“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.
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.
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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In a major global exclusive, The Punch has received a sneak glimpse into the Twitter feed of Pope Benedict XVI.
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.
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.
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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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.
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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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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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.
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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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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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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Ever tried to apologise to someone and been rebufffed?
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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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.
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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