Calendar purists insist that only now are we entering the 21st century, since 2000 was really the final year of the 20th century. Whichever it is, I entered this new year thinking a lot about the fractious divisiveness that seems so evident everywhere in the world, and about its reverse, the precious but fragile unity of the human family.
George Hunsinger, a professor of systematic theology at Princeton Seminary and founder in 2006 of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, has been awarded the Karl Barth Prize by the German Evangelical Church. Previous recipients have included Hans Küng, Eberhard Jüngel and John W. de Gruchy.
Pope Benedict XVI begged forgiveness for sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests at a Vatican gathering on June 11 of nearly 15,000 clergy, concluding the celebration of the “Year for Priests.” The pontiff pledged on that final day to do “everything possible” to stop “sin within the church,” but victims’ groups say they want action, not apologies or promises.
This has been a dreadful year for the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. Across the continent, churches are suffering from sexual scandals of a kind long familiar in the United States. European media commonly present the picture of a systematic church crisis and ask how—or if—the church can recover. Will the scandals irreparably destroy Catholic authority?
Vatican critic Hans Küng has warned against “condemning the church and its priests wholesale” for the current spate of sexual abuse allegations. “It would be a bad generalization to place the whole clergy and Catholic Church under suspicion,” the Roman Catholic priest said in an interview with the European, a Berlin-based online news service.
“This an epic moment in the life of the church,” exuded Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, the most populous U.S. Catholic archdiocese. The prelate was speaking of his projected successor to lead 4.18 million Catholics in heavily Hispanic southern California.
About 2,000 Canadian members of a breakaway Anglican group and a small group of U.S. Anglican dissidents said in March that they have accepted the offer made by Pope Benedict XVI last October that permits disaffected congregations to defect to Rome while keeping many Anglican traditions, including married priests.
American victims of clerical sexual abuse protested at the Vatican after a New York Times article detailed letters and documents suggesting that Pope Benedict XVI, before becoming pope, personally mishandled the case of a Wisconsin priest who molested up to 200 deaf boys more than 35 years ago.