Fragments 28-12-2006

The ‘upside-down church'


John Allen, probably the best-known journalist covering the Vatican now (he works for the US National Catholic Reporter), is writing another book, titled The Upside Down Church, in which he hopes to write about a number of “mega trends” he has identified in the history of the Catholic church. In a “sneak preview” of his book he outlines a series of these trends, which include the following:


The North/South Shift

In 1900, there were 459 million Catholics in the world, 392 million of whom lived in Europe and North America. By 2000, there were 1.1 billion Catholics, with just 380 million in Europe and North America, and the rest, 720 million, in the global South.


The Rise of Islam

In the wake of 9/11, Islam is coming to play the role for Catholicism once occupied by communism – the church's chief ideological rival on the world stage, the great question mark around which many debates revolve.


The Biotech Revolution

Given the dizzying pace of scientific change, Catholicism faces a whole new series of ethical headaches. What are the limits, for example, to genetic manipulation of human beings? Which breakthroughs in stem-cell research pass doctrinal muster, such as “altered nuclear transfer”? What about calls for “embryo adoption”, meaning allowing women (even unwed women, or women in same-sex relationships) to bring embryos to term which would otherwise be destroyed?


The Wojtyla Revolution

If the documents of Vatican II, as well as more amorphous understandings of their “spirit”, framed debate in the post-conciliar period, it is the example of John Paul II which is most decisive for the new, “upside-down” era. For our purposes, his legacy can be boiled down to a simple formula: end the navel-gazing, stop tinkering with church teachings and structures, and get on with evangelising the world.



As Southern voices become more vocal within Catholicism, concern for what John Paul II called the “globalisation of solidarity” as well as markets will become an increasingly central Catholic theme.


The Sexual Abuse Crisis

Though the epicenter of the sexual abuse crisis remains the English-speaking world, the phenomenon is global. Its toll has been enormous, above all in the United States. It includes settlements of more than $1bn. More deeply, the crisis has badly damaged the church's public image, caused a loss of confidence in the leadership of the church, injured relationships between bishops and priests, and made it much more difficult for good priests to carry out their ministry.


The McDowell boycott

The boycott of a Michael McDowell drinks party by the judges of the high and Supreme courts before Christmas was deemed petulant because it was interpreted as a response to his criticisms of the judiciary generally. But surely they could well have had something better to do, like going to their local or talking to a taxi driver. Or maybe the judges of the Supreme Court wanted to hide. It has been a woeful year for them, particulary for their ludicrous decision to order the imprisonment of a man for the commission of an offence that they themselves said did not exist (this was the “A” case). All the more so since they took this decision in the face of a baying populace that had been alarmed by the tabloid broadcast media. But, aside from avoiding social congress with Michael McDowell, they had a good end to the year. Certainly Adrian Hardiman, McDowell's close buddy or former close buddy, had a good end to the year.Hardiman had a crack at his fellow judge, Paul Carney, who, as the presiding judge of the Central Criminal Court, had been critical of barristers for not wearing wigs and had also been critical of the Court of Criminal Appeal, over which Hardiman regularly presides. Hardiman said Carney's remarks were “arch” and inappropriate. He said Carney's criticisms of the Court of Criminal Appeal were “unfortunate and undignified”.Paul Carney is unlikely to lose much sleep over the criticism. He was one of several high court judges that thought the Supreme Court had lost it over that “A” case. 



Mandatory sentences

Adrian Hardiman had a good go at Michael McDowell as well on “strident and repeated public comments” on the issue of mandatory sentences – the only one who had made such comments was McDowell. Hardiman (pictured right) said mandatory sentencing laws were a drastic alternation of the principles of sentencing as they formerly applied. The inference being that the courts didn't like mandatory sentences.There is a hint here that perhaps the Supreme Court might find mandatory sentences unconstitutional. The issue has never been tested but there is good reason to suspect that this might be so. This is because sentencing is quintessentially a function of the judiciary. Judges decide on sentences in the light of the circumstances of particular cases and depriving judges of a discretion on sentencing could well be found to be an improper encroachment on the judicial function.This is the view also of the European Court of Human Rights, which might have a bearing on the issue as well. It is strange that this thought would not have occurred to Michael McDowell, but then he is about the worst predictor of what is or what is not constitutional, having got several such issues wrong over the years.Adrian Hardiman had another crack at Michael McDowell, this time on the issue of the defence of one's home. Commenting on the issue of entitlement of a home-owner to use force for the protection of their home, he said since the invasion of one's home was an act of aggression, there was an entitlement to use retaliatory force provided it was not grossly disproportionate. The significance of the remark is that the alarm created by the perception that a home-owner had to retreat in the face of an intruder into their home was based on a false understanding of the existing law. And, by inference, the demands for or promises of reforms in the law to correct this were misplaced. The most strident advocates of a change in the law have been Michael McDowell and his PD supporter, Senator Tom Morrissey, and Fine Gael.



‘Auld Lang Syne'‘

Auld Lang Syne' is sung by more people around the world who do not know the words than any other song. Originally it was a poem by the Scottish poet, Bobbie Burns. It must be accompanied by a dance, which makes it even more embarrassing. The singers form a ring and hold hands for the first verse. For the second verse, arms are crossed and again linked. For the third verse everyone moves into the centre of the ring and then out again, which can also be hazardous. The complete lyrics, as Burns wrote them:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and auld lang syne?

CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang syne. A

nd surely ye'll be your pint-stowp!And surely I'll be mine!

And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,for auld lang syne.

CHORUS We twa hae run about the braes,and pou'd the gowans fine;

But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,sin' auld lang syne.

CHORUS We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,frae morning sun till dine;But seas between us braid hae roar'dsin' auld lang syne.

CHORUS And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!And gies a hand o' thine!

And we'll tak a right gude-willie-waught,for auld lang syne.

CHORUS Pronunciation guide:Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,an nivir brocht ti mynd?

Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,an ald lang syn?

CHORUS: Fir ald lang syn, ma deer, fir ald lang syn, Wil tak a cup o kyndnes yet, fir ald lang syn.

An sheerly yil bee yur pynt-staup!an sheerly al bee myn!

An will tak a cup o kyndnes yet,fir ald lang syn.

CHORUS We twa hae rin aboot the braes,an pood the gowans fyn;

Bit weev wandert monae a weery fet,sin ald lang syn.

CHORUS We twa hae pedilt in the burn,frae mornin sun til dyn;

But seas between us bred hae roardsin ald lang syn.

CHORUS An thers a han, my trustee feer!an gees a han o thyn!

An wil tak a recht gid-wullae-wocht,fir ald lang syn.



Taken in part from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia