Daily Archives: January 23, 2009

Jordana Horn: How Father Desbois Became a Holocaust Memory Keeper

Father Patrick Desbois is a French Catholic priest who, virtually single-handedly, has undertaken the task of excavating the history of previously undocumented Jewish victims of the Holocaust in the former Soviet Union, including an estimated 1.5 million people who were murdered in Ukraine. Father Desbois was born 10 years after the end of World War II — and yet, through his tireless actions, he exemplifies the “righteous gentile.” The term is generally used to recognize non-Jews who, during the Holocaust, risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis. Father Desbois is a generation too late to save lives. Instead, he has saved memory and history.

How much he has accomplished since 2002 can be seen in “The Shooting of Jews in Ukraine: Holocaust By Bullets,” which runs until March 15 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. The exhibit was created by the Memorial de la Shoah Paris in cooperation with Father Desbois’s organization, Yahad in Unum (the words for “together” in Hebrew and Latin). It follows the publication last August of his book “Holocaust By Bullets” (Palgrave MacMillan).

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, History, Judaism, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Roman Catholic, Violence

Bishop Stephen Lane of Maine's Pastoral Letter to his Diocese on the Recession

It’s been a long time since we Americans have celebrated Christmas and Epiphany in a time of want. Even if our personal circumstances were a bit tight, the country around us, our neighbors, seemed to be enjoying a continual season of prosperity. So our personal celebrations, such as they were, took place against the bright canvas of life in the wealthiest nation on earth.

No more. There is no hiding from the crash of overinflated values and overinflated expectations. As it always does, the capitalist system is finding the bottom, the place where market values and real values meet. The harsh realities of life defined by economic values can’t be ignored. And the continuing decline in the banking industry and the credit markets make it clear that our economic struggles will continue for much of 2009 and, perhaps, longer.

Our churches are responding to the recession in a variety of ways. Some of us have had very strong annual giving campaigns. Many of us are struggling. Some of us have increased our outreach to the community. Many of us are worried about how we will meet our expenses and pay our clergy. And all of us are recognizing the ways this recession is impacting not only our members, but also our communities. Perhaps, feeling our own needs, we may be more sensitive to the needs of those around us. Perhaps these hard times can ignite in us the flame of compassion, can remind us what it is we are called to do and be as the body of Christ.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Pastoral Theology, TEC Bishops, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

Freed by U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief

The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Terrorism

Likely Moscow patriarch stresses differences with Catholic belief

Discussing relations with other Christian confessions, Metropolitan Kirill said: “unfortunately, differences in religious doctrines and practices have increased between orthodoxy and other confessions.”

“With some Protestant communities, such as the Lutheran Church of Sweden and the Episcopal Church of the United States, we have come to a complete break, due to the official recognition of homosexual relations,” he continued.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

A Church of England Press Release on Upcoming General Synod

Anglican Covenant

The Churches of the Anglican Communion were asked in March 2008 if they were able, in principle, to commit to the Covenant process and to say if there were any elements which in their view would need extensive change in order to make viable the process of adoption by their Synods. The General Synod will consider a take note motion, moved by the Bishop of Rochester on behalf of the House of Bishops, on a report from the House, to which is attached a draft Church of England response to these questions. The draft response welcomes the direction of travel of the Covenant while flagging up a number of points which still require attention.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE)

Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh Schism causes Morgan Stanley to freeze Episcopal accounts

Financial services firm Morgan Stanley has frozen the accounts of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh because it is unsure who should be allowed to access them.

In a letter Jan. 13, the firm said it would not allow any further distributions until it received a court order listing those authorized to use the accounts.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Stock Market, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh

Church Times: Financial crisis and ARCIC report feature on Synod agenda

It will be a “bottom-up” General Synod meeting in February, William Fittall, the secretary general, said at Monday’s briefing for the press.

The agenda contains an unpre­cedented eight motions from the grass roots of the Church: five from the dioceses (two of which are jointly from two dioceses), and three from private members. They are varied, and some are likely to be contentious. The meeting is to start on the after­noon of Monday 9 February, and last until the Friday lunchtime.

Other debates will include whether to take moves towards the ordination of women as bishops a step further and put draft legislation to the detailed consideration of a revision committee; two considera­tions of the present financial crisis; and a further consideration of the draft Anglican Covenant.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE)

Jeff Jacoby: Presidents come and go

The Bush presidency had its failures too, of course. Perhaps the saddest – and most ironic – is reflected in the hyper-partisan shrillness of America’s national politics.

It is hard to remember now, but Bush originally ran for president on an agenda of restoring courtesy and goodwill to the political sphere. He promised to end the “arms race of anger” in Washington, and pointed to his record of bipartisanship in Texas. “I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years,” Bush told the 2000 Republican convention. “I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect.”

Needless to say, things didn’t work out that way….

But it’s also true that many of Bush’s bitterest foes, including some in the media, never gave him a chance. It became commonplace to describe the 2000 election as “stolen” and the Bush presidency as illegitimate. Democratic candidates vied to outdo each other in anti-Bush invective. For many, “Bush hater” became a label to wear with pride.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, President George Bush

Selling Americans On The Virtuous Recession

A large credit union in Seattle has started an ad campaign that stresses its nonprofit bona fides. Sprint advertises calling plans that are right “for these times.” Does austerity sell? Or is that a ridiculous contradiction?

Listen to it all from NPR.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Media, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

RNS: British panel OKs 'No God' bus ads

Rejecting protests by Christian groups, Britain’s advertising watchdog agency has given the go-ahead to a campaign to plaster atheist signs on hundreds of buses and other vehicles across the country.

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the campaign, which uses the slogan “There’s probably no God,” was unlikely to mislead or “cause serious or widespread offense.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Father Cantalamessa's Address at the 6th World Meeting of Families

We are confronted by a seemingly global objection to the biblical plan for sexuality, marriage and family. Monsignor Tony Anatrella’s research, which was given to the speakers in preparation for this congress, provides a well-thought and highly useful summary of this subject….How should we react in the face of this phenomenon?

The first error we should avoid, in my opinion, is spending the whole time fighting contrary theories, in the end giving them more importance than they deserve. Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagita noted a long time ago that the exposition of one’s truth is always more successful than rebutting the errors of others (Letter VI, in PG 3, 1077A). Another error is to focus all efforts on the laws of country to defend Christian values. The first Christians, as we have seen, changed the laws of the state through their lifestyle. We cannot do the contrary today, hoping to change lifestyles with the laws of the state.

The Council opened a new method, that of dialogue, not confrontation with the world: a method which does not even exclude self criticism. One of the Council documents said that the Church can benefit even from the criticism of those that attack it. I believe that we should apply this method also in discussing the problems of marriage and the family, as “Gaudium et Spes” did in its own time.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Roman Catholic, Theology

An Interview With Canada's Cardinal Ouellet: Families, The Crisis and the Church in America

Q: It is a fact that there are divided families: divorced couples who have remarried, single-parent families, and other situations. What are the paths to strengthen the family institution?

Cardinal Ouellet: It seems interesting to me what the president of Mexico said in the inauguration [of the theological congress]: that the state should support and consider the family a very important patrimony. He also said that not everyone has the opportunity or the joy of having a family, with a father and a mother and children and a good education. In this case, Christians are not indifferent regarding these difficult situations.

Today, the family must be strengthened in itself, and not only strengthening it in an individual way, as a family, but in stirring up associations of families so that they have public strength, such that they are more listened to by the state, and recognized as a social subject, because not just individuals have rights. If we want to resolve long-term the problems of single-parent families and all of this, the best strategy is prevention, better said, to help families to have consistency, stability and thus we will help to diminish these particular factors and phenomena.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Canada, Globalization, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Nicolaus Mills: A Marshall Plan for America

The economic stimulus bill that Congress is debating with the Obama administration could reach $850bn or more.

That is a lot of money to spend, and there is an understandable fear that much of it could be wasted. From New Orleans to Iraq, the Bush administration showed that without oversight, even well-financed federal programmes can flounder. A government history of the American-led reconstruction in Iraq is calling the effort a $100bn failure.

But we should not assume that failure is inherent in any large government programme. The New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), which spent over $11bn from 1935 to 1941, and the Truman administration’s Marshall Plan, which spent over $13bn between 1948 and 1952, might have easily been riddled by corruption. Yet, they never were because Congress built in checks and balances for these programmes, which in today’s dollars would amount to roughly $100bn each.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009

Washington Post: Stimulus Plan Meets More GOP Resistance

Just days after taking office vowing to end the political era of “petty grievances,” President Obama ran into mounting GOP opposition yesterday to an economic stimulus plan that he had hoped would receive broad bipartisan support.

Republicans accused Democrats of abandoning the new president’s pledge, ignoring his call for bipartisan comity and shutting them out of the process by writing the $850 billion legislation. The first drafts of the plan would result in more spending on favored Democratic agenda items, such as federal funding of the arts, they said, but would do little to stimulate the ailing economy.

The GOP’s shrunken numbers, particularly in the Senate, will make it difficult for Republicans to stop the stimulus bill, but the growing GOP doubts mean that Obama’s first major initiative could be passed on a largely party-line vote — little different from the past 16 years of partisan sniping in the Clinton and Bush eras.

“Yes, we wrote the bill. Yes, we won the election,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters yesterday, saying Republicans were not being realistic in their expectations.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009

Johann Hari: Is the US about to treat the rest of the world better? Maybe…

The tears are finally drying ”“ the tears of the Bush years, and the tears of awe at the sight of a black President of the United States. So what now? The cliché of the day is that Barack Obama will inevitably disappoint the hopes of a watching world, but the truth is more subtle than that. If we want to see how Obama will affect us all ”“ for good or bad ”“ we need to trace the deep structural factors that underlie United States foreign policy. A useful case study of these pressures is about to flicker on to our news pages for a moment ”“ from the top of the world.

Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America, and its lofty slums 13,000 feet above sea level seem a world away from the high theatre of the inauguration. But if we look at this country closely, we can explain one of the great paradoxes of the United States ”“ that it has incubated a triumphant civil rights movement at home, yet thwarted civil rights movements abroad. Bolivia shows us in stark detail the contradictions facing a black President of the American empire.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Globalization