Daily Archives: April 18, 2008

The full Text of Pope Benedict XVI's speech to the U.N. General Assembly

The principle of “responsibility to protect” was considered by the ancient ius gentium as the foundation of every action taken by those in government with regard to the governed: at the time when the concept of national sovereign States was first developing, the Dominican Friar Francisco de Vitoria, rightly considered as a precursor of the idea of the United Nations, described this responsibility as an aspect of natural reason shared by all nations, and the result of an international order whose task it was to regulate relations between peoples. Now, as then, this principle has to invoke the idea of the person as image of the Creator, the desire for the absolute and the essence of freedom. The founding of the United Nations, as we know, coincided with the profound upheavals that humanity experienced when reference to the meaning of transcendence and natural reason was abandoned, and in consequence, freedom and human dignity were grossly violated. When this happens, it threatens the objective foundations of the values inspiring and governing the international order and it undermines the cogent and inviolable principles formulated and consolidated by the United Nations. When faced with new and insistent challenges, it is a mistake to fall back on a pragmatic approach, limited to determining “common ground”, minimal in content and weak in its effect.

This reference to human dignity, which is the foundation and goal of the responsibility to protect, leads us to the theme we are specifically focusing upon this year, which marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document was the outcome of a convergence of different religious and cultural traditions, all of them motivated by the common desire to place the human person at the heart of institutions, laws and the workings of society, and to consider the human person essential for the world of culture, religion and science. Human rights are increasingly being presented as the common language and the ethical substratum of international relations. At the same time, the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights all serve as guarantees safeguarding human dignity. It is evident, though, that the rights recognized and expounded in the Declaration apply to everyone by virtue of the common origin of the person, who remains the high-point of God’s creative design for the world and for history. They are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations. Removing human rights from this context would mean restricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception, according to which the meaning and interpretation of rights could vary and their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks. This great variety of viewpoints must not be allowed to obscure the fact that not only rights are universal, but so too is the human person, the subject of those rights.

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

Church Times: Anglican Covenant will protect male power, says critic

A Member of the Lambeth Commission that first proposed an Anglican Covenant has changed her mind.

Speaking at a conference in New York last week, the Dean of St John’s College, in Auckland, New Zealand, Dr Jenny Plane Te Paa, said that events since the launch of the commission’s report had “caused me to reconsider my initial support for the development of covenant”.

Among the events she cited was the behaviour at the Primates’ Meetings, which had gone from being a gathering for “leisurely thought [and] prayer” to being a “quasi-governance body universally perceived as inappropriate, unbidden, and unhelpful”.

Covenant drafts served to “protect and enhance . . . dominant male leadership, privilege, and power”, she said. In her view, the “fussing with and about one another” needed to stop, in order to reaffirm the bonds that already exist within the Communion.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Provinces, West Indies

The New York Times Papal Discussion Blog is well Worth Perusing

Check it out.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Amy Welborn on Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis

No, Benedict didn’t take anyone publicly to the woodshed. He didn’t lay out any canonical or structural issues. Those things are important, but they are also not the stuff of homilies and press conferences.

Here in the U.S., Benedict spoke as a pastor, laying it out plainly before all of us, including the bishops, not only by his words but by his actions.

Time after time, we hear that in the beginning, victims of abuse asked something simple of bishops: Meet with us. Listen to our stories. Help us.

How many bishops were asked to do this, how many times? And how often did they refuse?

This week, one bishop said “Yes.”

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

Alessandro Piperno: Our Neighbor, the Pope

In class once, I made a disrespectful comment about the pope at the time, John Paul II. I was the only Jewish boy in a Catholic school, and I was sure I’d be given an exemplary punishment.

I was wrong. We were in Rome, the most tolerant place in the world for irreverence toward popes.

Catholics in New York, waiting for Benedict XVI to arrive today in their city, may find this attitude puzzling. But there’s a sonnet by Gioacchino Belli, on the death of Pope Leo XII, that nicely illustrates the Roman’s ambiguous feelings toward His Holiness:

You see the pope’s funeral carriage, he says, weighed down by the magnificence of papal pomp, pass through the city’s narrow streets for the last time. You look at it with a mixture of affection and hostility. You make fun of that grandiose way of dressing, even in death, but at the same time you feel a surge of emotion for that part of you that is vanishing. You then console yourself with the most Roman of sayings: “One pope dies, another is made” ”” sanctioning the eternity of an institution despite the transience of a single individual, the immortality of a city despite the impermanence of its citizens.

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

Central New York Diocese sues former Episcopal church in Binghamton to gain control of property

The Diocese of Central New York is attempting to order a former Episcopal Church in Binghamton to vacate its buildings and turn over legal title of the property to its regional office.

In a lawsuit filed this week, the diocese asked the State Superior Court to force Church of the Good Shepherd, on Conklin Avenue, to leave the facility as well as account for all money — including an endowment fund — because the congregation withdrew from the Episcopal Church and joined the Anglican Church of Kenya.

“It’s a David-versus-Goliath situation; the Episcopal Church has deep pockets. This is a powerful and wealthy institution that is trying to crush a local church, only to put it on the auction block and sell it for cash,” attorney Raymond J. Dague said Thursday from his Syracuse office. “It’s a sad thing that a bishop who’s supposed to protect sheep is trying to crush them.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts

Pets Carry Wide Range of Chemical Pollutants

Your cat probably has more mercury in its system than you do, and your dog has twice as much of the chemicals found in stain-resistant carpets and couches. That’s the conclusion of an environmental group that tested pets for a wide range of industrial chemicals.

If you walk on a stain-resistant carpet, you may kick up and inhale a tiny dose of perfluorochemicals, or PFCs. But what if you stretched out on it for a while and then licked your fur? That’s what Richard Wiles and his colleagues at the Environmental Working Group wanted to know.

“It occurred to us that no one had actually tested pets, [which] live in the same environment as we do, for the toxic contaminants that we know are in people,” Wiles says.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources, Science & Technology

For those touched most by 9/11, a turning point in faith

To others, 9/11 seems to belie the notion of an all-loving, all-powerful God. Sam Harris began writing The End of Faith, his best-selling attack on religion, the day after the attacks.

Jonathan Miller, who wrote and narrated a 2004 BBC series on atheism, says that given the hijackers’ militant Islamist theology, 9/11 would have been “inconceivable without religion.”

Why would God allow such an atrocity ”” especially in God’s name? Didn’t religion drive the hijacked jets into the towers?

Lyndon Harris was the Episcopal priest in charge at St. Paul’s Chapel, which stood in the shadow of the towers. Here’s how he explains it: “God gave us free will, and some people chose to do evil. But the first heart to break on 9/11 was the heart of God.”

That’s one answer. Minerva Rosario, who lost her sister-in-law at the Trade Center, has another.

“If you lose your faith, you have nothing left.”

Read the whole thing.

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

Life trials of Olympic proportions

Watch the whole thing, and do not to forget to enjoy that great Maine landscape.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Sports

Washington Post: Between Medieval And Folk, Two Mass Audiences

Catholics don’t argue about abortion or the death penalty nearly as much as they argue about what music is sung (or not sung, or used to be sung) at their local Sunday Mass. It was ever thus — at least since the 1960s, when Sister first shortened her habit, strummed a G7 chord and, to hear some Catholics tell it, all heck broke loose.

Among his more fastidious devotees, Pope Benedict XVI is valued most for the fact that he is not Casey Kasem, and Mass is no place for a hit parade, and church is most relevant when it is serious. (The point of this trip is just that: G et serious.) Do not hold your breath waiting for “One Bread, One Body” — a ’70s liturgical hit at most American parishes — to be performed at His Holiness’s mega-Mass tomorrow at Nationals Park.

But don’t listen for too many sacred hits of the 10th century either. While Benedict understands the deep power of ritual, and loves little more than a Gregorian chant, what he and 46,000 others will be singing (or not singing) tomorrow will be a sort of compromise, neither modern nor traditional, but a little of everything. As soon as tomorrow’s Mass playlist hit the Web, the new traditionalists were fuming on blogs and comment threads. (The pre-show includes African hymns, a “celebratory merengue” and some Mozart; the Mass itself includes a gospel-style Kyrie, some traditional Latin chants and several new interpretations of standard hymns.)

Like devout record store clerks, American Catholics are still having a sort of Stones-vs.-Beatles debate about what the classics really are.

Imagine a bizarro world where all the 25-year-olds want Mozart and all the 60-year-olds want adult-contemporary. The kids think the adults are too wild. The backlash against “Kumbaya Catholicism” has anyone under 40 allegedly clamoring for the Tridentine Mass in Latin, while the old folks are most sentimental about Casual Sunday (even more rockin’, the Saturday vigil Mass), and still cling to what’s evolved from the lite-rock guitar liturgies of the 1970s. The result, for most parishes, has been decades of Masses in which no one is entirely satisfied, and very few enjoy the music enough to sing along.

“The great majority [of Catholics] are totally inert at Mass,” says Thomas Day, 65, a humanities and music professor at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. Day wrote a book called “Why Catholics Can’t Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste,” which is often cited by those who’d like to see a return to Mass music that is to them more sacred. “Most Catholics have either forgotten or never knew traditional music,” Day says.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Pope prays with victims of clergy sex abuse scandal

Pope Benedict XVI prayed with tearful victims of clergy sex abuse in a chapel Thursday, an extraordinary gesture from a pontiff who has made atoning for the great shame of the U.S. church the cornerstone of his first papal trip to America.

Benedict’s third day in the U.S. began with a packed open-air Mass celebrated in 10 languages at a baseball stadium, and it included a speech to Roman Catholic college and university presidents.

But the real drama happened privately, in the chapel of the papal embassy between events.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a papal spokesman, said that Benedict and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley met with a group of five or six clergy sex abuse victims for about 25 minutes, offering them encouragement and hope.

“They prayed together. Also, each of them had their own individual time with the Holy Father,” Lombardi said. “Some were in tears.”

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

From the Do Not Take Yourself Too Seriously Department

Interviewing a college applicant, the dean of admissions asks, “If you could have a conversation with someone, living or dead, who would it be?

The student thinks it over, then answers, “The living one.”

–Reader’s Digest, May 2008, p. 187

Posted in * General Interest, Humor / Trivia

Rowan Williams–The Spiritual and the Religious: is the territory changing?

But what, finally, about the issue of the innate exclusivism of revelation-based faith and communities of faith? We have noted that any claim about what is good for humanity as such will have about it an element of exclusivity: it is the reverse side of trying to hold to a perspective of universality and equality in the human world. We cannot, however passionately we want to avoid ‘sectarianism’, settle for a philosophy that believes radically different things are good for different sorts of people ”“ different races, sexes, classes ”“ without entrenching a politics that would be rightly objectionable to most of our contemporaries and which would make nonsense of any discourse of rights. David Martin, in the book referred to a little way back (Does Christianity Cause War?), notes that ‘universality itself sets up a boundary…The announcement of peace sets off a profound tension’ (p.159), and concludes that such conflict is an inescapable aspect of our human condition. No-one can identify the argument that will establish convincingly for everyone that their variety of universalism is correct (and this holds for post-religious spirituality as much as for anything else). The question is, Martin suggests, less about the universal character of the claim than about how we imagine (that word again) our methods of commending the vision.

The better we understand the distinctiveness of religious claims, the better we understand the centrality within them of non-violence. That is to say, the religious claim, to the extent that it defines itself as radically different from mere local or transitory political strategies, is more or less bound to turn away from the defence or propagation of the claims by routinely violent methods, as if the truth we were talking about depended on the capacity of the speaker to silence all others by force. Granted that this is how classical communal religion has all too regularly behaved; but the point is that it has always contained a self-critique on this point. And that growing self-awareness about religious identity, which has been one paradoxical consequence of the social and intellectual movement away from such an identity, makes it harder and harder to reconcile faith in an invulnerable and abiding truth with violent anxiety as to how it is to be defended.

In short, as religion ”“ corporate, sacramental and ultimately doctrinal religion ”“ settles into this kind of awareness, it becomes one of the most potent allies possible for genuine pluralism ”“ that is, for a social and political culture that is consistently against coercion and institutionalised inequality and is committed to serious public debate about common good. Spiritual capital alone, in the sense of a heightened acknowledgement especially among politicians, businessmen and administrators of dimensions to human flourishing beyond profit and material security, is helpful but is not well equipped to ask the most basic questions about the legitimacy of various aspects of the prevailing global system. The traditional forms of religious affiliations, in proposing an ‘imagined society’, realised in some fashion in the practices of faith, are better resourced for such questions. They lose their integrity when they attempt to enforce their answers; and one of the most significant lessons to be learned from the great shift towards post-religious spiritual sensibility is how deeply the coercive and impersonal ethos of a good deal of traditional religion has alienated the culture at large. But, more importantly, if we who adhere to revealed faith don’t want to be simply at the mercy of this culture, to be absorbed into its own uncritical stories about the autonomous self and its choices, then we need to examine the degree to which our practice looks like a new world. And if this debate drives us Christians back to thinking through more carefully and critically what the great Anglican Benedictine scholar Gregory Dix meant by describing Christians as a new ‘species’, homo eucharisticus, a humanity defined in its Eucharistic practice, it will have served us well. ‘The unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ is the gift of the Easter Gospel, we are told in the liturgy; ‘Lord, evermore give us this bread’ (Jn 6.34).

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Archbishop of Canterbury, Globalization, Religion & Culture

NPR: America's Catholic Schools in Crisis

A recent study done by an education-reform think tank finds that poor funding and shifting demographics have led to shuttering of 1,300 American Catholic schools since 1990. The Fordham Foundation’s Mike Petrilli discusses the report’s details.

Listen to it all, noting carefully the key role nuns play in the analysis.

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

From AP: Papal Mass raises questions about role of laity

For 46,000 Catholics, it was a Mass like no other, with the altar standing on centerfield at a ballpark and the presiding clergyman arriving in a bulletproof vehicle.

But Pope Benedict XVI’s Mass in the nation’s capital Thursday was also different from a typical service in another way: Lay people were not asked to distribute Communion, which was administered exclusively by 300 priests and deacons.

Organizers of the Mass at Nationals Park were only following the letter of church law. But to some Roman Catholics, the ceremony was symbolic of what they see as Benedict’s desire to erect clear boundaries between clergy and lay people.

“What he wants to do really is to reinforce the old categories and classifications ”” different roles for different people,” said David Gibson, author of books on Benedict and the future of the U.S. church.

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