Category : Other Denominations

Rod Dreher–Billy Abraham, Gone To God

This is a newsletter focusing on the spiritual, and on reasons to hope. It might seem weird to you today to lead off with the death of Dr. Billy Abraham, a well-known, much-beloved Irish Methodist who taught for years, until his retirement this year, at SMU in Dallas. He was 73. Though his death is a shock, and an occasion of sorrow, let me tell you why I rejoice in Billy’s life and example.

I met Billy back in 2005 at St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas. He was a dear friend of Archbishop Dmitri, and had come to visit. I instantly liked him. It was impossible not to. Billy was a small-o orthodox Christian, and we discussed the manifold problems within both the Catholic and the Methodist churches (I was still a Catholic at the time, and was contemplating becoming Orthodox). The difference between Billy and me was that while I back then was broken and angry, Billy was indefatigably optimistic. Actually, scratch that: he wasn’t optimistic, because he believed that for the Methodists, things were going to get worse (and they did); rather, he was hopeful. For Billy, hope wasn’t simply an act of faith, but a reasonable response to what he had seen in his own life.

Billy grew up in Northern Ireland, in the time of the Troubles — that is, the terrorist warfare between the Irish Republican Army and Protestant paramilitaries. He saw evil up close — a lot of it. I won’t go into detail in this recollection, because I don’t want to get any of the particulars wrong, and our discussion of the topic was a long time ago. But Billy told me about growing up as a Protestant in Belfast during a time when it was very, very easy for a young man to be drawn into political violence. I seem to recall him saying this happened to him and some or all of his five brothers, but my recollection is fuzzy, so I don’t want to say more. He came to Christ through the ministry of local Methodists, and changed his life. What stands out in my mind as I think today about that first encounter of mine with Billy is how grateful he was to have been liberated from the bonds of hatred….

Read it all and watch the whole video.


Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Methodist, Theology

(CT) Southern Baptists Agree to Open Up to Abuse Investigation

It took three weeks of scheduled meetings, at least three law firms, dozens of statements, hours of closed-door briefings, and extensive back-and-forth debates across boardooms, social media, and Zoom calls for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee (EC) to agree to the terms of a third-party investigation into its response to abuse. But on Tuesday, it did.

The EC voted 44–31 on in favor of waiving attorney-client privilege in the investigation, after a half dozen members resigned and several switched their position in favor of the waiver. For a moment, it felt like the conclusion of a long and heated process, though the decision is only the start of a long investigative process.

EC chairman Rolland Slade, who oversaw the proceedings, expressed his relief after the tally was announced. Then he remarked, “I want to express sorrow over the conduct we have displayed as Southern Baptists.”

For the EC—the denominational body tasked with Southern Baptist business outside the annual meeting—the debate pitted the desire to open fully to the investigation against concerns that such transparency would threaten its financial solvency, insurance coverage, and other fiduciary duties to protect the entity.

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Posted in Baptist, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology

(Economist Erasmus Blog) A high-noon moment for Pope Francis over the Amazon

As for the Americans who have found a leader in Cardinal Burke, many are unhappy with the radical economic view that underpins the synod: one that blames greedy extractive industries and agri-businesses based in the northern hemisphere for the felling and burning of trees whose existence is crucial to the planet.

However, in recent weeks the 82-year-old pope has shown every sign of fighting back hard. On last month’s African tour, he was encouraged by the warm response of ordinary people in Mozambique and Madagascar, counterbalancing the unhappiness over his liberal stance among some African prelates. On the flight out, a French journalist presented him with a book that sets out to document the economic and political interests lined up against him in the United States. The pontiff accepted with a smile, saying: “For me it is an honour if the Americans attack me.” Francis added that, although an outright schism in the church would be highly undesirable, he is not scared of that prospect.

The very fact that Francis mentioned the s-word was seen as a sign of intra-church arguments moving into new territory. In the most extreme scenario, traditionalist prelates might formally declare that Francis had lost all moral authority and start consecrating like-minded bishops without papal approval, as Marcel Lefebvre, an ultra-conservative French archbishop, did in the 1980s. The breakaway group would then be excommunicated. But for now, that still seems far-fetched. In the assessment of Francis himself, “today we have pockets of rigidity which aren’t a schism, but they are [in] semi-schismatic ways of life that will end badly.”

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Archbishop, Pope and Church of Scotland Moderator write to South Sudan’s leaders

When we last wrote to you at Christmas, we prayed that you might experience greater trust among yourselves and be more generous in service to your people. Since then, we have been glad to see some small progress. Sadly, your people continue to live in fear and uncertainty, and lack confidence that their nation can indeed deliver the ‘justice, liberty and prosperity’ celebrated in your national anthem. Much more needs to be done in South Sudan to shape a nation that reflects God’s kingdom, in which the dignity of all is respected and all are reconciled (cf 2 Corinthians, 5). This may require personal sacrifice from you as leaders – Christ’s own example of leadership shows this powerfully – and today we wish you to know that we stand alongside you as you look to the future and seek to discern afresh how best to serve all the people of South Sudan.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, --South Sudan, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Pope Francis, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(RNS) Ed Litton, a pastor known for racial reconciliation, is surprise winner for SBC president

Ed Litton, the relatively unknown senior pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, defeated two preeminent rivals to be elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention during a session of the SBC’s annual meeting Tuesday (June 15).

Litton has made racial reconciliation a hallmark of his work since at least the 2014 riots after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Litton’s election is considered a defeat for hard right conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention’s recent battles over race, sexual abuse and gender roles.

Litton won in the second round of voting Tuesday, defeating conservative Georgia pastor Mike Stone, a former SBC Executive Committee chair and favorite of the Conservative Baptist Network, which has been critical of SBC leadership, saying it has become captive to liberal ideas.

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Posted in Baptist, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Science & Technology, Violence

(CT) Supreme Court Sides with Catholic Foster Care Agency

The United States Supreme Court ruled decisively in favor of a Catholic foster care agency on Thursday, with all nine justices agreeing that the city of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty when it ended a contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) over service to…[prospective adoptees with same-sex parents].

“It is plain that the City’s actions have burdened CSS’s religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Philadelphia claimed the city could not contract foster care services with a Catholic agency that only served married heterosexual couples because of an antidiscrimination law ensuring that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, has equal access to public accommodations. The court found, however, that foster parenting is not a “public accommodation,” since certification is not available to the public and “bears little resemblance to staying in a hotel, eating at a restaurant, or riding a bus.”

According to the court, there was also no evidence presented in the record that the Catholic agency’s policies ever prevented a same-sex couple from fostering a child, or that it would have that effect.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Roman Catholic, Supreme Court, Urban/City Life and Issues

(CT) Southern Baptists Take Sides Ahead of Nashville Meeting

In the two years since Southern Baptists gathered as a convention, tensions around racial and political issues escalated. But just a couple weeks before their upcoming annual meeting in Nashville, another topic has taken center stage, as new documentation alleges high-ranking leaders in the denomination resisted its efforts to address abuse.

Some Southern Baptists are calling for an investigation of the Executive Committee (EC) after a series of leaked material has suggested that its leaders—one of whom is the conservative pick in the current race for SBC president—worked to hamper efforts to hear from victims in their own terms and to investigate churches with credible claims of cover-up.

“What those docs did kind of reoriented and shifted what the conversations and priorities were going to be going into the convention this year,” said Tennessee pastor Grant Gaines, who along with North Carolina pastor Ronnie Parrott announced plans to make a motion at the June 15–16 meeting calling for a third-party investigation into the EC.

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Posted in Baptist

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John XXIII

Lord of all truth and peace, who didst raise up thy bishop John to be servant of the servants of God and bestowed on him wisdom to call for the work of renewing your Church: Grant that, following his example, we may reach out to other Christians to clasp them with the love of your Son, and labor throughout the nations of the world to kindle a desire for justice and peace; through Jesus Christ, who is alive and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Roman Catholic, Spirituality/Prayer

(First Things) Fr. Vincent Druding–Remembering Richard John Neuhaus

Upon his death, I joined Sr. John Mary, SV and a couple of the Sisters of Life at his bedside to pray and sing the Office of the Dead from the Liturgy of the Hours. Thousands of times, Fr. Richard would have repeated Simeon the Prophet’s words to God on the completion of his mission, “Lord now you let your servant go in peace…your word has been fulfilled.”

Fr. Richard’s last published words read: “The entirety of our prayer is ‘Your will be done’—not as a note of resignation but of desire beyond expression. To that end, I commend myself to your intercession, and that of all the saints and angels who accompany us each step through time toward home.”

Fr. Richard, we have interceded for you, and continue to do so, but now it is we who ask you to intercede for us at the throne of glory. As you knew so well, the darkness of our time and culture—and even the darkness that has crept into our own Church—is great. But we believe with you that the Light has entered the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. We proclaim with you the power and authority of Christ in all times and places, and in all circumstances. We ask your assistance, Fr. Richard, to persevere in trials, to carry the cross, and to witness joyfully to the power of the Resurrection, so that we may preach with our lives, teach as you taught, and imitate your example of giving glory to God by throwing your life away for Jesus Christ and joining that high adventure of living life on high in Christ. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, thank you, we love you, pray for us.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Lutheran, Media, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(PD) Can We Still Reason Together? A Conversation with Robert P. George

SS: In a discussion about advocacy for traditional marriage, one Princeton graduate student told me that she was uncomfortable with the idea of trying to convince others to oppose same-sex marriage by appealing to social science or the kind of arguments you have articulated in What Is Marriage. Although she herself is Catholic, to this student, such an approach felt deceptive—like smuggling in religious precepts under the guise of neutrality and disinterested intellectual inquiry.

How would you respond to her? Is it intellectually honest to make arguments based on natural law or social science for positions you only hold because of your own religious faith?

RG: From your description of her, it sounds like the graduate student you were talking to doesn’t understand the teachings of her own Catholic faith when it comes to the nature of morality, moral questions, and moral judgments, including those concerning marriage. Catholicism self-consciously embraces and proposes a certain understanding of marriage and the norms shaping and protecting it for reasons—reasons that are in principle accessible to anyone, Catholic or not. The point of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense was to articulate, explain, and defend those reasons.

Catholicism is not a fideistic religion. Quite the opposite. Its basic view of marriage as conjugal union (and not a mere form of sexual-romantic companionship or domestic partnership), for example, is not a matter of “religious precepts” that we (or the pope, or the Church) know because God has communicated them to us only by special revelation. Your friend may happen to believe what she believes about marriage because that is what the Church believes and teaches; but the Church herself believes and teaches what she believes and teaches on the subject for reasons that by the Church’s own lights—and her teachings—are available to be understood by “disinterested intellectual inquiry.” These reasons are matters of natural law.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

A look Back to Benedict XVI’s 2013 Ash Wednesday Homily

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin a new Lenten journey, a journey that extends over forty days and leads us towards the joy of Easter, to victory of Life over death. Following the ancient Roman tradition of Lenten stations, we are gathered for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The tradition says that the first statio took place in the Basilica of Saint Sabina on the Aventine Hill. Circumstances suggested we gather in St. Peter’s Basilica. Tonight there are many of us gathered around the tomb of the Apostle Peter, to also ask him to pray for the path of the Church going forward at this particular moment in time, to renew our faith in the Supreme Pastor, Christ the Lord. For me it is also a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude the Petrine ministry, and I ask you for a special remembrance in your prayer.

The readings that have just been proclaimed offer us ideas which, by the grace of God, we are called to transform into a concrete attitude and behaviour during Lent. First of all the Church proposes the powerful appeal which the prophet Joel addresses to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (2.12). Please note the phrase “with all your heart,” which means from the very core of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God and the power of His mercy. The prophet says: “return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment” (v. 13). It is possible to return to the Lord, it is a ‘grace’, because it is the work of God and the fruit of faith that we entrust to His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates and moves our innermost core, gifting us the power that “rends the heart”.

Read it all.

Posted in Lent, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture

(CNS) Sacred Scripture needs to be respected, valued, Vatican says

In preparation for the Sunday of the Word of God Jan. 24, the Vatican issued recommendations for the day as well as reminders on respecting the sacred Scriptures.

For example, liturgical books should be high-quality texts and not photocopies, and the ambo is reserved for specific moments in the liturgy and prayer, and should not be used for making commentaries or announcements, said a note from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

The note, released Dec. 19, was signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, congregation prefect, and Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary.

The note was a reminder that the Sunday of the Word of God, instituted by Pope Francis in 2019, is meant to reawaken in the clergy and the faithful “the importance and value of sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy,” it said.

Read it all.

Posted in Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture

Epiphany awakens the question in the hearts of all people–who is this Jesus?

Dear friends, this is the question that the Church wishes to awaken in the hearts of all men: who is Jesus? This is the spiritual longing that drives the mission of the Church: to make Jesus known, his Gospel, so that every man can discover in his human face the face of God, and be illumined by his mystery of love. Epiphany pre-announces the universal opening of the Church, her call to evangelize all peoples. But Epiphany also tells us in what way the Church carries out this mission: reflecting the light of Christ and proclaiming his Word. Christians are called to imitate the service that the star gave the Magi. We must shine as children of the light, to attract all to the beauty of the Kingdom of god. And to all those who seek truth, we must offer the Word of God, which leads to recognizing in Jesus “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

Benedict XVI.

Posted in Epiphany, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology

Pope Francis at Urbi et Orbi for 2020: Christmas reminds us we are all united as brothers and sisters

Pope Francis gave his traditional Christmas message and Blessing Urbi et Orbi (“To the City [of Rome] and the World”), offering words of hope and consolation, saying a birth is always a source of hope, and “this Child, Jesus, was born ‘to us’ … without any borders, privileges or exclusions.”

He pronounced his message in the Hall of Benediction of St. Peter’s Basilica, the upper area just behind the central loggia where he would usually have delivered his message. The pandemic and safety measures in place led to a decision to avoid the risk of large public gatherings in St. Peter’s Square and hence to broadcast live his message from inside the Basilica.

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Pope Francis

(RNS) After Nice attacks, Pope Francis and French Catholics call for peace with Muslims

After a man killed three people Thursday (Oct. 29) at the Catholic cathedral in Nice, France, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the French Catholic community, offering prayers for the victims as well as wishes that “the beloved French people may respond united for good against evil.”

The attack, one of three on Thursday attributed to Muslim extremists, took place in the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice as a man reportedly yelling “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” stabbed the cathedral’s custodian and two women, one of whom was taken to a nearby café but later died, according to The Associated Press.

“It’s a moment of pain, in a time of confusion,” said Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni in a statement to reporters. “Terrorism and violence must never be tolerated. Today’s attack sowed death in a place of love and consolations, such as the house of the Lord.

“The pope is informed of the situation and is close to the grieving Catholic community,” the Vatican statement continued. “He prays for the victims and their loved ones, so that the violence will cease, and they may return to see each other as brothers and sisters and not enemies so that the beloved French people may respond united for good against evil.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Terrorism

(Sky News) Three die in France in ‘suspected terror incident’

A woman has been decapitated in a suspected terror attack in Nice, French police say.

Three people have died and several others are injured after a knife attack took place near the Notre Dame church.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, Terrorism

(PD) Ryan T. Anderson And Robert P. George–Pope Francis, Civil Unions, and Moral Truth

In What Is Marriage, we opposed a “consent-based” view of marriage that saw marriage as being primarily about companionship, establishing a companionate relationship with what one scholar called “your number one person.” We argued that a faulty understanding of marriage actually makes it harder for people to find happiness, both inside and outside of marriage. That a vision of marriage that sees it as just about whatever ordinary friendships and relationships have, but taken to the nth degree—that marriage is simply the best, most important of whatever makes human sociality good to begin with—gets marriage wrong in ways that can harm both married and unmarried people.

For married people it can make them presume that their marriage is to be their primary means of fulfillment in all the areas of their life, that they should be able to say of their spouse “you fulfill me.” But no one human being and relationship totally fulfills any of us. And no one should seek total fulfillment from their spouses or their marriage.

