God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”

Long awaited and finally out – and already there is a flood of comments from all sides of the church spectrum and beyond. So I want to  add my two cents to the growing number of comments and I will do it brief and up the point.
Firstly I am not disappointed and I am not surprised neither, as the exhortation is the continuation of a sincere approach of Pope Francis to move the church in the right direction, but also bearing in mind that he is coming from South America with its specifics.
Style, tone and content is indeed refreshing and I never thought that in parts – when it comes to discernment and the conclusion that nothing in this world is either black or white – a pope confirms what my pastoral approach is since I was ordained a priest. It is indeed with great joy that I read those parts and I feel strengthened. It almost feels like common sense has prevailed and for me personal, I feel much more home again in this church. Even if nobody dares to spell it out: we have had other times in our church where all was only seemingly black and white and whoever was stepping aside was already seen as an outsider in the church or even worse, outside the church. This church is changing under his leadership and guidance.
“Wonderful complicated”, is the description of Pope Francis for this world, for all the different family situations and we as clergy are encouraged to embracing God’s grace at work in the difficult and sometimes unconventional situations families and marriages face — even at risk of obscuring doctrinal norms. Accepting conscience instead of replacing conscience – it really warms my heart to hear such words from the top of our hierarchy.

And yes, there are parts I still think are missing, for example the word “intrinsic evil” in connection with my brothers and sisters belonging to the LGBTI community should have been officially withdrawn and banned, but I guess, being asked to not discriminate means that the use of those words are not allowed anymore. Another contentious issue is the question of artificial contraception where I hoped for some development.

“We need a healthy dose of self-criticism,” so the pope, and with his writings he certainly opens the church up for such reflection. And not only for such reflections but also for a new chapter of being a church not only for the people but walking with the people and seeing and pointing out all the grace being present in the chaos of our lives, our families, our situations.
I think there is so much food for thoughts in this exhortation, starting by seeing grace in imperfection and following through with discovering the lively spirit of God in all human situations. This will keep us busy and if done sincere as a church getting “soiled by the mud of the street” in the process  will look good in the eyes of God.
Let’s hope that the humble and honest reflection of Pope Francis really filters through all the church officials and that we all, being either labelled “progressive” or “conservative” just hold in and reflect ourselves on the rich input the pope is giving with “Amore Laetitia”.

And here the full text in the official translation:
http://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf

Filed under: Catholic Church, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From Prevention, Polygamy and Crime…

As always in between posts I like to share some of the articles I am reading in between and they are ranging from the blue pill to criminal laws.

US Federal health officials recommended yesterday that hundreds of thousands of Americans at risk for AIDS take a daily pill that has been shown to prevent infection with the virus that causes it. If broadly followed, the advice could transform AIDS prevention in the United States — from reliance on condoms, which are effective but unpopular with many men, to a regimen that relies on an antiretroviral drug. Please read this article here.

In Africa, most people infected are female. In a modest public health clinic behind a gas station here in South Africa’s rural KwaZulu/Natal Province, a team of Norwegian infectious disease specialists think they may have found a new explanation. Not sure it will hold the scrutiny of sciences but it is worth reflecting on it. Read here.

In Kenya, a new law came into effect allowing for polygamy. Men can take several women as wives without the consent of the first or any of the others already married. Does it make sense? Well, questions are asked here.

Uganda was once the example of how to reduce the HIV pandemic. Then came complacency and PEPFAR rules, latter a curse and a blessing at the same time. Now Uganda has chosen to add to the draconian law regarding homosexuality also to criminalize HIV transmission. It is known that this has an adverse effect, but it seems that politicians in Uganda want to go the extra mile to do the wrong thing.  Click here to read the story.

Enjoy reading!

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Medical and Research, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

German theologians and the family synode

Two groups of noted German theologians have bluntly outlined how church teaching does not align with the concerns or lifestyles of most European Catholics in response to a Vatican questionnaire on Catholics’ attitudes on issues like contraception and same-sex marriage.
Published by the Department of Theology in Fulda / Germany the theologian are trying to give their view on the situation as asked for by the questionnaire from the Vatican. After some Catholic Diocese already published their findings which showed that the teaching of the church and the realities of the people in Europe are disconnected in many instances, the outline of the academics for moral theology and pastoral theology underlines the gaps, but also shows up ways to develop Catholic teaching.

In Germany, the publication of new ways to engage with divorced persons who want to get remarried by the Diocese of Freiburg and the followed exchange of opinions by the head of the German Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Zollitsch and the Cardinal elect Mueller from Rome as well as Cardinal Marx from Munich show clearly that the standpoints are very diverse. Let’s hope that not fundamentalism but the unconditional love of God prevails. With the ancient practice regarding divorce as still in existence in the Orthodox Church (oiconomia) there are clear living signs that we as a church can do better than wanting people to live an ideal under all circumstances – no failure allowed.

Here you find the translated statement of the academics: 199623709-German-theologians-respond-to-Vatican-s-synod-questionnaire

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , ,

Discussions about family

Within the church and society there are major discussions how to define family and how to define marriage. As seen in France, violence seems to be the last resort for opponents of “same-sex” marriage and family life. Having myself problems with the word “gay marriage” on one hand but seeing the need for equality regarding the legal status of a same-sex couple in the legal framework of a country, I found in the recent Southern Cross two articles which in my understanding are underlining the need for further discussions on the subject without any hostility pro or contra the opposite position. With the permission of the editor of the Southern Cross, Guenther Simmermacher, here the two pieces, which can be seen also on the original website of the Southern Cross. All copyright is with the Southern Cross.

The revolution of family (link to Southern Cross original text)

May 1, 2013

In recent weeks several Church leaders have indicated that they might not oppose legislation that would extend civil union rights to same-sex couples, with the legal prerogatives that apply to traditional marriages, but without characterising such unions as marriages.
“In practice, the function of procreation has been diminished as the primary purpose of marriage, and not only in the West”
In early February Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said that while the Church cannot consent to anything that treats other unions as equivalent to marriage between a man and a woman, “private law solutions” for protecting people’s rights could be permissible.This view has since been echoed by influential prelates such as Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Cardinal Rubén Salazar of Colombia (where same-sex legislation is pending) and Archbishop Piero Marini, liturgical master of ceremonies under Pope John Paul II. Under Pope Francis there seems to be an increasing openness to saying such things. Indeed, these statements might reflect the pope’s thinking: a senior official in Argentina’s bishops’ conference has confirmed that the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio favoured civil unions as an alternative to the legalisation of gay marriage in his country in 2010.

These comments will be welcome by Catholics and others who have supported the extension of full civil rights to homosexuals, but are opposed to changing the traditional definitions of marriage. However, an acknowledgment that the legalisation of same-sex civil unions is not irreconcilable with Catholic teaching and represents a tolerable alternative to the redefinition of the traditional family might be coming too late in stopping the inexorable move towards the legalisation of gay marriage in many countries. Worldwide, 13 countries have legalised same-sex marriage, including South Africa.

Questions may be raised whether the concept of same-sex civil unions is actually acceptable to those who advocate same-sex marriage, and whether the Church can keep intact its definition of marriage and family if it consents to same-sex civil unions. In a broader context, can the Church’s model of the traditional family retain currency in societies where the meaning of marriage and family has been thoroughly revolutionised over the past half century, with divorce, cohabitation and raising children outside marriage increasingly being seen as acceptable and normal? In practice, the function of procreation has been diminished as the primary purpose of marriage, and not only in the West. It is within this context that the notion of same-sex marriage has become acceptable to so many people throughout the world. These realities merit open and candid discussion as the Church seeks to formulate its response. It may also be productive to study the effects of the tone in which Church leaders state their opposition to gay marriage. For example, have the more strident forms of rhetoric—on either side—precluded reasonable dialogue and compromise?
It must be acknowledged that in its engagement against gay marriage, the Catholic Church has inflicted wounds, and sustained some itself. The Church has been accused of homophobia and hypocrisy. While opposition to same-sex marriage obviously is not intrinsically homophobic, some of the trenchant rhetoric has been interpreted as being hostile to homosexuals. Sometimes the lines between defending marriage and attacking homosexuals have appeared to be blurred. Some intemperate protests from Church leaders have been hurtful to the LGBT community, in contrast with the Catechism of the Catholic Church which demands that homosexuals be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (2358).

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who himself has offered ferocious opposition to gay marriage, acknowledged this failing last month when he said on US television that the Church must ensure that its “defence of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people”. He acknowledged, with admirable frankness, that the Church has not “been too good at that” and has failed to be consistently welcoming to gays and lesbians.

This failure to fully extend Christ’s embrace for all requires correction. The discussion about how to do this must begin now.

Learning from Germans (Link to Southern Cross)

By Mphuthumi Ntabeni on May 1, 2013

In April the Justice and Peace (J&P) Commission of the archdiocese of Cape Town was fortunate to have an information-sharing session with a visiting German Church delegation, led by Bishop Stephan Josef Ackermann of Trier. Bishop Ackermann is the chairman of J&P in Germany, and also the bishop assigned to deal with sexual abuse cases in Germany. Pilgrims pray at last year’s “Katholikentag”, the biennial German Catholic Church assembly which is organised by the national laity council. The German delegation was impressed that in South Africa we have J&P commissions in our parish commissions.  In Germany J&P exist only on a national level, under the Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken (ZdK), the official council of the German Catholic laity.

The ZdK was founded in 1848, was banished under Bismarck and again under the Nazi regime, but gained public respect mostly during the Cold War. Its secretary, Dr Stefan Vesper, was among the visiting delegation. The ZdK is a representative body of lay people. It unites diocesan councils, Catholic associations, institutions of lay apostolates, lay movements and communities. It serves also as a forum of opinions on political issues and the Church. From what I understood, the ZdK represents the concerns of Catholics in the public arena. It has a division that operates like our Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office in participating in public dialogue and in the houses of legislation in shaping public policy. It advises the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference on issues of social, political and religious life. Most of us showed deep interest in ZdK works, especially in the light of the media reports about some of our church leaders on topics such as sexual abuse and homosexuality. The ZdK seems to be a good forum for dialogue and a fountain of sharing ideas between bishops’ conference and general laity, so that the Church can truly speak with one voice. It was refreshing to notice that the bishops and ZdK actually speak with one voice, albeit from different perspectives, about the social teachings of the Church, and that no noticeable tension exists between hierarchy and the lay body.

For instance, I had a short discussion with Aloys Buch, a leading professor of moral theology and a deacon, about the gay marriage discussions that are currently a hot topic throughout Europe. Apparently the German Catholic Church makes a distinction between civil unions and marriage. Prof Buch argued that the widespread demand for gay marriage, as opposed to civil unions, is not about natural justice, but about the desire for a “biopolitical tyranny to destroy marriage and the family as the most basic and crucial mediating social institution”.  I later discovered that Bishop Ackermann holds similar views. So there is a clear distinction made between gay marriage, which the German Church—like the Church everywhere—opposes, and same-sex civil unions, which would give homosexual couples all the rights of matrimony, except to call that union a marriage. While the legislation of gay marriage is not acceptable to the Church, for the reasons Prof Buch outlined, the legal construct of civil unions of same-sex couples appears to be tolerable.

I was embarrassed to admit there is a certain squeamishness about talking about these things as openly in the Southern African Catholic Church

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This story shows that Africa is moving sometimes in the right direction. And it is good news for those working in the fields of HIV, AIDS and human rights.

 

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Congratulations Swaziland, for your courage in banning a tradition that has been in your culture for centuries. Now the real challenge begins… enforcing the law.

The marriage of an adult man to an underage girl is known as kwendizisa in Siswati.

Swazi pic“Swazi men marrying girls once the girls enter puberty is not a customary law. It is not mandatory. It is tolerated because it has always been done. But times are changing, and Swaziland has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. This practice has added to the spread of HIV. It is a great victory for public health and for the rights of girl children that this outmoded practice must now end,” AIDS activist Sandra Kunene told IRIN/PlusNews.

Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku announced the government’s intention to enforce the Child Protection and Welfare Act by prosecuting men who marry underage girls.

Sexual activity with underage girls…

View original post 573 more words

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , ,

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenNovember 16th, 2019
3 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2020

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 23rd, 2020
10 months to go.
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