BlogWatcher - Bloggers debate Pope gay beat-up

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BY MICHAEL MULLINS

Bloggers have debated the recent press headline “Gay marriage a threat to humanity's future: Pope”.

Guardian blogger Andrew Brown said “Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech to the diplomatic corps at the Vatican at which he didn't say a single word about gay marriage” and that it was “made up” by Reuters, specifically by their respected correspondent Philip Pullella, whom he praised as “who is one of the very best and most experienced Vatican correspondents”. Brown said it was essentially a speech to diplomats about the environment and economics.

Pullella replied to Brown, and Brown published the response in full. It turned out that Pullella had written his original story on the real content of the speech, and the it was the red flag nature of his second piece on the speech focusing gay marriage story that stole the limelight. Brown conceded: “I didn't see his first story, and if I had done, I would not have been upset about the second one”. 

The National Catholic Reporter’s John L. Allen also weighed in on the story and had a bet each way.

“The pope referred to marriage being between a man and a woman, so the gay marriage angle was fair game – despite the fact that Benedict XVI never used the phrase, and despite the fact that it was hardly the main point of the speech… Yet assuming that focus is defensible, it's still debatable in terms of news value. After all, where would you put ‘pope objects to gay marriage’ on the shock-o-meter?”

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A positive outlook from blogs in both The Tablet and The Telegraph on the recent sad story of sexual abuse at the Benedictine’s Downside Abbey school in England, that revealed criminal actions by at least six monks dating back to the 1980s.

The Tablet’s Christopher Lamb says that “despite all the problems the headmaster of Downside, Fr Leo Maidlaw-Davis, has said that no parent has withdrawn their child from the school… The Benedictine ethos, the pastoral care of pupils long after they have left the school and the compelling Christian witness of the vast majority of monks are some of the reasons why people won't walk away.”

Will Heaven of The Telegraph blogs that the school will emerge stronger if it cedes control to a board not controlled by the Benedictines themselves.

“It is clear to me that the governors must be much more than lay advisers to the monks; they must be able to govern… Radical change can be an alarming prospect. But it won’t be the first time that the monks have embraced it.”

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At Being Frank, blogger Voice in the wilderness reports that the number of seminarians in New Zealand has dramatically risen over the last few years, and that that the country’s Holy Cross seminary is “pretty much full”.

Voice attributes the growth in numbers to the regular Thursday “pray for priests day” that Christchurch’s Bishop Barry Jones initiated a couple of years ago, and also the Hearts Aflame summer program for Catholic young adults.

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Good news also from Australia Incognita, who is currently profiling various Australian dioceses. In the past week she has praised Sale’s Bishop Christopher Prowse for his work in “healing the virtual schism”. She is referring to the case of Father John Speekman, who’s dismissal by the previous bishop Jeremiah Coffey was upheld by Rome but only after a series of appeals.

Incognita describes Sale as “a diocese where the virtual schism within the Australian Church between orthodox catholics and liberals is more visible than in many… Nonetheless [Bishop Prowse] is a bishop who, in a relatively short period, has taken some very important and positive steps towards restoring catholic life in the diocese.”

Father Speekman, whom Incognita sees as “a strong advocate of a return to a genuinely catholic approach to education”, is now “back working in the diocese and the Bishop has undertaken to talk to him about a fresh appointment there.”

Incognita does qualify her praise for the “pentecostal” Prowse, and makes the point that “while bishops and priests certainly have a teaching and governing role, and the exercise  of those powers certainly requires discernment, they surely don't have an infallible charism to decide what is or isn't of God!”

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One bishop that Incognita hesitates to defend is Bishop Bill Morris. Holy Irritant does not venture into analysis, but in a weekend post titled “Essential Reading re Bishop Bill Morris”, he does provide some useful links, including an after the fact canonical reflection by canon lawyer Father Ian Waters. 

“In accordance with Canon 19, the Holy See, departing from the earlier precedents for the removal of Australian bishops, could have designed a process similar to the process for removal of a parish priest, thereby according procedural fairness and natural justice consistent with the Code of Canon Law.”


Michael MullinsMichael Mullins, founding editor of CathNews, compiles this 'Blog Watcher' column every Monday.

Disclaimer: CathBlog is an extension of CathNews story feedback. It is intended to promote discussion and debate among the subscribers to CathNews and the readers of the website. The opinions expressed in CathBlog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference or of Church Resources.

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