For unmarried people, it can make them feel—and the rest of society view them—as not only lacking one aspect of fulfillment, marriage itself, but as lacking the pinnacle of human fulfillment, and thus as not flourishing at all. A vision of marriage that sees the relationship between spouses as the peak of human sociality in turn renders the unmarried as second-class flourishers.

Instead, we should view marriage correctly, as a distinctive good with a distinctive nature: a conjugal union of husband and wife ordered to, and thus normatively shaped by its unique aptness for, the bearing and rearing of children. Doing so not only allows us to see family as involving much more than just the spouses themselves—to include extended family and friends grafted into the family—but also allows us to appreciate the unique and irreducible goodness of non-marital forms of human sociality.

A sound vision of marriage thus offers wide vistas of human fulfillment to people who may never marry, for whatever reason. It offers hope of meaningful non-sexual relationships to people who experience same-sex attraction in a way that makes forming a truly marital partnership impossible.

More deeply understanding the truth about marriage and human sexuality will help all of us flourish. And that, of course, is what a pastor like Pope Francis desires. We can understand—indeed we share—the frustration of our fellow Catholics with the ways in which the Holy Father conducts interviews and the ways in which the media distorts them, but we must not do anything to undermine the truth that sets us free.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Pedro Gabriel–Those Pope Francis quotes: Video editing and media controversy

I find it interesting how the Pope spoke here about the media taking his words out of context. I also find it interesting that the Pope specifically said that none of this means approving homosexual acts. This completely alters the implication of the quote that was presented to us. Of course, if you read the entire interview, you will see the Pope railing against abortion and saying, explicitly, “I am a conservative.”

What is even more interesting is that the quotes that appear in the clip from the documentary are scrambled. Additionally, there is absolutely no mention of homosexual unions in the interview—or at least in the official transcript. When I have time, I will watch the full interview, but there is no reference to it in the Vatican News transcript.

If we watch the clip from the documentary, we can see that during the part where the Pope speaks about civil unions, the background is the same as that of the 2019 interview. It appears that the part where Francis talks about approving civil unions must have been edited out of the final product. (Although, again, this is a provisional conclusion on my part, it may change after I watch the full interview).

How did Evgeny Afineevsky, the director of the documentary, get his hands on footage that was apparently edited out of the interview? CNA reports that “the documentarian … was given unprecedented access to Pope Francis until filming completed in June.” Perhaps this explains how he obtained this previously unaired snippet.

Still, the way the video preview rearranges the order in which his words actually appear in the interview should give us pause. Maybe after we see the interview in its full context, we will have a different impression of his words altogether, especially since the Holy Father uses the Spanish term “convivencia civil,” which can be either “civil union” or “civil coexistence.” If he means the latter, he may simply be referring to laws that protect the human rights of homosexuals. Note that he mentions that “this way, they can be legally covered.”

This is just my theory, but I think it’s quite possible that the snippet about civil unions came from a different part of the interview than the discussion of the family. Maybe Francis was discussing his political role in Argentina during an attempt to legalize civil marriage there. This is plausible, because in the interview they do discuss his time as an archbishop in Argentina.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(CNA) Pope Francis Calls for Civil Union Law for Same-Sex Couples, in Shift From Vatican Stance

In a documentary that premiered Wednesday in Rome, Pope Francis called for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples, departing from the position of the Vatican’s doctrinal office and the pope’s predecessors on the issue.

The remarks came amid a portion of the documentary that reflected on pastoral care for those who identify as LGBT.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it,” Pope Francis said in the film, of his approach to pastoral care.

After those remarks, and in comments likely to spark controversy among Catholics, Pope Francis weighed in directly on the issue of civil unions for same-sex couples.

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” the pope said. “I stood up for that.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

(JE) United Methodist Split Update–An interview with Keith Boyette

Mark Tooley: And if you had to predict, to the best of your ability, what will unfold assuming the General Conference next year does approve the Protocol as written? How quickly would the new denominations emerge?

Keith Boyette: Well, the new denomination composed of theologically conservative Methodists or traditional Methodists will be ready to be launched upon the adjournment of the General Conference in September of 2021. We have a group that came out of a dialogue in Atlanta in March of 2020, which you Mark were a part of. That is the transitional leadership council that is doing the work to have everything in readiness for that launch to occur. And we were fully confident that all of that work will have been completed and so the new denomination will be operational upon the adjournment of General Conference and under the Protocol legislation. Central conferences, annual conferences and local churches can begin making decisions almost immediately. Now obviously church central conferences and annual conferences will likely wait until a scheduled conference to do that, whether it be there regularly scheduled or a special session, but local churches could begin the process almost immediately to withdraw, and we will be fully operational ready to receive churches and clergy who would want to align. They will align in a transitional period under the leadership of the transitional leadership council, and we will be moving toward a convening conference for the new denomination that would occur in I believe the fall of 2022, which would allow time for these central conferences, annual conferences to make decisions and then have meaningful participation in the convening Conference, which is something we think is important for them to do.

Mark Tooley: So the new traditional Methodist Church would emerge immediately, but its founding General Conference likely would not be until a year afterwards.

Keith Boyette: That’s correct, it would it would begin to function and it would be in transition, basically, but its founding or convening conference would be that next year, essentially.

Mark Tooley: And the old United Methodist Church, presumably its leaders would want to reconvene fairly quickly to liberalize the teachings about which we’ve been fighting for the last almost 50 years. How fast you think that would unfold?…

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Parish Ministry, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(WSJ) A Former Catholic Dances With the Torah

Given the social distancing mandated by the current pandemic, this will be a Simchat Torah unlike any other. In Israel, currently mired in an intense lockdown, many synagogues will be closed. Around this side of the world, whatever dancing takes place will be muted. Nevertheless, the fragility of life we’ve experienced in the past months allows us to appreciate better what the Torah means to us. The pandemic has made us understand what we often took for granted: how the ability to gather weekly in synagogue and study the Torah together is one of our greatest gifts. And we better appreciate how, in the face of life’s trials, it is the Book of Books that sustains us.

Strikingly, this point about Jewish learning was made by one of America’s most insightful Catholic thinkers, who experienced a moment that mirrors Mr. Dubner’s revelation in a synagogue. A decade ago, Charles Chaput, then archbishop of Philadelphia, visited the study hall of New York’s Yeshiva University, where hundreds of students spend much of their day learning Torah. Archbishop Chaput returned to church to deliver a homily about what he saw. He said he realized how “the Jewish people continue to exist because their covenant . . . is the foundation and glue of their relationship with one another, with their past, and with their future. And the more faithful they are to God’s Word, the more certain they can be of their survival.”

Mr. Dubner and Archbishop Chaput, former and current Catholic alike, discovered the heart of our faith. When all else fails, it is the Torah that sustains us. We know that now more than ever. This year, what is usually a jubilant song on our lips will become a clarion call in our hearts.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Vatican Pushes Against Growing Acceptance of Euthanasia

The Vatican condemned the spreading international acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide, including in some traditionally Catholic countries in Europe, in a strongly worded document that reasserts traditional teaching.

“Euthanasia is an act of homicide that no end can justify and that does not tolerate any form of complicity or active or passive collaboration,” the Vatican’s doctrinal office said in a document published Tuesday and expressly approved by Pope Francis. “It is gravely unjust to enact laws that legalize euthanasia or justify and support suicide, invoking a false right to choose a death improperly characterized as respectable only because it is chosen,” the document says.

Spain’s Parliament is considering a law that would make the country the fourth in Europe to legalize euthanasia, after the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Legislators in neighboring Portugal are considering similar proposals. In February, Germany’s highest court overturned a law banning assisted suicide.

Euthanasia is the painless killing of a patient suffering from a physical or mental disease. In assisted suicide, patients administer lethal drugs to themselves under medical supervision.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Theology

Thursday food for Thought from Pope Benedict XVI

Posted in Eschatology, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Tablet) Pope hopes pandemic will teach care for environment

Speaking after the Angelus in Rome, the pope said the pandemic had made people reflect on the relationship between humankind and the environment.

