Daily Archives: May 15, 2009

Gallup: More Americans “Pro-Life” Than “Pro-Choice” for First Time

A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, finds 51% of Americans calling themselves “pro-life” on the issue of abortion and 42% “pro-choice.” This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Life Ethics, Religion & Culture

Naomi Schafer Riley on Robert Putnam and David Campbell's forthcoming "American Grace"

Here’s a riddle of American exceptionalism: How can this country be at once one of the most religiously fervent in the world and one of the most religiously tolerant? Generally, societies are one or the other. Which makes intuitive sense: If you take your faith seriously, if you believe that it is the only true one (as the Abrahamic faiths seem to demand), then you might not be able to get along with people who believe something different — that is, with people who are in error. In Western Europe, church attendance is low and tolerance, at least superficially speaking, is high. In the Middle East, meanwhile, religious observance is very high and tolerance is . . . well, need we say more?

But here in America, where more than half the population attends church at least once a month, 85% of us believe that religious diversity is good for the country and 80% of us think that there are basic truths in many religions. In fact, Americans overwhelmingly believe that people of other religions can go to heaven.

So what gives?

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

George Conger in CEN: Chaos as ACC battle on Covenant Plan

THE ANGLICAN Consultative Council (ACC) will not endorse the Anglican Covenant and has voted to send it back to committee for further review. The vote comes as a major defeat for the Archbishop of Canterbury who had championed the Covenant as the one way to keep the Anglican Communion from splitting.

However the defeat appears self-inflicted, as Dr Rowan Williams’ ambiguous intervention in the closing moments of the Covenant debate confused some delegates, and resulted in the adoption of a compromise resolution that holds off acceptance of the Covenant until a new committee reviews and revises the disciplinary provisions in section 4 of the agreement ””- a process ACC secretary general Canon Kenneth Kearon said could take up to a year.

Questions of perfidy and incompetence were lodged against Dr Williams by conservative members of the ACC in inter views with The Church of England Newspaper immediately following the vote. But the anger with Dr Williams’ performance softened to exasperation by the following day for some conservative delegates to the May 2-12 meeting.
Delegates from the Church of Nigeria stated they were perplexed by Dr Williams having endorsed the Covenant at the start of the debate, and then apparently reversing himself and backing the call for delay by the end of the session.

“All of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s contributions were positive” up until the last moment of the meeting Bishop Ikechi Nwosu of the Diocese of Umuahia, Nigeria, said. Nigerian delegate Archdeacon Abraham Okorie said there was a “satanic” spirit of confusion in the air. He noted it was hypocritical of the ACC to make a great noise of using African ways of decision-making in addressing the Covenant, but then resorting to slippery parliamentary tricks to thwart the will of the meeting.

Dr Williams had been a “very weak leader,” Bishop Nwosu observed. “Of course we pray for him, but couldn’t he be courageous for once?” Over three years in the making, the work of the Anglican Covenant Design Group (CDG) was presented by its chairman Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies on May 4 to the representatives of the 38 provinces of the Communion gathered at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica for the 14th triennial meeting of the ACC. It was imperative the delegates endorse the Covenant as the Anglican Communion “is close to the point of breaking up,”

Archbishop Gomez said. After the discussion plenary, the delegates broke apart into “discernment groups” modelled upon the indaba process of “respectful listening” first employed at the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

The decision plenary for the Covenant began midmorning on May 8. The chairman of the meeting’s resolution committee, Dr Anthony Fitchett of New Zealand, told delegates there had been “mixed views on section 4” from the discernment groups, and the committee had decided to frame the debate on the Covenant around objections to its disciplinary provisions.

Two resolutions, A and B, were offered to the delegates. A called for section 4 to be detached from the covenant and sent to a committee for further study and revision, while B adopted the Ridley draft as presented by the CDG. Debate began with supporters of resolution A asking for further time to study section 4.

The Rev Ian Douglas of the Episcopal Church said the Ridley draft was “immature” and had “too many ambiguities.” He added that it opened the door to churches not part of the ACC to endorse the document. He speculated that if the breakaway Anglican churches in North America signed the Covenant, while the Episcopal Church’s legislative process made it unlikely a final decision could be made in less than six years, this could lead to the “question at ACC-15 about who is the Anglican body” in America?

Delegates from Brazil, Ireland, South Africa and Scotland urged adoption of resolution A, but other delegates were not persuaded by the call for delay. The President Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Bishop Mouneer Anis stated that without section 4 the “Covenant was no covenant.” The Ridley draft was the “most perfect Covenant we can get,” he argued, while Southeast Asia delegate Stanley Isaacs said the vote on the Covenant was the “defining” moment for the communion, and it would be “disastrous” to remove section 4. Delegates from the Sudan, Tanzania, Iran, Peru, Australia Nigeria, and Central Africa endorsed the “no” vote on resolution A, as did the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Williams told the delegates that he did not see how adopting A “gets us much further along.” He also noted its language was ambiguous. “What would be the remit for redrafting?” he asked, urging the defeat of the resolution. After a break in the proceedings for lunch, the Primate of Australia offered a new resolution, named C, to the meeting that sought to combine portions of A and B. Objections to C were raised, and it was set to one side. Following further debate on A, Dr Williams spoke against A, and a vote was taken by secret ballot which defeated the resolution 17- 47, with one abstention. Debate followed on B, with the chairman of the meeting, Bishop John Paterson of New Zealand stating each clause of the resolution would be put to the vote. After the first two clauses of B passed by near unanimous margins, South African delegate Janet Trisk offered an amendment that sought to incorporate portions of Archbishop Aspinall’s resolution C. The new amendment sought to add the language from the defeated resolution A that would send section 4 to committee for review.

Bishop Paterson stated he would not accept the amendment as its substance had already been rejected by the meeting. Dr Williams then rose on a point of order stating “it did seem to me that the voting on A may very well have been properly influenced by the fact that an alternative form of A is known to be about to be tabled. That I suggested the material of C should be moved as par t B, I suspect that people may have voted with that in view.”

Bishop Paterson reversed himself and set the amendment before the meeting. Prompting Dr Anis to object saying “We have already voted against A, that is deciding to bring in A again, but in a different form.” After one delegate spoke in support of the amendment, it was put to the test and was accepted 34 to 31. Two more votes were held on the remaining clauses of B, but no vote was taken on the amended additions to the resolution.

A tea break was called, but as the delegates streamed out of the room, Bishop Paterson said there was some confusion as to the outcome and proceedings and the subject would be revisited at the 5pm session.

While the delegates gathered in the tea room, a visibly angry Dr Williams met with his advisers for over a half hour on the floor of the deserted conference room. Dr Anis subsequently approached Dr Williams stating his objections to the breach of parliamentary procedure of resubmitting a defeated resolution for consideration. Dr Anis declined to comment on the substance of his conversation with Dr Williams, but confirmed Dr Williams was not pleased with the outcome.

Delegates questioned by the CEN appeared confused by the proceedings. One francophone delegate stated he had voted against A, but as Dr Williams had commended the Trisk amendment, he had switched his vote. A second delegate from Africa told CEN he had understood Dr Williams as not having commended the Trisk amendment but was offering housekeeping advice to the meeting to straighten out a confused situation, while a third delegate whose native tongue is English said he understood the Archbishop to have switched horses, and was now calling for section 4 to be stripped out of the Covenant.

Upon resumption of business at 5pm, Bishop Paterson announced there would be no further vote on the Covenant, as the “legal advice” he had been given stated the matter had been settled. Dr Anis rose to object, saying “Resolution A was defeated, then brought back as a resolution. It is illegal. How can we bring back a defeated clause?” Bishop Paterson responded that the vote on A was “in anticipation that other material will be taken” into consideration, closing debate.

Members of the Episcopal Church’s delegation told the Episcopal News Service they were pleased by the outcome. “We came up with what was clearly a compromise,” Josephine Hicks said. “Not everyone is entirely happy with what we came up with, I feel certain, but that’s what compromise is all about.”

Dr Anis told CEN he was “very disappointed” by the “manipulation” of the proceedings. “It was not right. It was absolutely wrong,” he said. The registrar of the Church of Nigeria, Abraham Yisa, said he was amazed by the proceedings, which were “contrary to all known rules” of parliamentary procedure.

However, Bishop William Godfrey of Peru stated that while Friday’s session had been “a difficult time, a painful time,” and it was sad that we “will have to wait longer” for a covenant, it “could have been worse” as section 4 could have been thrown out entirely rather than sent back for further review. “Everything is in God’s hand,” Bishop Godfrey said “He is in control” and we just have to be patient.

–This article appears in the Church of England Newspaper, May 15, 2009, edition on page 1

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Consultative Council, Archbishop of Canterbury

Pope Benedict XVI's Homily at Vespers Last Evening

It is profoundly moving for me to be present with you today in the very place where the Word of God was made flesh and came to dwell among us. How fitting that we should gather here to sing the Evening Prayer of the Church, giving praise and thanks to God for the marvels he has done for us! I thank Archbishop Sayah for his words of welcome and through him I greet all the members of the Maronite community here in the Holy Land. I greet the priests, religious, members of ecclesial movements and pastoral workers from all over Galilee. Once again I pay tribute to the care shown by the Friars of the Custody, over many centuries, in maintaining holy places such as this. I greet the Latin Patriarch Emeritus, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, who for more than twenty years presided over his flock in these lands. I greet the faithful of the Latin Patriarchate and their current Patriarch, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, as well as the members of the Greek-Melkite community, represented here by Archbishop Elias Chacour. And in this place where Jesus himself grew to maturity and learned the Hebrew tongue, I greet the Hebrew-speaking Christians, a reminder to us of the Jewish roots of our faith.

What happened here in Nazareth, far from the gaze of the world, was a singular act of God, a powerful intervention in history, through which a child was conceived who was to bring salvation to the whole world. The wonder of the Incarnation continues to challenge us to open up our understanding to the limitless possibilities of God’s transforming power, of his love for us, his desire to be united with us. Here the eternally begotten Son of God became man, and so made it possible for us, his brothers and sisters, to share in his divine sonship. That downward movement of self-emptying love made possible the upward movement of exaltation in which we too are raised to share in the life of God himself (cf. Phil 2:6-11).

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Middle East, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic

Jeremy Bowen of the BBC: Reflections on the Pope's Holy Land tour

By far the biggest event of Pope Benedict XVI’s tour was the papal Mass in Nazareth. The amplified sounds of music and chanting from tens of thousands of the faithful drifted through the morning haze and right across the town.

The worshippers were in a natural amphitheatre on the side of Mount Precipice, where the Bible says Jesus escaped an angry mob who wanted to throw him off a cliff.

Nazareth, like all the other places the Pope has been, was locked down by the security forces. A few residents looked less than impressed with what was happening. A man at a breakfast stall, his beard cut in the style of a devout Sunni Muslim, got on with his job, serving policemen – who were mainly Jews.

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

Michael Kinsley: Change? You Asked for It . . .

The president and his party in Congress face the terrifying prospect of being able to fulfill their campaign promises. They will have no excuse if there is no health-care reform or energy reform, or if there are and they are disasters.

The biggest shock, though, will probably be to the voters. For years they have called for “change,” generally unspecified, while enjoying the status quo more than they cared to admit. (They want health-care reform provided that they can keep their own doctor. They want congressional term limits, but they like their own member enough to reelect him again and again.) They have demanded alchemy from their representatives — expand our benefits and cut our taxes and balance the budget while you’re at it — and then staged hissy fits when the politicians didn’t produce.

Now, when the voters demand change, they may well get it. We’ll see how they like it.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

Citing Auschwitz, Pope Assails Hatred

Recalling a visit to the Auschwitz death camp, Pope Benedict XVI wound up a sometimes fraught and often politically charged trip to Israel and the West Bank on Friday with a call for peace and a plea that the Holocaust ”” “that appalling chapter in history” ”” must “never be forgotten or denied.”

But, as he has since he arrived from Jordan on Monday on his first trip to the Holy Land as pope, he avoided evoking his German nationality and his personal history in Nazi Germany as some Israelis had demanded. Rather, he blamed the Holocaust on “a godless regime.”

The pope has sought to walk a narrow line between the tripwires of Middle East politics, addressing the concerns of Israelis and of Palestinians. As he left he spoke in a farewell statement from Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport of the separation barrier that Israel has built to fence itself off from Palestinian areas, saying it was “one of the saddest sights for me during my visit to these lands.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

21 more standing committees vote on the Episcopal Election in Northern Michigan

The vast majority of Episcopal Church standing committees in the United States are releasing the results of their votes on the consent process for the diocese of Northern Michigan ”” or say they’ll release them when their voting is complete.

With 21 more standing committees weighing in, here’s my count:

Committees voting for consent: 15
Committees voting against consent: 37

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan

Leon Panetta's mission to stop Israel bombing Iranian nuclear plant

America’s spy chief was sent on a secret mission to Israel to warn its leaders not to launch a surprise attack on Iran without notifying the US Administration.

As Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, prepares to visit Washington, it emerged yesterday that Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA, went to Israel two weeks ago. He sought assurances from Mr Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, the Defence Minister, that their hawkish new Government would not attack Iran without alerting Washington.

Concerns have been rising that Mr Netanyahu could launch a strike on Tehran’s atomic programme, in the same way that Israel hit Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in 1981. Israel has been preparing for such an eventuality. It has carried out long-distance manoeuvres and is due to hold its largest civil defence drills this summer. The country’s leaders reportedly told Mr Panetta that they did not “intend to surprise the US on Iran”.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Foreign Relations, Iran, Israel, Middle East

Daniel Akst: the biggest Premature Killer of Americans is the American way of life

…the biggest premature killer of Americans is . . . Americans.

Too many of us appear to be bent on slow-motion suicide. Consider smoking; if we could get every American to stop, we’d save 467,000 lives annually. Solving high blood pressure (much of it arising from unhealthy lifestyles) would save 395,000. And if we could get everyone to slim down to an appropriate body weight, we’d save 216,000 lives.

You can’t aggregate all the lives that would be saved from the 12 lifestyle factors covered by the study because of some serious overlap; obesity, for instance, causes a lot of hypertension. But Dr. Majid Ezzati, a Harvard School of Public Health professor who co-authored the report, estimates that if you net out the double-counting, somewhat more than a million people die annually from the 12 behavioral risk factors, which include the obvious (immoderate alcohol consumption) and the less so (eating too little fish, which provides omega-3 fatty acids).

Put more starkly: Of the 2.5 million deaths that occur annually in America, something approaching half could be prevented if people simply led healthier lives.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

James Quinn: U.S. Housing Market Driven by Super Sizing Baby Boomers Now Going Bust

The average household size has declined from 3.4 in 1950 to 2.5 today, a 26% reduction. The average household size was 4.6 in 1900. Our average home size has increased from 1,000 sq ft in 1950 to 2,400 sq ft today, a 140% increase. The average square feet per person in the household has increased by 218%.

In 1950, only one percent of homes built had four bedrooms or more, but 39 percent of new homes had at least four bedrooms in 2003. We have one less person per household, but we have added one extra room. Our society has chosen to super size our houses, our vehicles, our TVs, our kitchens, our burgers, our sodas, and our egos. This desire to “keep up with the Joneses” combined with a rise in two-income families convinced millions to pour money into their home and its amenities. This seemed like a great idea when home prices were rising annually at a double digit clip. Most of the money was borrowed, so with home prices down 25% to 50% in many parts of the country the “Joneses” are in a heap of trouble.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Obama Says U.S. Long-Term Debt Load ”˜Unsustainable’

President Barack Obama, calling current deficit spending “unsustainable,” warned of skyrocketing interest rates for consumers if the U.S. continues to finance government by borrowing from other countries.

“We can’t keep on just borrowing from China,” Obama said at a town-hall meeting in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, outside Albuquerque. “We have to pay interest on that debt, and that means we are mortgaging our children’s future with more and more debt.”

Holders of U.S. debt will eventually “get tired” of buying it, causing interest rates on everything from auto loans to home mortgages to increase, Obama said. “It will have a dampening effect on our economy.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Church Times: ACC’s close vote delays debate on Covenant

The Anglican Covenant will not be sent out to the provinces of the Communion for adoption until there has been consultation on the controversial section 4, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) voted by the narrowest of majorities at its meeting in Jamaica this week. Sec­tion 4 deals with the enforcement of the terms of the Covenant.

The chairman of the Covenant Design Group, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez, the recently-retired Arch­bishop of the West Indies, had urged delegates not to lose the opportunity to take decisive action on the Cov­enant in what was considered to be its final form, the Ridley Draft (News, 8 May). He had predicted breaks in the Communion if it did not vote to send it out.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Consultative Council, Anglican Covenant, Archbishop of Canterbury

RNS: Quebec court says reporter went too far in infiltrating sect

A Quebec court has ruled that a journalist’s undercover investigation of the Raelian sect in the province violated the privacy of its members.

The court awarded $9,000 Cdn ($7,688 US) in damages to two Raelians who said they had suffered embarrassment and loss of revenue after being identified as senior figures close to sect leader Claude Vorilhon, who goes by the name Rael.

The case goes back to 2003 when Brigitte McCann, a reporter for the Journal de Montreal, spent nine months undercover as a member of the Raelians. Her articles won Quebec’s top journalism prize and exposed a darker side to the sect, which claims 55,000 followers worldwide who believe in UFOs and that humans have been cloned.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Canada, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Religion & Culture

Cancer Patients Challenge the Patenting of a Gene

When Genae Girard received a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2006, she knew she would be facing medical challenges and high expenses. But she did not expect to run into patent problems.

Ms. Girard took a genetic test to see if her genes also put her at increased risk for ovarian cancer, which might require the removal of her ovaries. The test came back positive, so she wanted a second opinion from another test. But there can be no second opinion. A decision by the government more than 10 years ago allowed a single company, Myriad Genetics, to own the patent on two genes that are closely associated with increased risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and on the testing that measures that risk.

On Tuesday, Ms. Girard, 39, who lives in the Austin, Tex., area, filed a lawsuit against Myriad and the Patent Office, challenging the decision to grant a patent on a gene to Myriad and companies like it. She was joined by four other cancer patients, by professional organizations of pathologists with more than 100,000 members and by several individual pathologists and genetic researchers.

The lawsuit, believed to be the first of its kind, was organized by the American Civil Liberties Union and filed in federal court in New York. It blends patent law, medical science, breast cancer activism and an unusual civil liberties argument in ways that could make it a landmark case.

Read it all from yesterday’s New York Times.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology