Daily Archives: April 14, 2008

Independent: 'Now we have the technology that can make a cloned child'

A new form of cloning has been developed that is easier to carry out than the technique used to create Dolly the sheep, raising fears that it may one day be used on human embryos to produce “designer” babies.

Scientists who used the procedure to create baby mice from the skin cells of adult animals have found it to be far more efficient than the Dolly technique, with fewer side effects, which makes it more acceptable for human use.

The mice were made by inserting skin cells of an adult animal into early embryos produced by in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). Some of the resulting offspring were partial clones but some were full clones ”“ just like Dolly.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Life Ethics, Science & Technology

NY Times: Uncertain Church Awaits Pope in U.S.

The pope is expected to praise the American church’s vibrancy during his visit, and there is much for the church to celebrate. Catholics are the biggest religious group in the United States, about 23 percent of the population, a proportion that has held steady. Many parishes are healthy, and some are growing, with the influx of immigrants, especially Hispanics.

A poll released on Sunday by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University showed a mixed performance review for the American bishops: 22 percent of Catholics are “very satisfied” with the bishops, 50 percent are “somewhat satisfied,” 21 percent are “somewhat dissatisfied,” and 6 percent are “very dissatisfied.” It is an improvement from 2002, the outbreak of the scandal.

But most priests, and even many bishops, will acknowledge the woes.

Of 18,634 parishes in 2007, 3,238 were without resident pastors. More than 800 parishes have been closed since 1995, most since 2000. (Some bishops are preparing their parishioners for more closings ahead.) The number of priests ordained in 2007 fell to 456, less than half the number of new priests in 1965. Nearly 3 in 10 Catholics who attend Mass weekly or more said they had been personally affected by the priest shortage, according to the Georgetown poll.

“There’s a crisis,” said William V. D’Antonio, a fellow of the Life Cycle Institute at the Catholic University of America. “We’re running out of priests. The average age of priests currently active is over 60. We have recruitment of new priests way below replacement level.”

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

A New Parish Opens in the Diocese of Tennessee

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Parishes

Aileen Mory: Sharing the Tragedy of War

I was against the war from the start, although my opposition never translated into a protest march in Washington or a letter to my congressman. It remained no more than a quietly held belief. Today, there’s talk of leaving Iraq, but I don’t know what to think. I want our soldiers to come home, but can we really abandon the Iraqi people to what is essentially a civil war of our own making?

I don’t have a solution, but I think I may have figured out what’s missing from my perspective on democracy: pain ”” universal, democratic pain. In terms of the Iraq war, this country’s burden is being shouldered by a select few. Some families and communities have been devastated by the war. Others, like mine, have been far too insulated. We can’t truly share the responsibility for our democracy until we all share in its suffering.

And so, in the name of shared pain, I support the reinstitution of the draft.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Iraq War, Military / Armed Forces

Christopher Seitz: Canon, Covenant, and Rule of Faith ”“ The Use of Scripture in Communion

The British publication International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church commissioned a volume on Covenant and Communion in 2007. This essay was prepared by invitation for that volume several months ago, and it will appear in published form in May 2008. It was posted on the ACI site so that it could be referred to in the context of a General Seminary event in New York last week. The remarks prepared for that context are much briefer, and aimed at a more general audience. They should be posted as well on the ACI site shortly. This was an event attended by Archbishop Gomez and Gregory Cameron, as well as others. Archbishop Gomez is on the ACI Board. I was present as representative of Wycliffe College, University of Toronto.

In order both to set limits and for clarity’s sake-themes to which I shall return- the present essay will undertake theological reflection on covenant and the appropriateness of using this term for work presently before us in the Anglican Communion. This requires some threshold consideration. By ”˜theological reflection’ I mean, giving a comprehensive account of Scripture with concern for its total, mutually-informing witness. I take this to be the concern of one of the Articles, with a long prior history, that scripture be read in such a way that its portions be not repugnant, one with another. The same concern also animates what in our present period is called ”˜canonical reading.’

It will be a basic contention of the present essay that this hermeneutical caution is traceable to the rule (kanon; regula) of faith (regula fidei) in the early church. Indeed, in the period of the formation and consolidation of New Testament writings and especially relevant because of the character of that ”˜work-in-progress,’ the rule grounds Christian convictions about the nature of God in Christ in the witness of the stable, inherited scriptures of Israel. The rule of faith is an appeal to the total witness of scripture, especially the Old Testament, as constituting the speech and work of the selfsame Living God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in Israel and in the Apostolic witness to Jesus Christ.

Read it all (follow the link provided at the bottom).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Covenant, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Andrew Goddard: Conflict and Covenant in the Communion

It seems that most of my speaking engagements in recent years have focussed on three topics. Each of these is a subset of that traditionally unmentionable trio – politics, sex and religion. A standard conversation at home is “What are you speaking about this time? War? Homosexuality? The Anglican Communion?”. Of course I’ve often found myself speaking about two of the three on the same occasion – I’m sure you can guess which two! Today I think is a first in that I’m going to speak about all three in the same presentation!

My decision to include war is obviously triggered by the title’s use of ‘conflict’ but also by two memorable quotations. One comes from Herbert Butterfield, the distinguished 20th century Christian historian. He apparently once suggested that one could adequately explain all the wars fought in human history simply by taking the animosity present within the average church choir at any moment and giving it a history extended overtime. The roots of war, in other words, are found within the conflictual life of the church at every level. The other comes from the memorable response in 2000 of the then Primate of Canada to the consecration by the Primate of Rwanda and the then Primate of South East Asia of two American priests to serve as bishops in the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). “Bishops”, Michael Peers, said, “are not intercontinental ballistic missiles, manufactured on one continent and fired into another as an act of aggression”. The means of war, in other words, have their parallels within the life of the church at every level.

Of course, we are, thankfully, no longer likely to kill each other and that is not an insignificant development and difference from literal ‘war’. However, having said that, the events of recent weeks announced by Changing Attitude are a sad and shocking reminder that physical assault and threats to kill are still real dangers for some who openly identify as gay or lesbian and something all of us need to oppose and make sure we don’t in any way encourage. We must also confess that at a spiritual level Stephen Bates was sadly not too far wrong in calling his book “A Church at War”. We risk as an international body the sort of self-destruction brought by war. We need to recall Paul writing to one of the many New Testament churches wracked by conflict – “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Gal 5.13-15).

So, how are we to think about conflict and making good moral decisions? What I am going to say falls into two parts – broadly a longer one on conflict and one on covenant….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Covenant, Instruments of Unity, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

The Latest on the Democratic Presidential Race from Intrade

Obama at 82.6, Hillary at 15.2.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Stephen Prothero: What can we expect from Benedict?

According to a recent report by the Pew Forum, Catholicism in the USA is holding steady at about 25% of the population. But underlying this calm is a lot of churn. Immigrants are flooding into the church ”” nearly a quarter (22%) of all U.S. Catholics were born in a foreign country, and almost half of all immigrants (46%) are Catholics. But native-born Americans are fleeing. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church has lost more believers than any other religious group in recent years. Approximately 10% of Americans are former Catholics.

One problem is Catholic education. Young Catholics are shockingly ignorant of the most basic tenets of their faith. Many cannot name any of the four Gospels, or identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible. To educate American Catholic youth, however, is to tell them that their church opposes premarital sex, condoms, abortion and the ordination of women ”” teachings that according to Sex and the Soul, a recently released study by my Boston University colleague Donna Freitas, are chasing Catholic youth out of the church in droves.

Young American Catholics treated John Paul II like a rock star. Yes, he was socially and theologically conservative, but at least they could relate to the guy with the “Popemobile” and the smile and the energy to travel to some 130 countries during his 26 years at the Holy See. But can they relate to Benedict XVI? And can he relate to them? What can a pope who is an academic theologian first and foremost offer young Americans, save for dogmas they don’t believe in and rituals they do not understand? Is he coming to scold us? Or to hug us?

We are about to find out.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

NBC News: U.S. Catholics eagerly await Pope

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Authors Mount a Philosophical Defense of Human Life in Earliest Stages

Stem cell research using material taken from human embryos continues to be hotly debated. Advocates of using embryos maintain that at such early stages, the cells cannot be considered a human person. However, a recent book by two philosophers argues the contrary.

Robert P. George, who is also a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, and Christopher Tollefsen, avoid religious-based arguments and lay out a series of scientific and philosophical principles in favor of the human status of the embryo. In “Embryo: A Defense of Human Life” (Doubleday), they maintain that the status of a human being commences at the moment of conception.

The book starts by recounting the history of a boy named Noah, born in January 2007. He was rescued, along with other frozen embryos, from the disaster that struck New Orleans in 2005. It was Noah’s life — a human life — that was saved, George and Tollefsen point out, the same life that was later implanted in a womb and was subsequently born.

A human embryo, they continue, is a living member of the human species even at the earliest stage of development. It is not some type of other animal organism, or some kind of a clump of cells that later undergoes a radical transformation. Barring some kind of tragic accident, a being in the embryonic stage will proceed to the fetal stage and continue to progress in this development.

The point at issue, according to the authors, is at what stage we can identify a single biological system that has started on the process to being a mature human being. This decisive moment, they argue, comes with conception.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Theology

Washington Post: A Catholic Wind in the White House

Bush attends an Episcopal church in Washington and belongs to a Methodist church in Texas, and his political base is solidly evangelical. Yet this Protestant president has surrounded himself with Roman Catholic intellectuals, speechwriters, professors, priests, bishops and politicians. These Catholics — and thus Catholic social teaching — have for the past eight years been shaping Bush’s speeches, policies and legacy to a degree perhaps unprecedented in U.S. history.

“I used to say that there are more Catholics on President Bush’s speechwriting team than on any Notre Dame starting lineup in the past half-century,” said former Bush scribe — and Catholic — William McGurn.

Bush has also placed Catholics in prominent roles in the federal government and relied on Catholic tradition to make a public case for everything from his faith-based initiative to antiabortion legislation. He has wedded Catholic intellectualism with evangelical political savvy to forge a powerful electoral coalition.

