Church has chosen doctrine over humanity
A question that might once have merited being burned at the stake was asked some time back: "Does God act like the Church, or does the Church act like God?" Of late, the Vatican has been castigated for the latter. A succession of scandals have left it accused of being cold and aloof: laying down doctrine setting it in an opposite direction to its followers.
The latest announcement from Rome that Catholics who wish to be cremated cannot have their ashes scattered, divided up, or kept at home will upset and confuse many.
Placing a loved one's ashes at a cherished beauty spot was regarded for years as paying homage to God's wonders in an act of loving harmony with His creation. But the Church has decreed that cremated remains must now be kept in a sacred, Church-approved place.
Yet since 1963, the Vatican explicitly allowed cremation and there were no restrictions on how ashes were scattered. But the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has now decided that the scattering of remains would be seen as a manifestation of "new ideas" which are "contrary to the Church's faith".
So ashes cannot be scattered in the air, land or sea.
The new instruction carries an 'August 15 date', it also says Pope Francis approved it on March 18. But the guidelines do not make it clear if they were retroactive, or what people are to do if they have disposed of their loved ones in ways now deemed wrong. If this was an oversight, it is one that does not reflect well on a caring church. It is an extraordinary way to behave, given the sensitivities involved. Pope Benedict once said that the slogan 'Jesus yes, Church no,' is totally inconceivable with the intention of Christ. He also said that the individualistically chosen Jesus is an imaginary Jesus." That is his wont. But as for keeping in touch with its followers?
At one time a woman who gave birth had to undergo a ritual called 'Churching' because she was deemed unclean. At another, babies who died before they were baptised were deemed to go to Purgatory, not Heaven. Saint Paul wrote to the people of Corinth in an effort to help them to understand the true meaning of Christianity: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." A little less doctrine, and a little more humanity, and compassion, would be more in keeping with St Paul's message, what ever about the Vatican's.
KBC fires first shot in a war that will benefit borrowers
The French are famous for their varieties of cheese, Italians for pizza. In Ireland we distinguish ourselves with the varieties of mortgage rates; unfortunately, most are higher than those available to our eurozone counterparts.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan has done all but use a battering ram to get a better deal for struggling homeowners, but to little effect thus far.
However, the lenders will now find themselves on the rack thanks to new cuts by KBC, which is reducing a range of rates.
Big guns such as AIB and Bank of Ireland will now feel the heat as the battle is on to win a greater slice of the pie. Borrowers here are notoriously slow to move, but as the competition gets keener, the inducements to make the switch will get more attractive, which should finally result in a better shake across the board.
Some customers could be up to €170 a month better off thanks to the KBC cuts. Given that rates here are about 1.5pc higher than in many other eurozone countries, the reductions will be welcome even if they are long overdue.