« Previous | Main | Next »

The top 10 religion stories of the year

Post categories:

William Crawley | 11:21 UK time, Sunday, 19 December 2010

1. Pope Benedict visits the UK - and dominates the year's headlines. It was, by any reckoning, the Pope's year. In March, Pope Benedict published a Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, the clearest statement to date of the Vatican's thinking on the causes and possible responses to the international clerical abuse crisis.

The Pope's supporters saw it as evidence that he had engaged his officials in a serious effort to deal with clerical abuse, while many victims and survivors saw it as more of the same: the Pope pointed to secularisation and an abandonment of traditional spiritual practices as part-explanations for the abuse crisis and failed to accept any personal responsibility for mismanaging the crisis. Soon, the Vatican's "Apostolic Visitors" began their still ongoing investigation of the Irish Catholic Church. But the Pope's refusal, in August, to accept the resignations of two bishops named in the Murphy Report into abuse in the Dublin archdiocese outraged many commentators and was interpreted widely as a criticism of the leadership in Dublin of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the man seen by many victims of abuse as the only member of the Irish hierarchy with a mind to change the status quo.

Pope Benedict's state visit to the United Kingdom was preceded by calls for his arrest by leading human rights experts, though the UK government emphasised that, as a head of state, the Pope enjoys immunity from prosecution. Then came a leaked Foreign Office memo summarizing some "blue sky thinking" amongst the papal visit planning team--including the suggestion that the Holy Father might launch new Benedict-branded condoms while in the UK. The British Ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell, was forced to make a grovelling apology on behalf of the government, and Lord Patten was brought out of diplomatic retirement to knock the British end of the visit into shape. It all pointed to a papal tour that would be mired in controversy.

In the end, it was an unexpectedly successful visit, with tens of thousands of people lining the streets and celebratory large-scale public events, including the Beatification Mass for Cardinal John Henry Newman, the most famous Anglican convert to Catholicism. On more than one occasion, the Pope returned to his key message: a call for the restoration of Christian spiritual and moral values in British public life and an assault on secular humanism. Later in the year, Benedict XVI became the first pope to give a book-length interview, during which he appeared to change his mind on whether condoms can be used in the fight against HIV and Aids. Then came clarification after clarification from the Vatican, leaving Catholics increasingly confused about their church's teaching. The Pope's decision to create "a Personal Ordinariate for Anglicans who wish to enter full communion with the Catholic Church" was seen by some Anglicans as the ecclesiastical equivalent of parking tanks on the Archbishop of Canterbury's lawn. A US embassy cable later published by WikiLeaks reported Ambassador Francis Campbell suggesting that the Pope's intervention in Anglican affairs could trigger anti-Catholic "violence" in the UK.

2. When Ian and Martin prayed. Ian Paisley reveals that he prayed with Martin McGuiness while they served together as First and deputy First Ministers. Dr Paisley, who later joined the House of Lords as Baron Bannside, told an audience at Queen's University: "We got on well together because we had a good foundation, and as long as we kept to that foundation all was well. There were some individual matters that he had, home matters of people being ill and his mother being ill, and we prayed together. Well, I did the praying and he did the listening, but he wanted me to do it. I offered prayer for him, and I think that was the right thing to do, and I don't care what people say. I hope that I have the same heart that Christ had, a love for others who needed help at times of need."

3. Creationism row at the Ulster Museum. The newly-renovated Ulster Museum found itself in a stand-off with culture minister Nelson McCausland, who wrote to the trustees of National Museums Northern Ireland suggesting that alternative views on the origins of the universe should be displayed. The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins sparred with Mr McCausland on Radio Ulster, asking if there would be a section of the museum dedicated to "stork theory" or the "flat Earth theory". McCausland, an Oxford University physics graduate, told Dawkins he was "intolerant".

4. Christopher Hitchens reports from "Tumorland". The new atheist author and journalist took ill during a speaking tour for his recently-published memoirs and was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus. He began chemotherapy immediately, but was soon writing again--front-line reports from "Tumorland"--and speaking in public events, including an internationally televised debate with Tony Blair. He told his readers: "The alien had colonised a bit of my lung as well as quite a bit of my lymph node. And its original base of operations was located--had been located for quite some time--in my oesophagus. My father had died, and very swiftly, too, of cancer of the oesophagus. He was 79. I am 61. In whatever kind of a 'race' life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist." Hitchens reports that he received letters from well-intentioned Christians offering to pray for him, and from some less well-intentioned believers who wrote told him his cancer was judgment from God.

5. The First Minister takes on faith schools. In October, Peter Robinson called for a public debate about Northern Ireland's segregated education system, which he described as a "benign form of apartheid". Some questioned his motives. Others asked why he hadn't questioned the role of Protestant church ministers on school boards. Cardinal Sean Brady accused the First Minister of breeding "distrust and suspicion", and said "the Catholic people are not going to lie down on this issue." Mr Robinson defended his intervention as "a simple and heartfelt plea that young Protestant and Catholic children could be educated together, and that we could end the divisions in our society."

6. The past catches up with the Catholic Church. Cardinal Sean Brady came closer to resigning than ever before in his tenure as Irish primate after it was revealed in March that he was at meetings when two teenage victims of the notorious sex offender Fr Brendan Smyth were asked to sign an oath of silence. The cardinal said he would only resign if asked to do so by the Pope, though he had previously told RTE news that he would resign "if I found myself in a situation where I was aware that my failure to act had allowed or meant that other children were abused." In May he announced that he had decided to remain as leader of the Irish Catholic Church. While the primate was considering his position, the Bishop of Cloyne, Dr John Magee, who served as private secretary to three popes, resigned after the Church child protection watchdog reported that he took minimal action on accusations against two of his priests. In August, the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman reported that the Catholic Church co-operated with the British government and the police to cover-up a priest's alleged involvement in the 1972 Claudy bombing which killed nine people including an 8 year-old girl, Kathryn Eakin. Intelligence from August 1972 identified Fr James Chesney as the Quarter Master and Director of Operations of the South Derry brigade of the Provisional IRA and subsequent intelligence implicated the priest in the Claudy atrocity and other terrorist incidents.

7. Church leaders take on the banks - and stand together in Derry. "There is a culture of aggression and threat where the only priorities are the banks' priorities," said Archbishop Alan Harper (pictured), and he joined the Presbyterian Moderator, the Catholic Primate and the Methodist President in slamming the banks, which, they said, were forcing decent Northern Ireland businesses to close. That united moral leadership was also on display after the Bloody Sunday Inquiry published its findings, when Protestant church leaders - Bishop Ken Good, Presbyterian moderator Dr Norman Hamilton and Methodist president Rev Paul Kingston - met victims' families at the Bogside memorial to the atrocity in an expression of solidarity that grabbed headliens around the world.

8. Anglicans get a second gay bishop. The Anglican Communion's first gay bishop was Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who was elected in 2003. Gene Robinson's appointment proved to be so controversial that he was advised to wear body armour under his ecclesiastical vestments during his consecration, and resulted in a culture war over homosexuality within the worldwide Anglican Communion that still continues. In May, the Anglican Communion got its second gay prelate: Canon Mary Glasspool was consecrated a bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles. Six months later, Gene Robinson announced that he planned to retire early, saying the last seven years have "taken their toll". Meanwhile the Anglican Communion continued to debate its future. The Anglican Covenant, which was designed to hold the Communion together, was rejected by traditionalists while it was still being debated by the Church of England's General Synod, leaving many commentators concluding that the Anglican family was now a Communion in name only.

9. The Presbyterian bail-out and the Moderator's walk-out. It's the local religion story that won't go away. Presbyterian leaders have been calling on HM Treasury and the Northern Ireland Executive to throw a financial life-line to the Presbyterian Mutual Society's savers since the mutual went into Administration more than two years ago. When the electorate removed the Presbyterian incumbent of Downing Street in May, the arrival of a new Prime minister raised hopes that a rescue package could be agreed. In December, the church's spokesman, Dr Stafford Carson, said he expected the government to ask the church to increase its contribution to the bailout package from £1m to £5m. In September, the Presbyterian Moderator Dr Norman Hamilton, pictured, made headlines when he declined an invitation to meet Pope Benedict during the papal state visit to the UK. He explained that a ceremonial encounter with the Pope would not give him an opportunity to raise some serious matters of concern, including the church's handling of the child abuse crisis and the role of the Irish Catholic hierarchy in a conspiracy to cover-up the alleged involvement of a priest in the 1972 Claudy Bombing. The Presbyterian Church's general secretary, Dr Donald Watts, was subsequently pictured on TV shaking hands with Pope Benedict at a welcoming reception in Edinburgh on the first day of the papal visit.

10. Scientists debate God. Stephen Hawking's argument that science has priced God out of a job created a journalistic big bang. The world's most famous scientist was, of course, launching his new book, The Grand Design, which may explain his colourful claim. But he was soon battling counter-arguments from philosophers, theologians and other scientists, united in their judgment that the great scientist was guilty of over-statement. It's one thing to argue that science offers an alternative, God-free explanation of the universe; it's quite another thing to claim that science has left no space for any religious explanations. Meanwhile, a Queen's University psychology professor joined the global debate about why human beings are religious with an intriguing new theory. In The God Instinct Jesse Bering argues that that religious thinking evolved as an answer to the very human problem of gossip. The idea of God, he says, is an extremely useful illusion, a moral limitation on speech and behaviour which helps human beings to live together and flourish in communities.


  • Comment number 1.

    Ah, the power of spin :-)

  • Comment number 2.

    The likes of pb/OT/C_T_O who go on and on about 'BBC agenda' etc can stop crying now. While they would have us believe this blog is part of some drive to promote a liberal/gay/atheist world view, there is exactly one story in the top 10 involving homosexuality.

  • Comment number 3.

    Even so Peter, Will could have found a butcher pic of Benny to illustrate it. I mean there just must be less camp pics, there must ...

    Oh sorry I see what you mean, story 8 ooops.

  • Comment number 4.

    A good selection, but not I would include.

    Introduction: I believe there is a overwhelming thirst for spirituality vs. religion with its commendments and "Thou Shalts". It's as though we are birthing a new time, a time of
    spiritual growth, seeking, questioning, questing;
    therefore, there will be confusion, misteps as we begin to let go of religious doctrine and open spiritual doors.

    1. A proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero. Leads to debate on religious freedom. A Gainesville, Fla., pastor, who vowed to burn copies of the Qu'ran in protest, backs down.

    2. Pope Benedict XVI is accused of delaying church action against pedophile priests in Ireland, Germany, the United States and other countries; this occurred during the period that he led the Vatican office in charge of discipline 1981 to 2005.

    3. The rise of the Tea Party movement is seen by some as a return to the religious right. Mormon Glenn Beck pushes a Washington rally. Election results are mixed. One Tea Party candidate, Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, was condemned for responding to critics with the ad: "I am not a witch.”

    4. The catastrophic earthquake in Haiti sparks relief efforts by many and varied faith-based groups. One by Idaho Southern Baptists leads to child-smuggling accusations (as well as examinations of others’ practices). Leader Laura Silsby is imprisoned for 4 months.

    5. President Obama signs the health-care reform bill for which many faith-based groups labored. Near year’s end the Catholic bishops repeat their strong opposition to it due to the belief that it provides funding for abortions.

    6. The economic slump: In the highest profile case, the Crystal Cathedral declares bankruptcy after downsizing efforts. The Lutheran publishing house, Augsburg Fortress, drops its pension plan; Focus on the Family cuts 110 employees.

    7. Bullying draws attention with several suicides attributed to it, including a New Jersey college student. Religious groups strongly condemn it, but some see it as having religious roots, especially in regards to homosexuality.

    8. Faith-based aid workers are slain in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Half of Iraq's 800,000 Christians have left it since 2003.

    9. The US Supreme Court convenes for the first time ever without a Protestant in its number (6 Catholics and 3 Jews).
    The Court allows a cross to remain at least temporarily on National Park land in the Mojave Desert...but then the cross is stolen.

