Black Friday?

    Friday penance is making a comeback in the UK. From September 16,  the first anniversary of the pope’s visit to Britain, the bishops of England and Wales have decided that Catholics are once again to abstain from eating meat on Fridays.

    It’s old hat to Annalisa Barbieri who, writing in the Guardian, recalls her Italian childhood.

    (My mother doesn’t eat meat on a Wednesday either, which is seriously hardcore Catholic.) If, by some oversight, we did stuff some salami into our panino and scoff it before realising what day it was, it would be regarded as very bad form.

    Annalisa recognizes that lots of Catholics will be really happy about the re-establishment of the practice. “It harks back to the past, and the past is a safe place for some Catholics, where homosexuals didn’t exist and women were quiet.” But she isn’t one of them.

    The whole thing leaves me confused and unconfident. Not in my God, or my faith, or my parish priest, but in them in the big hats who make decisions about my faith. If Friday penance was such a great idea, if it is now being sold to me as a “clear and distinctive mark of our own Catholic identity”, why was it ever given up? And if it was worth suspending 27 years ago, why bring it back now?

    Nor is she wild about the new missal

    I’m used to the Catholic church not being exactly progressive or clear-thinking, but now it’s positively going retrograde, seemingly for the sake of it.

    Ministers miss a chance to help maids

    Posted by Bill Condie

    Human Rights Watch welcomes some aspects of a new deal between Malaysia and Indonesia on migrant domestic workers’ rights but with reservations.

    [It] provides some benefits for migrant domestic workers but fails to provide some needed safeguards linked to low wages and high recruitment fees.

    A series of high-profile abuse cases led Indonesia in June 2009 to ban new recruitment of Indonesian domestic workers for jobs in Malaysia until new protections were put in place. The new deal was agreed by Indonesian labor minister Muhaimin Iskandar and the Malaysian human resources minister Datuk Dr. S. Subramaniam on May 30 in Bandung, Indonesia.

    But Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, says they missed a chance.

    Malaysia and Indonesia have missed an important opportunity to make changes that would truly protect women who take on tough jobs far from home. Indonesian domestic workers will still be handing over the first several months of their salaries to repay recruitment fees, and they will still be laboring long hours for pitiful wages.

    The plight of domestic workers is at the center of a meeting of members of the the International Labor Organization (ILO) that gets under way in Geneva today.

    Caritas weighed into the discussion about the issue as we reported yesterday.




    Hardship, hope and fulfillment

    It may be a a little corny, perhaps even slightly stage-managed. But in this extremely moving clip, the strength of feeling and the quality of this young man’s voice cannot be denied.


    From \”Korea\’s Got Talent\”

    Clearly a case for Saint Anthony

    St Anthony: stolen relic

    By Paddy MacLachlan

    A 780-year old relic of St. Anthony of Padua has been stolen from  the St. Anthony Catholic church in Long Beach, California.

    Parishioners gasped when they spotted that the relic had gone during last Sunday’s 9 a.m. Mass.

    However, as Saint Anthony is renowned as the patron saint of lost items, we expect the relic to be returned home soon.

    CathNews USA has more on this story.




    Vatican wars goes live with liberals versus conservatives

    Posted by Paddy MacLachlan

    An online games company has released Vatican  Wars, ( ), which they describe as “a revolutionary social game that exists at the intersection of religion, politics and social issues.”

    Players are divided into two teams, based on their opinions on topics including abortion, same sex marriage, the ordination of women and the use of birth control. Each team then works to ensure that a player from the other team is not elected Pope.

    “We did extensive surveying of Catholics before the launch and were surprised to find that 80% supported creating a game where they could debate these topics,” said Cheyenne Ehrlich, founder of SGR Games. “It will be interesting to see if that’s because they want to elect a liberal Pope or because they want to prove that Catholics are unified and conservative on these issues.”

    It’s free to play Vatican Wars and it’s available on Facebook.

    Hat tip to CathNews USA catholic-teaching-can-now-be-changed-online

    No Castel Gondolfo picnic for Malaysian PM?

    “Fruitful London trip so far,”  says Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak on his Facebook page today, perhaps unaware that on another page, 170,000 people are calling for him to quit.

    This comes after last weekend’s anti-government riots in Kuala Lumpur, featuring water cannons, baton charges and 1,600 arrests.  He’s probably glad he’s out of the country, hobnobbing with British politicians and no doubt looking forward to next week’s trip to meet the Pope at his glorious summer residence, Castel Gondolfo.

    Then again, the Pope might want words with him on a number of matters, like the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims, the consignment of bibles that his customs men impounded and the various human rights issues that Amnesty International are up in arms about.

    Brace yourself, Mr. Razak. This might not be a walk in the park. 



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    No divorce for Church and politics in the Philippines

    Posted by Joe Torres

    What broke the camel’s back, as the cliche goes, for the Philippine government’s love-hate relationship with the Catholic Church came this week.

    It did not come during the height of the heated debate on the controversial reproductive health bill now pending in the Philippine Congress. (There were threats, of course, but both sides seemed to look at it as part of the game.)

    It did not come even when some legislators called for the passage of a divorce bill. (Divorce in the Philippines? Forget it.)

    It came when one bishop from the southern Philippines said this week that President Benigno Aquino III is “not worthy” to lead the country.

    The statement made by Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan elicited an angry reply from the presidential palace. President Aquino’s spokesman even did his assignment. He quoted the “Doctrinal Note” issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on questions of participation by Catholics in political life. (By the way, it’s available online here.

    “It is not the Church’s task to set forth specific political solutions… to temporal questions that God has left to the free and responsible judgment of each person,” the president’s spokesman quoted the “Note” as saying.

    The local media are expected to ride on this most colorful exchange of words. It is a break to the monotony of the debate about birth control and condoms in this country of about a hundred million people.

    So expect more to hear from this story. Unlike other Asian countries, the Philippine Church has been married for more than 300 years already with politics. It is a love-hate relationship in a country where divorce is prohibited.

    Caritas’ train of thought

    Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga gets the historic train ride under way

    Posted by Stefan Gigacz

    The Caritas International conference in Rome has kicked off with a special historical train – the “Vatican Express” – leaving Saturday from the little used Vatican railway station for Orvieto in Umbria in a trip that was meant to recall an early Caritas relief operation for flood victims in northern Italy.

    But as Caritas representatives from around the world boarded with Vatican officials, they must have wondered if the trip had more in common with Agatha Christie’s “Orient Express”, given  recent intrigues in the relationship between the Vatican and Caritas.

    Back in Rome yesterday, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone gently alluded to Vatican concerns in his homily during the opening Mass for the event.

    “To live in the Church, then, means to her mission our own, to cooperate in her saving work: theproclamation of the word of God (kerygma-martyria), the celebration of the sacraments (leiturgia) and the service of charity (diakonia). These three tasks presuppose and are inseparable from one another (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 25).”

    In other words, the criticism seems to be that Caritas has focused on its charitable work at the expense of its proclamation of the Word and celebration of the liturgy.

    Meanwhile, Cardinal Robert Sarah, President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, who also addressed the General Assembly Sunday called for “the renewal of the Caritas confederation in a spirit similar to that of the Church during the Second Vatican Council”.


    Pope to space station

    In a historic hook-up, Pope Benedict talked live to the crew of the International Space Station Saturday.