Daily Archives: May 11, 2009
To understand what the controversy surrounding Obama’s invitation is about, it is important to understand what it is not about.
Most important, the issue is not, as some commentators have suggested, whether Notre Dame should welcome, engage, debate and explore a wide range of viewpoints. Of course it should. It was, after all, a central message of the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council that “nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo” in Christians’ hearts, and the same can be said for the work of a Catholic university. Such a university has nothing to fear from ”” indeed, it has the best possible reasons to welcome ”” inquiry, investigation, argument and testing. And so, no one could reasonably oppose inviting the president to Notre Dame for discussion and dialogue on immigration, education, health care ”” or even abortion.
The question on the table is not whether Notre Dame should hear from the president but whether Notre Dame should honor the president. A Catholic university can and should engage all comers, but in order to be true to itself ”” to have integrity ”” it should hesitate before honoring those who use their talents or power to bring about grave injustice. The university is, and must remain, a bustling marketplace of ideas; at the same time, it also has a voice of its own. We say a lot about who we are and what we stand for through what we love and what we choose to honor. The controversy at Notre Dame is not about what should be said at Catholic universities, but about what should be said by a Catholic university.
Things went only downhill from there. In the first place, there was no clear plan on how to present and to vote on the differing resolutions dealing with the Covenant that had been prepared by the Resolutions Committee. Three of its members, as I mentioned, favored putting off adoption of the entire Covenant at this meeting. Because of ECUSA’s strong opposition to it, expressed in one of the small indaba groups, they wanted the ACC to send Part IV of the Covenant back for a rewrite before it would be presented to the churches of the Communion. They accordingly drafted a Resolution to accomplish this, and it was presented as “Resolution A”:
a) resolves that section 4 of the Ridley Cambridge Draft be detached from the Ridley Cambridge Draft for further consideration and work;
b) asks the Archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the Secretary General, to appoint a small working group to consider and consult with the Provinces on Section 4 and its possible revision, and to report to the next meeting of the Joint Standing Committee;
c) resolves that the reconsidered Section 4 may, at the request of the JSC, be offered for adoption as an addendum to the Covenant text.
Simultaneously, in order to reflect the position favored by the great majority of the discussion groups, they presented a second Resolution, which they called “Resolution B”:
a) thanks the Covenant Design Group for their faithfulness and responsiveness in producing the drafts for an Anglican Communion Covenant and, in particular for the Ridley Cambridge Draft submitted to this meeting;
b) recognises that an Anglican Communion Covenant may provide an effective means to strengthen and promote our common life as a Communion;
c) asks the Secretary General to send the Ridley Cambridge draft, at this time, only to the member Churches of the Anglican Consultative Council for consideration and decision on acceptance or adoption by them;
d) asks those member Churches to report to ACC-15 on the progress made in the processes of response to, and acceptance or adoption of, the Covenant.
It should have been obvious that these resolutions were mutually incompatible, and could not both have passed. Therefore, proper parliamentary awareness should have required the Resolutions Committee to (a) decide upon the order in which the various parts of the Resolutions should have been taken up, and (b) in the process present a coherent choice between possible outcomes. For example, paragraphs (a) and (b) of Resolution B could have stood on their own, and been presented for approval at the very outset. Then the choice would have been between detaching section 4 or not, and a clear vote could have been taken which would decide which approach the group as a whole preferred to follow.
Instead, what the ACC representatives got was a parliamentary mishmash, by the end of which no one could follow what was happening.
I would go further than saying “procedural confusion.” It is, as reports from Professor Stephen Noll and others are calling it: PERFIDY. It is a betrayal of every Anglican who has looked to the Covenant process to bring desperately needed order to our life as a Communion. …
It is painfully obvious to observers in many quarters that the continuation of the Communion depends on your actions in this matter.
THE leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has pledged his full support for work with Irish Anglicans in combating the joint challenges of sectarianism, racism and secularism.
Cardinal Sean Brady made this solemn commitment yesterday when he spoke officially in the Church of Ireland cathedral of St Patrick in Armagh at a Eucharist ceremony closing its annual General Synod.
The Cardinal made his pioneering inter-church pledge in response to an earlier address by the Anglican Bishop of Limerick, Trevor Williams, who informed him of a three-year ‘Hard Gospel’ project by the Church of Ireland to tackle a range of problems that have divided Catholics and Protestants in the North.
Pope Benedict XVI called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian homeland immediately after he arrived in Israel Monday, a stance that could put him at odds with his hosts on a trip aimed at improving ties between the Vatican and Jews.
The pope also took on the delicate issue of the Holocaust, pledging to “honor the memory” of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide at the start of his five-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Benedict touched down in Israel on the second leg of a weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land, after spending three days in neighboring Jordan. He is using the tour to reach out to both Muslims and Jews.
