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Jan De Volder
As the Islamist group Boko Haram is said to be surrounding the city of Maiduguri in the latest stage of its campaign of violence against Christians and Muslims alike, an expert on the country considers why the authorities are powerless to halt its progress
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From the editor's desk
A week of intense activity in Rome, with change very much in the air, will reach a peak with the public elevation of 19 new cardinals, reform-minded churchmen handpicked by Pope Francis to put his own stamp on the College of Cardinals. The college itself will meet in the biggest gathering of its kind since Francis was elected a year ago, and there will be discussions and decisions on a host of issues concerning the future direction of the Catholic Church.
One significant proposal, from Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, the coordinator of the Pope’s group of eight cardinal advisers, stands out. He said in an interview with a French newspaper that ideally a married couple should head the Pontifical Council for the Family, and that it should become part of the Council for the Laity that should be raised to the status of a full Congregation.
The Pontifical Council for the Family was originally devised to ensure that Vatican thinking regarding marriage and family life did not lose touch with reality. Instead, particularly under the presidency of the late Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, it became a platform for an ultra-conservative view of sexuality, including the notorious occasion when he pronounced, contrary to a worldwide consensus of scientific and medical opinion, that the HIV-Aids virus could pass through the membrane of a condom – hence condoms helped to spread Aids.
A married lay chairperson or joint chairperson, particularly with majority lay membership and the right gender balance, could redeem the council and make it useful again. But it must not be captured again by closed minds and sectional interests. The Catholic view of marriage and the family has to develop if it is to reflect how Catholics live their lives. What the Church emphatically does not need is a body committed to setting limits in advance of that change, as part of some moral or ideological agenda that is more the cause of the problem than the solution to it.