Daily Archives: March 2, 2009

Philip F. Lawler: PR and the pope

“We didn’t control the communications,” lamented Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Jesuit priest who heads the Vatican press office.

That was putting it mildly.

By now the whole world knows ”” or thinks it knows ”” the story behind Father Lombardi’s lament. On Jan. 24, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of four bishops from a traditionalist group known as the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). Within hours of that announcement it emerged that one of those prelates, Bishop Richard Williamson, had questioned the severity of the Holocaust during a recent television interview. Jewish leaders and editorial writers erupted in understandable outrage, and what began as an effort to heal a rift within the church became an ugly public dispute.

Even today, more than a month after the original announcement, many people have not heard the Vatican’s side of the story. How can this be?

In an age of instant global access, when every blogger has a vehicle for his own opinions, no institution ”” from the White House to the Vatican ”” can “control the communications” entirely. The challenge of conveying a positive message is especially acute for the Catholic Church, though, as it must cope with a media culture that often is hostile to traditional expressions of religious belief. Even so, there is no reason why the Vatican cannot learn from this while employing the elementary techniques of public-relations management.

Read it all.

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

The Economist–Britain and its Muslims: How the government lost the plot

Nearly three years on, the government’s biggest problem is that it is struggling with two big questions at once. One is the set of problems described under the catch-all term of “cohesion”””narrowing the social, economic and cultural gap between Muslims (especially in some poor urban areas of northern Britain) and the rest of society. The second is countering the threat from groups preparing to commit violence in Britain or elsewhere in the name of Islam.

The government says the two problems are related: poor, frustrated and mainly self-segregated groups are more likely to produce terrorists. Muslims as a group lag behind other Britons in qualifications, employment, housing and income (see chart). But in fact the overlap between exclusion and extremism is messy. And attempts to fight terrorism through tougher policing, which can alienate whole communities, make boosting cohesion harder.

Read it all.

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

Robert J. Samuelson: Obama's Wrong Turn on Housing

How to rescue housing? The Obama administration doesn’t have a plan — or, more accurately, it has only half a plan. It presupposes that preventing or minimizing home foreclosures is a formula for revival. It isn’t.

Almost everyone agrees that a housing recovery is essential for a broader economic upswing, in part because housing’s collapse brought on the recession. Mortgage delinquencies triggered the financial crisis. Tumbling home prices (down 26 percent from their peak) ravaged consumer confidence, borrowing and spending. Since late 2007, housing-related jobs — carpenters, real estate agents, appraisers — have dropped by 1 million, a quarter of all lost jobs.

Housing’s distress is too much supply chasing too little demand. Huge inventories of unsold homes have depressed prices and construction. Given that prices rose too high in the “bubble” — homes were affordable only because credit was dispensed so recklessly — much of this painful adjustment was unavoidable. But that process should be mostly complete….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan

A Church of Ireland Gazette Editorial Worries About the Primates Meeting

Added to what at least appears to be a communiqué ”˜spin’ on Archbishop Coggan’s 1978 address, in a press briefing last week the Archbishop of Canterbury referred to a “need for a shift of focus in the life of the Communion from autonomy of provinces with communion added on, to communion as the primary reality with autonomy and accountability understood within that framework”. Precisely what that implies remains somewhat mysterious, but one can see the direction in which such a comment points. There is a slippery slope here, and it is important that the Primates’ Meeting should remain essentially for the purposes of consultative fellowship. The Anglican Communion should avoid a formal College of Primates.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Primates, Instruments of Unity, Lambeth 2008, Primates Meeting Alexandria Egypt, February 2009

Obama Spending Shocks in Scale, Builds Upon Bush: Kevin Hassett

The gap between rhetoric and hype in President Barack Obama’s budget is as wide as the Pacific Ocean. Obama has not offered change; he has offered a continuation of George W. Bush’s policies.

Obama is not the anti-Bush. He is Bush on steroids.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, President George Bush, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Cherie Blair in warning to churches over ”˜invisible’ women

Cherie Blair has urged the Anglican and Catholic churches to stop “marginalising” women or face terminal decline.

“Today, while women remain marginalised, Christianity cannot flourish. Women and men must be equal partners for 21st century Christianity,” she said.

Her forthright remarks, in a programme she presents tonight on Channel 4, marks an escalation in her campaign to change the culture of the church.

She is one of the most influential lay figures in the church, a position which has been enhanced by her husband’s conversion to Catholicism after he stepped down as prime minister.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Women

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Different lenses provide different views of Scripture

The primates’ meeting has come and gone, and I’m sure there will have been abundant commentary by the time this is published. I’d like to reflect on some of the deeper issues behind our conversations about sexuality, particularly the influence of our understanding of gender.

The most intriguing conversation I had in Alexandria was with a primate who asked how same-sex couples partition “roles.” He literally asked if one was identified as the wife and one as the husband, and then wanted to know which one promised to obey the other in the marriage ceremony. Several of us explained that marriage in the West is most often understood as a partnership of equals, and has been for some time.

Those of you with a few more years on you may remember that the marriage service in the 1928 (and earlier versions) of the Book of Common Prayer did indeed have language about the wife obeying her husband. It’s pertinent here to note that the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer is still the norm in many provinces of the Anglican Communion, and it uses the same kind of language about obeying in the marriage service.

Read it all

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Primates, Episcopal Church (TEC), Primates Meeting Alexandria Egypt, February 2009, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Washington Times: Charity tax limits upset many

Roberton Williams, senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, said it’s impossible to calculate the exact effects of all the tax changes, but said the overall result is clear – less philanthropic giving.

“This will lead people to give less to charities if they behave the way they’ve behaved in the past,” he said. “We’ve already seen a drop in giving as a result of the economic collapse. On top of that, this will just reduce the amount of giving.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Taxes, The U.S. Government

What Ann Holmes Redding is up to These days

(For some important background on this please read further here as well as there)–KSH.

The following notice appears under the heading “Interfaith Celebration” in the most recent Saint Mark’s Cathedral Newsletter in Seattle:

“…being made new…”
Thursday, March 26, 2009, 5:30 – 9:30 p.m. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 Eighth Avenue (Seneca Street entrance)

Please join in the celebration of the publication of Out of Darkness Into Light: Spiritual Guidance in the Quran with Reflections from Jewish and Christian Sources, co-authored by The Rev. Ann Holmes-Redding, Jamal Rahman and Kate Elias. The evening will also observe the 25th anniversary of Ann’s ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church and her movement into the next phase of ministry as both Christian and Muslim. The evening will begin with a book reading at 5:30 p.m., followed at 6:30 p.m. by a book signing and food. Then, at 7:15 p.m, there will be a talk, panel discussion, music, conversation, and more!

Tickets cost $20 and are available at www.brownpapertickets.com; The Cathedral Shop; and at the door. A limited number of subsidized tickets are available.
Proceeds will benefit Abrahamic Reunion West.

(Hat tip: BKITNW)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes, Theology

Washington state to allow assisted suicide

Terminally ill patients with less than six months to live will soon be able to ask their doctors to prescribe them lethal medication in Washington state.

But even though the “Death with Dignity” law takes effect Thursday, people who might seek the life-ending prescriptions could find their doctors conflicted or not willing to write them.

Many doctors are hesitant to talk publicly about where they stand on the issue, said Dr. Tom Preston, a retired cardiologist and board member of Compassion & Choices, the group that campaigned for and supports the law.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Parish Ministry

Hamish McRae: Deficit of realism. America assumes a lot in its road map to recovery

There are also no green shoots yet to suggest a turning point. There is, for example, very little sign of a recovery in the US housing market ”“ in fact none at all. Inasmuch as you can generalise about such a vast country, US homes are pretty much back to fair value in terms of their affordability. But the uncertainty is such, and the overhang of unsold homes so huge, that prices are still falling. Confidence is lower than it was during the recessions of the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, as you can see from the other graph.

The question that arises then is whether the new US budget will change things. The boost is huge. The budget deficit is projected to rise to 12.5 per cent of GDP. That is higher than at any time since the Second World War. It is double the size, relative to GDP, of Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s. It is larger than the fiscal deficits run by Japan during the 1990s, which is not an encouraging precedent since they pretty much failed ”“ though arguably Japan’s so-called “lost decade” would have been even more lost without them. Finally, it is even larger than the proposed deficit that our present Government plans to run here.

So what should we make of it? I suppose I fear this administration is making the same mistake with fiscal policy that the previous one made with monetary policy. Remember how the Federal Reserve cut US interest rates way below the rate of inflation to pump up the economy after the collapse of the internet bubble? It succeeded in boosting demand. People borrowed like crazy, savings plunged, the housing boom took off, and the economy recovered. But the growth was artificial and could not be sustained.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Stephen King: As capitalism stares into the abyss, was Marx right all along?

The pace of decline in global economic output is extraordinary. On virtually any metric, we are seeing the worst global downturn in decades: worse than the aftermath of the first oil shock in the mid-1970s and worse than the early-1980s downswing, when the world economy had to cope with a doubling of the oil price, the tough love of monetarism and the onset of the Latin American debt crisis. Moreover, this time we cannot use the resurgence of inflation as an excuse for lost output: the credit crunch in all its many guises has seen to that. Instead, we have a world of collapsing output combined with falling prices: a world, then, of depression.

For many years, Marxist ideas appeared to be totally irrelevant. The collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 brought to an end the era of Marxist-Leninist Communism, while China’s decision to join the modern world at the beginning of the 1980s drew a line under its earlier Maoist ideology. In western economies, Marxist ideas were at their most potent after the First Word War when the likes of Rosa Luxemburg could smell revol-ution in the air and as the Roaring Twenties gave way to the Great Depression of the 1930s. I’m not suggesting we’re entering revolutionary times. However, it seems increasingly likely that the economic landscape in the years ahead will be fundamentally different from the landscape that has dominated the working lives of people like me who entered the workforce in the 1980s. We’ve lived through decades of plenty, where incomes have risen rapidly, where credit has been all too easily available and where recessions have been mostly modest affairs. Suddenly, we’re facing a collapse in activity on a truly Marxist scale. It’s difficult to imagine the world’s love affair with free markets being sustained under this onslaught. The extreme nature of this downswing will change our lives for decades to come.

Read it all.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

“Take heed lest you forget the LORD your God, by not keeping his commandments and his ordinances and his statutes, which I command you this day:
lest, when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses and live in them,
and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied,
then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage….

–Deuteronomy 8:11-14

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Boomers in a post-boom economy

TORY JOHNSON, the owner of Women for Hire, has been running job fairs in 10 of America’s largest cities for the last decade, and during that time she has never had more than 2,000 people come to the events. Last Tuesday, at a little after 3 p.m., after the last person had checked in at her latest job fair at the Sheraton Manhattan, she showed me the counter she uses to keep track of attendance: 5,103.

“Never,” she said, shaking her head. “Nothing ever like this before.” Many of the women and men (she opened the event to men for the first time) had waited over two hours on the sidewalk in 20 degree temperature, or close to minus-7 centigrade, for the chance to mill through a ballroom, push to the front of a line at one of the 40 employer booths, hand a rep a résumé, maybe get a minute of face time and collect a business card or two.

“Very humbling,” said Pat Gericke, 61, of Manhattan who has had a successful interior design business for 20 years that suddenly went dead last fall. “I never thought I’d be at one of these.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Gordon Brown: The special relationship is going global

Historians will look back and say this was no ordinary time but a defining moment: an unprecedented period of global change, and a time when one chapter ended and another began.

The scale and the speed of the global banking crisis has at times been almost overwhelming, and I know that in countries everywhere people who rely on their banks for savings have been feeling powerless and afraid. But it is when times become harder and challenges greater that across the world countries must show vision, leadership and courage ”“ and, while we can do a great deal nationally, we can do even more working together internationally.

So now is the time for leaders of every country in the world to work together to agree the action that will see us through the current crisis and ensure we come out stronger. And there is no international partnership in recent history that has served the world better than the special relationship between Britain and the United States.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., England / UK, Globalization