“There is an awareness in the White House that the rich Catholic intellectual tradition is a resource for making the links between Christian faith, religiously grounded moral judgments and public policy,” says Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest and editor of the journal First Things who has tutored Bush in the church’s social doctrines for nearly a decade.

In the late 1950s, Kennedy’s Catholicism was a political albatross, and he labored to distance himself from his church. Accepting the Democratic nomination in 1960, he declared his religion “not relevant.”

Bush and his administration, by contrast, have had no such qualms about their Catholic connections.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Tom Wright: Conflict and Covenant in the Bible (The ABC has sent some new Lambeth letters?)

Third, however, all this has come about not least because Paul has written a painful letter (2.3f.). This too is of course historically controversial: is the ‘painful letter’ 1 Corinthians itself, or is it one of the somewhat disjointed sections of 2 Corinthians itself, perhaps chapters 10-13? I am cautiously with those who think that it is a letter written between the two epistles, and now lost, but that doesn’t take away from the remarkable relevance of 2 Corinthians for our present moment. When the Archbishop issued his invitations, he made it clear as I said that their basis was Windsor and the Covenant as the tools to shape our future common life. That invitation was issued only three months after the remarkable joint statement from the Primates issued in Tanzania in February 2007. After a summer and autumn of various tangled and unsatisfactory events, the Archbishop then wrote an Advent pastoral letter in which he reiterated the terms of his initial invitation and declared that he would be writing to those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant to ask them whether they were really prepared to build on this dual foundation. Those letters, I understand, are in the post as we speak, written with apostolic pain and heart-searching but also with apostolic necessity. I am well aware that many will say this is far too little, far too late – just as many others will be livid to think that the Archbishop, having already not invited Gene Robinson to Lambeth, should be suggesting that some others might absent themselves as well. But this is what he promised he would do, and he is doing it. If I know anything about anything, I know that he deserves our prayers at this most difficult and fraught moment in the run-up to Lambeth itself.

Fourth, we have seen, predictably but sadly, the rise of the super-apostles, who have wanted everything to be cut and dried in ways for which our existing polity simply did not, and does not, allow. Please note, I do not for one moment underestimate the awful situation that many of our American and Canadian friends have found themselves in, vilified, attacked and undermined by ecclesiastical authority figures who seem to have lost all grip on the gospel of Jesus Christ and to be eager only for lawsuits and property squabbles. I pray daily for many friends over there who are in intolerable situations and I don’t underestimate the pressures and strains. But I do have to say, as well, that these situations have been exploited by those who have long wanted to shift the balance of power in the Anglican Communion and who have used this awful situation as an opportunity to do so. And now, just as the super-apostles were conveying the message to Paul that if he wanted to return to Corinth he’d need letters of recommendation, we are told that, if we want to go on being thought of as evangelicals, we should withdraw from Lambeth and join the super-gathering which, though not officially, is clearly designed as an alternative, and which of course hands an apparent moral victory to those who can cheerfully wave goodbye to the ‘secessionists’. I have written about this elsewhere, and it is of course a very sad situation which none of us (I trust) would wish but which seems to be worsening by the day.

Read it all–my emphasis (Hat tip: Babyblue).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Lambeth 2008, Windsor Report / Process

Dan Barry: Confessions of An American Catholic

As Peter Steinfels, the Beliefs columnist for The New York Times, recently noted, there is nothing particularly new in this tension. He wrote that many American Catholics “honor the pope yet disagree with papal positions, whether about using contraception, restricting legal access to abortion, ordaining married men or women to the priesthood or recognizing same-sex relationships.” I would add to that list disgust, more than mere disagreement, with the way the church has handled the priest scandals of the last decade.

But what does all this mean?

It means that I got my Catholic Irish up when I read recently that the Rev. John Hagee, a Texas televangelist, uses code language for the Catholic Church when he speaks of a “false cult system” and ”” what was it again? Oh, yes: “the great whore.” The good reverend says his words have been misconstrued, and I don’t want mine to be: It would be my humble honor to share a dinner of solidarity with the pope ”” a dinner, even, of mackerel.

But all this also means that I read the parish bulletin and the gospels, not papal encyclicals or L’Osservatore Romano. That I mutter more about the priest’s aimless homily or some action by the local bishop than about anything the pope has said or done. That on Sundays, though hardly every one, I try to concentrate on the Gospel and on the celebration of the Eucharist as best I can with a distracted 10-year-old and a squirming 4-year-old. That I never once ask myself: What would the pope do?

I am just an American Catholic shirt in a pile of human laundry, rinsing, twirling, praying that things don’t spin out of balance.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Sunday Times: Marriage problems through the years

For 70 years the Marriage Guidance Council, now Relate, has acted as honest broker in the love wars. Now it opens its archives for the first time, revealing intimate details of marital strife. Some problems have stayed the same, but the remedies have changed beyond recognition.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Marriage & Family

Borders Books Interviews Randy Pausch, Author of The Last Lecture

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Death / Burial / Funerals, Education, Parish Ministry