    10. US Courts of Appeals rule on a large number of religion-related issues, with mixed results.
    The 7th OKs a moment of silence in schools and says a college students cannot be denied funds because of religious activity;
    the 9th reverses its ‘02 ruling on "under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, saying the phrase is not a prayer;
    the 10th bans metal crosses for deceased Utah police;
    the 11th says feeding the poor does not qualify as free exercise of religion.

    Conclusion: You can see the birthing process: It's not always pretty (like most births), but I believe the process will result in a closer realization that WE ARE ALL ONE. All consciousness contributes to our current conceptions of "God" and our knowledge about what "God" desires from human beings.

  • Comment number 5.

    I do not think the Pope has done much to help the victims of clerical sexual abuse. Paedophile priests were sent to monasteries and the victims have been ignored. The Church seems to be dragging its heels at every opportunity and abuse survivors are having their suffering prolonged unnecessarily.

    It was good to hear Margaret McGookin (abuse survivor) speak on this morning's programme about how abuse survivors have just been given the run around by the Church: meeting after meeting which goes nowhere.

  • Comment number 6.

    LMAO @ Dave. I hand't even looked at his pic until I read your post. He looks incredibly camp in that pic. Something of the Queen Mother about him with that hat & ring

  • Comment number 7.

    Ryan_ and Dave....

    Oh behave! [/camp voice]

  • Comment number 8.

    Bluesberry that's a good list of stories from a US perspective; mine, for obvious reasons, is focused on UK and Ireland stories. To your list I'd also add the Pastor Eddie Long scandal and the rehabilitation of Ted Haggard.

  • Comment number 9.

    What about the new Irish blasphemy law which came into force on 1st January 2010 William ?

    I would have thought that would have been a major religion story.

  • Comment number 10.

    lol natman, well I guess the Pope is suitably attired- it is panto season after all :p

  • Comment number 11.


    Good point, do we know if anyone has utilised the new blasphemy law in Ireland.

  • Comment number 12.

    One story that should have been in the top ten this year and wont make the top ten next year because it has only just hit the headlines, is the release at last of the section of the Murphy report which has been all over the news this week.

    The worst paedophile the Murphy report had to deal with, a priest who has been given a life sentence, a savage criticism of the Vatican, the Irish Bishops and the Gardai, and it will slip through the net on here, probably because its Christmas.

  • Comment number 13.

    Yes, lots of other stories would make a list of the top religion stories of the year. But this list is (1) UK focused, (2) Ireland focused), (3) Northern Ireland focused, and (4) my pick of the stories. Please feel free to share your suggested stories or debate the ones listed here.

  • Comment number 14.

    the Spin is on religion...religion is dying across the world including the United States. Science can prove our exist scientifically but religion can NOT. Any time science proves more and more each year that evolution is true were as the creation myth is only a myth. Religion will continue to die out....maybe not completely but it wont have the big hold it does on the mass'. Religious people need to read their history because it shows that there is no truth to it.

  • Comment number 15.

    Interesting selection and good reading.
    Just one observation - we heard a lot from the Pope in 2010 about the increasing secularisation of society and I can't help but think that he and his ilk are a major reason for this. If the Churches become too concerned with their own organisations and positions of influence; if they continue to abuse and villify sections of society; if they continue to hold to their historical absurdities [beliefs and practices that may have made some sense centuries ago but today are outmoded and a hinderance to their central mission];if they ignore the pain and hurt they themselves have inflicted on their fellow-men then of course people will lose faith and drift away. I have no problem with the central tenets of Christianity, or any other religion, but when the human factor or the 'political' desires of the human organisation obliterates the view of God, Jehovah, Allah, etc., then religions can't bleat woefully about such matters as the rise of secularisation. Physician, heal theyself! Look to the beam in your own eye before pontificating about the mote in my or anyone else's eye!!!
    And a Merry Christmas to each and every one of you; and may we all have a Happy, Healthy, Peaceful and Prosperous 2011.

  • Comment number 16.

