells from a live subject to analyze which genes are switched on and are off. 

3) Insert a tracking agent into a human embryo to monitor its development. (Discover how a tiny clump of cells transforms into a fully formed human being.)

4) Use beams of light to control the activity of brain cells in conscious human beings. (This would involve an open-skull session with focused beams into brain tissue to see how you respond…)

5) Switch the embryos of obese women with those of thin women. (Is obesity genetic or epigenetic?)

6) Test each new chemical on a wide range of human volunteers before it comes on the market. (Better than mice…)

7) Cross-breed a human with a chimpanzee. “Its outcome would take biologists deep into the origin of the species we care about most: ourselves. Let’s just hope we can find a less disturbing route to get there.”

… The mere contemplation of which is but a net result of the depraved mind of man! 

The full article link is here.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 22, 2011 at 20:27

On Proposals to Require Priests to Violate the Seal of Confession

with one comment

Writes Canon lawyer Prof Ed Peters:

Concerning recent Irish and Australian proposals to require priests who, through their ministry in sacramental confession, learn the identity of child sexual abusers (or of any other malefactors, for that matter), to disclose such information to civil authorities, I have little to say because, well, because there is little to say, canonically, at any rate. Such proposals, even if they become law, will have absolutely no effect on a priest’s obligation to preserve the seal of confession. Absolutely none.

The seal of confession is a not creature of civil law, rather, it rests on divine law and is articulated by canon law (see cc. 983 and 1388). Because the state has no authority over the seal of confession, it can exercise no authority over the seal by way imposing, regulating, or revoking it, in whole or even in part.

What states can do, and indeed what enlightened states in fact do, is to accommodate the seal of confession within theirs laws (typically, in their laws of criminal evidence procedure). The benefits to states making such accommodations are many, and the “benefits” of disregarding the seal can be shown, upon a few moments’ consideration, to be nugatory, but such prudential points are better made by others. I speak only as a canonist, and I write only to say that any civil laws attempting to break the seal of confession would have no force whatsoever against the sanctity of the seal of confession.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 22, 2011 at 19:38

What’s Behind China’s Hard Line Against Catholics?

with one comment

But before we go there, just caught this breaking news:

China is planning to ordain seven more bishops illegally, deepening the worst rift with the Vatican in recent memory.

“We have had local elections for bishops and seven candidates have already been submitted and are awaiting approval,” said Liu Bainian, president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the government body which runs the Chinese Church.

The move comes after last week’s ordination of Father Huang Bingzhang as the new bishop of Shantou, at which four bishops loyal to the Vatican were forced to participate by Chinese officials. Fr Huang was instantly excommunicated by Rome.

Both the Vatican and the Chinese government claim the sole right to administer the Chinese church, and clashes between the two have intensified in the past eight months, with China ordaining three bishops without the Pope’s consent.

Beijing severed ties with the Holy See in 1951 after the Communist Party took power and set up its own church outside the pope’s authority.

Asked if the new candidates were approved by the Holy See, Mr Liu said: “There’s no official channel for communications, but we cannot delay the election of our bishops because it is important to spread the gospel. We hope that the Vatican will respect the outcome of our elections.”

The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI “deplored” the actions of the Communist authorities, which have split the loyalties of China’s eight to 12 million Catholics, and of a number of priests, who have hidden from the authorities so that they would not be forced to take part in illegal ordinations. “This is an act which is contrary to the unity of the universal Church,” said Father Federico Lombardi, the papal spokesman.

The recent schism came after a gradual warming of ties between Beijing and Rome, which began in 2007 when Pope Benedict wrote a letter saying that the Vatican would like to reestablish diplomatic ties.

Not good news at all!

So back to the question, what’s behind China’s hard line against Catholics?

When China’s state-run Catholic Church ordained a new bishop for the Diocese of Shantou last Thursday (July 14) without the Vatican’s approval, it represented the latest step back from years of progress in a complex relationship.

Yet the main causes for the shift may have little to do with Rome, experts say, and instead lie in momentous geopolitical events in other regions of the globe, and deep social changes within China itself.

For more than half a century, China’s 12 million to 15 million Catholics have been divided between the officially approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) and an “underground” church of Catholics loyal to the pope. Each side fiercely rejects the other’s legitimacy.

But in recent years, the Vatican and Beijing have been in engaged in a slow and gradual process of compromise and mutual accommodation.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI wrote an open letter to Chinese Catholics insisting that the church be free of state control but said the Vatican would like diplomatic ties with Beijing. He also added that Rome is not seeking the overthrow of the communist regime.

The following year, in a widely noted gesture, the China Philharmonic Orchestra performed for Benedict at the Vatican in the presence of Beijing’s ambassador to Italy.

