Daily Archives: March 24, 2010
A reverend, a rabbi and a scholar hike up a mountain ridge …
It sounds like the opening line of an unholy bar joke, not a spiritual warm-up for the beginning of Passover for Jews and Holy Week for Christians, leading toward Easter.
But these three believers say skiing off in winter cold, hiking in desert heat, even taking a senses-awake walk in the park can open you up, body and soul, to better appreciate these holy days of salvation and freedom.
Baroness Royall, the Leader of the House of Lords, insisted that anti-discrimination laws could not be used against conservative vicars, because they would not be under any obligation to acquire the necessary licence to host civil partnership ceremonies on their property.
Her comments came as the controversial Equality Bill ”“ criticised by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury for trying to restrict religious freedom ”“ passed its Third Reading in the Lords. It will now move back to the Commons and is likely to gain Royal Assent and become law before the election.
An Anglican Church pastor and his wife were assaulted by Security agents in Luxor on March 18, 2010, in order to evacuate them by force from their home and demolish Church property. Out of the nearly 3000 sq. meters of buildings attached to the Church, only the 400 sq. meter prayer hall was left standing.
Pastor Mahrous Karam of the Anglican Church in Luxor, 721 km from Cairo, said that the Church was still in negotiations with the Luxor authorities the day before regarding a replacement for the community center building which lies within the Church’s compound, and was told the authorities were still considering their options. Early next morning, a 500-man force of Central Security and State Security blocked all roads leading to the Church compound, forced their way in and broke into the pastor’s residence, dragging the family out by force.
In an effort to save the buildings from demolition, the Pastor sat on the fence of the Church compound, to prevent the demolition work, but was beaten and dragged away, reported Katiba Tibia News.
The White House says it isn’t worried that 13 state attorneys general, including South Carolina’s, are suing to overturn the massive health care overhaul, and many legal experts agree the effort is futile.
But the lawsuit, filed in federal court seven minutes after President Barack Obama signed the 10-year, $938 billion health care bill, underscores the divisiveness of the issue and the political rancor that has surrounded it.
Diarmaid MacCulloch’s splendid account of Christianity’s long, momentous, non-ignorable life among us is in one way or another an account of everything that has gone on during the three millennia in which he sets his story. Three millenniums, not two, inasmuch as Mr. MacCulloch, the noted Oxford University specialist in church history, begins with the Greeks and Romans and their religious urges, carrying readers up to the feverish present. So. Another recycling of the Christian story? Not a recycling at all: Rather, it’s a well-informed and – bless the man – witty narrative guaranteed to please and at the same time displease every single reader, if hardly in identical measure. I guarantee it.
Its sheer length and bulk make “Christianity” as hard to pick up as to put down. The reason for the latter difficulty, if you call it that, is the author’s engaging prose style: fluent, well-judged and wholly free of cant and the kind of stuff in which theological journals immerse you.
Mr. MacCulloch covers the Christian waterfront so thoroughly – we have here accounts of Eastern Orthodoxy that may turn off American evangelicals, and narratives about American Pentecostalism that may inspire the Eastern Orthodox to page-flipping. There’s something here to bore pretty much everybody – but not for long, because Mr. MacCulloch, the author of a major book on the Reformation as well as a biography of Thomas Cranmer, the controversial, conflicted 16th-century archbishop of Canterbury, never dawdles, always moves along with nearest approximation to a sense of economy you can imagine in a book of 1,000-plus pages.
Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Suffragan James E. Curry, speaking to ENS from the House of Bishops meeting in Camp Allen, Texas, called the legislation “a wonderful step that continues our national walk toward accessibility.” The Episcopal Church’s longstanding commitment to health care reform is deeply rooted in the Baptismal Covenant, he said.
“For 2,000 years followers of Jesus have been at the forefront of efforts to provide for the health and well being of all people. We do this because the law of love compels us to care for everyone,” Diocese of Maryland Bishop Eugene T. Sutton said in an e-mail to ENS. “While people of good will disagree about some controversial provisions in the new health care legislation, in the main, Christians everywhere should rejoice that our society has taken a major step toward ensuring that all citizens have adequate and equitable access to health care without fear that sickness will result in their financial ruin. For that alone we say, ‘Praise God!'”
Curry and Sutton were among the seven Episcopal bishops who travelled to Washington, D.C. in September 2009 to advocate on Capitol Hill for health care reform.
Members and bishops of the Episcopal Church, the church’s Washington-D.C.-based Office of Government Relations, its Episcopal Public Policy Network and the ecumenical faith community continued to advocate for the health bill and press representatives to pass the bill up to March 21, when the bill passed the House by a vote of 219-212.
But the comfortable retirement promised to retired firefighters and police officers is taking its toll on the city where DeGenova still lives. Today, Cranston is staggering under a huge underfunded pension liability equal to more than twice its annual budget, and paying the pensions of retired police officers and firefighters now absorbs some 20 percent of the city’s budget.
“Right now the unfunded liability is well over $240 million,” says Mayor Allan Fung. “And so it’s a big obligation and is basically a ticking time bomb for the city of Cranston that we are trying to get a handle on.”
How this happened is a monument to political shortsightedness. For years, Cranston operated a separate pension fund for more than 500 police and firefighters who regularly contributed money from their paychecks to the fund. (Other municipal employees were part of the state pension system.) Instead of setting the money aside and investing it, the city used the funds to pay operating expenses ”” everything from shoveling snow to paying employee salaries, says former Mayor Stephen Laffey.
“It was like taking your 401(k) plan and saying, ‘I have to buy a lot of bubble gum with it.’ That’s what they did, and they really did it with a straight face,” Laffey says.
As Google began redirecting tens of millions of Chinese users on Tuesday to its uncensored Web site in Hong Kong, the company’s remaining mainland operations came under pressure from its Chinese partners and from the government itself.
For weeks, Google had been holding out hope that the Chinese government would allow it to keep its pledge to end censorship while retaining its share of China’s fast-growing Internet search market.
But the government has shown no sign of budging. Mainland Chinese users still could not see much of the unfiltered Hong Kong search results Tuesday because government firewalls either disabled searches for highly objectionable terms completely or blocked links to certain results. That had typically been the case before Google’s action, only now millions more visitors were liable to encounter the disrupted access to an uncensored site.
Beijing officials were clearly angered Tuesday by Google’s decision to close its Internet search service in China and redirect users to the Hong Kong site, a move that focused global attention on the government’s censorship policies, and there were signs of possible escalation in the dispute.
Where is the apology for the abuses in Germany? After all, even as the number of Irish abuse cases mounts, the depth and history of abuse in Germany is just now becoming clear ”” more than 250 cases are known, with more appearing each day. At least 14 priests are under investigation by the authorities.
Though Germany is a secular country and Catholics make up only a third of the population, the scandal has engendered a national debate ”” about religious education, about single-sex institutions and, above all, about the role of celibacy in the Catholic Church.
And while the scandal is not unique to Germany, the current wave of abuse revelations sweeping Europe feels particularly German, because the pope is German: Benedict was once Joseph Ratzinger, the archbishop of Munich and Freising and long a leading voice of conservative German Catholics.
As Germany–the pope’s own homeland–continues to be rocked by allegations of priestly abuse, many are wondering how high the scandal will go–after all, Pope Benedict XVI himself, as archbishop of Munich, approved an abuser’s therapy treatment without reporting it to authorities, though he claims not to have known about the abuse. Meanwhile, the pope’s attempt to put out a similar fire in Ireland with a letter this past weekend is stirring mixed reactions.
All this has convinced some commentators that this controversy is different from the American abuse scandal. In fact, some have begun to ask whether the Vatican–and even Catholicism itself–will pass through unscathed. If so, will it still resemble the Catholic Church of old?
Q: In Europe, and in other countries and regions, it seems that we are going through what some call a winter of priestly vocations. How do you see the recovery?
Cardinal Herranz: There is a colorful Italian expression that might be useful to clarify the situation: “a macchia di leopardo.” The spots on the skin of a leopard describe phenomena differentiated in the geography of a country or a region. This is the case with this topic. In Europe, some countries have suffered a genuine winter of religious persecution and of de-humanization of society under Marxism, and now they enjoy a splendid springtime of young men who feel Christ’s call to the priesthood. In other nations — such as Poland — even under that persecution abundant priestly vocations arose.
As I mentioned earlier in regard to man’s frailty in face of pleasure, the welfare society in other European or American countries, with more comforts, also makes the decision to follow Jesus more difficult, as happened to the rich young man who rejected the invitation to give himself completely. Yet even so, Christ attracts and the Holy Spirit awakens desires of total self-giving to God, of spiritual paternity, of evangelization to take the light of the Risen One to the world, to live not to be served, but to serve everyone.
In countries or dioceses that had many priests before — such as Spain — after a notable decrease, we can now see an improvement in quality and quantity of vocations.
Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to thy Word who abideth, thy Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen