Madrid, Spain, Apr 26, 2007 (CNA) - In response to the legalization of abortion by the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City, the Life Foundation in Spain said it agrees with statements recently made by the secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato, who called abortion “terrorism with a human face.”
In a press release, the foundation said that anyone who has seen what abortion does to a human being knows that “to call this act terrorism is not an exaggeration.”
“In 2005, there were a total of 91,644 abortions [in Spain], according to data from the Ministry of Health, which translates into 10.46 abortions per hour. Given the increase in abortions in Spain since its legalization, it is foreseeable that the number of abortions per hour is higher every day,” the foundation explained.
After describing the current situation in Spain, the foundation underscored that there is good news in other parts of the world, noting especially the recent Supreme Court ruling in the US that upheld the ban on partial birth abortion.
“This type of abortion had been taking place since 1973, when lawyers Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee obtained the legalization of abortion in the United States. That was the ‘Roe vs. Wade’ case. Norma McCorvey (‘Jane Roe’) was not raped as her lawyers claimed. But she was used to get an unjust law passed in a free country. Her daughter was eventually born, and Norma, who has repented of her collaboration in the case, now travels across America untiringly calling for the legalization of abortion to be repealed,” the statement indicated.
The Life Foundation pointed out that there are more and more women in Spain who regret having abortions and are demanding public institutions provide support for pregnant women. “Many are beginning to share their stories with others,” the foundation said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 26, 2007 (CNA) - Various civil groups in Mexico have announced they will defer to the official reaction of the Archdiocese of Mexico City, expected to come this Sunday, regarding the legalization of abortion, and they anticipated acts of civil disobedience would take place, as well as a new media campaign in support of life.
According to the newspaper “La Jornada,” Jose Antonio Fernandez of the organization Dignidad Ciudadana, announced that some 40 organizations “will soon begin a radio and television campaign to warn young people about the risks of the practice of abortion, and they will put in motion a support system for women who are in danger of having abortions.”
Fernandez said that Catholic groups like the Knights of Columbus would unite behind the Archdiocese and its position and would support National Action Party (PAN) in its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law.
Likewise, pro-life groups said they would intensify efforts to promote adoption as an alternative to abortion and to support laws that prevent employers from firing pregnant women.
The president of the College of Catholic Lawyers, Armando Martinez, told La Jornada that his organization would request the involvement of the Attorney General of Mexico in the legal challenge of the law’s constitutionality.
Jorge Serrano Limon, president of the group Pro-Life, warned of acts of civil disobedience in the Mexican capital.
The Archdiocese of Mexico City’s news office indicated that the archdiocese would not make any public statements about the new law “until the Episcopal Council of the Archdiocese of Mexico has the chance to evaluate the moral consequences of the reforms that have been passed in light of the Gospel and consult with various experts.” An official statement approved by Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera is expected to come this Sunday.
According to “La Jornada,” the National Confraternity of Evangelical Christian Churches said it would respect the decision of the majority in the Mexico City assembly, “whatever it is.” “Arturo Farela, president of the organization, said Evangelical churches would accept the legalization of abortion, because they respect Mexican law,” the newspaper reported.
Guatemala City, Guatemala, Apr 26, 2007 (CNA) - Guatemala’s Constitutional Court has ratified the 20 year prison sentence handed down against those responsible for the death of Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi of Guatemala City, who was killed on April 26, 1998.
The court denied an appeal of the sentence by lawyers of the men convicted for the crime, including Catholic priest Mario Orantes.
Judge Gladys Chacon told reporters the ruling was unanimous.
Bishop Gerardi was killed at his home in Guatemala City. Police arrested Byron Lima Oliva and Byron Disrael Lima Estrada, (father and son) and Jose Obdulio Villanueva, who died on February 11, 2003 during a riot.
Bishop Gerardi’s maid, Margarita Lopez, and Father Mario Orantes were also arrested.
On June 8, 2001, a court condemned the Limas and Villanueva. Father Orantes was sentenced to 20 years and Lopez was acquitted. Four years later, the court reduced the Limas’ sentence to 10 years.
Vatican City, Apr 26, 2007 (CNA) - The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, led by Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon kicked off a five-day plenary session today at the Vatican, aimed at discussing the theme of, “Charity and Justice in the Relations among Peoples and Nations.” The group will consider several “worrying signs” which seem to indicate that international charity and justice are not being pursued with appropriate diligence.
In addition to a press conference held by Dr. Glendon, who serves as President of the Pontifical Academy; Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences; and Juan Jose Llach, counselor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and professor of economics at Austral University, Argentina, the Academy also released an English-language note regarding the theme of the forthcoming plenary session.
"Although it is at times a common conviction that the pursuit of charity and justice at the international level is of key importance for contemporary society, at the same time we encounter signs that are working in the opposite direction," the note reads, and goes on to list a number of "worrying recent signs of the times" such as "the re-emergence of nationalism," and signs that "economic and social convergence between developed and developing countries is still confined only to a few of this last category."
Other "worrying signs" include the high "incidence of poverty and extreme poverty" and the fact that "multilateral institutions such as the UN, the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank ... are demonstrating signs of weakness and tiredness." Furthermore "there are now well-grounded doubts about the possibility of really implementing" the Millennium Goals of halving the number of poor people in the world by the year 2015.
A further cause for concern, the Academy pointed out, is the fact that "the aid that has been given has fallen far short of the goal of allocating 0.7 percent of the GDP of developed countries to foreign aid," and "has often been inefficiently distributed and utilised."
Finally, the note mentions the problem of war and terrorism highlighting how the beginning of the new century was "characterized by a notable increase in the social and moral scourge of terrorism. At the same time, the world is still afflicted on a large scale by wars between countries and wars within countries."
The text then mentions Benedict XVI's Encyclical "Deus caritas est" as a specific source of inspiration. "In particular," the note says, the Encyclical "reminds us that the theological and human virtue of charity must preside over all of the social teaching and all of the social works of the Church and her members. ... The Pope draws our attention to the fact that this teaching is both timely and significant, 'in a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence.'”
"This," the note adds, "is why 'Deus Caritas est' has been correctly described as being in part a social encyclical. It is love (caritas) that animates the Church's care for the needy, the work of lay women and men for justice and peace in the secular sphere, and is the leavening force of the Church in society."
"Indeed, 'Deus Caritas est' places itself in the long lineage of other social encyclicals, not only because it addresses the virtue of charity but also because it attributes primary importance to the virtue of justice." In the Encyclical, "Benedict XVI declares: 'In today's complex situation, not least because of the growth of a globalized economy, the Social Doctrine of the Church has become a set of fundamental guidelines offering approaches that are even beyond the confines of the Church.'"
"When discussing the relationship between the Church, a 'Community of Love,' and politics," says the Academy’s statement, "the Pope offers the strongest vision that has ever been formulated in the contemporary age on the relationship between politics and justice: 'The just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics.' Indeed, 'Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics.' For the Pope, justice (and politics) is not a mere utilitarian or contractual technique but 'by its very nature has to do with ethics.'"
On the other hand, however, the Holy Father "perceives the modern danger of detaching reason from faith" when he states: "if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests."
The note goes on: "This critical work of faith frees reason from its limits: 'Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly.' Not only the historical dimension of the meaning of justice, founded on both the Jewish and Christian traditions and the Roman and Greek inheritance, but also its contemporary meaning, derive from the constant purification that faith brings to reason: 'This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: it has no intention of giving the Church power over the State. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith.'"
The note concludes: "The Holy Father, in conformity with this teaching on charity and justice, thus calls for the structures of charitable service in the social context of the present day to promote the wellbeing of individuals, of peoples and of humanity."
Below is the full text of the Pontifical Academy for the Social Sciences’ briefing note:
INTRODUCTION: CHARITY AND JUSTICE IN THE RELATIONS AMONG PEOPLES AND NATIONS
The next plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences will be devoted to the study of Charity and Justice in the Relations Among Peoples and Nations. In the recent past, the Academy has devoted sessions to the study of globalisation and these have enabled us to see that there is a lack of charity and justice in the world we live in. This may be summarised in a general way as: disproportionate reallocations, promises not honoured, and unequal divisions. In addition, we are faced with new signs of the times that are very worrying. All of this has been met by the renewed appeal to charity and justice made by the Pope, Benedict XVI, in particular in his encyclical Deus Caritas est. These facts and this appeal form an important part of the background to our meeting.
The subject of the session will be the relations among peoples and nations: the developed, the developing, the emerging and the poor. We will ask ourselves whether these relations, in the light of the social Magisterium of the Church, can become more just, fairer, and more peaceful, and what the route should be to achieve such ends. In other words, is a partnership for charity and justice possible in the globalised world?
1. Worrying recent signs of the times
Although it is at times a common conviction that the pursuit of charity and justice at the international level is of key importance for contemporary society, at the same time we encounter signs that are working in the opposite direction:
The re-emergence of nationalism. In developing and developed countries there are signs of crisis as regards two key features of the process of globalisation: one is a human problem and relates to increased legal and illegal international migration and the political resistance to it; the second is economic and relates to the tensions between protectionism and free trade.
Weak convergence. In spite of continuing rapid economic growth in many developing countries, signals of economic and social convergence between developed and developing countries are still confined to only to a few of this last category. This is not only the case at the economic level but is also true in the field of education.
Pervasive poverty. At the same time, even in countries that have a fast-growing economy, the incidence of poverty and extreme poverty is still very high.
The weakness of multilateralism. Bilateralism is growing stronger and most multilateral institutions, such as the UN, the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, and even some of their regional counterparts, are demonstrating signs of weakness and tiredness. However, no institutions are presently emerging to replace them.
Millennium Goals. These were based on a broad international consensus but there are now wellgrounded doubts about the possibility of really implementing them within the time envisaged. The previous consensus on the Millennium Goals is thus beginning to crumble. As a result, there is a need for further reflection on the mechanisms by which these goals can be achieved, together with the formulation of new proposals.
Insufficient and inefficient aid. The aid that has been given has fallen far short of the goal of allocating 0.7% of the GDP of developed countries to foreign aid. In addition, the aid that has been given has often been inefficiently distributed and utilised both by international organisations and by local governments and agencies.
Terrorism and war. As the events of 11 September 2001 indicate, the beginning of the new century has been characterised by a notable increase in the social and moral scourge of terrorism. At the same time, the world is still afflicted on a large scale by wars between countries and wars within countries.
2. The Encyclical Deus Caritas est of Pope Benedict XVI
Our meeting wants to draw inspiration from the Pope’s first encyclical and its important implications. In particular this document reminds us that the theological and human virtue of charity must preside over all of the social teaching and all of the social works of the Church and her members. First of all, this encyclical leads us to the centre of our faith, to the truth that ‘God is love’. Thus the Pope declares that ‘Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbour’. The Pope draws our attention to the fact that this teaching is both timely and significant ‘In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence’.
This is why Deus Caritas est has been correctly described as being in part a social encyclical. It is love (caritas) that animates the Church’s care for the needy, the work of lay women and men for justice and peace in the secular sphere, and is the leavening force of the Church in society. And without love, as Paul told the Corinthians, our words and works will come to nothing.
Indeed, Deus Caritas est places itself in the long lineage of other social encyclicals (cf. n. 27), not only because it addresses the virtue of charity but also because it attributes primary importance to the virtue of justice. Indeed, it has a highly significant reference to a famous statement on this virtue by one of the great figures of Tradition: ‘As Augustine once said, a State which is not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves: «Remota itaque iustitia quid sunt regna nisi magna latrocinia?»’.
Taking into consideration traditional philosophical-political doctrines and also (in a critical way) the Marxist demand for a fair distribution of goods by public powers, Benedict XVI declares: ‘In today’s complex situation, not least because of the growth of a globalized economy, the Social Doctrine of the Church has become a set of fundamental guidelines offering approaches that are even beyond the confines of the Church: in the face of ongoing development these guidelines need to be addressed in the context of dialogue with all those seriously concerned for humanity and for the world in which we live’ (n. 27).
When discussing the relationship between the Church, a ‘Community of Love’, and politics, the Pope’s approach to justice is particularly relevant to the social sciences and to the role of the Magisterium of the Church. First of all, the Pope offers the strongest vision that has ever been formulated in the contemporary age on the relationship between politics and justice: ‘The just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics’. Indeed, ‘Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics’. For the Pope justice (and politics) is not a mere utilitarian or contractual technique but ‘by its very nature has to do with ethics’ (n. 28). In contrast to the solely descriptive and value-free understanding of human action proposed by many within the human and social sciences, the Pope upholds the importance of practical reason by renewing the question of the most just political order.
However, he perceives the modern danger of detaching reason from faith: ‘if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests’. Indeed, we cannot but engage in an assessment of our sense of justice in the light of faith: ‘From God’s standpoint, faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself’.
This critical work of faith frees reason from its limits: ‘Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly’. Not only the historical dimension of the meaning of justice, founded on both the Jewish and Christian traditions and the Roman and Greek inheritance, but also its contemporary meaning, derive from the constant purification that faith brings to reason: ‘This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: it has no intention of giving the Church power over the State. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith’. To conclude, here, too, the Pope attributes to the Christian a fundamental task and stresses that the aim of the social doctrine of the Church ‘is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgement and attainment of what is just’ (n. 28a).
The Holy Father, in conformity with this teaching on charity and justice, thus calls for the structures of charitable service in the social context of the present day to promote the wellbeing of individuals, of peoples and of humanity: ‘Our times call for a new readiness to assist our neighbours in need…Concern for our neighbour transcends the confines of national communities and has increasingly broadened its horizon to the whole world’ (n. 30).
Bogotá, Colombia, Apr 26, 2007 (CNA) - A Colombian court in the city of Manizales has temporarily suspended an arrest order against Archbishop Fabio Betancourt Tirado, who thanked God and said the decision was the “fruit of a prayer crusade” in the archdiocese.
“This decision is proof that God is not sleeping or dead. It is the fruit of a prayer crusade in Manizales, which has resulted in the Church coming out victorious and the country great,” the archbishop said in an interview on Colombian radio. He said he received the news when he was preparing his belongings to leave for jail.
Archbishop Betancourt said that in recent days he has received messages of support from the faithful in France, Germany, the United States, Ecuador, Costa Rica and other countries. He also received phone calls from Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos and Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo.
An arrest order was issued against Archbishop Betancourt on April 20 for refusing to comply with a lawsuit filed by an ex-seminarian, who was dismissed by the archbishop for robbery and homosexual conduct. The former seminarian, who is now a Protestant seminarian, is alleging that he was discriminated against due to his homosexual actions while in seminary. The archbishop has refused the court’s demand to explain his decision to let the seminarian go.
The court in Manizales now has ten days to decide if the arrest order against the archbishop will be carried out or revoked.
Vatican City, Apr 26, 2007 (CNA) - The sub-director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Ciro Benedettini, denied this week that Pope Benedict XVI meddled in Mexican politics by sending a letter to the country’s bishops expressing his concern over a proposed law that was passed this week legalizing abortion in Mexico City.
“This is not the first time there has been such a pronouncement,” Father Benedettini said, “because in matters like these the Pope cannot help but intervene, although he does so as a Catholic leader and not as a head of State.”
When the Holy Father “makes a pronouncement, it is not for the advantage of the Vatican or of the Church, but rather for the benefit of the nation he is addressing, because the issue is the defense of universal and transcendent values,” he said.
When it comes to issues such as abortion or euthanasia, Father Benedettini continued, the Pope “looks at the ethics and not the politics” and he intervenes regarding what he considers to be “unrenounceable values.” Likewise, he underscored that the Holy See always condemns “all attacks against life.”
Several days ago, the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico made public a letter from Pope Benedict XVI expressing his support of the campaign for life in Mexico and against the legalization of abortion. Leftist lawmakers attacked the letter, calling on the government to issue a “statement of protest” against the Pope’s supposed meddling in Mexican politics.
On Tuesday the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City legalized abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy, despite protests from the Catholic Church and pro-life groups, who are preparing to challenge the law’s constitutionality.