In his first public comments upon arriving, Benedict urged Israelis and Palestinians to “explore every possible avenue” to resolve their differences.
There is a book that everyone will be talking about — when it appears over a year from now. “American Grace: How Religion Is Reshaping Our Civic and Political Lives,” being written by Robert Putnam and David Campbell, is already creating a buzz. Putnam, the author of “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” is the preeminent academic expert on American civic life. Campbell is his rising heir. And the book they haven’t yet finished will make just about everyone constructively uncomfortable.
At a recent conference of journalists organized by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Putnam outlined the conclusions of “American Grace,” based on research still being sifted and refined. Against the expectations of hard-core secularists, Putnam asserts, “religious Americans are nicer, happier and better citizens.” They are more generous with their time and money, not only in giving to religious causes but to secular ones. They join more voluntary associations, attend more public meetings, even let people cut in line in front of them more readily. Religious Americans are three to four times more socially engaged than the unaffiliated. Ned Flanders is a better neighbor.
Against the expectations of many religious believers, this dynamic has little to do with the content of belief. Theology is not the predictor of civic behavior; being part of a community is. People become social joiners and contributors when they have friends who pierce their isolation and invite their participation. And religious friends, says Putnam, are “more powerful, supercharged friends.”
The covenant decision came after a day of polite debate that, at times, included accusation, exasperation, impatience, and intense and confusing parliamentary maneuvering, both on the floor and behind the scenes.
On one end of the debate spectrum, Dato Stanley Isaacs of the Church of South East Asia, voiced the opinion of many when he said that the council faced “a defining moment for the communion, a moment that we either grab it or we don’t.”
He called the covenant “a hope in Christ that this will be a way of finding a just solution to the realization of a communion that is once again united in the bond of Christ ”¦ we long for that unity again.”
Isaacs said it would give “a ray of hope to us finding a resolution to the problem that has not only divided the communion, but has embarrassed the churches in many, many parts of the world outside of the United States.”
On the other hand, Sarah Tomlinson, ACC youth representative from Scotland, urged the council to allow the communion the time it needs to formulate a covenant whose terms are clearly defined.
“Whatever we decide now, my generation is going to have to deal with it. We’re going to have to bear the burden of dealing with this long after — no offense — you guys aren’t running the church,” she said. “So I know we’re all keen to get this finished and get it to come to an end, but let’s take the time to consult just a bit more ”¦ otherwise, I am going to have to be sorting out this mess and the rest of the youth are going to be sorting out this situation a lot longer.”
The only thing sorrier than Obama’s effort at fiscal restraint is the reaction to it in Congress. Republicans derided Obama’s proposed cuts, but where were they when spending went out of control on their watch?
Democrats, meanwhile, built a hard-earned reputation for fiscal responsibility in the 1990s. Now they’re frittering it away. House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, D-S.C., essentially told Obama to forget his cuts, saying that “Congress is unlikely to agree with” all of them. Democratic lawmakers immediately vowed to oppose some of the proposed reductions. To name just a couple, Rep Maurice Hinchey of New York protested cuts in the presidential helicopter fleet, and Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas sought to protect farm subsidies.
This sort of reflexive parochialism leaves us deeply concerned about whether either party, or Congress as an institution, is capable of addressing the nation’s dire fiscal circumstances, which will only worsen as Baby Boomers hit retirement age. Radical deficit reduction isn’t desirable at a time when the administration is spending massive amounts of money in an effort to stimulate the economy. But this is exactly the right time to hunt down serious savings from weak and wasteful spending programs ”” and to signal the financial markets that huge deficits won’t be tolerated once the economy recovers. Instead, Obama’s budget predicts deficits topping $500 billion for each of the next 10 years, adding almost $7 trillion to the national debt.Perhaps by forecasting godawful deficits now, the administration is positioning itself to claim credit for cutting them to slightly less awful levels down the road. If that’s the case, it’s cynical game playing. If that’s not the case, then it’s simply irresponsible.
Mr President, the Holy See and the State of Israel have many shared values, above all a commitment to give religion its rightful place in the life of society. The just ordering of social relationships presupposes and requires a respect for the freedom and dignity of every human being, whom Christians, Muslims and Jews alike believe to be created by a loving God and destined for eternal life. When the religious dimension of the human person is denied or marginalised, the very foundation for a proper understanding of inalienable human rights is placed in jeopardy.
Tragically, the Jewish people have experienced the terrible consequences of ideologies that deny the fundamental dignity of every human person. It is right and fitting that, during my stay in Israel, I will have the opportunity to honour the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Shoah, and to pray that humanity will never again witness a crime of such magnitude. Sadly, anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head in many parts of the world. This is totally unacceptable. Every effort must be made to combat anti-Semitism wherever it is found, and to promote respect and esteem for the members of every people, tribe, language and nation across the globe.
Following from this first point, it is telling that Dator never addresses, and indeed is probably totally unaware of, decisive facts concerning the legal history of TEC’s governing instruments, including the fact that TEC’s constitution was drafted by sophisticated lawyers who are recognized to this day as the key authors of American jurisprudence on legal hierarchy; that the crucial issue in TEC’s organization was dispensing with the oath of supremacy that was the essential prerequisite to being part of the Church of England””in other words, hierarchy was intentionally removed from TEC’s founding constitution, not inadvertently omitted or implicitly included; and that the largest state church, Virginia, was still under state control when TEC’s polity was first agreed, which shows that Virginia wouldhave been legally prohibited from agreeing to the kind of polity Dator claims to identify.
Notwithstanding these points and considering this dissertation on its own terms, it may come as a surprise to those who have only seen Dator’s conclusions summarized that as he goes through the constitutional features of TEC he generally finds them to be indicative of a federal or confederal structure.
— Equal representation of all dioceses in the House of Deputies “trends strongly in the direction of a federal, if not confederal, structure” (p. 114); ï‚· Voting by orders in the House of Deputies “does appear federal or confederal” (p. 128);
— Method of selecting bishops “could, by itself, be considered federal or decentralized unitary” (pp. 147-48);
–Territorial integrity of diocesan boundaries “may seem to tend towards either confederalism or federalism,” with each diocese viewed as “sovereign” (p. 148);
–Method of admission of new dioceses “may be seen to be federal or confederal” (p. 224);
–TEC judicial provisions are “more in keeping with a confederal than with either a federal or unitary government, especially since the system is made constitutionally mandatory” (pp. 179-80);
–Adoption of the first constitution: “the evidence up to 1789 shows that the approval of the conventions in the dioceses was obtained in establishing a government,” which he had previously identified as a key criterion or “the very test” of a federal or confederal government (pp. 93, 46);
–Financial and budgetary provisions “causes many to feel that [TEC] is a loosely knitconfederation of independent dioceses”¦the government of the church takes on in practice the character of a confederacy” (p.171);
–When representation and voting in the House of Deputies are considered together “a strong confederal presumption is suggested. Coupled with the vote by orders provision, the suggestion may seem overwhelming” (p.232).
Here is one:
I am grateful for Charles M. Blow’s summary of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey on religious affiliation (“Defecting to Faith,” column, May 2). But I was surprised when he claimed that “science, logic and reason are on the side of the nonreligious.”
As one raised by atheist parents with college and graduate study in physics, plus a doctorate in the philosophy of religion from Columbia, I believe I know a thing or two about these items.
First, if you follow John Dewey in his assertion that “whatever introduces genuine perspective is religious,” then there is no such animal as the nonreligious. Furthermore, historians of science now know that biblical religion was a major factor in the rise of the empirical side of modern science.
Finally, since following Dewey and many others, if everyone has a worldview, whether implicit or explicit, and none can be proved to anyone else who does not share it, then we all “walk by faith, and not by sight,” as Paul put it.
Owen C. Thomas
Berkeley, Calif., May 2, 2009
The writer is professor emeritus of theology at the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass.
As Taliban militants push deeper into Pakistan’s settled areas, foreign operatives of Al Qaeda who had focused on plotting attacks against the West are seizing on the turmoil to sow chaos in Pakistan and strengthen the hand of the militant Islamist groups there, according to American and Pakistani intelligence officials.
One indication came April 19, when a truck parked inside a Qaeda compound in South Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal areas, erupted in a fireball when it was struck by a C.I.A. missile. American intelligence officials say that the truck had been loaded with high explosives, apparently to be used as a bomb, and that while its ultimate target remains unclear, the bomb would have been more devastating than the suicide bombing that killed more than 50 people at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September.
Al Qaeda’s leaders ”” a predominantly Arab group of Egyptians, Saudis and Yemenis, as well as other nationalities like Uzbeks ”” for years have nurtured ties to Pakistani militant groups like the Taliban operating in the mountains of Pakistan. The foreign operatives have historically set their sights on targets loftier than those selected by the local militant groups, aiming for spectacular attacks against the West, but they may see new opportunity in the recent violence.
An Anglican Communion-wide project that will examine how Anglicans worldwide read and interpret Scripture will soon be launched.
The 14th Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting on May 9 approved The Bible in the Life of the Church project, which was created in response to a proposal from the Windsor Report. Published in 2004 by the Lambeth Commission on Communion, the Windsor Report offered prescriptions on how the Anglican Communion could settle its deep divisions over the thorny issue of human sexuality.