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SEPTEMBER 2 2011 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
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Cardinal condemns threat to Confession
BY ED WEST
CARDINAL Seán Brady has condemned the Irish government’s attempts to intrude on the “sacred and treasured” sacrament of Confession.
Speaking for the first time on the issue last Sunday, during his homily to worshippers at Knock shrine in County Mayo, the Archbishop of Armagh said: “Freedom to participate in worship and to enjoy the long-established rites of the Church is so fundamental that any intrusion upon it is a challenge to the very basis of a free society.
“The sacramental seal is inviolable. Thus it is absolutely illegitimate for the confessor to make the penitent known, even only in part, using words or any other means, and for any reason.”
The cardinal was speaking during a Mass to conclude the centenary year of the birth of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
He said: “For example, the inviolability of the seal of Confession is so fundamental to the very nature of the sacrament that any proposal which undermines that inviolability is a challenge to the rights of every Catholic to freedom of religion and conscience.”
The cardinal was speaking in response to Irish government proposals for child protection measures under legislation being drawn up to deal with child abuse.
Among the controversial measures, a priest could be convicted of a criminal offence if he was told of a sexual abuse case in the confessional and failed to report it to the civil authorities. Anyone who failed to declare information about the abuse of a child could face a prison term of five years.
The proposals come in response to the Cloyne Report, published last month, which found that the diocese in southern Ireland failed to report all complaints of abuse to police, that two thirds of abuse allegations made between 1996 and 2009 were not passed on to the civil authorities, as required by Church guidelines, and that retired Bishop John Magee had misled former inquiries.
The inquiry into the Cloyne diocese was set up by the government in January 2009 following a report published the previous month. It was conducted by the National Board for Safeguarding Children, a body set up by the Church to oversee child protection policies. It found child protection prac
Cardinal Brady has insisted that the sacramental seal of Confession is inviolable PA Photo tices in the diocese were “inadequate and in some respects dangerous”.
In response to Cardinal Brady’s comments Justice Minister Alan Shatter said that forthcoming child protection measures, including mandatory reporting, will “apply regardless of any internal rules of any religious grouping”.
In a statement, a spokesman for Mr Shatter said: “It is the failure in the past to make such reports that has led sexual predators into believing that they have impunity and facilitated paedophiles preying on children and destroying their lives.”
The Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that priests who are given admissions of child abuse during confession will not be exempt from new rules on mandatory reporting.
In July, in an exceptional move, the Vatican recalled its nuncio to Ireland in order to arrange a formal response to the Cloyne Report. A spokesman for the Vatican said that recalling the nuncio “denotes the seriousness of the situation, the desire of the Holy See to face it with objectivity and determination, as well as a certain note of surprise and disappointment over some excessive reactions” to the report and its accusations against the Vatican.
The move was made after Irish prime minister Enda
Kenny told parliament that the Cloyne Report “exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago”.
Meanwhile, one priest in Derry has already said he would rather go to jail than break canon law which states it is “absolutely illegitimate for the confessor to make the penitent known” for any reason. Fr Paddy O’Kane from the Holy Family parish in Derry’s Ballymagroarty estate, said: “I would certainly be prepared to go to jail over this. I don’t think it would come to that but I would go to jail,” said the Donegal native.
“In a criminal matter, a priest may encourage a penitent to surrender to authorities voluntarily. However, this is the most a priest can do. We cannot directly or indirectly disclose the crime to anyone.
“It goes without question that children must be safeguarded at all costs but this very specific priest-penitent privilege is usually respected in law and without it a priest’s capacity to fulfil his ministry is inhibited.”
Gerry Whyte, professor at the Trinity College Dublin law school, has argued that the seal of Confession is protected by the Irish constitution and that the government’s proposal may be unconstitutional.
BISHOP Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth received the Sacrament of the Sick from Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark during a pilgrimage last week.
The bishop, who is suffering from bowel cancer, received the sacrament publicly at the Mass of the Anointing, 43 years after he visited the shrine, finding himself “enfolded and cherished with so many others who were receiving the sacrament”.
Bishop moved by final pilgrimage to Lourdes BY ED WEST
Bishop Hollis, who first went on pilgrimage in 1968 when he was chaplain at Oxford University, and who has gone with Clifton and later Portsmouth dioceses since 1981, gave a personal reflection on what “is almost certainly my last pilgrimage”.
He said: “For the first time in 45 years, I was one of the sick of the pilgrimage. Although I seemed quite well, I was aware of my energy levels diminishing and of my increasing dependence on the love and care of others.
“For the first time – and I have really had to struggle in prayer with this – I was bringing a gift from the Lord which was not of my choosing. I was bringing the gift of my cancer and I think that I have really been graced in these days to see that it is a gift and not a burden. Like all the gifts that come from God, it is not always easy to see where they are leading.
“All I can say – and it’s early days yet – I feel that I am being led into a new vision and way of life brought about by retirement and serious illness. I do not know where it will take me but I have been graced enough so far to be able to discern the hand of God in all this and a new phase of my life beckons me forward. For once, God is doing all the choosing and I am finding myself content for that to be so.
“I don’t know where I will be this time next year – Mells, (Somerset) I hope – or how I will be but I find myself very peaceful about all that may transpire.
“So, even after 43 years of pilgrimages to Lourdes, this one was new and with renewed faith I can hear afresh what Our Lady says: ‘Do whatever he tells you’. All I can say is ‘Amen’ to that. Thank you all so much for all your love, your prayers and your care which have enabled me to be where I am and have given me such strength and hope as I have.”
Bishop Hollis has travelled each year with the Catholic Association Pilgrimage to Lourdes and is a patron of the
Catholic Association Hospitalité.
The bishop has an appointment to see his consultant on September 12 when he will receive more news about his health. He attended the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth where he was told he had a malignant tumour in the lower bowel. He will undergo surgery this month, but he said in a message to his diocese last week that the cancer has not spread so far. “The surgery will be relatively straightforward.”
THE BIRMINGHAM ORATORY SHRINE OF BLESSED JOHN HENRY NEWMAN
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REFRESHMENTS WEEKLY PILGRIM MASS Saturdays at 11am, followed by prayers in the shrine and blessing with a relic of Blessed John Henry Newman
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FORTHCOMING EVENTS SATURDAY 17 SEPTEMBER LAUNCH OF THE BLESSED JOHN HENRY NEWMAN INSTITUTE OF LITURGICAL MUSIC 9.30am Registration and inaugural address by Fr Guy Nicholls, Director of the Institute 11am Sung Pilgrim Mass. Celebrant & Preacher: Rt Rev. Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham For further information: please phone 0121 454 0808 or visit www.oratorymusic.org.uk FEAST OF BLESSED JOHN HENRY NEWMAN TRANSFERRED TO SATURDAY, 8TH OCTOBER
First Vespers – Friday, 7th October Solemn High Mass – Saturday, 8th October With the Solemn Procession and Installation of the New Reliquary. Celebrant & Preacher: Rt Rev. Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury
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Diocese mourns priest who died of cancer at 51 Number of pupils studying RE rises by almost a fifth
BY ED WEST
THE BISHOP of Shrewsbury has paid tribute to Fr Christopher Jenkins, the Cheshire priest who died last week aged 51.
Fr Jenkins died of acute leukaemia in Christie’s Hospital, Manchester, surrounded by close family and friends, having received the sacraments just hours earlier.
Bishop Mark Davies said: “Fr Chris Jenkins had served in so many capacities during his priestly life which had taken him to different parts of the country as a Sacred Heart Father and into so many different fields of work.
“Like every priest his life had been an influence on a countless number of people but the most surprising and unexpected (not least to Fr Chris himself) was the service of his final months.
“Everyone who spent time with him came away touched by his courage and cheerfulness in the face of rapidly diminishing health. Fr Chris’s own perspectives on his last illness were shaped by a final pilgrimage to the Holy Land which caused him to speak amid the uncertainties of his treatment of entering the Garden of Gethsemane and sharing Christ’s prayer, “not my will, but yours be done...” and in his final days simply holding in his hospital room a cross carved in olive wood.
“We pray very much that with his pilgrimage on this earth completed he may at last be welcomed into the heavenly Jerusalem.”
Born in Altrincham in 1960, Christopher Jenkins was educated at Xaverian College in Manchester and studied at Mater Dei Institute, Dublin, Ushaw College, Durham and Durham University. He was ordained a Sacred Heart Father at St Joseph’s church, Stockport, in 1987 and also served at St John Ogilvie church, Irvine, Ayrshire, followed by 10 years in Dehon House in Ellesmere Port, a residential centre that was closed in 2003. During his last two years there he was the episcopal vicar for religious for the Diocese of Shrewsbury.
After further studies at the Institute of St Anselm in Margate, Kent, he went to Malpas, cheshire, as superior and Director of the retreat centre and was also a provincial councillor, mission secretary and vocations promoter.
In 2005 he spent a year completing his PhD at Manchester University on the relationship between psychotherapy and spirituality. He was incardinated into the Diocese of Shrewsbury earlier this year.
His funeral was due to be held in the Church of Our Lady and the Apostles, Shaw Heath, Stockport, yesterday afternoon, following a prayer vigil the previous evening.
BY MARK GREAVES
THE NUMBER of pupils taking a GCSE in Religious Education rose by almost a fifth this year, according to new figures.
But the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CESEW) said that interest was likely to drop because of the subject’s exclusion from the English Baccalaureate, a school leaving certificate.
Dominican Fr Tim Gardner, RE adviser for the CESEW, said he was pleased to see the number of students taking RE GCSE increase by 18 per cent.
He said: “These students chose to study RE GCSE before the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) was introduced and there is a danger that this year will mark the peak of its popularity as a result of its exclusion from the EBacc.”
To gain the EBacc pupils must achieve A* to C in English, maths, science, a language and a humanities subject – either history or geography, but not RE. The certificate is meant to shore up traditional academic subjects and is influential because it will be used to rank schools.
Fr Gardner said: “RE is popular among students, teachers and parents. It seems it is only unpopular with the Government. We will continue our engagement with the Government, Parliament and wider society on the issue of RE’s continued exclusion from the EBacc, to ensure that
RE remains a rigorous, popular option for students.”
The Government pushed ahead with its downgrading of RE earlier this summer despite pressure from MPs, head teachers and Catholic and Anglican bishops.
Roisin Maguire, head teacher at St Joseph’s College, Stoke on Trent, said the decision would “seriously disadvantage” Catholic schools.
She said the EBacc would penalise Catholic schools because, unlike secular schools, they offered RE as a compulsory GCSE subject.
Mrs Maguire explained that last year over 90 per cent of pupils at St Joseph’s gained at least C grades in key GCSEs, but that dropped to about 50 per cent if RE was not included. “Other Catholic schools are likely to suffer a similar distortion of their performance,” she said.
ACommons select committee made the same point in a damning report last month, explaining that faith schools may be “indirectly discriminated against” because of the exclusion of RE.
The CESEW has said it is “very disappointed” by the subject’s exclusion. The bishops described it as “unwise”.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Success in RE GCSE continues to be recognised in the annual GCSE tables, as well as being a valuable qualification in its own right.”
NEWSBULLETIN Maynooth welcomes new intake of 22 seminarians TWENTY-TWO young men from 14 dioceses have begun their training for the priesthood in Ireland this week. Eighteen seminarians will begin their academic formation at Maynooth University and the remaining will study at St Malachy’s College, Belfast.
Mgr Hugh Connolly, the president of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth,
welcomed the students. He said: “This is always an exciting time for the seminary... once again you come from a wide range of backgrounds, previous experiences, and the four corners of the country, but with one common factor – you are responding to an invitation given in and through faith to become priests who will spread the Gospel.”
Irish migrants returning to Britain BRITAIN’S Irish Chaplaincy has spoken of increased pressures on its services and those of other Irish charities in the coming years following research which has shown a massive increase in the number of Irish people emigrating to Britain in the past two years, according to Independent Catholic News.
It recorded a 23 per cent increase in the number of vulnerable Irish people using its services between 2009 and last year, and expects a similar rise for 2011.
The increase in service users across the chaplaincy’s three projects, working with older people, Travellers and prisoners, is mirrored in the wider society with more than 14,000 Irish people registering for national insurance numbers in Britain in 2010, an increase of 20 per cent on the previous year. It is estimated that one third of those who have emigrated from Ireland in the past two years have come to Britain.
Study criticises cohabitation COUPLES who live together before they marry are “significantly” more likely to divorce, according to a report by a Christian thinktank.
The report, issued by the Jubilee Centre, said living together had become “a more fragile state of relationship than ever before”. It found that couples who cohabited before marriage were 45 per cent more likely to end up divorced than those who waited.
Bishop stands with Travellers BISHOP Thomas McMahon of Brentwood has criticised the closure of Britain’s largest Irish Traveller camp.
He visited Dale Farm near Basildon, Essex, before eviction was due to begin on Wednesday.
Basildon Council and the Department for Communities and Local Government insist the evictions are legal but are seeking a peaceful resolution.
Liverpool bishop blesses hospice AUXILIARY Bishop Tom Williams of Liverpool has blessed and dedicated a new building called St Francis House at St Joseph’s Hospice in Merseyside following an appeal for more than £1 million last year.
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