    Wyocowboy, I think that's a bit harsh; while it is true that religion's truth claims gave been demostrated to be invalid (religion is not a "way of knowing" wrt, say, historical or physical propositions), as a corpus of narrative and a social "glue" it is not always all bad. To be sure, religious people get very prickly when asked difficult questions, and most are slack brained followers rather than thinkers. But Christianity, where it really matters, is not vastly dissilar to secular humanism, and if we could remove some of the craziness, eg in fostering a benign Anglicanism, that might actually do some good. Demographically you are correct however - unbelievers are swelling in numbers all the time, including from the ranks of the "saved".

  • Comment number 17.

    The Bible has the answer for the complexity of the eye and it was not formed by time and chance, it was formed by God for we are told - “He who formed the eye” - “The more the eye is studied in its structure, the more deeply shall we be impressed with the wonderful skill and wisdom of God. 

    The complexity of the eyes, speak of that special creation that is found in the Genesis account in the Bible. The muscles of the eyes focus around 100,000 times in the normal day, and the retina has around 137 million light sensitive cells. Even the father of evolution Charles Darwin thought that the eye could not be formed by natural selection, he thought that it was an absurdity to think so.

    To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. "Darwin"

    The evidence for Special Creation is there one only needs to have their eyes opened to to it. https://esv.to/Rom1.20

  • Comment number 18.

    So why has the eye got a blind spot, a design flaw ?

  • Comment number 19.

    Post: #18

    It's just as well that God created man with two eyes rather than one!

  • Comment number 20.

    The Christian Hippy,

    Darwin himself explained the evolution of the eye, and he was unaware of the magic of DNA and genetics.

    I'm not going to clog this thread up with refuting your (very old and very refuted) claims. Rather, go here and read it yourself. After you've read them all, and if you still have objections, open this topic in a more applicable thread.

    I don't know, next thing you'll be quoting the 2nd law of thermodynamics, or shouting things like 'bacterial flagellum!'....

  • Comment number 21.

    Leaving aside the unsubstantiated assertion that a god created man, or that your god (as opposed to any other) actually exists :-

    Yep, two blind spots, but he managed to make other eyes with the optic nerve situated in an area where it did not cause a problem. There are also many creatures with better eyes and vision than your deities 'special' folk, bit naff to keep the best for some character in a supporting role don't you think or do you have some other unsubstantiated glib statement to explain that.

  • Comment number 22.

    Probably right Natman, this thread is not really the place for the creationism myth (or it's offspring ID).

  • Comment number 23.

    No space in your top ten for L'Osservatore Romano's claim that Homer Simpson is a Catholic then Mr Crawley?

  • Comment number 24.

    Joy to the World! I'm sure all contributors will be delighted to learn that Pope Benedict has recorded a "Thought for the Day", to be broadcast on Radio 4 on Christmas Eve at 07.45am.

  • Comment number 25.


    I'm sure all contributors will be delighted to learn that Pope Benedict has recorded a "Thought for the Day"

    Absolutely delighted, the more opportunities for him to stick his foot in his mouth the better.

  • Comment number 26.


    I wonder if he'll just say "Love one another" or if we will get the usual, "The bonds which unite humanity mirror the relationship of the transcendent, yet imminent, hypostic union..."

  • Comment number 27.

    It should be a belter.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    Re Post 14.
    Scientific rationalism seems to have a difficulty convincing the urban poor that it has the answers to their questions and can meet their needs.
    In contrast one expression of Christianity seems to be a bit more successful -Listen to Tuesday nights Radio 4 programme on Pentecostalism - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wqcnd
    Quoting from the webpage the presenter "explores its extraordinary global reach - from the backstreets of Yorkshire's Grimethorpe to Korea's Seoul, home of the largest Pentecostal church in the world, from Sao Paolo to Washington. He also explores its love affair with modernity - not for nothing was it founded in Los Angeles the same year Marconi experimented with a wireless voice; not for nothing is the mobile phone how it recruits and keeps its believers.
    The programme also highlights its challenge to the rationalism of the Enlightenment through its loyalty to people's experience of God, unmediated by either the authority of the Word or the reason of secularism."

  • Comment number 30.

    fishy_psycho (#29)

    Not entirely what your perspective is on the subject matter, your post is quite neutral, but your phrase "Scientific rationalism seems to have a difficulty convincing the urban poor that it has the answers to their questions and can meet their needs" is a little misleading.

