Over the last 15 years the Anglican communion has been rocked by the divisive issues of ordaining women priests and (even more controversially) ordaining gay priests and recognizing gay marriage. There is a major cultural schism between the more liberal English church and the conservative African parishes. The dispute has split the Episcopalian church in the United States with some dioceses switching allegiance to the African Church.
Now the Catholic church has decided to fish for believers in troubled Anglican waters. With Catholics set to surpass the number of Anglicans in England, Pope Benedict XVI announced yesterday that the Catholic Church would make it easier for Anglicans to join the Catholic communion. What this does for the ecumenical dialogue initiated by Pope John Paul II and the reception that Pope Benedict will receive when he visits the United Kingdom next year remains to be seen. However, the Catholic Church’s eagerness to integrate disaffected Anglicans could have unwanted side effects by rehashing a theological dispute Rome considers resolved. If married Anglican priests can be ordained Catholic clergy (even if they cannot become Bishops) just like the married clergy in Eastern Rite churches in communion with Rome, why is a similar approach not possible for regular Catholics? Similar pragmatism could help stem the severe shortage of priests in American and European dioceses and bring clergy who can relate culturally with their flock, instead of the imported priests from India, Africa and the Philippines. Rome’s justification for this contradiction will be interesting to watch.
Silvio Berlusconi is at it again. After a scandal filled year where he was accused of cavorting with teenagers and prostitutes, faced a divorce action by his long suffering wife, faced accusations that he was filling up parliamentary slates and his cabinet with models and actresses, and lost his legal immunity, Italy’s Prime Minster has now brazenly insulted the looks and intelligence of a female opposition politician in a manner which would have ended his career in any other western country.
Yet in spite of the outrage of Italian feminists, he remains in power aided by the absence of a credible national opposition candidate and his stranglehold over Italy’s electronic media. While columnists not on his payroll may fulminate for his removal, Berlusconi has still to run out of his nine lives. Those in the United States who mocked the indiscipline of Bill Clinton or the lack of intellectual curiosity of George W. Bush can only watch with bemusement as the most shameless man to control a major industrial power in recent memory continues his charmed political existence. While his colorful antics delight his supporters, Italy and its creaky political system are the victims.
The BRICs other than India have aggressively used the Olympics as a marketing ploy to announce their emergence (or re-emergence). The Beijing Olympics were a grand showcase for the Chinese regime to erase the images of Tiananmen. In the midst of its descent into Corporatism, Russia will hose the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, not far from the Caucasus flash points of Chechnya and Georgia. In contrast Brazil under President Lula da Silva seeks to project a different image while hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics, of a progressive democratic emerging power that has broken from its history of economic turmoil and military involvement. But the endemic violence in its shantytowns could turn the dream into a nightmare. It was only a year ago that soccer legend Pele was mugged on his way home. One hopes that the first Olympics in Latin America are not marred by images of an overbearing police presence and a heavily fortified Olympic Village to protect athletes. China was embarrassed when athletes dropped out of the Olympics citing pollution. It will not be surprising to see an athlete choose security over Rio.