“The lockdown has reduced pollution,” he said. It had enabled people to rediscover the beauty of many places free from traffic and noise.

“Now, with the resumption of activities, we should all be more responsible for the care of the common home,” he continued. Mentioning the many emerging grass-roots environmental movements, he called for citizens to be “increasingly aware of this essential common good”.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(CLJ) Walker Percy, A Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World Asks: Has It Happened at Last?

In Percy’s novels, the heroes do not change the world, and they minimally change their lives and behaviors. What changes is their vision and their motivation. On the outside, Binx Bolling seems to alter very little from the beginning of The Moviegoer to the end: yet, he has opened himself up to the possibility that “God himself is present here.” He is attentive to the possibilities of God’s presence, and thus, not in despair. Barrett goes a step farther by answering his own question, moving from potential to acceptance. In his conversation with Father Weatherbee about marrying Allison, he wonders, “Is she a gift and therefore a sign of a giver? Could it be that the Lord is here, masquerading behind this simple silly holy face? Am I crazy to want both her and Him? No, not want, must have. And will have.”

What changes when we look for God in our daily activities or when we seek his face in those around us? Does it not make a great deal of difference to how you treat your child? For instance, if you see her as participating in God’s incarnation, a fellow pilgrim on the road to paradise, versus your property, your image, and thus your charge to form into a success story? And, when we consider the day before us not as an empty schedule to be filled, but God’s gracious and gratuitous gift of time, how then might we live differently?

With a true vision, we may offer back to the Giver our minutes in gratitude, thankful for what we have been given to love and enjoy. Just as I, in my quiet office alone behind bars of yellow tape, hear the cathedral bells ring, so too, if we all attend more to the bounty than to the deprivation, then, in this season of uncertainty and potential desperation, perhaps it will be possible, even here, to find God?

Read it all from March.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Eschatology, Roman Catholic

(NYT) The Last Anointing

Beyond the glass lay a man, unconscious in the electric blue light, shrouded in tubes. His family was not allowed to visit. His body could not be touched.

Father Ryan Connors stood at the door watching, his Roman collar barely visible beneath his face shield.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, he had gone to the bedsides of Covid-19 patients across the Boston area to perform one of the oldest religious rituals for the dying: the Roman Catholic practice commonly called last rites.

For centuries, priests have physically anointed the dying with oil to heal body and soul, if not in this life, in the next. Many Catholics have spent their entire lives trusting that in their most difficult hours a priest, and through him God, would come to their aid.

On this Tuesday morning, in the intensive care unit at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, west of the city, all that Father Connors knew about the patient was his name, and that his family had called for a priest.

He had a clear plastic bag with a cotton ball containing a few drops of holy oil. He carried a photocopy of pages from a liturgical book.

At 10:18 a.m., he slid open the door. He walked over to the bed, careful to avoid the tubes on the ground.

He stretched out his hand, and began to pray….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Pastoral Care, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Spirituality/Prayer

(PA) On Pentecost, Pope to take part in online service with UK church leaders for first time

Pope Francis is to take part in an online service alongside senior UK church leaders, including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, for the first time.

He is set to call on people to turn away from the “selfish pursuit of success without caring for those left behind” and to be united in facing the “pandemics of the virus and of hunger, war, contempt for life and indifference to others”.

His special message is to mark Pentecost Sunday, the day Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.

The virtual service is the finale of this year’s global prayer movement, called Thy Kingdom Come, which is usually filled with mass gatherings and outdoor celebrations involving 65 different denominations and traditions.

It has had to be adapted due to the pandemic so people can take part in their homes.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Pentecost, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

(Atlantic) Nuns vs. the Coronavirus

In her room on Saint Joseph’s, Flo would often stay up until 2 a.m. trying to finish her prayers. For a while, she had run a fever, suffered from diarrhea, and kept coughing, but her symptoms didn’t last long. Surrounded by statues of Jesus and Mary, beneath pictures of her six kids, 23 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren, Flo prayed for courage, for the health of the staff, for everybody who was sick in the home. She especially prayed for Karen, her friend from the dining hall. “I was really worried about her. We have different things wrong with us,” Flo told me this week, her voice quiet over the phone. For weeks, she didn’t have much information about how her neighbors were doing, even those who lived just feet away. After a month of separation, toward the end of April, Flo finally left a couple of messages on Karen’s phone.

