Daily Archives: May 20, 2009

RNS: Vatican Notes Obama's Search for 'Common Ground' on Abortion

The Vatican’s official newspaper called President Obama’s commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame on Sunday (May 17) part of his “search for common ground” with opponents of legalized abortion.

“The search for common ground: this seems to be the path chosen by the president of the United States, Barack Obama, to face the delicate question of abortion,” said an unsigned article in the Monday (May 18) edition of L’Osservatore Romano.

The paper said that Obama’s Notre Dame speech “confirmed what he expressed at the press conference marking his first 100 days in the White House,” when he said that the Freedom of Choice Act, which would remove restrictions on abortion, was “not my highest legislative priority.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Life Ethics, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, Pope Benedict XVI, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Bishop Mouneer Anis's Reflection on the ACC-14 Meeting in Jamaica, May 2009

Unfortunately, the Episcopal Church in America (TEC) and a few other churches were strongly opposing the idea of the Covenant especially section 4[2]. Their excuse was that this section is new and has not been studied enough by the Provinces as the other sections have been. They have forgotten that this particular section of the Covenant is in fact the outcome of many deliberations and responses that came from dioceses as well as bishops who attended the Lambeth Conference in 2008. In addition to this, section 4 was already present in the commentary of the St. Andrews draft of the Covenant that was sent to the provinces after the Lambeth Conference. I personal believe that we will never have a perfect Covenant that could be accepted by all, even if we spend another 10 years working in it. TEC also described section 4 as “punitive.” In response to this, it was clarified that the Covenant gives guidance to the Provinces which are responsible for making their own decisions. The Covenant also does not require any changes in the constitutions of the Provinces. In addition to this, section 4 allows Provinces to make amendments to the Covenant after it is accepted. In fact, it is because that section 4 is not strong enough many conservatives described the Covenant as very weak and useless.

My own impression is that the fear behind accepting the text of the Covenant, especially section 4, originates from the desire to avoid anything binding which would affirm the interdependence of the Anglican churches. Denying the interdependence of churches is contrary to the very meaning of the word “Communion.” For this reason without this section, the “Covenant” would not be a Covenant and the word “Communion” would lose its meaning.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Consultative Council, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East

David Brooks: In Praise of Dullness

What mattered [in making the most effective C.E.O.’s], it turned out, were execution and organizational skills. The traits that correlated most powerfully with success were attention to detail, persistence, efficiency, analytic thoroughness and the ability to work long hours.

In other words, warm, flexible, team-oriented and empathetic people are less likely to thrive as C.E.O.’s. Organized, dogged, anal-retentive and slightly boring people are more likely to thrive.

These results are consistent with a lot of work that’s been done over the past few decades. In 2001, Jim Collins published a best-selling study called “Good to Great.” He found that the best C.E.O.’s were not the flamboyant visionaries. They were humble, self-effacing, diligent and resolute souls who found one thing they were really good at and did it over and over again.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Psychology

Father John Wauck: Dan Brown and the Roman Catholic Church

Q: “Angels and Demons” presupposes a natural hostility between the Christian faith and modern science. What do you think about this?

Father Wauck: It’s relatively easy for people to see that a lot of the great art of the Western World — music, painting, sculpture, literature, architecture — is the product of a Christian culture, often inspired by the faith or even funded by the Church. That seems obvious. But what people don’t realize is that something similar is true of the sciences.

Think about it. Universities are an invention of the Church. Copernicus was a Roman Catholic cleric, and he dedicated his book on the heliocentric universe to the Pope. The calendar we use today is the Gregorian Calendar, because it was promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII, who was working with the best astronomers and mathematicians of his time. Galileo himself always remained a Catholic, and his two daughters were nuns. One of the greatest Italian astronomers of the 19th century was a Jesuit priest, Angelo Secchi. The father of modern genetics, Gregor Mendel, was a Catholic monk. The creator of the “Big Bang” theory was a Belgian priest, Georges Lemaitre.

In short, the idea that there is some natural tension between science and the Church, between reason and faith, is utter nonsense.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Movies & Television, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

Andrew West on Richard Holloway: Believe it or not, the bishop's an agnostic

Richard Holloway says the worldwide Anglican Church has made room for “happy clapping” evangelicals, bells-and-smells Catholics, women priests and, in the United States, openly gay clergy and even practitioners of other faiths. So surely, he argues, it can find room for people like him – Christians who don’t believe in God.

Holloway, contrary to popular belief, has not left the Episcopal Church, as Scottish Anglicanism is known. He may have taken early retirement as Bishop of Edinburgh but the writer remains an ordained priest and consecrated bishop, who still preaches from the pulpit, performs baptisms and weddings and even presides at communion.

“I had a crisis in 1998 and I was in a kind of internal exile for a bit,” he told the Herald yesterday, while en route to Sydney, where he is a speaker at the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

“I am in a slightly mellower place with the church right now. I’ve still got my pilot’s licence, so to speak. They didn’t take it away from me.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Scottish Episcopal Church

Survey: Protestant clergy on Same Sex Relationship Related Questions

Most mainline Protestant clergy do not support legalizing gay marriage, even if they’re not required to officiate at same-sex ceremonies.

It was the only point on which the majority did not support gay rights, according to a survey of clergy from the seven historic mainline Protestant denominations to which 18% of Americans belong.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Lutheran, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

The Bishop of Northern California Explains his No to the Northern Michigan Episcopal Election

I have great respect for Kevin, and great regard for the Diocese of Northern Michigan. It saddens me greatly, therefore, to tell you that I am unable to consent to this election. As I have said, many issues have been raised; I will name only one: Kevin’s revision of our liturgy of Holy Baptism.

It is of course true that ours is a living tradition, and that as the Church’s context changes, its liturgy will also change. The Church must have zones of innovation for the responsible exploration of such change. But these must be established within canonically acceptable boundaries, and they must be conducted in a way which is accountable to the whole church. I have concluded that the changes Kevin made, and the manner in which he made them, however much designed and intended to be responsible and accountable, quite simply exceeded the authority of any bishop and diocese, let alone rector and parish. It is not that the liturgy of Baptism cannot be changed, and indeed might not one day be changed; my concern is that this liturgy is so very essential to our identity and to our understanding of our mission that any revision can only be undertaken after very careful consideration by all of us, authorized only by the whole of our church through legitimate processes. Not only has that not been done in this instance; I am not confident that, for all his very immense talents and deep commitment to serve this church, Kevin will refrain from future unauthorized experimentation. In my judgment, that lack of assurance is critical.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan

Victor David Hanson on the Elite Media: Ministers of Truth?

…it is quite astounding that the mainstream liberal media ”” NY Times, Washington Post, NPR, PBS, Time, Newsweek, etc. ”” has simply offered no substantive criticism of Obama’s flips on renditions, military tribunals, wiretaps, intercepts, Iraq, or ”” given their past fury over the Bush deficits ”” the Obama plan to run up more red ink in a year than Bush did in eight.

Bush was constantly criticized by mainstream conservatives for his comprehensive immigration proposals, for deficit spending, for failure to veto any bills in the first term, for No Child Left Behind, for the prescription drug benefit, for the Harriet Miers nomination, for the first pullback from Fallujah, for appointments like Scott McClellan and “Brownie,” etc.

The result, I think, will prove fatal for the media. For the last eight years, rendition (hey, they even made a hit-piece movie about the supposedly awful practice), intercepts, military tribunals, and Iraq were sort of the refrains of the liberal-media choruses. Looking back, in light of the Obama media, was such hysteria simply politics, pure and simple? Bush did it: bad; Obama did it: fine?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Media, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, President George Bush

China fails to convince on stem cell claims

Earlier this month, the Chinese government announced it was setting up a body to regulate the stem cell therapy sector, to stop unlicensed bodies setting up to cash in on what is a major growth market.

However, the regulations are still in an early form, and Beike is strongly supported by local government agencies, and is unlikely to fall foul of new rules.

Stories of patients travelling to China for costly stem cell therapies depress Dr Stephen Sullivan, visiting research fellow at Trinity College Dublin.

“It’s not because of the loss of money, but rather that stem cell research has yet to give patients and their loved ones a legitimate option,” he says.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

NPR: Are Spiritual Encounters All In Your Head?

Believers are certainly going to take issue with [the idea that God is an illusion]. And so do many scientists. I put the question to New York University’s [Orrin] Devinsky. Does the fact that we can track spiritual feelings in our temporal lobe mean that there’s nothing spiritual going on?

“No,” he says simply.

Think about a man and woman who are in love, Devinsky says. They look at each other, and in all likelihood, something fires in their temporal lobes.

“However, does that negate the presence of true love between them?” he asks. “Of course not. When you get to spirituality, as a scientist I think it really becomes extremely difficult to say anything other than, ‘It’s possible.’

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Dealing Consumers a New Hand in Credit Cards

At first glance, the sweeping credit card legislation that passed the Senate on Tuesday looks like a huge victory for consumers. The bill, after all, contains relief from penalty fees and certain interest rate spikes.

But for people who pay off their bills each month, and milk the card rewards programs for everything they’re worth, there is some cause for concern.

For months now, the card companies have been threatening to cut rewards programs sharply to make up for revenue lost because of the new restrictions.

My guess, however, is that this talk is just so much saber-rattling.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, The Banking System/Sector, The U.S. Government

Joseph Bottum: At the Gates of Notre Dame

Still, opposition to abortion is hard and real, the signpost at the intersection of Catholicism and American public life. And those who””by inclination, or politics, or class distinction””fail to grasp this fact will all eventually find themselves in the situation that Fr. Jenkins has now created for himself. Culturally out of touch, they rail that antagonism must derive from politics or the class envy of their lesser-educated social inferiors. But it doesn’t. It derives from the sense of the faithful that abortion is important. It derives from the feeling of Catholics that, however far they themselves may have wandered, the Church ought to stand for something in public life””and that something is opposition to abortion.

“There is a political game going on here, and part of that is that you demonize the people who disagree with you, you question their integrity, you challenge their character, and you brand these people as moral poison,” Fr. Kenneth Himes, chairman of the theology department at Boston College, told the Boston Globe about the controversy at Notre Dame. As James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal noted, this was the same Fr. Himes who in 2006 wrote the faculty letter objecting to an honorary degree for Condoleezza Rice””a letter that read, “On the levels of both moral principle and practical moral judgment, Secretary Rice’s approach to international affairs is in fundamental conflict with Boston College’s commitment to the values of the Catholic and Jesuit traditions and is inconsistent with the humanistic values that inspire the university’s work.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Life Ethics, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Obama's new rules will transform US auto fleet

Some soccer moms will have to give up hulking SUVs. Carpenters will still haul materials around in pickup trucks, but they will cost more. Nearly everybody else will drive smaller cars, and more of them will run on electricity. The higher mileage and emissions standards set by the Obama administration on Tuesday, which begin to take effect in 2012 and are to be achieved by 2016, will transform the American car and truck fleet.

The new rules would bring new cars and trucks sold in the United States to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon, about 10 mpg more than today’s standards. Passenger cars will be required to get 39 mpg, light trucks 30 mpg.

That means cars and trucks on American roads will have to become smaller, lighter and more efficient.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama

Baltimore Area Rally Rally promotes the idea of the Sabbath

For Yoel Benyowitz, setting aside work at sundown on Friday, lighting the shabbos candles and spending the next 24 hours in prayer and fellowship with family and friends “recharges our batteries, both physically and spiritually.”

It’s an experience that he wishes more Jews enjoyed. The 47-year-old father of four, a computer information specialist with the state Department of Transportation, joined thousands of fellow Orthodox Jews in Park Heights on Sunday for a rally to promote observance of the Jewish Sabbath.

The event, the first of its kind in a dozen years, came as local Jewish leaders consider a plan to open a community center in Owings Mills on Saturdays.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Tobias Winright reviews two books on Thinking Christianly about Punishment

As an undergraduate student 25 years ago, I found myself behind bars””not as an inmate but as a correctional officer. One of the youngest members of a large metropolitan sheriff’s department on the west coast of Florida, I worked full-time at the maximum-security jail in order to pay for college. Those four years working in the slammer schooled me, and they raised a number of questions for me as a Christian, especially about the death penalty and the use of force. I am continuing to unlearn certain attitudes and assumptions I held then, including some about punishment itself.

By vividly putting into words much of what I have personally pondered about prisons and punishment, these two books should help American readers””Christian or not, possessing firsthand experience with incarceration or not””to step back and take an honest look at what is happening in our current practice of large-scale imprisonment. Each book also asks why we insist on continuing down this punitive path.

Why is it, for example, that the U.S., which has 6 percent of the world’s population, incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners? We currently have some 2.3 million persons in federal, state and local jails and prisons””an estimated half-million more than are locked up in China, whose population is more than triple that of the U.S. We spend more money building and maintaining prisons than public schools””to the tune of $50 billion a year. Some 644,000 persons are incarcerated per year and about 625,000 are released, but then 50 to 75 percent of those who are released end up returning to prison within a few years. No other democratic nation today imprisons people on such a scale or for as long as the U.S. Yet what are we accomplishing?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture