The Persecuted Church: 2012

GEORGE J. MARLIN

Here’s a rundown of some 2012 incidents in Muslim nations that have received insufficient media attention.

Egyptian Coptic Christians in
protest against violence

For some years, I have had the privilege of serving as Chairman of Aid to the Church in Need U.S.A., a Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians.  In this position, I see plenty of data describing anti-Christian acts. Here’s a rundown of some 2012 incidents in Muslim nations that have received insufficient media attention:

 

Egypt:   For the 13 million Christians in Egypt, the “Arab Spring” is turning into the “Arab Winter.” Since the Muslim brotherhood emerged victorious in the presidential election, they are under constant threat of physical violence and economic hardship.

In August 2012, for instance, 120 Coptic families fled from the village of Dahshur, south of Cairo, following a dispute between a Coptic tailor and his Muslim customer.  The tailor’s house was burned to the ground and the customer severely injured.  Muslims seeking revenge also burned down a church and drove Christians from their homes.

Bishop Kyrillos, the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Assuit, warned the new government, “The new constitution should be for all Egyptians not just one group.”  He underscored the right of Christians to participate in the creation of a new Egypt.

Reacting to the threats of Muslim Brotherhood militias to Christians demonstrating against President Morsi’s proposed constitution, Father Rafik Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Bishops, did not mince his words:  “Whenever Islam becomes politicized it automatically turns into a fascist dictatorship.  Then comes the impending threat that sharia in its most fundamental form will be introduced.”

Church officials fear that there will be a mass Christian exodus from Egypt because wording of sections of the constitution are open to fundamentalist interpretations that deny religious liberty.

 

Bosnia-Herzegovina:   Eighteen years after the end of the war in the Balkans, discrimination against Catholics is still rampant.  Confiscated Church real estate has not been returned.  Catholic parishes and homes are denied electricity.  Priests are refused medical care despite a Vatican accord with Bosnia, which provides for it.

With more and more Saudi Arabian extremists immigrating to Bosnia and opening businesses, abuse of Catholics, particularly nuns wearing habits, has significantly increased.  Sister Ivanka, Bosnian Provincial Superior of the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King, notes, “every day life is becoming increasingly difficult in general.”  Nuns travel in pairs out of fear of abuse and they are turned away or harassed at local shops.  At one bakery, according to Sister Ivanka, several sisters had this experience:  “Although the loaves were in plain sight, the proprietor claimed he was out of bread . . . He simply did not want to sell it to a Catholic nun.”

“Whenever Islam becomes politicized it automatically turns into a fascist dictatorship. . . ”

Cardinal Vinko Pulic, Archbishop of Sarajevo, reported last year to Aid to the Church in Need that, “the growing process of Islamization in Bosnia-Herzegovina is being funded by radicals in the Middle East.”  In recent years, over seventy new mosques were built in Sarajevo with Saudi oil-dollars.

Tens of thousands of Catholics were killed during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and since then a majority has fled.  Today, there are approximately 450,000 down from 835,000.

Albania:   Orthodox Christians represent 20 percent of Albania’s population and Catholics 10 percent.  Young Imams trained in Turkey and Saudi Arabia increasingly threaten both.  These scholars demand a “pure, strict Islam” and promote building only Islamic schools.  That attitude, plus widespread corruption and unclear property rights, has halted construction of chapels, churches, rectories, and parochial schools.

Syria:   Christians throughout this war-torn nation are being targeted and driven from their homes.  Bishop Antoine Audo, S.J. of Aleppo recounts that after religiously motivated violence in the Christian quarter of the City of Homs, which has been the home to one of Syria’s largest Christian populations, there “was a mass exodus of almost all of the faithful, more than 120,000.”  He predicts that Christians will be targeted and driven away in Damascus and Aleppo as well:  “The fear of Christians is particularly strong.  We are a minority.  Always we are threatened.”

Pakistan :   In January 2012, without warning, the Punjab government ordered bulldozers onto land owned by the Catholic diocese since 1887 and demolished a church, a girl’s school, and homes for the poor, elderly, and homeless.

The ordinary, Bishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, accused the government of a “very brutal act of injustice” and “carrying out a criminal act of land-grabbing.” Dr. Paul Bhatti, brother of Pakistan’s assassinated Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, has called on the international community to help Christians there.  Dr. Bhatti, like his martyred brother, is a Catholic and points out that new blasphemy laws, as well as growing intolerance and fanaticism, has led to an increase in arbitrary actions against many of the nation’s 1.2 million Catholics.

They don’t really care about the fate of the Christians in the Middle East. Otherwise, they would advocate equality before the law and the observance of human rights for all, including in those countries where the so-called Arab Spring has taken place . . .

The near total silence internationally towards these situations across the Middle East is deeply disturbing and bodes ill for the future.  The patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church in Beirut, Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III, recently told Aid to the Church in Need:

Permit me to speak quite frankly.  There’s a lot of hypocrisy in all this.  For many [EU] governments it’s merely a matter of economic interests.  They don’t really care about the fate of the Christians in the Middle East.  Otherwise, they would advocate equality before the law and the observance of human rights for all, including in those countries where the so-called Arab Spring has not taken place . . . This is not a matter of taking sides for or against Assad or some other potentate in the region.  It’s a matter of equal rights for all.  It’s a matter of the primacy of human rights and not the primacy of one religion . . . I said it to the government in Paris and I’ll say it to you: Fundamentalist Islam does not want a dialogue on equal terms in the long run.  If the EU were serious about its human rights principles, they would openly take up the cause of the future of younger generations in the region.

WASHINGTON, DC: Fourteen Anglican Bishops March for Life

By Mark Tooley
www.theird.com

(Photo credit: Institute on Religion and Democracy)

Last Friday 14 bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) came to Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life. This year that march commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s notorious “Roe versus Wade” decision mandating abortion on demand.

As always, it was a freezing January day. But the bishops joined at least 100,000 others for the march to the Supreme Court steps. The bishops were led by Archbishop Robert Duncan, formerly the Episcopal Church bishop of Pittsburgh. They vividly contrasted with the Episcopal Church and other old-line denominations that scandalously and archaically still support unrestricted abortion rights through the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

(ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan with IRD’s Mark Tooley)

ACNA of course was formed after the 2003 Episcopal Church election of its first openly homosexual bishop, creating a global Anglican schism. Departing bishops like Duncan and many priests made deep sacrifice when leaving the old, declining Episcopal Church to create a new, theologically orthodox Anglican body. Many congregations that left the Episcopal Church lost their buildings. But their sacrifice was not in vain. Today ACNA has over 900 congregations, over 100,000 regular worshipers and 40 bishops. And ACNA, unlike the Episcopal Church, is growing.

Before joining the March for Life, the 14 ACNA bishops visited the IRD office for a late morning breakfast. We were greatly honored by their presence and a chance to tell them more about the IRD’s work. I told them IRD likely has never had so much eclessial authority in our office at one time. The bishops with great warmth of spirit prayed with us.

And much of the IRD’s staff joined them on the march. With 35 percent of ACNA’s total bishops at the march, I suspect they had a higher percentage of their senior prelates present than any other major religious body in America.

I thank God for leaders like the ACNA bishops who are sacrificially working to renew Anglicanism and the wider church in America. And I am grateful that they so robustly witnessed in defense of vulnerable human life at the March for Life here in Washington, D.C.

END

The new (old) Catholic Church

By Ashley McGuire

On the Feast of the Holy Family, I went to Mass in my hometown’s Cathedral in Colorado Springs – a town many refer to as the “Evangelical young catholicsMecca.” The pews were full of Hispanic couples in their 20s and 30s, children tottered about in the aisles, and the baby-faced Mexican priest firmly admonished everyone in Spanish to obey Pope Benedict’s call to Catholics to hold fast to traditional family life.

Not long before that, I walked past the Catholic Information Center on a chilly, dark D.C. evening. Nestled amid the country’s most powerful lobbying firms on K Street, darkened for the night, the brightly lit bookstore was filled with young Catholics in suits sipping wine and flocking around the evening’s speaker, the head of a prominent think tank.

And Friday in Washington, D.C., tens of thousands of young Catholics in North Face and sneakers who have travelled in from all over the country will mark the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade by marching against abortion on the national Mall.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Great Catholic Awakening.

Pray, what do I mean?

The Great Catholic Awakening is a revival of Catholic orthodoxy among youth in the Catholic Church.

My generation of Catholics, men and women in their 20s and 30s, inherited a suffocating spiritual ennui inside the church and a culture of death, promiscuity, sadness, and fear outside her doors.

We were born into a world where millions of babies die of abortion annually, where countless more unborn babies are suspended silently in freezers, where we are told gender is random and marriage is amorphous and dissolvable.

We inherited hell on earth.

Some Catholics, like myself, are converts away from Protestantism, recognizing that the only institution in the world that has stood firm through the millennia on the most important social issues of the day is the Catholic Church.

Others grew up with rogue nuns, priests making up the liturgy, sex-abuse scandals, squishy bishops, etc.

And we’ve had enough.

But rather than walk away and embrace the hedonistic culture outside the church’s doors, we paused. We paused and turned around. We planted our feet firmly, and we stayed.

Our numbers are small but we are true to church teaching and there is no denying that we are growing.

More conservative religious orders, for examples, are growing with young Catholics seeking a traditional religious life.

Speaking of record growth at the Washington, D.C. based Dominican House of Studies, Rev. Thomas Joseph White says:

“Young men entering seminary today are coming out of a secular culture and have often made a counter-cultural choice to be Catholic. Our house is receiving more vocations than at any time since the 1960’s, and the men entering tend to be strongly supportive of the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI. They are interested in the recovery of more traditional forms of Christian belief and practice, but also in the evangelization of their peers.”

Traditional nun-hood is also on the rise. A recent study conducted at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found a clear demarcation in the spiritual outlook of millennial sisters and those that came before them. Of women born after 1982 entering religious orders, Sister Mary Bendyna, executive director of the center, noted:

“They’re more attracted to a traditional style of religious life, where there is community living, common prayer, having Mass together, praying the Liturgy of the Hours together. They are much more likely to say fidelity to the church is important to them. And they really are looking for communities where members wear habits.”

The study found that younger nuns entered religious life with positive attitudes about the church and authority and chose orders based on their fidelity to the church. It’s not surprising then, as John Allen noted, that the liberal Leadership Conference of Women Religious has just one percent of female religious orders with more than ten sisters in formation versus 28 percent in the conservative Conference of Major Superiors of Women.

The National Catholic Reporter, a left-leaning Catholic publication admitted, “To put all this into a sound-bite, the next generation of religious will be more ethnically diverse and more traditional.”

Young lay Catholics are returning to tradition as well. Mass attendance has been in a general state of decline among all age groups except among millennials, who have demonstrated a nearly ten percent increase in Mass attendance in recent years.

Not only are young Catholics increasingly more likely to attend Mass, they prefer more traditional practices and forms of the Mass.

Recently Georgetown University caved to student pressure and re-instated the Latin Mass, which features Gregorian chant and involves the priest facing away from the congregation as a sign of reverence to God and priestly humility. Speaking to the Georgetown Hoya of the change, Fr. Stephen Fields, S.J., suggested that the more traditional Mass is popular among young people. He said, “My assumption is that, in a world of constant [noise], [young people] find that the contemplative silence of the Extraordinary Form nourishes their lives of prayer.”

Put more simply: We want less Kumbaya. More Panis Angelicus.

Young Catholics are also increasingly more open to and obedient to church teachings on moral issues such as contraception, abortion, and marriage.

In the wake of the Health and Human Services so-called “contraception mandate,” many rushed to point to a Guttmacher Institute study which found that 98 percent of Catholic women use contraception.

Not only was the study widely rejected as faulty, but a study conducted in its wake at the Ethics and Public Policy Center found that the number of young practicing Catholic women (ages 18-34) who fully accept the church’s teaching on contraception is more than double that of their older female peers.

Recently, Catholics have come under increasing pressure to comply with laws that violate their beliefs. Laws, for example, that would require them to pay for abortifacient drugs or adopt children to gay parents. There are some who may think that resistance to such laws may be waning with a new generation of young Americans who appear to be the least religious in recorded history. But young Catholics, lay and religious, defy that trend, suggesting that the culture wars are far from over.

So to those who will scoff at the crowds of youth-group kids on the Mall today, take note: We are the future. And we are on fire for Jesus Christ and his church.

Ashley E. McGuire is a senior fellow with the Catholic Association and editor of www.Altcatholicah.com.

The Church Voice …

By Andrew Carey, CEN

For those who expect the Church of England to either embrace the spirit of the age or to respond to any issue of controversy by straddling the nearest fence, there has been something heartening and reassuring about its statements on same-sex marriage.

When the bill was published last Friday the Bishop of Leicester, Tim Stevens, reiterated the Church of England’s view “set out in doctrine and canon law, that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.”

It has been interesting to observe some liberal Anglicans squirm about the official Anglican response. In particular, those who hang around at that strange place on the internet known oxymoronically as Thinking Anglicans (www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk) have been complaining that the official response ignores a range of views on the subject. They themselves entirely ignore the fact that canon law’s definition of marriage insists that it is only entered into by one man and one woman.

Marriage viewed as an entirely heterosexual union is the indisputable position of the Church of England. Even that ultra-liberal Anglican institution, the Episcopal Church of the USA, has not changed the definition of marriage.

Yet in spite of the unambivalent Anglican attitude to marriage, there remain one of two difficulties and obstacles for the Church of England to confront as the government’s bill for same-sex marriage is debated. Firstly, the bishops must reject that this idea of a quadruple lock that has been touted by the government’s spin machinery has any reality.

A quadruple lock is nothing of the kind. The government has not enacted a ban on the Church of England conducting same-sex marriages. This is the kind of weaselly language that gives politics a bad name. The government has merely been forced to confront the reality that canon law and the law of the land will be in opposition if the same-sex marriage bill passes into law. Far from being a ban on the Church of England conducting same-sex marriage the government is merely acknowledging that its legislation has no impact on canon law. The Church of England has its own structures to bring forward primary legislation to change canon law, and Parliament should have no part in initiating that legislation.

The main obstacle for the Church of England is the provision that will allow civil partners a marriage licence, for only a small fee, with no further ceremony. This will place facts on the ground unless Bishops act quickly. The fact is that clergy in civil partnerships will easily be able to take advantage of these provisions and become ‘married’ unless the Bishops are prepared to deliver a pre-emptive strike. They must promise en bloc to discipline such clergy and must follow this through. I have my doubts as to whether the Church of England would survive a human challenge in the courts but the effort must be made to plug this unintended consequence of the government’s proposals.

Sadly, though the leadership of the Church of England has largely been robust in its defensive of traditional marriage, the Roman Catholic Church has played a much more powerful role in its attempt to mobilise the laity. Anglican campaigning has been muted, with most of the bishops barely uttering a word about the issue. It is as if the bishops were divided over same-sex marriage.

It is also as if those in the hierarchy who support same-sex marriage are too cowardly to name their opposition to the Church of England’s policy. And those who claim to support the traditional Christian definition of marriage are too embarrassed to campaign openly and enthusiastically for it.

I have far more confidence that my own MP will speak against same-sex marriage than I have that the Bishops in the House of Lords will offer clear leadership on the issue. I’d suggest a letter to the bishops to give power to their elbow. It is time that we, the laity of the Church of England, held the bishops to account.