Since then, the two women have spoken just once, mostly about nothing. They aren’t afraid of death, but they don’t want to talk much about it. Karen told me that she didn’t ask Flo about the coronavirus outbreak, because she was scared she’d start crying. Flo didn’t ask Karen about it either. “Maybe a part of me didn’t want to know,” Flo said.

Karen constantly imagines what it will be like to return to the dining hall when the outbreak is over. Her table, like so many others, will be a little emptier: Pat, who was 87, is among the residents who have died. There was no memorial service where the women could say goodbye to their friend. Pat’s son, a priest in a Delaware beach town, was not even able to celebrate Mass at her funeral.

Both Flo and Karen are lifelong Catholics, and they believe firmly in the promise of Christianity. “When you’re people of faith, heaven is not a scary place,” Karen said. “It’s a place you’re looking forward to, that you’ve been working for all your life.” The residents encourage one another. They’re ready to go home, she said. “Just maybe not today.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(NC Register) Archbishops on England+Wales Acknowledge Pain of Catholics Who Cannot Receive Sacraments

The metropolitan archbishops of England and Wales acknowledged the pain of Catholics who cannot receive the Sacraments because of the coronavirus lockdown in a message issued Friday.

In the message, entitled “A People who Hope in Christ”, published May 1, the archbishops said that while livestreamed Masses nourished faith, they were no substitute for public liturgies.

“None of us would want to be in the situation in which we find ourselves,” they wrote. “While the livestreaming of the Mass and other devotions is playing an important part in maintaining the life of faith, there is no substitute for Catholics being able to physically attend and participate in the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments.”

Writing on behalf of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, the five archbishops continued: “Our faith is expressed powerfully and beautifully though ‘seeing, touching, and tasting.’ We know that every bishop and every priest recognizes the pain of Catholics who, at present, cannot pray in church or receive the sacraments. This weighs heavily on our hearts.”

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Posted in England / UK, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Science & Technology

‘Holy Saturday is the “no man’s land” between death and resurrection, but into this “no man’s land” has entered the One, the Only One, who has crossed it with the signs of his passion for man’

Holy Saturday is the day of God’s concealment, as one reads in an ancient homily: “What happened? Today there is great silence upon the earth, great silence and solitude. Great silence because the King sleeps … God died in the flesh and descended to make the kingdom of hell (‘gli inferi’) tremble” (“Homily on Holy Saturday,” PG 43, 439). In the Creed we confess that Jesus Christ “was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried; he descended into hell (‘negli inferi’), and the third day he rose again from the dead.”

Dear brothers and sisters, in our time, especially after having passed through the last century, humanity has become especially sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday. God’s concealment is part of the spirituality of contemporary man, in an existential manner, almost unconscious, as an emptiness that continues to expand in the heart. At the end of the 18th century, Nietzsche wrote: “God is dead! And we have killed him!” This celebrated expression, if we consider it carefully, is taken almost word for word from the Christian tradition, we often repeat it in the Via Crucis, perhaps not fully realizing what we are saying. After the two World Wars, the concentration camps, the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our epoch has become in ever great measure a Holy Saturday: the darkness of this day questions all those who ask about life, it questions us believers in a special way. We too have something to do with this darkness.

And nevertheless, the death of the Son of God, of Jesus of Nazareth, has an opposite aspect, totally positive; it is a font of consolation and hope. And this makes me think that the sacred Shroud acts as a “photographic” document, with a “positive” and a “negative.” And in effect, this is exactly how it is: The most obscure mystery of faith is at the same time the most luminous sign of a hope without limits. Holy Saturday is the “no man’s land” between death and resurrection, but into this “no man’s land” has entered the One, the Only One, who has crossed it with the signs of his passion for man: “Passio Christi. Passio hominis.”

Read it all from Benedict XVI.

Posted in Christology, Eschatology, Holy Week, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic