Religion news 21 September 2023

Summer 2023 hottest on record. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Lauren Dauphin

Sunak’s climate reversals “reckless” and “shameful”

Rishi Sunak’s announcement delaying policies to achieve net zero by 2050 has been criticised by the Bishop of Norwich as “shameful” and Christian Aid as “reckless”. In a speech at Downing Street yesterday, the Prime Minister announced a five-year delay in the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars – the deadline is now 2035; a nine-year delay in the ban on new fossil fuel heating for off-gas-grid homes to 2035; raising the grant to replace household gas boilers by 50 per cent to £7,500; exempting poorer households from changing boilers in 2035; and scrapping energy performance targets in rental homes from 2025. The Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, said such a reversal was shameful: “Shortsighted, it will erode credibility at home and abroad. This isn’t the time to seek political advantage with games. Leadership and action are needed, not delay and procrastination.” And Christian Aid’s head of UK advocacy and campaigns, Jennifer Larbie, said: “By undermining our climate commitments Sunak is showing a woeful disregard for the world’s most vulnerable people. It’s utterly reckless.”  Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy at CAFOD said: “The Prime Minister .. is leaving the UK reputation in tatters and seems oblivious to the impact of the climate crisis”.

Break confessional to shop child abusers? “Don’t know”

The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has published its response to the government consultation on IICSA’a recommendation of the mandatory reporting of child abuse. The report considered whether this applies to the confessional, which is traditionally entirely confidential between the priest and the individual. In answer to the question as to whether there should be exceptions to mandatory reporting, the answer was “Don’t know”. The report said further work on the confessional is being undertaken by a working group which will report to the bishops next month. The report points out that the confessional is not widespread in the CofE, but almost universal in the Roman Catholic Church, and it urges the government to “consider carefully questions of religious freedom and to take heed to different churches’ response on this matter”.

Former Brook House manager, now vicar, says moral obligation to end cruelty there

A Church of England vicar who was once a manager at the Brook House Immigration Centre near Gatwick airport, has responded to the inquiry which found inhumane and degrading treatment, racism and prejudice against the people being detained. The Rev Nathan Ward left in 2014 on moral grounds, telling Kent Online that being part of the system was perpetuating it and it was “impossible to do good in those places”.  He told the home affairs select committee that he had been raising issues since 2001. A statement issued by solicitors, says Mr Ward was a key participant in the inquiry. It quotes him saying: “Our silence in the face of injustice is complicity; it is time for us to break the cycle of abuse and neglect.. Our moral obligation is to dismantle this culture of cruelty for the sake of our shared humanity”. Mr Ward left the Centre to train for ordination and is now vicar of St Margaret’s Church, Rainham.

Local journalist turned vicar leaves legacy of principle, honesty and integrity

Tom Duncan, who founded and ran the Newham Recorder for almost 30 years before leaving to be ordained, has died aged 86. He went on to be a priest at All Saints Poplar, a job he held for a further 25 years. Fellow journalist Colin Grainger, who knew Mr Duncan throughout his career, describes him as a man of principle, honesty and integrity, who “preached the values of doing the job right”. East Ham MP Sir Stephen Timms said: “He was a towering figure and a very important voice in the community”. Hold the Front page obituary here

Catholic priests bless same sex couples outside Cologne cathedral

The Associated Press reports that several Catholic priests held a ceremony blessing same-sex couples outside Cologne Cathedral on Wednesday night in a protest against the city’s conservative archbishop, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki. It attracted hundreds of supporters and followed a reprimand to a priest in Cologne who held a blessing ceremony for lovers. The German Catholic church has proposed progressive programmes for change through the “synodal”, global consultative process, but conservative bishops have reacted against. In 2022, half a million people left the church, which may have something to do with a compulsory church tax levied by the state as well as sex abuse cases and the way they were handled. There remain 21 million Catholics in Germany.

More Americans pessimistic about the future of the family

A survey from Pew Research suggests that only 25 per cent of Americans are optimistic about the future of marriage, with 40 per cent pessimistic. 49 per cent thought the decline of the traditional family – two married parents bringing up two children – was a negative change. Nearly half or more say other trends – such as people having fewer children or marrying later in life – will have neither a positive nor negative impact. 60 per cent say a single parent raising children on their own is a completely acceptable arrangement. And fewer than half (47 per cent) say the same about a married gay or lesbian couple raising children. Another finding was that 8 in 10 women took their husband’s name. The Pew Research report based on 5,000 interviews is here

Woman jailed for praying then eating pork on TikTok

A 33 year old woman has been jailed in Indonesia for posting a TikTok video in which she said a Muslim prayer before eating pork cracklings, forbidden in Islam. Lina Lutfiawati, also known as Lina Mukherjee, was convicted of “spreading information that was intended to incite hatred” . Her film was viewed millions of times but was judged to be against blasphemy laws. She was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay a $16,000 fine. Amnesty International Indonesia said the blasphemy law contravenes freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief.  Independent story here


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