Last weekend the newspapers were full of Lady Gaga's claim on European radio that: “What the Pope thinks of being gay does not matter to the world. It matters to the people who like the Pope and follow the Pope. It is not a reflection of all religious people.”
Interestingly, she was raised a Catholic, but during her career been controversial in dressing as a nun, swallowing rosaries and using religious symbols in her act. Her song Judas contained references to Mary Magdalene being in love with the disciple who betrayed Jesus.
By definition a Catholic is someone who does follow the Pope. The 2010 “Annuario Pontificio,” or Pontifical Yearbook claimed there was nearly 1.7 billion Roman Catholics, making it still the largest religion in the world.
However Lady Gaga is an avid campaigned for gay rights and her comment was in reference to the comment made by Pope Benedict XVI on Friday. He told French bishops: “Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself.”
Lady Gaga's response on French radio was: “I think that gay marriage is going to happen. It must. We are not actually equal—humanity—if we are not allowed to freely love one another." The question of Catholics following all the Church's teaching has always been a much debated one. Do all Catholics fully subscribe to all Catholic teaching? Of course not. Should Catholics retain their own conscience on these issues?However is it fair to say the Pope is irrelevant?Are Gaga's views a reflection of many Catholics or not?
The Atheist Prayer Experiement is being organised by Premier Christian Radio. From Mon 17 Sep to Fri 26 Oct 2012. The rational for this experiement is as follows:
"The experiment is based on the paper by Oxford philosopher Tim Mawson titled Praying to Stop Being an Atheist. In it Mawson argues that, on balance, it is in the interests of those atheists who don't think it's absolutely impossible that there's a God to investigate the issue of whether or not he exists by 'the experimental method' - trying to ask him."
Terry Williams was sentenced to death for murdering Amos Norwood, 56, a chemist and church volunteer, whose body was found stabbed, bludgeoned and partially burned in a Philadelphia cemetery in June 1984.
Marc Draper pleaded guilty to murder and implicated Williams in the crime.
He has been granted a rare hearing after it turned out that prosecutors failed to reveal key evidence at his trial; this evidence concerned the motive for the attack. Murder is always wrong, and a criminal offence, but sometimes there are circumstances behind the crime.
His execution is still scheduled for October 3rd 2012, but has a hearing that could reduce that to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The reason for the appeal is that Norwood has sexually abused Williams, alongside many other young boys in their church congregation. The jurory were presented with a 'murder gone wrong' rather than a damaged 18 year old (18yrs 3months) who had undergone abuse and had finally snapped and sought revenge.
The jurory also did not know Williams had been sexually abused by lots of other older men in his neighbourhood, presenting a very damaged young man.
Williams committed a second murder of another child abuser which lead to his death penatly sentence.
Even his victim's wife is asking for his death penalty sentence to be halted.
Retaliation is always wrong, but does this man deserve to die for his crimes? This is a very unusual step just before an execution. Is it right that he was convicted by a jurory who deliberately had facts hidden from them? Do you think these facts matter in the case?
Monday saw the celebration of the Jewish New Year. One of the key features of the festival is an examination of conscience; some of the questions asked include:
What's the most meaningful thing in my life?
Who in my life means the most to me? How often do I let them know this?
What are the most significant things I've achieved in the past year?
What do I hope to achieve next year and in my life generally?
For the non-Jew, these are still vitally important questions to consider. The New Year is not a celebration as such in Christianity, but addressing the issues of conscience can happen regularly at Mass or Confession (for Catholics) or at other points during services or reconciliation.
Setting aside two days to think about these is important for people of faith and of no faith at all. It's a clear example of things we can learn and appreciate from looking at religion.
This summer we have all been amazed by everything the Olympics and Paralympics have had to offer. Here are two of my favourite video complications... It may not be strictly RE but it's inspiring and emotional and has made us all feel like better people and indeed be better people!
Over the summer, we've heard so many amazing tales connected to the Olympics and Paralympics, but this one is local to us in Upminster and really captures the spirit of London 2012 for me. It also proves that so many people are essentially good and kind, and this is the legacy that I really hope Britain can sustain:
"When Paralympic teams arrived at Heathrow in the lead up to these Games they were normally met with flowers, smiles and helpers. But when 24-year-old Liam Conlon went to greet the five members of the Burkina Faso team, the picture was quite different. He found a forlorn group: wearing brightly-coloured national dress, they were sat on their bags surrounded by police, while tourists looked on taking photos.
The team had nowhere to go, and nowhere to train – and very little money to salvage the situation." Funding is often very spare in many countries for the Paralympics, and even for GB, where this years' Games aside, many athletes struggle to fund their training and competition.
"Liam Conlon took the only solution available to him – he took them home to his mum and dad in Abridge, Essex, and over the following weeks found them somewhere to train, new equipment and a lot of new friends. When the team's two competitors – Lassane Gasbeogo and Kadidia Nikiema – get on their bikes to compete in the time trial at Brands Hatch it will be thanks to the huge generosity of the people they have met since stepping on to these shores on 6 August." The kindness that Liam and his family showed to these athletes was without limit:
"It has been an eye-opening, and occasionally perilous, experience for him and his family. "The very first day one of the team nearly burnt the house down," he said. "He put the electric kettle on the hob and turned it on to boil water – and there really has been something along those lines every day."" The Brentwood School let them use their facilities to train, and even held a non-uniform day to raise funds for them. They'll continue this after the athletes return to Burkina Faso to help them continue to train. They even had to get a new bike which was provided at just cost price from France.
The article concludes:
"Chef de Mission Florentine Ouedraogo said the team had been overwhelmed by the help and support they had received from so many different people. "It has been a fabulous experience, that we didn't expect at all," she said. "Without this help we just wouldn't be here. If any of these people come to Burkina Faso they will be welcomed as though they were our family.""
So is this legacy of kindness, love and compassion one that Britain will be able to sustain? This is surely a model of behaviour that Jesus would have admired. Why is it so hard to be like this all the time? Do we need an excuse, a motivation? If London 2012 gave us that for just one summer, it'll be disappointing as it shows what kind of people we can be and should aspire to be.
James Parker is the Catholic Coordinator of the 2012 Games and first ever lay Catholic chaplain to serve at the Paralympic Games has had an interview reported concerning his belief that many of the "superstar" "heroes" of the Games could well have been aborted under UK laws.
On his interview for Vatican Radio he calls for Christians and others who value human life to challenge the government with renewed effort to bring about change in Britain’s “discriminatory and outdated abortion laws”.
As the hugely successful Paralympic Games draw to a close, he said, “My own experience of the Paralympic Village, the heavily guarded home to all the athletes and officials alongside the Olympic Park, is that it is a sacred place.”
He said “the Village is strewn with wheelchairs, crutches, bodies of every shape, size, and so-called ‘disfigurement’ imaginable. And yet there is a stronger sense of community, and a vibrant tangible passion for life, that not even the greatest town or city could boast. The organising committee, LOCOG, has taken great care to provide an amazing ambience where people of every ability can live with ease.”
“The joy in the Village is palpable... It is a place where everyone is celebrated and honoured whether a medallist or not, and each person is in service of their neighbour. I am constantly reminded of the words of St Lawrence when, in the year 258, he was commanded by the Emperor Valerian to bring to him the Church’s treasury. Days later he brought before the Emperor the poor, crippled, and maimed and stated: “Behold the jewels of the Church!” He was then martyred for such a simple action.”
Parker had previously mentioned that “we see the word ‘Superhumans’ on our billboards and yet Paralympians are no different to any other human being. They often have greater degrees of adversity to overcome but this is an aspect of any life that truly wishes to be lived to the full."
“What is astounding is that Britain is enabling the eyes of the world to be opened to the giftedness and potential of those with disabilities through its hosting of the Paralympic Games. However, its own laws vehemently and shockingly discriminate against any new life in the womb that might possibly be affected by a physical handicap, genetic problems or a mental defect."
Parker was very surprised to discover that many Paralympians “don’t even realise that, should their team mates have been conceived in Britain today, they would most likely be aborted. If Britain wishes to retain its place towards the head of the medals table at future Paralympic Games in decades to come then it needs to seriously consider changing its laws to stop discriminating against what is presently termed as an ‘unacceptable quality of life’. Games aside, any society that wishes to be healthy needs to increasingly value disability and non-disability equally."
“The Christian community needs as a whole, along with others who share our beliefs on the dignity of human life, to continue to take the lead and, like St Lawrence, to stridently work towards changing Britain’s discriminatory and outdated abortion laws. If this issue is not addressed as we wave goodbye to the Paralympic Games from our shores, then it is hard to imagine when another opportunity of this sort will pass our way when British society and the world as a whole is celebrating the incredulous achievements of those with disabilities."
“Imagine how much lesser of a nation we would be without the lives of athletes like Ellie Simmonds, and how much greater a Britain we could be if more ‘disabled’ people of her ability were to be born, affirmed and celebrated.”
This raises the debate on abortion laws in the UK. Many questions are raised, given modern medicine, in what circumstances should be a request for an abortion labeled as Ground E be accepted. That is when there is a “substantial risk” that the baby would be “seriously handicapped”. However this is on occasion liberally interpreted... last year there was a report in to the number of babies with lips and palates, as well as with “congenital malformations of the ear, eye, face or neck” (this can include problems such as having glaucoma or being born with an ear missing) aborted under this category.Read more here.
Is James Parker correct? Is it sensationalist to claim that many of our GB Paralympians could have been aborted? He also seems to imply that these type of abortions are rise? It reverts to the fundamental question, on what grounds can an abortion be granted?