    I'm sure the urban poor are quite glad to be vaccinated, have (for the most part) running water and electricity, and access to medical care that their forebears would not believe.

    So whilst, yes, science cannot answer questions like 'why are we here?' to the satisfaction of a devout believer in gods, nor can it give them someone to hold their hand when they get scared of death, to say it cannot meet their needs is ignoring all the progress ever made using scientific rationalism.

    It's also fairly ironic that the quote you give refers to prime examples of products of scientific rationalism that pentecostalism seems to need to retain its devotees.

  • Comment number 31.

    Even I said I was being cynical, but not that cynical to have a post removed, hey ho.

  • Comment number 32.

    A minor point, but the fact that science cannot answer certain questions may *possibly* mean that some of those questions are either silly, or not even meaningful questions in the first place. Just possibly...

  • Comment number 33.

    29 fishy_psycho

    Yes, it was a good programme. The rise of modern Pentecostalism from 500 or so followers in California in the 1920s to a mass religion today has indeed been rapid. I was surprised to learn that in Brazil Catholicism is losing out. Now, between 20 and 25 per cent of the population there aspire to speak in tongues!

  • Comment number 34.


    I must say, I'm surprised.

    "nor can it (science) give them someone to hold their hand when they get scared of death"

    But I would have thought it could, it's called 'the caring professions'.

    Hardly silly or meaningless, eh, Helio.

  • Comment number 35.

    Peter, I'm a human being, and I regard science as a tool that enables me to deliver what I can in order to help other human beings where I can. If I didn't have the science I would try to do that anyway, but there is no doubt that science does indeed make my job (and your job, and the jobs of many of us here) much much much more effective than if we were waggling our bottoms and howling imprecations at imaginary heavenly fairies. And it has come to the stage where if we *don't* embrace what science gives us, it's positively negligent.

    It seems to rub off on people more when we try to show them that *we* care than telling them in their final moments that a "god" cares. And there you have something that needs neither science nor religion - just people caring for each other. It's a bit sad that we suck at that so badly that people feel the need to invent imaginary friends to provide the caring that they should receive as of right from their fellow humans.

    Happy Christmas, folks!

  • Comment number 36.

    And a Happy Christmas to you too, Helio.


  • Comment number 37.

    "God is always faithful to His promises, but He often surprises us in the way He fulfils them."

    Vintage Benedict!

    Sincerely, i'd like to wish everyone, of every conceivable colour and creed, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
    In case one or two of the folks reading this didn't catch Pope Benedict's message...

    "I ask Christ, the light of the nations, to dispel whatever darkness there may be in your lives and to grant to every one of you the grace of a peaceful and joyful Christmas.

    May God bless all of you."

  • Comment number 38.

    Happy Christmas everyone!

    Season of goodwill to all men...even to those who cry humbug or others who can do a fine impersonation of the grinch.

  • Comment number 39.

    Yes indeedy - happy Christmas to one and all: Mayor Dazeby, Mary-Ann Bright, Ann-May Hall-York-Rhys, Mrs B. White.

  • Comment number 40.

    And of course a Merry Christmas to Will, without whom we would all be strangers.

  • Comment number 41.


    Merry Christmas. Here's two presents for you. The first is some real vintage Benny, his end of the year address to the Curia. It is about the abuse crisis and it is vintage in that he is careful to avoid taking any blame himself and that he attempts to philosophise the issue rather than speak plainly. (Dont forget btw that Cardinal Law is one of those members of the Curia and so are Maciel's pals, Sodano and Bertone.)

    It is followed by the comments of Dominican priest/lawyer and former employee of the Vatican, Fr Tom Doyle. (He actually resigned in protest at the Vatican's handling of the abuse crisis.) John Allen points out that what Benny and Tom Doyle have in common is that these two men had more abuse cases land on their desks than probably anyone else on the planet.


    Remember and not miss out reading the bit where Doyle quotes a State Supreme Court Judge who says that in all his years working in various capacities in the legal system he has "never encountered an organisation as duplicitous and manipulative as the Catholic Church."

    Christmases are tending to become happier for the likes of me these days as we see the people who were responsible for such evil cover up being exposed on an almost weekly basis. And we see the flames licking at Benny's heels...

    Merry Christmas to all those who have courageously spoken out, to the likes of Fr Tom Doyle and to people in the Media who continue to seek to bring light to darkness, but especially to those thousands who continue to suffer silently, unable to bring themselves to utter unpallatable truths. You are not alone.

    Comments like "Vintage Benedict!" show that we still have a long way to go - but we are getting there.

  • Comment number 42.

    Helio: Why are you celibrating a Pagan festival ? I thought Paganism was a religion !

  • Comment number 43.

    Any excuse for a party, Peter! I have no problem with cultic praxis; just theobabble :-)

  • Comment number 44.

    An overlooked story has been the revival at the Monastery of St. Symeon the Stylite the Younger, in Antakya, Hatay, Turkey. This follows the strange martyrdom of Metropolitan Athanasios of Lima.

    On December 30th 1994 the Metropolitan climbed a thirty-foot pole and scrambled onto a six-by-six-foot platform to follow the example of St Symeon, who maintained a vow of silence for two decades in the 6th Century, praying and fasting whilst living atop a thirty foot pole.

    On 1st December 2010 monks at the monastery climbed the pole after concerns grew about the Metropolitan's health. (He was 84 when he ascended the pole.) Tragically, the Metropolitan had passed away at some stage in November.

  • Comment number 45.

    As a tribute to the Metropolitan's sacrifice, the monk decided that for ten days they would fly the Metropolitan at half mast.

  • Comment number 46.

    Deck, how very metro! That's out of the top drawer. So tell me - how does one define "martyrdom" and "tragedy" in these days? :-)

  • Comment number 47.

    41 romejellybean

    That article you link to is excellent. Doyle makes many excellent points. In another article he quotes from a statement made by the Pope on how paedophilia was perceived by the Church in the 1970s:

    "(it) was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children".

    On Friday's edition of PM (Radio 4) Eamon Duffy was debating with David Starkey. Starkey made the point that Thomas Becket should be the "Patron Saint of Child Abusers" because of his insistence that no matter how heinous the crime of a cleric the matter should never be dealt with by the secular authorities.

    The Church's insistence on adhering to Canon Law is evidence in support of his argument. In fact, the publication of chapter 19 of the Murphy Report revealed that paedophilia should be treated as a mitigating factor when disciplining a perverted priest!

  • Comment number 48.

    The Pope's visit to the UK at No.1. Surely not. They had to cut the numbers able to attend events in order to made it look good - such was the lack of interest amongst many R.Cs, not to mention everyone else.

  • Comment number 49.

    Merry Christmas to you too RJB, and thanks for the presents. Ann Widdecombe was making a similar point about the 1970s in the Guardian just before the Pope's visit; "In the 1970s the National Council of Civil Liberties, an eminently respectable body staffed by eminently respectable people like Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman, actually allowed affiliation with the Paedophile Information Exchange, so little was the nature of paedophilia understood." It does seem to have been a funny (peculiar) time, and also of course a time of unprecedented dissent from conventional Christian morality, especially in the better-off western societies, where the bulk of these "unspeakable crimes" took place.
    I don't recognise this charge that he is being "careful to avoid taking any blame himself";
    "We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility." As so often though, vitally important parts of his message, things which can have a real, positive impact on the lives of vulnerable people, are easily overlooked. Did you see this part of what you gave me? "But neither can we remain silent regarding the context of these times in which these events have come to light. There is a market in child pornography that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society. The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times. From Bishops of developing countries I hear again and again how sexual tourism threatens an entire generation and damages its freedom and its human dignity. The Book of Revelation includes among the great sins of Babylon – the symbol of the world’s great irreligious cities – the fact that it trades with bodies and souls and treats them as commodities (cf. Rev 18:13). In this context, the problem of drugs also rears its head, and with increasing force extends its octopus tentacles around the entire world – an eloquent expression of the tyranny of mammon which perverts mankind. No pleasure is ever enough, and the excess of deceiving intoxication becomes a violence that tears whole regions apart – and all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines man’s freedom and ultimately destroys it."

    The Church should pay close attention to Fr. Tom Doyle's points, but there will disagreement on some things. For example, it may be true in America (though i have my doubts) that "The secular media are not anti-Catholic, nor are they biased against the hierarchy. They do not set out to make the institutional Church look bad." - in the UK there is a ferociously anti-Catholic bias in the media, which surfaced in the months and weeks leading up to Pope Benedict's visit in September. This is part of the context in which one has to consider the Bishops' (sometimes inadequate) responses. Public scandal does such immense damage to the Church, which continues to strive to serve the people of the world, and many of the very poorest, in countless vitally important ways - though, as Ann Widdecombe put it, the Church doesn't do PR.

  • Comment number 50.

    A couple of responses, Theo. There was no "ferocious anti-Catholic Press" on the lead up to the Pope's visit. There was a public debate about the sovereignty of the Pope, the tax payer having to contribute to the bill, should he actually be here given the very serious questions around his behaviour in the past, etc.. all pretty legitimate in a democracy, I think. Personally, I thought he got an easy ride. By all accounts, the handpicked abused GIRLS who met him didnt have a lot to say.

    In fact, what I found irritating was the amount of airtime the windbag Ann Widdecombe - whom you use to 'bolster' your argument - was given to promote the Pope, more airtime than anyone else was given, including Peter Tatchell.

    Its obvious too that you think the Pope can do no wrong. Yet again, as Tom Doyle points out, the Pope has attempted to place the priesthood back up on a pedestal, in his speech to the Roman Curia. Those sacred hands which turn mere bread and wine into something completely different, those blessed ears which hear the confessions of the sinner (!!), the tongue which pronounces forgiveness, etc...

    Just as he did in his letter to the Irish Bishops - where he used 'you' not 'we' when refering to child abuse and enabling Bishops, he continues to promote the otherness and specialness of priests - the very thing that allowed them to behave so wickedly in the first place. And now we even have him switching the blame for the umpteenth time onto something else, a 70's pseudo-philosophy.

    You are right about one thing though, we are indeed not free. Both in church and in society we have the freedon to choose which loaf of bread we want, and thats about it. We have the illusion that we are free - thats called politics.

    And the vast majority of the Roman Curia (including the Pope), the Vatican Bishops and clergy, havent done a days work between them for the poor. Not one of them would know what to do if some guy knocked on their door and asked for a sandwich. They have, however, attacked the poor and attacked Catholic priests and nuns who have devoted their lives in service of the poor - including the nun they just excommunicated - while leading lives of privilege, devoid of gospel values.

    Werent you listening to your priests sermons during Advent about waking up?!!

  • Comment number 51.

    "And the vast majority of the Roman Curia (including the Pope), the Vatican Bishops and clergy, havent done a days work between them for the poor".
    I don't really buy that RJB, but it reminds me of something Pope John XXIII is supposed to have said, when asked; "How many people work in the Vatican?" - "About half of them"!

  • Comment number 52.


    You really need to get some other books and stop quoting Popes. Have you herd of Mauve Binchey?

  • Comment number 53.

    One of my favourite colours...

  • Comment number 54.


    Just paid a visit to Mauve Binchy's 'home page' (tho' think maybe i'd heard of her before), and see that she won the 2010 "Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award". But the question is, does that qualify her for a place in Will Crawley's Top Ten religion stories of the year?

  • Comment number 55.

    Well, actually Theo, you have a history on here of asking the wrong questions. And asking whether Mizz Binchey is in Mr Crawley's top ten is another one.

  • Comment number 56.

    Read Geoffrey Robertson's (QC) book on the Case of the Pope.
    Then you might see that a trident might have been more appropriate addition than a Santa hat!!

  • Comment number 57.

    I would have put the downfall of Iris the Virus after her religiously motivated bigotted remarks as no 1.

    im still laughing since 9th Jan 2010 when the story broke.

  • Comment number 58.

    2011. A Spurs Odyssey...

    + Ave Maria +

  • Comment number 59.

    lol @ Theo. It's nice to agree with you, hope 2011 is a good year for Spurs too :o)


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.