Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Indulgences for Following on Twitter

The Catholic Church has always granted indulgences to reduce the time Catholics will have to spend in purgatory after they have confessed and been absolved of their sins. Now, indulgences are available to followers of Pope Francis' tweets.

However senior Vatican officials were quick to warn Twitter addicted Catholics that indulgences still required a level of faith and commitment to the teachings of the Church.

Catholic World Youth Day begins in Rio de Janeiro on 22nd July and lasts for a week. As many people can't get to Brazil, the Vatican has offered indulgences to those who follow the "rites and pious exercises" of the event on television, radio and through social media too.

It is important to remember that an indulgence would hinge on the beneficiary having been to confession, as well as being "truly penitent and contrite".

As well as Pope Francis using Twitter, the Vatican has launched an online news app, a Facebook page, and it plans to use the online social networking site Pinterest.

"What really counts is that the tweets the Pope sends from Brazil or the photos of the Catholic World Youth Day that go up on Pinterest produce authentic spiritual fruit in the hearts of everyone," said Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli.

Do you follow the Pope? Is this a good way for young people to engage with their Catholic faith? Do you think it is right to grant indulgences for following on Twitter?

Read more <here>
Follow Pope Francis <here>

Monday, 15 July 2013

Frank Skinner, Fatherhood & Meditation

Frank Skinner is most commonly associated with his popular Saturday morning radio show on Absolute. However he is also a stand up comedian, former prime time chat show host and committed Catholic. He regularly attends Mass at Farm Street Jesuit Church in Mayfair.

He returned to the Catholic Church in his late-20s, after being disillusioned with it in his teens. Now he feels he is able to discuss his faith openly, even on his radio show, "I find that the people in my line of work who talk to me about religion are often very interested, rather than very disparaging... Atheists and agnostics are often more interested in religion than the religious people."

His son, Buzz, was born in May 2012 and was baptised at Farm Street Jesuit Church in Mayfair; "When you've got a child, the love that you feel is like nothing else you feel in the rest of your life. And I think for the believer - certainly the parent - it gives you the clearer view of what a big painful, awful sacrifice that was. When they become your primary concern, ahead of yourself - for me, it's helped me to understand that sort of love of God, that selfless, forgiving love."

Frank Skinner has developed an interest in silent reflection and in his last book about life on the road as a stand up comedian he talks about Lectio Divina; "Through short periods of time, I developed the ability to stop thinking and clear my mind... And I suppose afterwards you feel peace. You start to feel very centred and that starts to inform the rest of your life. I feel that God is in that - in everything - and it's like that silence can make you feel it in yourself." 

Why do you think it is still unusual for celebrities to talk openly about their faith? Is there many Catholics who are as proud and as open about their faith as Frank Skinner? Do you think this helps others? Do you think its common for people to change their outlook to their faith as they go through life?

Read more <here>
Full interview: Read the interview with Frank Skinner - alongside features on the first Jesuit Pope (Francis), a preview of World Youth Day in Brazil and expressions of hope for Zimbabwe in the light of forthcoming elections - in the summer edition of Jesuits and Friends, available online at: , from Jesuit parishes throughout Britain or by post from Jesuit Missions, 11 Edge Hill, London SW19 4LR.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Most Babies Born Out of Wedlock?

A report predicts that if current trends continue, the majority of babies born in three years' time will have parents who are not married.

The number of children born out of wedlock rose again in 2012 for the 40th consecutive year to 47.5%. By 2016 it is expected to rise to more than 50% meaning more babies are born out of wedlock than in it. In 1938, just 4% of babies had unmarried parents.

This may be linked to the fact that the number of couples who are cohabitating/serious relationships that are married has now fallen below 50% according to the 2011 census. This is the first time since 1801 (when figures were first collected) that they have been in a minority.

Does this matter? Do you think the government should do more to promote marriage? Do you think this is because people are less religious? Do you think there would be a similar trend in religious couples?

Read more <here>

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Is Hulk a Catholic?

L'Osservatore Romano have recently run an article on  'the religiousness of superheroes' - including comic book favourites the Hulk, Batman and Superman.

The article featured images of Bruce Wayne (Batman) as a boy saying his prayers by his bed and the Hulk depicted with rosary beads in his hands.

Senior journalist Gaetano Vallini wrote, "Is it enough for a person to have a rosary in his hand to be defined a Catholic? ...Bruce Banner, the incredible green man, in fact married his beloved Betty Ross in a church and a Catholic priest presided at the ceremony... There are other indications dispersed among the hundreds of comic strips dedicated to him that are said to unequivocally reveal his faith."

He then goes on to say there is evidence to suggest the mother of Batman’s alter ego Bruce Wayne was Catholic while the character Nightcrawler from the X-Men films explicitly refers to his Catholic faith.

Do you think many people have worked out these superheroes are Catholic? Do you think it just use of distinctive imagery? Is it more just the illustrators Catholic upbringing? Do you think it's right (or indeed useful!) that Churches are encouraging their congregation to view these films in a Christian context?

Read more <here> and <here>

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Priests & Nuns Should Drive Humble Cars!

Pope Francis has said, “It hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car, you can’t do this.”

He went on to say, "A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world."

Much has been made of Pope Francis' attitude to the poor and the way in which he is living his life (see previous blog post <here>). He has given up some of the trappings of Office including living in a guest house rather than the opulent papal apartments.

Apparently the Pope's car of choice for moving around the walled Vatican City is a compact Ford Focus. He also borrowed Fiat as a popemobile for his first papal visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa last Monday (see above).

Do you think the Pope is right to challenge the clergy on their materialistic attitudes? Do you think by setting an example he is able to change the thousands of priests around the world? Do you think it is too simplistic to say they should be thinking of the staving children?

Read more <here> and <here>

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Praying Isn't Enough

Two parents who believed that visiting a doctor was akin to worshipping a false idol have been found guilty separately of second-degree reckless homicide. They prayed to save their child instead of taking her to hospital, and as a result their 11 year-old daughter Madeline Kara Neumann (pictured above) died of undiagnosed diabetes.

The Neumanns had contended their convictions, claiming they were unconstitutional because of the Wisconsin state's law that allows residents to pursue "treatment through prayer." However the judge over ruled this effectively eliminating legal immunity for prayer treatment.

The girls grandparents have pleaded for her to be taken to a doctor but her mother, Leilani Neumann, claimed that would take away the glory of God. After the girl died, Leilani told police God would raise Kara from the dead.

Do you think someone should have intervened before the girl had died? Do churches that promote this idea of prayer over medicine need to be challenged? How do you think this effects the perceptions of Christians?

Read more <here>

Thursday, 4 July 2013

"Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People"

The title of this blog post is the name of a law passed in China a few months ago, introduced to effectively force people to look after and visit their elderly relatives.

In Confucian philosophy, filial piety is a virtue of respect for ones parents and ancestors. It is seen as one of the most important of virtues and many folklore stories tell of individuals great love, service and dedication to their parents. However it is seemingly not enough to simply tell your children of these ancient tales, it also needs to be enshrined in law officials have decided.

The law has nine clauses that lay out the duties of children and their obligation to tend to the “spiritual needs of the elderly.”. It clearly states that children should go home “often” to visit their parents and send them greetings. Companies and work units should legally give employees enough time off so they can make these parental visits.       

It does not specify punishments, but already people are beginning to use this law to force their children to take care of them. A court in Wuxi found a couple guilty after they were sued by the wife's mother-in-law. They are now bound by a court order to visit at least once every two months to tend to her 'spiritual needs' and pay her compensation. One can only assume the subsequent visits have been more than a little awkward!

Much of this has come after many Chinese people have moved to the cities in search of work and left their parents in the countryside. Reports indicate that half of the 185 million people age 60 and older live apart from their children.

Do you think this is a good idea? Do you think it will help the problem? What aspects of this are a positive thing? What problems can you see?

Read more here:

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Organ Donors: Opt-in or Out-out?

On a historic day, the Welsh assembly have voted through a law that will mean people have to opt-out of the organ donation register. Effectively in Wales, people will automatically be considered as a donor when they die, unless they have expressly 'opted-out' of the register.

It was discussed on this blog last year about how the ethical dilemma presented by the fact it was easy to sign people up to the donor register, and that you could save lives by signing up your friends and family with them not knowing.... read more <here>.

It is the first part of the UK to adopt such a law, which is already in place in a number of other countries and could be in force by 2015.

The aim of the aim of the Bill is to increase the number of organs available from Wales, potentially by 25%. It is important to remember that not every organ is suitable for donation, nor is it necessarily easy to find a match. It is hoped that the number of donors rise from around 65 donors to 80 and that from these additional donors, there would be a further 26 kidneys, 10 livers, two hearts and four lungs available for transplant - all potentially saving a life.

It is not as easy as some people think to make a correlation between signing up, then donating organs and then saving a life. According to the NHS Blood and Transplant service, it is fewer than 5,000 people that die every year in the UK in circumstances that would allow them to donate successfully.

However, it is estimated there are around 250 people in the UK on a waiting list for a transplant at any one time, with 33 people in Wales died in 2012/13 while waiting. Surely if even a few of these could be saved, the law would be worth while?

The counter-argument revolves around the fact that some people do not like the idea that the State takes charge of the dead body, using it as they see fit. Also people want to know what clauses there will be if a family are against donation from a loved one, will it forcibly take place?

It certainly creates a few ethical questions will no doubt be asked over the next few years in Wales.

Do you agree an opt-out system is better? Despite it only saving a few more lives, is it worth it? How do you think the people of Wales will feel? Do you think it is right that the State can interfere like this? What clauses would you like to see in the new law?

Read more:
Read more with further detail on the 'For' and 'Against':