Most significantly, China and the Vatican tacitly agreed on a policy of ordaining only bishops acceptable to both sides. Some 90 percent of those bishops previously ordained by the state church eventually received approval from Rome.

Over the last eight months, however, the rapprochement has halted, and Beijing has once again taken a hard line on control of the church in China.

Last November, Joseph Guo Jincai was ordained the bishop of Chengde without papal approval. Last month, a CPCA spokesman said the state-run church planned to ordain more than 40 new bishops “without delay,” a week before it ordained Rev. Paul Lei Shiyin as bishop of Leshan.

According to the Vatican-affiliated AsiaNews agency, Chinese officials first “kidnapped” three bishops loyal to Rome and forced them to participate in the ceremony that made the Rev. Joseph Huang Bingzhang the bishop of Shantou.

So what changed that would explain Beijing’s recent shift in policy?

According to the Rev. Bernardo Cervellera, director of AsiaNews, China’s new hard line is a reflection of both strength and weakness. With its status as an economic superpower now indisputable, China no longer has to cultivate the good opinion of Western nations that are literally in its debt.

“There may have been a time before the (2008 Beijing) Olympics when China may have thought it needed the Vatican’s approval for international respectability,” Cervellera said, “but now it doesn’t.”

Despite its growing assertiveness abroad, Cervellera said, Beijing is increasingly anxious about unrest among its own people. Along with skyrocketing growth, China has wrestled with inequality, corruption and environmental damage. That makes the regime even more determined to defuse any potential source of organized resistance, including the
Catholic Church.

According to Raquel Vaz-Pinto, a professor of international relations at the Catholic University of Portugal, Chinese leaders have especially keen memories of Poland in the 1980s, when Pope John Paul II inspired the Solidarity labor movement that toppled the communist regime and later decimated the Soviet Union.

Recent international events have acutely aggravated Beijing’s fears, Vaz-Pinto says. Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize for dissident Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo came as a shock to Beijing, she said, prompting some of the strongest official propaganda since Mao-Tse Tung’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and `70s.

Within a month, she noted, the state church defied Rome with the ordination in Chengde.

The timing wasn’t a coincidence, Vaz-Pinto said, nor were two more ordinations that followed the “Arab Spring” of pro-democracy movements in the Arab world, which brought down the longtime dictators of Tunisia and Egypt.

China’s fear that the Arab movements could inspire dissidents on its own soil is evident in what Phelim Kine, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch in New York, called the “worst spike in repression in China since the aftermath” of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Since last February, authorities have arrested an unknown number of activists, intellectuals and bloggers, and heavily censored international news.

“The spillover effect of this is touching all sectors of society,” Kine said, including the Catholic Church, where underground clergy already have a long history of being imprisoned and tortured.

As a result, the Vatican seems to have lost faith in engagement and negotiation with Beijing, opting for an increasingly hard line of its own, even though its leverage is mostly verbal.

The Vatican has warned that all bishops who consecrate other bishops without a papal mandate incur automatic excommunication, as do the men they consecrate, unless they were “coerced” to participate in the ceremony.

Even stronger have been recent statements by Cardinal Joseph Zen, the retired archbishop of Hong Kong and Pope Benedict’s top adviser on China. Last week, Zen took out an advertisement in a Hong Kong newspaper denouncing those who use “violence to assist scum inside the church to force bishops, priests and followers to do things against their consciences.”

Vaz-Pinto assumes such language bears the tacit endorsement of the pope himself. “If (Zen) didn’t think he was supposed say those things,” she said, “he wouldn’t be saying them

The above was in the Huffington Post here.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 22, 2011 at 17:03

Christians in the Holy Land Face Extinction

leave a comment »

That’s according to the Latin Patriarch:

The Church in the Holy Land faces the prospect of extinction, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem said at a conference in London.

“The Christian presence is threatened by virtual extinction, and the land of Jesus cannot become an equivalent of a spiritual Disneyland with beautiful buildings, historic sites and museums on display,” said Patriarch Fouad Twal.

“All people–Jews, Christians, and Muslims–suffer the consequences of the conflict,” he said. “Occupation is a terrible image for any democratic State, as it is horrible for the people of the occupied areas, where hatred and aversion are fostered and nurtured. We are aware of the persecution and suffering of our Christians in some Muslim countries in the region, but this is not an excuse to forget the dire reality of our situation in the Holy Land.”

Warning that “the possibilities for a just resolution are rapidly decreasing,” Patriarch Twal added that “the forces of extremism are growing and gaining followers and supporters.” He called upon Christians in the West to support the Christian institutions in the Holy Land. After all, these are the institutions that provide decent employment opportunities for our Christian youth, and these are the institutions that provide quality services in education, health and social services to the whole population, mostly a non-Christian population. This solidifies the presence of the living stones.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 22, 2011 at 16:41


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 937 other followers