Friday 13 June 2014

European Court of Human Rights supports right of Church to deal with dissent

The Journal is reporting that the European Court of Human Rights has found that it was lawful for the Spanish State to sack a religion teacher who had publicly rejected aspects of Catholic teaching.

This is a hugely significant judgment from the European Court of Human Rights.  The judgment gives some general guidance on the autonomy of Churches, including their rights to deal with dissent, and the extremely limited rights that the State has to interfere in these matters.

If you're reading, Brian D'Arcy and Tony Flannery - the ECHR says your right to dissent means you can leave the Church you no longer agree with.

Also interesting to note the respectful way the Court refers to the Church's Canon Law - clearly it doesn't think it's as meaningless as Irish politicians seem to think.

Below the extract from the Court's Press Release:

Decision of the Court

Article 8

The Court reiterated that there was no general right to employment or to the renewal of a fixed-term contract. However, there was no reason of principle why the notion of “private life” should be taken to exclude professional activities. In the present case, private life and professional life were particularly intertwined, as factors relating to private life were regarded as qualifying criteria for the professional activity in question. The Court thus found Article 8 applicable, as the non-renewal of the applicant’s contract, on account of events mainly relating to personal choices he had made in the context of his private life, had seriously affected his chances of carrying on his specific professional activity.

The Court noted that the Ministry of Education had acted in accordance with the 1979 Agreement between Spain and the Holy See, supplemented by the Ministerial Order of 11 October 1982, which was an international treaty and incorporated as such into Spanish law in conformity with the Spanish Constitution.  The non-renewal of the applicant’s contract of employment had thus been based on the applicable Spanish law. 

The Court noted that the Bishop had relied in particular on the notion of “scandal” to justify his
decision. Even though the notion of scandal was not expressly provided for in the part of the Code of Canon Law concerning religious education teachers, it could be considered to refer to notions that were themselves in the canons such as “true doctrine”, “witness of Christian life” or “religious or moral considerations”. Those provisions expressed specific requirements with foreseeable effects.

Since Mr Fernández Martínez had been the director of a seminary, he could have foreseen that the public display of his militancy against certain precepts of the Church would be at odds with the applicable provisions of canon law and would not be without consequence. On the basis of the clear
wording of the Agreement between Spain and the Holy See, he could also have reasonably foreseen
that in the absence of a certificate of suitability from the Church his contract would not be renewed. 

The Court found that the non-renewal of his contract was thus in accordance with the law. Like the parties, the Court took the view that the decision not to renew the applicant’s contract pursued the legitimate aim of protecting the rights and freedoms of the Catholic Church, and in particular its autonomy as to the choice of persons qualified to teach religious doctrine.

As regards the autonomy of faith groups, the Court noted that religious communities traditionally and universally existed in the form of organised structures. The right of believers to freedom of religion meant that they should be allowed to associate freely, without arbitrary State intervention 

The autonomous existence of religious communities went to the very heart of the protection which Article 9 of the Convention afforded. It had a direct interest, not only for the actual organisation of
those communities but also for the effective enjoyment by their members of the right to freedom of
religion. Were the organisational life of the community not protected by Article 9 of the Convention, all other aspects of the individual’s freedom of religion would become vulnerable. 

However, Article 9 of the Convention did not enshrine a right of dissent within a religious community. In the event of any disagreement between a religious community and one of its
members, the individual’s freedom of religion was exercised by the option of freely leaving the community. 

Respect for the autonomy of religious communities recognised by the State implied, in particular,
that the State should accept the right of such communities to react, in accordance with their own
rules and interests, to any dissident movements emerging within them that might pose a threat to
their cohesion, image or unity. It was therefore not the task of the national authorities to act as the
arbiter between religious communities and the various dissident factions that existed or might
emerge within them.  

The Court reiterated that, but for very exceptional cases, the right to freedom of religion as guaranteed under the Convention excluded any discretion on the part of the State to determine
whether religious beliefs or the means used to express such beliefs were legitimate. Moreover, the principle of religious autonomy prevented the State from obliging a religious community to admit or exclude an individual or to entrust someone with a particular religious duty.

As a consequence of their autonomy, religious communities were entitled to demand a certain degree of loyalty from those working for them or representing them 

The Court, whilst observing that Mr Fernández Martínez had not received the dispensation from the
obligation of celibacy until after the publication of the newspaper article, took the view that, by
signing his successive employment contracts, he had knowingly and voluntarily accepted a special
duty of loyalty towards the Catholic Church, which limited the scope of his right to respect for his
private and family life to a certain degree. Such contractual limitations were permissible under the
Convention where they were freely accepted. The Court was not convinced that at the time of the
publication of the article in La Verdad, this contractual duty of loyalty had ceased to exist.   In choosing to accept a publication about his family circumstances and his association with a protest oriented meeting, Mr Fernández Martínez had severed the bond of trust that was necessary for the
fulfilment of his professional duties.  

The Court observed that Mr Fernández Martínez had voluntarily been part of the circle of individuals who were bound by a duty of loyalty towards the Catholic Church. The fact of being seen as campaigning in movements opposed to Catholic doctrine clearly ran counter to that duty. In addition, there was little doubt that the applicant, as former priest and director of a seminary, had
been or must have been aware of the substance and significance of that duty.  

Mr Fernández Martínez had been able to complain about the non-renewal of his contract before the
Employment Tribunal and then before the Murcia High Court of Justice, which had examined the
lawfulness of the measure in question under ordinary labour law, taking ecclesiastical law into
account, and had weighed up the competing interests of the applicant and the Catholic Church. At
last instance the applicant had been able to lodge an amparo appeal with the Constitutional Court.

Since the reasoning for the non-renewal decision had been strictly religious, the domestic courts  had considered that they had to confine themselves to verifying respect for the fundamental rights at stake. Thus, the Constitutional Court had taken the view that the State’s duty of neutrality precluded it from ruling on the notion of “scandal” used by the Bishop to refuse to renew the contract, or on the merits of the optional celibacy of priests as advocated by the applicant. It had examined the extent of the interference with the applicant’s rights and had found that it was neither disproportionate nor unconstitutional, but that it could be justified in terms of respect for the lawful exercise by the Catholic Church of its religious freedom in its collective or community dimension.  

The Court was of the view that the domestic courts had taken into account all the relevant factors
and had weighed up the interests at stake in detail and in depth, within the limits imposed on them
by the necessary respect for the autonomy of the Catholic Church. In the light of the review
exercised by the national courts, it did not appear that the autonomy of the Church had been
improperly invoked: the Bishop’s decision could not be said to have contained insufficient reasoning, to have been arbitrary, or to have been taken for a purpose that was unrelated to the exercise of the Catholic Church’s autonomy.  

Having regard to the margin of appreciation afforded to the State, the Court found that the interference with the applicant’s right to respect for his private life had not been disproportionate.
The Court concluded by nine votes to eight that there had been no violation of Article 8.

Having regard to its conclusion under Article 8, the Court found that there was no need to examine
the other complaints separately.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

New Irish Catholic Catechism for Adults

Some good news at last from the Irish Bishops' Conference.  The new Irish Catholic Catechism for Adults (ICCA) has been published by Veritas.

I only had a chance for a quick flick through it and may come back later declaring it to be a heterodox outrage.  But at first glance it seems like a worthwhile effort.

On the plus side, the format is much more readable as a book than the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), which has multiple paragraphs, each numbered and cross referenced.  The CCC is undoubtedly an essential resource, but for most people not a book that you sit down and read in sizeable chunks. 

Following the format of the United States Catechism for Adults, there are frequent insertions about people of faith from Ireland and these are welcome.  They point to the saints in a way that the Irish church sometimes fails to do.

The negatives? 

There is only one format which is the oversized paper-back.  I like a more compact version.

It is pricey - €24.99 or £19.99.  And the study guide, at €12.99 for 92 pages, is very pricey.  That said, it is A4 and lends itself to easy photocopying.

It was launched amidst the Tuam baby crisis/scandal.

It was launched by Sean Cardinal Brady - not really the image we want going forward as they say.

It undoubtedly fills a gap - but I'm not entirely convinced as to who the readership will be.  It is described as for adults but it strikes me as possibly most suited to older children in schools who continue to be fed a very poor diet of religious education.

Monday 9 June 2014

Pope Francis on D-Day - puts boot into atheists and invokes St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

From Vatican Radio:  Pope Francis says the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings is an opportunity for present generations to show gratitude for the “heavy sacrifice” of soldiers who landed on the beaches of Normandy to fight against “Nazi barbarism” and free occupied France during World War II.

He also states that it should serve as a reminder that excluding God from the lives of people and societies can bring nothing but death and suffering and he calls on the people of Europe to find their roots and future hopes in the Gospel of Christ.

The Holy Father’s words are contained in a message signed by his Secretary of State , Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to the Catholic Church in France on the occasion of a prayer service for the seventieth anniversary of World War II’s Normandy landings.

On June 5th 1944 around 156,000 Allied troops, landed on Normandy's beaches in one of World War Two's key turning points. Between 2,500 and 4,000 Allied troops are thought to have died the next day.

In the message, Pope Francis pays tribute to these soldiers.  He also writes that he does not forget the German soldiers dragged into this drama, like all victims of war. As many as 9,000 Germans are also estimated to have lost their lives.

Pope Francis states that present generations should express their full gratitude to all those who made such a heavy sacrifice. He also writes that by educating future generations to respect all men and women created in the image of God and passing down memories to them, it is possible to hope for a better future.

The Pope stresses that commemorations such as these remind us that excluding God from the lives of people and societies can bring nothing but death and suffering and European nations can find in the Gospel of Christ, the Prince of peace, the root of their history and a source of inspiration for establishing ever more fraternal relations and solidarity.

In conclusion, the Pope entrusts to the path of peace to the protection of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross - co-patron of Europe - and the Virgin Mary.

Pope Benedict on D-Day and Just War

"When the landings of allied troops began in France, occupied by the German Wehrmacht, in June 1944, it was for the peoples of the entire world, but also for a very large proportion of Germans, a sign of hope: may peace and liberty come to Europe soon. What had happened? A criminal and his henchmen had succeeded in taking the power of the State in Germany. And that had created a situation in which, under the domination of the Party, law and injustice became embedded one within the other, and often transformed, almost inseparably, one into the other. Because the regime led by a criminal also exercised the classic functions of government and its procedures. He could then, in a certain sense, demand legal obedience from the citizens and respect regarding the authority of the State (Romans 12, 1ss !), while at the same time making use of the instruments of law as instruments of his criminal goals.

The rule of law itself, which kept functioning partly under its ordinary forms in daily life, had become at the same time a power for the destruction of the law: the perversion of the procedures that should serve justice, yet at the same time consolidated the domination of iniquity and rendered it impenetrable, meant, at its most profound, a domination of falsehood, which obscured consciences.

At the service of this domination of falsehood, there was a regime of fear, within which no one could trust anyone else, because each one had to, in a certain sense, protect oneself under the mask of falsehood. Such a mask allowed one to protect oneself, but also served to reinforce the power of evil. It was thus necessary for the whole world to intervene to implode the circle of criminal action, to re-establish freedom and law. Because this was so, we give thanks at this hour, and it is not only the countries occupied by German troops and left at the mercy of Nazi terror that give thanks. Also we Germans, we give thanks that, with the aid of this engagement, we recovered freedom and law.

If there ever was in history a bellum justum [just war], it was certainly this one, the engagement of the Allies, because the engagement also served the good of those against whose country war was waged. Such a finding seems important to me, because it shows, based on a historical event, the unsustainable character of an absolute pacifism. This takes nothing away, naturally, from the obligation of considering very strictly the question of if and under what conditions it is possible still today to have something such as a just war, that is, a military intervention at the service of peace and obeying moral criteria, against established unjust regimes. Above all, that which has been said allows for a better understanding, let us hope, that peace and the law, that peace and justice, are inseparably linked one with the other. When the law is destroyed, when injustice takes over, it is always peace that is threatened and already, partly, weakened. Concern for peace is, in this sense, above all a concern for a form of law that ensures justice to the individual and to the community as a whole."

Pope Benedict said this marking the 60th Anniversary ten years ago.  The wisdom and careful thought shines through. 

Repost: In which Catholicus refutes the myth of Paul VI's Whit Monday story by checking the calendar

On Wit Monday, the day after Pentecost when everyone is required to be funny, in 1970, Pope Paul VI turned up in the sacristy for Mass.  Red vestments had been laid out on the vesting bench. 

"Che diavolo sta succedendo?" [Oh, dear, what is going on?] intoned the Holy Father.  "Non ti ricordi che ho abolito l'ottava di Pentecoste?" [Do you not remember I abolished the Octave of Pentecost?] he continued.  "Dove sono la casula verde?" [Where is the green chasuble?]

"Beh, Santo Padre, oggi, 18 maggio 1970, è la festa del martire, San Giovanni I. Così i paramenti devono essere di colore rosso." [Well, Holy Father, today, 18th May 1970, is the feast of the martyr, Saint Pope John I.  So the vestments should be red.] replied the sacristan.

"Beh che rovina alcuni miti, vero?" [Well that will ruin a few myths, won't it?] chuckled Paul VI.

You can read the myth here and here and all over the place.  Or in fact read it below:

Years ago I told this Pentecost Monday tale and it has made the rounds.

It stands being repeated.

I think this stands as a lesson for what happens when we lose sight of continuity.

Take this for what it may be worth. Some years ago I was told this story by an elderly, retired Papal Ceremoniere or a Master of Ceremonies who (according to him) was present at the event about to be recounted.

You probably know that in the traditional Roman liturgical calendar the mighty feast of Pentecost had its own Octave. Pentecost was a grand affair indeed, liturgically speaking. In some places in the world such as Germany and Austria Pentecost Monday, Whit Monday as the English call it, was a reason to have a civil holiday, as well as a religious observance.

The Monday after Pentecost in 1970 His Holiness Pope Paul VI rose bright and early and went to the chapel for Holy Mass. Instead of the red he expected, there were green vestments laid out for him.

He queried the MC assigned that day, "What on earth are these for? This is the Octave of Pentecost! Where are the red vestments?"

"Santità," quoth the MC, "this is now Tempus ‘per annum’. It is green, now. The Octave of Pentecost is abolished."

"Green? That cannot be!", said the Pope, "Who did that?"

"Holiness, you did."

And Paul VI wept.

Tuam 800

I'm reluctant to say anything more about this scenario as far too much has been said already.

To clarify for those who've missed the "details" and might be confused it's not:

- a motor bike race;
- one of those celebrations of a town's founding.

It's a reminder of what life was like for many children in Ireland in the past.

But most of the journalism, well, they've totally lost the plot.