Vatican City, Apr 26, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican has included a link on its website with a short message of thanks written by Archbishop Leonardo Sandi, Substitute of the Secretariat of State, on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI to all those who sent greetings for his birthday, anniversary, and Easter.
“The Holy Father was pleased to receive the greetings sent to him for Easter and for his anniversary celebrations,” the message from Archbishop Sandi says.
“His Holiness is grateful for the kind thought, which he reciprocates. In this holy season of Easter he invokes upon all people of goodwill abundant divine gifts of peace and joy, and cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing.”
The Vatican link can be found here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/special_features/hf_b-xvi_20070423_thanks_en.html
St. Louis, Mo., Apr 26, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Raymond Burke said he had to oppose the upcoming benefit concert for a local Catholic hospital that features musician and abortion activist Sheryl Crow out of pastoral necessity.
“As the shepherd of this archdiocese, I am required to address an issue that could call into question in the minds of the faithful the commitment of the medical center and the archdiocese to the cause of life,” he said.
Sheryl Crow is scheduled to perform at the April 28 benefit for SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center. The benefit is organized by the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation. The management and the executives of the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center did not plan the event.
“Ms. Crow is well-known as an abortion activist,” the archbishop said at a press conference yesterday. “She has lent her celebrity status to the promotion of legislation, such as Missouri’s Amendment 2, that creates legal protection for human cloning and the destruction of human beings who are embryos.
“Her appearance at a fundraising event for Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center is an affront to the identity and mission of the medical center, dedicated as it is to the service of life and Christ’s healing mission,” he said.
Crow’s performance for the SSM Cardinal Glennon Medical Center is contrary to the identity and mission of the Catholic institution, said a press release issued by the diocese. In addition, the Church sees the action as giving scandal, which is defined as “an attitude or behavior which leads another to evil”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2284)
The archbishop said he attempted to settle the matter with the foundation board. But when the board said it would not address the issue, the archbishop said, it became “necessary that I carry out my pastoral responsibility to clarify the matter.”
“When, for economic gain, a Catholic institution associates itself with such a high profile proponent of the destruction of innocent lives, members of the Church and other people of good will have the right to be confirmed in their commitment to the Gospel of Life,” said the archbishop.
The archbishop has asked the foundation to remove his name from any materials promoting the event, and has resigned as Chairman of the Board.
“I want to express my understanding and compassion for the members of the Board of Governors of the foundation who did not recognize the seriousness of this matter,” the archbishop continued.
“I want to assure the management and employees of Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital of my continued admiration and support for the wonderful treatment provided at our excellent children’s medical center,” he added. “I cannot say enough about their commitment to the lives and health of the children they serve.”
The archdiocese founded the medical center that is now owned by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary. Over the past 10 years, the archdiocese has contributed more than $3 million through the center’s annual campaign and the Fleur de Lis Ball.
In addition to the press release, the archdiocese also released a list of common questions and answers as well as a video clip (please see link below) from the archbishop to clarify the issues surrounding Sheryl Crow’s anti-life stances and pending performance.
Washington D.C., Apr 26, 2007 (CNA) - A new survey released Wednesday says the growth of the Hispanic population in the United States has changed the religious landscape in the country, The Associated Press has reported.
The survey was conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Hispanic Center. The bilingual survey involved 4,600 interviews from August to October 2006 and is billed as one the most detailed looks ever at Hispanics and U.S. public life. It has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.
Among the major findings, the survey indicated that Hispanics see religion as a moral compass to guide their political thinking and they expect the same of politicians. Most Hispanics believe social and political issues should be addressed from the pulpit.
Among Catholic Hispanics, 48 percent said they were Democrats and 17 percent Republicans, while Hispanic evangelicals more narrowly favored Republicans, 37 percent to 32 percent, reported the AP.
The study found that two-thirds of Hispanic worshippers attend churches with Hispanic clergy, Spanish services, and heavily Hispanic congregations. The survey also discovered that these churches are attracting new immigrants, Spanish speakers, and English-speaking, U.S.-born Hispanics.
Edwin Hernandez, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Religion at the University of Notre Dame, told the AP that ethnic churches affirm cultural roots and the strength of family and community. Rather than isolating Hispanics, ethnic churches do the opposite through job training, social services, and connecting Hispanics across generations, he said.
The survey found that 54 percent of Hispanic Catholics identify themselves as charismatic, compared with about 12 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics. Charismatic Catholics are more likely to pray the rosary, go to confession, or serve in their parishes, the survey said.
The survey found 18 percent of Hispanics have either converted from one religion to another or claim no religious affiliation. Four out of 10 Hispanic evangelicals are converts from Catholicism, and one in three of these cited the lack of excitement at Catholic Masses as the reason. Very few cited dissatisfaction with the Church's teachings.
Census estimates say there are more than 42 million Hispanics in America, making them the nation's largest minority group.
Washington D.C., Apr 26, 2007 (CNA) - Women for Life International has joined the protest of Amnesty International's proposal to adopt a stance in favor of abortion. The pro-life group sent a letter to Amnesty International Executive Committee members informing them of their position.
Since the human rights organization put “reproductive rights” on its agenda, numerous other pro-life groups have sent Amnesty International (AI) a similar message.
AI's history has been to defend the very basic right to life and liberty of all human life, Women for Life noted. Adoption of a pro- abortion policy seriously undercuts the right to life through the destruction of other, less defenseless, human life.
“Women for Life International is looking to AI to protect all women and children, born and pre-born, from the violence and exploitation of legal abortion,” said the organization’s written statement.
"The proposed policy is not only in direct conflict of the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights … but adoption of such a policy will set a precedent for worldwide, unfettered fetal genocide; worldwide exploitation of pregnant women, especially poor women; and a worldwide epidemic of violence against women and the girl child,” said Molly White, co-founder of the U.S.-based pro-life group.
Many nations are now facing a substantial gender imbalance due to forced abortion and gender-selected abortion, the group added.
"Where is amnesty for these women and their pre-born children? This proposed policy will be seen as an endorsement of the inhumane treatment of pregnant women who are forced to abort their children," added Denise Mountenay, co-founder of Women for Life International and founder of Canada Silent No More.
Both White and Mountenay are concerned about AI's proposed policy and the potential backlash on women, particularly in China. Recently, The China Aid Association reported that a total of 61 women and their unborn children became victims of a recent campaign of forced abortion in Guangxi province.
“If AI supports legal abortion in certain circumstances it undermines opposition in other circumstances,” the pro-life group proposed in a statement.
London, England, Apr 26, 2007 (CNA) - A Catholic and an Anglican bishop have jointly called on the BBC to include religion on Radio 1, describing the omission as the “most striking exclusion of religion from the BBC 's output.”
Bishop Nigel McCulloch of Manchester, senior Church of England spokesman on communications, and Bishop John Arnold, chair of the Strategic Communications Board, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, responded to the BBC Trust's consultation on its Service Licenses and Purpose Remits. The consultation is intended to help the Trust to govern BBC output.
The bishops said the Trust sometimes includes religion under its duty to “reflect the nations, regions and communities of the UK and sometimes does not.”
"Religion figures strongly in the output of Radio 2, 3, and 4 under the proposed licenses for individual BBC services, but it does not appear under Radio 1,” the bishops noted. They argue that the exclusion of religion from Radio 1 is not only illogical but also inconsistent.
“Unless religion is appropriately included in the Radio 1 license, audience needs may not be met,” the bishops said. Radio 1's young target audience has a thirst for spiritual input which a recent survey for the charity Tearfund shows is greater than for older age-groups. Church of England Cathedrals also attract a growing number of 16-24 year olds, according to recent figures.
The bishops also say the current draft of Service Licenses does not provide for any regulation of the amount of religious output in general programming such as dramas, soap operas, documentaries or news, which the Director-General has said he wants to encourage.
They call for an explicit commitment in the BBC's Purpose Remits to better informed coverage of religion, citing the recent comment of BBC Governor Richard Tait about “how important religion is as a factor influencing major political and social events.”
The bishops are surprised that the BBC's purpose to “bring the UK to the world and the world to the UK” does not expressly mention religion.“It should be part of the BBC's public purposes to address 'the clear distinctions between culture, ethnicity and faith, which are a key part of how different communities understand themselves,” they argue.