This has been a year of big stories globally, nationally and locally. And many of them have been shaped or coloured by religious and ethical dimensions -- from the revolutions sweeping through the middle east to the traumatic implications of phone-hacking revelations for British journalism. Here are some of the most significant stories of the year. You can use this thread to suggest others or to comment on any of these. I'll discuss some of the stories that defined the twelve months with my guests on the New Year's Day edition of Sunday Sequence.
Journalism in the dock
Rupert Murdoch shut down The News of the World, which had been in existence since 1843, after revelations of phone-hacking and other questionable practices at the paper. The government soon launched a public inquiry, led by Lord Justice Leveson. The Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the media produced some extraordinary testimony which may lead to proposed changes in press regulation.
The Rapture that never was ...
Harold Camping is a serial predictor of the end of days. He previously announced that the Rapture would take place on 21 May 1988, then again on 7 September 1994. His most recent prediction, 21 May 2011, came and went, so has "reinterpreted" his prophecy and Judgment Day was re-scheduled for 21 October 2011. The fact that you are reading this now is evidence enough of the need for a further re-scheduling. Apparently an "invisible judgment day" took place last May, so invisible that it took Pastor Camping two days to realise it has happened. The pastor later apologised and resigned from ministry.
The King James Bible at 400
It was a year of commemorations and celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the Authorised Version of the Bible. Even Richard Dawkins penned a celebratory essay. And Prime Minister David Cameron capped off a year of celebrations with a lecture reminding Britons that they live in a Christian country and should celebrate that too.
Osama: to kill or not to kill?
Former Irish president Mary Robinson expressed "moral unease" about the killing of Osama bin Laden. He should have been arrested and brought to justice, she said.
Bishop calls for end of celibacy rule
In September, the former Bishop of Derry Dr Edward Daly called for an end to mandatory clerical celibacy. Dr Daly, who was a bishop for almost 20 years, said there needed to be a place in the modern Catholic church for a married priesthood. He also said that many young men who considered joining the priesthood turned away because of the rule. Dr Daly addressed the controversial issue in a new book about his life in the church, A Troubled See.
The civil union that could split a church
The decision by the Very Revd Tom Gordon to enter into a civil partnership with his partner of 20 years outraged some conservative members of the Church of Ireland, particularly in Northern Ireland. Dean Gordon told Sunday Sequence that he entered into the new legal partnership with the full knowledge of his bishop, Michael Burrows, and that his relationship had been supported by members of his congregation. The Church of Ireland 's house of bishops soon announced that they would hold a crisis summit in the Spring of 2012 and encouraged their clergy and members to resist un-Christian language in public debates about the controversy.
Both the BBC and Sky News reported that at least six people have died in Britain after being told by churches that they had been healed and should give up their HIV medication, and they have evidence of evangelical churches in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow also claiming that people with HIV can be cured by spritual intervention.
Following the publication of Judge Yvonne Murphy's review of the Catholic diocese of Cloyne, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, used language in the Dail never before used by an Irish premier. He accused the Catholic hierarchy of putting the Church ahead of child rape victims. Mr Kenny said the latest revelations had exposed a dysfunctional, elite hierarchy determined to frustrate investigations, and he warned the Holy See that religion does not rule Ireland. "For the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago," he said.
PMS: the beginning of the end
In August, thousands of people across Northern Ireland received cheques in the post this week from the failed Presbyterian Mutual Society. A rescue package underwritten by the Westminster government and the Stormont executive allowed those who invested less than twenty thousand pounds to get all their money back. Larger investers received 85 per cent of their money, with final settlements dependent on the sale of PMS assets.
A year of farewells
This year we said goodbye to Rev John Stott, Cardinal John Foley, Dr Jack Kevorkian, Osama bin Laden, Muammar Gaddafi, Rev Peter Gomes, Sir Jimmy Savile, Ken Russell, Christopher Hitchens, Kim Jong Il, Vaclav Havel.