“Declaro me ministerio Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri…renuntiare”. Uttering these words in reedy, German-flavoured Latin, Benedict XVI became the first Pope in almost six hundred years to abdicate.

Reason number 4: orange skullcaps just weren't his thing. Pic: AFP

The last man to do so was Gregory XII in 1415, not entirely of his own choosing, when no fewer than three pontiffs all claimed to be the heir of St. Peter. Abdication - voluntary and otherwise - is nothing new for the papacy; we have examples going back almost 1700 years.

But Benedict’s decision is certainly novel in modern times. Predictably, the blogosphere and twittersphere have exploded in conspiracy theories (including the always present, but as of yet unrealised, end of the world), but their concerns and those of more staid commentators boil down to two questions: why did Benedict abdicate and what will happen now?

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Religious organisations can legally discriminate against their employees and prospective employees if they do not uphold their teachings of the church, reaching into all parts of their private life including marriage decisions and how they raise their children.

Even Mother Theresa couldn't catch a break… Cartoon: Chris Kelly

These controversial exemptions result in the lawful discrimination of employees and prospective employees that don’t act in accordance with the religious teachings, entrenching them as second-class citizens, if they are employed directly by the religious institution.

There are now very loud calls for this discrimination to stop, especially as churches are enriched by the generosity of the taxpayer. The Attorney General is overseeing a major change to discrimination laws. Despite this, she has all but ruled out any change to the exemptions for religions.

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  • David J says:

    06:59pm | 17/01/13

    Churches argue their tax exemptions fund school, hospitals & charities. Then on top of that they all put their hand out for extra funding from the Govt, and charge school fees etc. They demand the right to discriminate & spread hatred in the guise of religious freedom, while conspiring to… Read more »

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    06:52pm | 17/01/13

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In a major global exclusive, The Punch has received a sneak glimpse into the Twitter feed of Pope Benedict XVI.

He hasn't actually tweeted 13 times. So we did on his behalf! Click below…

Despite boasting hundreds of thousands of followers since joining Twitter with the handle @pontifex overnight, His Holiness is yet to tweet.

However, the Pontiff is said to have a dozen or so pithy 140 character pronouncements ready to roll, just as soon as he can find a biblical passage to prove that God, not science, is relaying his Tweets to the world.

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Moves are afoot in Ireland to lift the sacred secrecy of confession - so priests will be jailed if they don’t report child sex abuses revealed to them. SA Senator Nick Xenophon has been pushing for similar changes in Australia, arguing that innocent children deserve more protection than religious practice. We asked him for some more details.

Don't worry, your secret's safe with me… Photo: AP

What changes would you like to see in the way confessions are handled?

The admission of child abuse to a priest during confession should not be exempted from mandatory reporting requirements.  No church should be complicit in the cover up of child abuse just so some paedophile can attempt to clear his conscience.  The rule of law should come before religious beliefs, and there should be no exceptions.

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The Catholic Church is in the headlines after the Vatican effectively forced the Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris, to resign. Bishop Morris earned the ire of the church because he wanted to discuss liberal reforms such as the ordination of women.

Pope Benedict XVI drives past a picture of late John Paul II at this week's beatification ceremony

Fellow ‘rebel priest’ Peter Kennedy, who was ousted from the church for his own ‘controversial’ views and subsequently formed St Mary’s-in-Exile in Brisbane, told us his story of clashing with the church.

“It was two years to the day on Sunday that we left St Mary’s and as a community we walked down to the Trades and Labor Council building. They took us in and we’ve been there for two years conducting our services.

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  • Karen Young says:

    09:23pm | 21/05/11

    I heard, that a recent Pope had to issue an instruction, that the C20th Jews, were not responsible for the death of Jesus, to the Flock.  This kind of implies the faithful couldn’t count back and see this was done 2,ooo years ago and not in 1938 or anything like… Read more »

  • Karen Young says:

    09:11pm | 21/05/11

    I heard, the then Pope actually had to instruct the Flock, that the C20th Jews were not responsible for the death of Christ, after the Holocaust. Seriously, can people think for them selves so little, they can’t tell 2,000 years had passed?  This is what bothers me about forms of… Read more »


The canonization of Mary MacKillop is an event that all Australians can celebrate. Not just Catholics. Men and women of every faith and none can rejoice in the life of this extraordinary Australian.

Mary MacKillop: The enduring values of hope and courage.

A canonization is not the religious equivalent of winning an Olympic Gold Medal, although many, including some Catholics, speak as if it is. In an age of individualism, it is perhaps difficult to understand that Mary was motivated by a profound commitment to community and the common good.

Over the past few weeks, many claims have been made on Mary. She was a feminist before her time. She was a rebel against a clerical church. She was a pioneering social worker. She even has been claimed as a model for the independents in the Federal Parliament!

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  • LeanMachine says:

    05:47pm | 01/04/12

    Little is known about the amazing work and accomplishments of Mary MacKillop in the Kapunda area, but this new book by historian and Kapunda resident Peter Swann, “Kapunda and the Mary MacKillop Connection” reveals all. Available from: at only $9.95 - a must for all interested in the outstanding… Read more »

  • Anne Stocks says:

    12:24pm | 06/08/11

    cybacaT says… She sounds like an amazing lady whose example all Australians should draw inspiration from.  I’m not Catholic, but can recognise the good works she has done.  I feel sorry for the haters who have posted here - people whose venomous sneering exposes nothing but their own shortcomings. Thank… Read more »


An old friend once called me a ‘saint’, such was his lack of insight into my character. On another level, I knew what he was saying, because Christian believers are calling each other saints all the time.

Even the worst sinners call each other saints. It isn’t our inability to face reality; rather, it’s the way we interpret that word.

The impending canonisation of Mary MacKillop has brought the concept of sainthood into the contemporary spotlight, and it has to be admitted that it looks kind of strange.

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  • Glen says:

    06:55pm | 01/12/10

    @ IMHO. 1) “there probably isn’t’ (a God). Where is the courage of your conviction son? Atheists can’t be unsure on this question and be an atheist. A post-modern worldview might allow you to back away from the classical definition of the word ‘atheism’, either that or you’re buying into… Read more »

  • Steely Dan says:

    03:22pm | 15/10/10

    @ True Believer “That of course includes science.” Sensible people do, and sensible people find it to be the single most reliable methodology for testing claims.  Unlike faith, which is accepting a claim regardless of lack of evidence, or evidence to the contrary. “How many thousands of time has that… Read more »


I can see why the new atheist commentators Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins want to take on the Pope. Here is someone who fears what Gareth Evans called “relevance deprivation”. He fears it for himself as Pope, he fears it for the Church. To bolster the declining authority of the Church, he has set up the straw man of “aggressive secularism” and sets his adherents against it.

The Pope wearing his visiting shoes. Pic: Getty

Religion, the Pope told Britons in his trip this month, is being “marginalised”, relegated to the “purely private sphere”. Believers holding public roles are being asked to act against their conscience, he claims. Secularism, Britains were warned, no longer values or tolerates their traditional values such as honesty, respect and fair-mindedness.

Your Holiness, this is rubbish – ideologically motivated rubbish.

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  • Badger says:

    06:17pm | 28/09/10

    Well, good on you if you “prefer education over restrictions”, Jade, but that is not the prerogative of the secularists. In other areas - for example, racial vilification - some religious and some secular people support legal bans, other religious and other secular people support education as the solution. In… Read more »

  • True Believer says:

    05:55pm | 27/09/10

    I find it depressing that so many who know so little expound so much about what they do not know and think they are clever. For those who only rabbit on about the Roman Catholic Church, not all Christians are Catholics. Just as not all church-goers and those who lord… Read more »


Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun most famous for her work in the slums of India, was born in Albania today in 1910.

And it’s Thursday, so what else is on your mind?

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  • Steve says:

    03:35am | 27/08/10

    Actually she was born in Skopje, Macedonia, but she was born to a Shqiptar family. Read more »

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    08:52pm | 26/08/10

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At breakfast yesterday my two-year-old daughter wanted to “read” me the Easter card she got from a relative. “One day, they went in the forest, and then they were finished. The End,” she said, looking up from the card. “Now you read it to me.” So I did. The greeting was:

Easter time is here again
That lovely time of year
When we especially think of those
We hold especially dear
So naturally you’re thought about
And wished the nicest things –
All the special happiness
A joyful Easter brings!

I’m enthusiastic about explaining things to her so I was about to drop a few sentences somehow explaining Easter was really about God, but a thought crossed my mind and stopped me. I have no tolerance left for the Church’s protection of child abusers, its silencing of victims and failure to adequately apologise or explain why it failed to act against paedophiles. Why, I asked myself, should my daughter be exposed to these men in frocks and their beliefs?

For someone raised as a Catholic this is an arresting thought. Even though its dogma is world-renowned it may still be hard to grasp, for anyone not brought up with it, the all-or-nothing way Catholicism requires you to accept, without question, the authority of the Church. Put simply, if you don’t accept the Church you’re not Catholic.

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  • Rob Pollock says:

    07:07am | 13/05/10

    Sam Miller has his numbers wrong… Mr. Miller’s statement, “10% of the Protestant ministers have been found guilty of pedophilia” has no basis in fact!  It was refuted by the named source in 2002 and remains refuted today. In his original 2003 speech Mr. Miller cites a July/August 2002 Sojourners… Read more »


Ever tried to apologise to someone and been rebufffed?

I'm only sort of sorry. Picture: AFP.

Pope Benedict experienced just that on the weekend when he made an apology to Irish people who were sexually abused by Catholic priests.

His apology came in the wake of last November’s government report, The Murphy Report, which found the Irish clergy “obsessively” concealed child abuse by priests in Dublin from 1975 - 2004 and operated under a policy of ” don’t ask, don’t tell.”

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    02:16am | 20/04/11

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One of the logical difficulties in being an atheist is the body of well-documented cases where individuals have used faith and prayer to defy the odds when science and reason suggested that all hope was truly lost.

His Holiness, pictured with the Pope last year

Atheism holds that all religion is fantasy and that its adherents have deluded themselves into believing in the existence of an all-powerful being with whom you can communicate via prayer.

On paper it sounds absurd. The only difficulty is – and I write this as a non-believer – it sometimes seems to work. If I were Sophie Delezio’s Dad I would probably regard the fact that this poor little girl had been hit not once but twice by a car as an argument against the existence of an all-powerful, all-loving God. But for the Delezios, whose faith was already strong before these two crashes, their convictions were strengthened by their ordeal.

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