Daily Archives: April 17, 2008

Lehrer NewsHour: Pope Visits White House, Compliments U.S. Generosity

GWEN IFILL: Now, for most Americans, Pope Benedict is kind of an enigma. What has he come here to tell America, especially the Catholic laity?

JOHN ALLEN: Well, first of all, I think you’re quite right that Benedict is in many ways a question mark for the American public. A recent survey by the Pew Forum found that 80 percent of Americans, including two-thirds of the almost 70 million Catholics in this country, say they know nothing or almost nothing about the pope.

So, in many ways, this is his debut on the American stage. And I think fundamentally what he has come to do, beyond simply introducing himself, is to try to bring a message of what he calls Christian hope, that is, make the argument that the Catholic Church joins all people of goodwill in trying to build a better world to foster peace and justice and so on and that, in his own view, the key to that lies in the teaching and in the person of Jesus Christ.

Now, that can sound a little abstract, perhaps, or a bit pious, but when you start hashing that out in terms of what it means in the concrete, there are some very pointed social and political consequences to the pope’s message.

It includes, on the one hand, opposition to things like abortion and embryonic stem cell research, but also compassion for immigrants, a topic the pope spoke on board the papal plane about, a desire to see peace in Iraq, a peaceful transition there, and so on.

So it’s a spiritual and pastoral message, but one that does clearly have a social and political edge.

Read or watch it all.

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

The Text of Pope Benedict XVI's Homily at Nationals Park

The readings of today’s Mass invite us to consider the growth of the Church in America as one chapter in the greater story of the Church’s expansion following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In those readings we see the inseparable link between the risen Lord, the gift of the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and the mystery of the Church. Christ established his Church on the foundation of the Apostles (cf. Rev 21:14) as a visible, structured community which is at the same time a spiritual communion, a mystical body enlivened by the Spirit’s manifold gifts, and the sacrament of salvation for all humanity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8). In every time and place, the Church is called to grow in unity through constant conversion to Christ, whose saving work is proclaimed by the Successors of the Apostles and celebrated in the sacraments. This unity, in turn, gives rise to an unceasing missionary outreach, as the Spirit spurs believers to proclaim “the great works of God” and to invite all people to enter the community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in his Spirit.

I pray, then, that this significant anniversary in the life of the Church in the United States, and the presence of the Successor of Peter in your midst, will be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God’s Kingdom.

The world needs this witness! Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads, not only for the Church in America but also for society as a whole?

Read it all.

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

BBC: Grief engulfs Ugandan school

A mother in traditional Ugandan dress wailed uncontrollably as rescue workers searched for the body of her daughter amongst the ruins and ashes of Buddo Junior School dormitory.

Other hushed onlookers crowded around in shock. An acrid smell hung in the air.

“My brother’s just told me he can’t identify his child,” one man, who has a son at the school, said.

Like other parents, he rushed to the primary school, about 14km from the capital, Kampala, when he heard of the fire which gutted a girls’ dormitory on Monday night.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Africa, Uganda

The Text of Pope Benedict XVI's speech to the American bishops

For an affluent society, a further obstacle to an encounter with the living God lies in the subtle influence of materialism, which can all too easily focus the attention on the hundredfold, which God promises now in this time, at the expense of the eternal life which he promises in the age to come (cf. Mk 10:30). People today need to be reminded of the ultimate purpose of their lives. They need to recognize that implanted within them is a deep thirst for God. They need to be given opportunities to drink from the wells of his infinite love. It is easy to be entranced by the almost unlimited possibilities that science and technology place before us; it is easy to make the mistake of thinking we can obtain by our own efforts the fulfillment of our deepest needs. This is an illusion. Without God, who alone bestows upon us what we by ourselves cannot attain (cf. Spe Salvi, 31), our lives are ultimately empty. People need to be constantly reminded to cultivate a relationship with him who came that we might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). The goal of all our pastoral and catechetical work, the object of our preaching, and the focus of our sacramental ministry should be to help people establish and nurture that living relationship with “Christ Jesus, our hope” (1 Tim 1:1).

In a society which values personal freedom and autonomy, it is easy to lose sight of our dependence on others as well as the responsibilities that we bear towards them. This emphasis on individualism has even affected the Church (cf. Spe Salvi, 13-15), giving rise to a form of piety which sometimes emphasizes our private relationship with God at the expense of our calling to be members of a redeemed community. Yet from the beginning, God saw that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). We were created as social beings who find fulfillment only in love – for God and for our neighbor. If we are truly to gaze upon him who is the source of our joy, we need to do so as members of the people of God (cf. Spe Salvi, 14). If this seems counter-cultural, that is simply further evidence of the urgent need for a renewed evangelization of culture.

Read it all.

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

Settlement allows church to leave Pittsburgh presbytery

In January, Memorial Park filed suit in Common Pleas Court seeking to confirm its title to its 71/2-acre property on Peebles Road and avoid any threat of seizure of its buildings by the presbytery. Members also voted 664-25 to disaffiliate from PCUSA and join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which has about 70,000 members in 175 churches in 29 states.

Several weeks later, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. brought attorneys and principals from both sides together and suggested the $575,000 settlement figure, telling them a protracted suit could result in three times that sum in fees and costs.

More importantly, church policy holds that property is held in trust for the Presbyterian Church (USA). However, if the suit went to trial the case would be decided under Pennsylvania law, and, according to the presbytery, “the laws of Pennsylvania are not absolute on this matter.”

The Memorial Park congregation approved the settlement Sunday. The 64-year-old church has 1,675 members.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Presbyterian

Prayer Request: Fire at Uganda Anglican Girls School

Bishop Robert Duncan requests prayers for the Anglican Province of Uganda. He received word this morning that there was a fire last night at the Buddo Girls’ School in Kampala where 19 girls and two adults died. The fire appears to have been deliberately set. Mama Phoebe (wife of Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi) is presently in Virginia. They will be leaving tonight from D.C. with a 12 hour layover in London. Please pray for the families of the victims, for Mama Phoebe and the Rev. Helen, for Archbishop Henry and for all those involved.

A number of Anglican Communion Network parishes, under the care of Bishop John Guernsey, are members of the Anglican Church in the Province of Uganda.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Communion Network, Anglican Provinces, Church of Uganda

France turns to fines, jail to combat ultrathin ideals

A young woman with flagging self-worth, she already had enough to grapple with in Paris, where fashion dictates ultrathin ideals.

“I’ve lost 12 kilos [26 pounds], but I feel heavy,” wrote a blogger identifying herself only as Leila this month in an online journal devoted to her eating disorder. “Heavy, and at the same time, empty.”

But the fact that Leila’s blog advocates anorexia has made her something of an outlaw overnight. On Tuesday, France’s lower house of parliament passed a bill that makes it a crime to promote “excessive thinness” or extreme dieting.

Coming on the heels of related initiatives in Spain and Italy, the ban is the latest and most far-reaching attempt to stem a disorder ”“ and an image of womanhood ”“ with which hundreds of thousands of Europeans wrestle. But how effective will the measures ”“ and some are quite creative ”“ be?

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Europe, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues

Melanie McDonagh: We can learn a lesson from the openness of secular America

He may have fewer regiments than Gordon Brown, but it hasn’t done Pope Benedict XVI any harm with the Americans. The impact made by the papal visit to the US has been rather remarkable, right from the start, what with the President meeting him off the plane and thousands singing Happy Birthday on the White House lawn.

The red-carpet reception is the more interesting, because Benedict is not John Paul II, who might have been invented to appeal to Americans. He’s a war-era German; he’s shy and cerebral; and this is the first papal visit since hair-raising child abuse scandals were exposed in Boston.

But the Americans, famously, do God. As Mr Bush told the Pope: “America is a place where faith and reason co-exist in harmony.” The theme of the visit, Christ Our Hope, is one they take perfectly seriously.

An obvious measure of the place of religion in the national psyche is the way the presidential hopefuls lined up to associate themselves with Benedict. Barack Obama declared: “It will not only be Catholics who are listening to the Holy Father’s message of hope and peace; all Americans will be listening”; Hillary Clinton, a Methodist, opined that the US was “blessed” to be hosting the Pope. And even those parts of the papal agenda that could get up people’s noses – the reservations about Iraq, the prospect of prayers for the perpetrators at Ground Zero – haven’t got in the way of a blitz of media coverage.

Read the whole article.

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

Wall Street Journal: In First U.S. Visit, Pope Benedict Has Mass Appeal

Katey Bruno, a George Washington University sophomore, said she talked a young scalper seeking $100 down to $50 for a Washington Mass ticket. But he wouldn’t budge further, she said. Still not sure whether the ticket was worth the price, she consulted her mother, who told her she was crazy. “Mom is into saving every penny,” Ms. Bruno says. Besides, the family took a trip to Italy a few years back and saw John Paul II riding in the Popemobile. She says her Mom’s advice was to “sit on the sidewalk and watch his motorcade.” After checking with her uncle, a priest, who had no tickets, Ms. Bruno settled for a free sidewalk pass through her school’s Catholic center.

Demand has been nonsectarian. “My family came from Ireland, but a couple of generations ago someone married a Baptist and the whole family is Protestant now,” Gary O’Connor, a lawyer with the Maryland attorney general’s office, wrote on Craigslist. Mr. O’Connor says he’d pay $50 to $100 for a seat because it will be interesting to see “people being very into it.”

Michael Adams of Montville, N.J., says he has struggled with his faith but felt it was important to take his 22-year-old daughter to see Pope Benedict. “There’s bound to be some people at any one of these events who are going to have an awakening. Why not make yourself available to it if it is going to happen?” he says. He says he emailed a neighbor who works at Yankee Stadium, who replied that even Yankee staff didn’t get tickets. “I’m sure my plight is hopeless,” he says.

With tickets so scarce, the Rev. Louis Bellopede, pastor of St. Paul’s church in South Philadelphia, decided he didn’t want to play favorites with the three tickets he was offered among the 1,300 members, mostly Italian retirees. “In order not to have a riot on our hands,” Father Bellopede says, he returned the tickets to the diocese. “I didn’t want our people to say, ‘Why did he get a ticket?’ ”

Read it all.

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

Notable and Quotable: A Memory from Richard John Neuhaus

Some [Firing Line] encounters stand out in my memory. . . . [For example,] there was John Spong, the Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey. Spong was touting his book touting sexual license, and I suggested that this was not a message that the physically and morally devasted inner-city of Newark really needed to hear. Spong triumphantly, and smugly, countered that the Episcopalians of Newark did not live in the run-down city but in affluent suburbs, and they welcomed his message of liberation from the onerous sexual morality of the Episcopal Church. For a moment Bill [Buckley] and I were, most uncharacteristically, at a loss for words.”

–Richard John Neuhaus, “William F. Buckley Jr. and the possibilities of life” (“The Public Square”), First Things 183 [May 2008], pp. 65-66

(Hat Tip: SP)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, TEC Bishops, Theology

As Australia dries, a global shortage of rice

Lindsay Renwick, the mayor of this dusty southern Australian town, remembers the constant whir of the rice mill. “It was our little heartbeat out there, tickety-tick-tickety,” he said, imitating the giant fans that dried the rice, “and now it has stopped.”

The Deniliquin mill, the largest rice mill in the Southern Hemisphere, once processed enough grain to satisfy the daily needs of 20 million people. But six long years of drought have taken a toll, reducing Australia’s rice crop by 98 percent and leading to the mothballing of the mill last December.

Ten thousand miles separate the mill’s hushed rows of oversized silos and sheds — beige, gray and now empty — from the riotous streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but a widening global crisis unites them.

The collapse of Australia’s rice production is one of several factors contributing to a doubling of rice prices in the last three months — increases that have led the world’s largest exporters to restrict exports severely, spurred panicked hoarding in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and set off violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization

No Pre-Lambeth Meeting for House of Bishops

Members of the House of Bishops have voted not to meet before the Lambeth Conference in July, the canon to the Presiding Bishop announced April 16.

Earlier this month, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori moved forward with preparations for a vote to depose Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh at a special House of Bishops’ meeting before the Lambeth Conference. E-mail messages were sent April 8 to all members of the House of Bishops entitled to vote.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

Saved by Salsa Dancing

A nice story–watch it all.

Posted in * General Interest

Virginia Tech President Haunted by Shootings

Look out the window of Charles Steger’s office at Virginia Tech, and you can just see the edge of the simple memorial to the 32 students and faculty who died at the hands of Seung-hui Cho on April 16, 2007.

Most of the time, someone is there, day or night, pausing by one or another of the stones engraved with a name.

So much changed that day last year, including the idea of what it means to be a college president: Steger, president of Virginia Tech, had to quickly shift from academic, fundraiser and booster to crisis manager.

“Even today, you can’t believe it actually happened, you know,” he says about the campus shooting. “There’s something about it.”

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Violence

Supreme Court Upholds Lethal Injection Protocol

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld Kentucky’s use of lethal injections for executions, clearing the way for a number of states to proceed with scheduled executions.

In a 7-2 decision, the justices rejected a constitutional challenge to the procedures in place in Kentucky, which uses three drugs to sedate, paralyze and kill inmates.

“We … agree that petitioners have not carried their burden of showing that the risk of pain from maladministration of a concededly humane lethal injection protocol, and the failure to adopt untried and untested alternatives, constitute cruel and unusual punishment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Capital Punishment