Yearly Archives: 2009

RNS: New Thomas Merton Book Stirs Up Controversy

The cloistered Merton burst into public view in 1948 with the publication of his memoir “The Seven Storey Mountain,” which detailed his journey from a young rogue who wallowed in “beer, bewilderment, and sorrow,” according to a friend, to a penitent novitiate in the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, the formal name of the Trappist order.

Merton went on to write a steady stream of spiritual books, essays and poems, and became one of the best known and well-loved Catholic writers of the 20th century. He died at age 53 in 1968 in a freak electrocution accident in Thailand.

Scholars and even casual Mertonites have long known of his affair with [Margie] Smith, especially since his seven-volume personal journals, in which he pins down passing emotions like a butterfly collector, were published in the 1990s. But some disagree about whether the affair was a regrettable interlude, or an emotional breakthrough for a man who had long struggled with his feelings toward women.

A new Merton biography, “Beneath the Mask of Holiness,” falls firmly in the latter camp. Author Mark Shaw paints a portrait of the monk as a tormented, “imposter of sorts,” who reluctantly played the part of the happy, contemplative guru. In reality, Shaw argues, Merton was haunted by his youthful indiscretions with women””including reportedly, the fathering of a child out of wedlock””and the chasm between his private past and public persona.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Spirituality/Prayer

What a Revealing Graph

Amazing–a picture is worth 1000 words.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

William Crawley–Top Ten Religion Stories of the Year

1. Sex scandals rock the Catholic church. This was the most difficult year for the Irish Catholic Church for as long as anyone can remember. In May, the Ryan Report made headline news across the world when it revealed that rape and sexual molestation were “endemic” in schools and orphanages run by the Irish church over seven decades. Two months earlier, Bishop John Magee was forced to “stand aside” from the management of his Cloyne diocese, in county Cork, after an investigation, published the previous December, found that his diocese had put children at risk by failing to follow child protection guidelines.

Things got considerably worse for the church with the publication, in November, of the Murphy Report into the sexual abuse scandal in the archdiocese of Dublin. Judge Yvonne Murphy chronicled an organised cover-up of child abuse allegations in the diocese spanning a period of nearly four decades. In the wake of the report’s publication, there were unprecedented calls for the Pope’s diplomatic representative, the Papal Nuncio, to be expelled from Ireland, after it emerged that he failed to correspond directly with the Commission of Investigation. Four bishops named in the report resigned, many said belatedly. A fifth bishop, Martin Drennan of Galway, has so far resisted the growing clamour for him to also step down….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Ireland, Media, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

USA Today–Year in review: God, politics, pop culture intertwined in '09

President Obama, a mainline Protestant who currently has no home church, dominated much of the U.S. religion news. His inaugural address called the USA “a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers.”

In his first months, Obama lifted a Bush administration ban on federal funding for groups that offer abortion information and services abroad and expanded the policy permitting federal funds for embryonic stem cell research.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Media, Religion & Culture

With Greece Teetering, the Worst May Not Be Over for Europe

Never before has Europe’s monetary union seemed so fragile.

Day by day, fears are growing that Greece or another weak country may default on its sovereign debt obligations, forcing the richer countries in Europe to ride to the rescue or risk having one or more of its most vulnerable members leave the 16-nation euro zone.

Many European economists discount such a fracture as a remote possibility. But that doesn’t mean Europe has safely emerged from crisis.

Instead, it faces a longer-term challenge to restore the fiscal credibility of at least half the countries that use the euro. The true test for the world’s largest common currency zone, analysts say, will be whether it can withstand the economic, political and social strains once the European Central Bank begins to raise interest rates in response to economic improvements in Germany, France and other Northern European countries.

At that point, the laggards on the union’s fringe ”” Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain (the so-called Piigs) ”” will face even tougher choices to cope with what looks like several more years of stagnant economies, high unemployment and gaping budget deficits.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Europe, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

The Recession Begins Flooding Into the Courts

New York State’s courts are closing the year with 4.7 million cases ”” the highest tally ever ”” and new statistics suggest that courtrooms are now seeing the delayed result of the country’s economic collapse. The Great Recession may be showing signs of easing, but the legal fallout from the financial troubles, the numbers suggest, may have only just begun.

And the increase in New York offers a preview of the recession-related cases showing up in courts across the nation.

New York’s judges are wading into these types of cases by the tens of thousands, according to the new statistics, cases involving not only bad debts and soured deals, but also filings that are indirect but still jarring measures of economic stresses, like charges of violence in families torn apart by lost jobs and homes in jeopardy.

Contract disputes statewide in 2009 are projected to be up 9 percent from the year before. Statewide home foreclosure filings increased 17 percent, to 48,127 filings. Cases involving charges like assault by family members were up 18 percent statewide. While serious crime remains low, misdemeanor charges in New York City were up 7 percent and lesser violations were up 18 percent in 2009.

Judges and lawyers say the tales behind any number of cases, including low-level offenses like turnstile jumping and petty theft, are often a barometer of bad times. And they said that the data showed that courts nationally would be working through the recession’s consequences for years, much as they did with the flood of cases stemming from the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, even after the epidemic had slowed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

A Message from Archbishop John Hepworth of the Traditional Anglican Communion

The Child was laid in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. These were the clothes in which the Jewish dead would be buried. They were kept in the stable so as not to be within the realm of the living. “His death cast a shadow over His birth, because his death was the reason for His birth.”

The martyrs of His octave, the first of the martyrs, Deacon Stephen, the Anglican Archbishop Becket, the host of the Innocents, the children who died for the comfort of a King, the Apostle whose failed martyrdom led to the Apocalyptic exile on Patmos, these are the ones who accompany our Christmas thoughts, and remind us of the cost of following the Child of Bethlehem.

These are appropriate thoughts in this year’s Octave when the bishops of our Communion receive their formal response to their petition for communion with the Bishop of Rome and those in communion with him in East and West. To be a splinter is not a virtue, it is an irritant destined to fester. A branch unconnected to the vine withers and corrupts.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecclesiology, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Theology

In Oregon an Episcopal Church Finds Hope, Promise in Season of Rebirth

On just another Sunday morning at St. David of Wales Episcopal Church, the Rev. Sara Fischer preaches about the season of Advent, the coming of Jesus Christ and what this holiday season really means.

“People who’ve been around me a long time know that I’m always saying this or that season or day is my favorite,” she says with a small laugh. “But really, truly, I love Advent. This is a season of new beginnings, of expectation and preparation for something wonderful.”

She might as well be talking about her own church.

A year and a half ago, St. David’s was dying. Sunday services were held in a small side chapel for a crowd you could count on your fingers. The older members””the Little Old Ladies, as they call themselves””were trying out other parishes. The priest, a part-timer fast approaching mandatory retirement, was doing his best to hang on, fearful that if he left, the diocese would sell the building.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

From the Morning Scripture Readings

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

–Psalm 46:1-3

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for the Provisional Feast Day of Samuel Ajayi Crowther

Almighty God, who didst rescue Samuel Ajayi Crowther from slavery, sent him to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to his people in Nigeria, and made him the first bishop from the people of West Africa: Grant that those who follow in his steps may reap what he has sown and find abundant help for the harvest; through him who took upon himself the form of a slave that we might be free, the same Jesus Christ; who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of Nigeria, Spirituality/Prayer

Religion and Ethics Weekly: A Look Ahead to the Major Religion Stories of 2010 Roundtable

[KIM] LAWTON: Another interesting aspect to this particular debate, when you are talking about the Anglican Communion, is the demographic changes of Christianity around the world. So you have Christians in Africa and Asia who have the numbers. There’s millions of Christians in Uganda and Rwanda and Sudan. These tend to be more conservative on some of these issues””much more conservative, especially on the issue of homosexuality, and where their place is in the international Christian family is very much up for grabs in this particular debate.

[E.J.] DIONNE: Indeed, Christianity is growing. I think it’s a great shock for people to realize that there are many more Anglicans in Africa than there are Episcopalians in the United States.

[JASON] BYASSEE: There’s twice as many Anglicans in Sudan as there are in the United States””just one big country in Africa. I don’t think we’re anywhere near catching up with what this means, not only on social issues but on doctrine, worship life, and all the rest. What’s it going to mean, not very long from now, that Christianity is essentially an African religion and not a Western one, not a North American or European one?

Read or watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Globalization, Media, Religion & Culture

Out with the Aughts: Christianity's new centres of power

It is a vision most mainstream Canadian church leaders can only dream of: Sunday mornings in which parishioners dance and sing through three-hour services. Seminaries overflowing and unable to keep up with demand for pastors as the number of the newly baptized rises.

The dream is a reality in such places as Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda, where there is an explosion in Christianity. In the past decade, this demographic surge has started to spill out of Africa, as well as Asia and Latin America, in the form of missionaries to the West, a trend influencing everything from styles of worship to doctrine.

Whereas many Catholic intellectuals and academics in North America have the luxury to worry about, for example, the ordination of women, the Africans entrust that issue to the judgement of the Vatican and concern themselves instead with the practical work of basic survival.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Global South Churches & Primates, Globalization, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Southern Anglican Archbishops to Affirm Covenant in Singapore

Archbishops representing Anglican churches in the southern hemisphere will formally accept a covenant aimed at promoting unity within the worldwide denomination when they meet in Singapore 2010.

The Global South Anglican, which brings together 20 of the 38 provinces (churches led by archbishops or their counterparts) in the Anglican Communion and in which the Bishop of Singapore and Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Southeast Asia The Most Revd Dr John Chew serves as incumbent general secretary, will be holding its fourth meeting or ”˜encounter’ from 19 to 23 April.

The Anglican Communion Covenant as it is called was developed over the past number of years to salvage unity within the communion after the ordination of an openly homosexual bishop by The Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism, threatened to split it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant, Archbishop of Canterbury, Global South Churches & Primates

Church Times–Anglican Churches sent final text of Covenant ”” ”˜not a penal code’

The proposed Anglican Covenant will not solve all the Communion’s problems, the Archbishop of Canterbury warned, as the final draft went out to all the provinces for approval last week.

It was not going to be a constitution, “and it’s certainly not going to be a penal code for punishing people who don’t comply,” Dr Williams said in a short video address, posted on YouTube, after the Communion’s Standing Committee had met from 15 to 18 December.

Read it all.

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

Holy Cow Idaho! The Humanitarian Bowl was Amazing!

What a terrific game, it came down to a two point conversion try with 4 seconds left in the game.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

Fox stands firm in Time Warner Cable fee dispute

Fox Network refused Wednesday to agree to an offer by Time Warner Cable to enter arbitration with the Federal Communications Commission to resolve an ongoing fee dispute.

Fox and Time Warner Cable have been locked in a public battle over how much the cable giant should pay News Corp. for the right to deliver Fox networks into its subscribers’ homes.

Talks are still ongoing, but if a deal is not reached before the Dec. 31 deadline, all of the Fox-owned broadcast networks and some of its cable channels could disappear from some Time Warner Cable subscribers’ televisions on New Year’s Day.

Serious corporate brinkmanship–read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Movies & Television

AP: Artist priest finds God in abstract expressionism

There’s no steeple out front, no rows of pews inside, not even so much as a crucifix on display.

Still, this cramped little art studio in the middle of what, until not very long ago, was a street with as many broken dreams as it has potholes, is the closest thing to paradise Father Bill Moore has found. It’s the place where the 60-year-old Catholic priest serves God by creating abstract paintings that he sells by the hundreds.

No ordinary preacher, Father Bill, as he’s known throughout Pomona’s fledgling arts district, long ago discarded his clerical collar in favor of a painter’s smock. Only on Sundays does he trade it for holy vestments to deliver Mass at a local church or one of several detention facilities for youthful offenders.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Art, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Simon Sarmiento with more about the Equality Bill Controversy

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Silencing of church bells riles some in Pittsford

Two schools of thought are clanging together at Christ Episcopal Church in Pittsford over its church bells.

After complaints from neighbors that the bells, which sounded every hour, disrupted their sleep, church officials decided to silence the bells after 11 p.m. But some church members are upset that the church’s governing body decided to end that more than century-old tradition without discussions with parishioners and the community.

Church officials said they talked at length about the issue and felt their decision was appropriate.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

Movies That Should Die With The Decade

Ever slap down $10 for a ticket for a film so foul you choked on the popcorn? It’s time for payback. Film critic Bob Mondello has caught the worst offenders of the past 10 years.

First, some ground rules. The film has to have burned a big enough American audience to be worth talking about ”” at least 4 million people at, say, $7.50 a pop, or roughly $30 million. That excludes Paris Hilton’s The Hottie and the Nottie, which only made $27,000 in the United States ”” though it made $1.5 million in Russia.

Second, to recognize the singular dreadfulness of each movie, we’re breaking the list into categories.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Movies & Television

The 7 year old boy who paints like an old master

Quite something–check it out (hat tip: Selimah).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Art, Children

Bishop Richard Chartres of London: Christmas and climate change

The Christmas message is supposed to be “good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.” How, though, is this credible amidst such encircling economic and eco-gloom?

The Copenhagen Conference has ended somewhat inconclusively. The prospect of a binding and ambitious agreement on reducing carbon emissions seems itself to have been reduced to a prelude for further negotiations. How the human race is collectively to face the reality of climate change in the 21st century remains troublingly unclear.

Yet the decisive action that Copenhagen had promised, but ultimately has failed to deliver, cannot be avoided forever. The Christian community is being recalled by this crisis to a more genuinely Biblical view of creation and our place within it. It is clear that the effects of climate change will be felt first by some of the most vulnerable communities in the world and those least able to bear the costs of adaptation….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, CoE Bishops, Energy, Natural Resources, Theology

From Today's WSJ: Daring to Live Your Life Offline

On the morning of Christmas Eve last week, I arrived at my gym””usually open at 5 a.m.””at 7:40, only to find that the holiday had delayed its opening to 8 a.m. Four of us stood there in a vestibule, listening to a frosty wind blow outdoors. The moment seemed perfect for holiday banter””how virtuous we were to be squeezing in a workout, how virtue would utterly disappear in the festive hours ahead. But one fellow pulled out his BlackBerry, and as if on cue, the rest of us did the same. For 20 minutes we read or sent emails and spoke nary a word to each other.

Of course, the image of the Internet holdout isn’t exactly a wholesome one. “Luddite” is the usual word for him, and the most infamous Luddite in modern times, Ted Kaczynski, was a lonely lunatic who killed and maimed in the name of tradition.

But in truth, little is really known about the offline American, and much is assumed: that he is rural, poor and possibly militant in his opposition to the Internet (although one blessing is that such opponents would have trouble finding each other offline).

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Science & Technology

For some South Carolina Families, A Desperate time

With 30 hours of help a week, Christina Stewart could care for her mentally and physically disabled 9-year-old daughter, but come Friday her ability to keep the child at home will be put in jeopardy.

Hundreds of families will be put in the same position as the new year rings in, and at-home services for disabled residents are dramatically scaled back.

For Stewart, the number of hours of help available to care for her daughter, Camille, will be cut almost in half.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Economy, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Poverty, State Government, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Afghanistan army flunks pentagon report card

Watch it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, War in Afghanistan

Father Marcel Guarnizo on the Consequences of Bad Ideas

The fall of the Berlin Wall is arguably the most significant event of the 20th century, says the director of an educational foundation that seeks to create a new intellectual culture in post-communist countries.

Father Marcel Guarnizo is founder and chairman of the Vienna-based organization Educational Initiative for Central and Eastern Europe (EICEE), which hosted a conference earlier this month to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and to reflect on lessons learned from the rise and fall of communism.

Part one is here and part two is there.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Germany, History, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Herald Bulletin–Even in tough times, stealing is never right

“I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither. I would ask that they do not steal from small, family businesses but from national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices.”

With those words, [Tim] Jones set off a firestorm of criticism on both sides of the Atlantic.

Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, rebuked Jones, saying the priest ought to know right from wrong.

“His concern for the least well-off is admirable, but his remedy is both misguided and foolish.”

Jones’ words bring to mind a different time when Victor Hugo wrote “Les Miserables” in 1862. The main character, Jean Valjean, was pursued by a police inspector for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family. Hugo’s contemporary, Charles Dickens, wrote about his disgust of poverty in such works as “Oliver Twist.” Dealing with wretched poverty and breaking the law to alleviate it seemed to be characteristics of the Victorian age.

But as Carey points out, that time is not now.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Theology

Lekan Oguntoyinbo: A failed bombing, an opportunity for Nigeria

Since the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day, many have asked how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian student whose father flagged his radicalization to U.S. authorities, was able to get highly explosive material through airport security checkpoints and even on board a plane in Lagos. It may be a while before U.S. and Nigerian investigators present concrete responses to apparent security flaws. But some things are already clear.

The problems at Nigeria’s largest airport are symptomatic of issues plaguing the West African country. Once one of Africa’s greatest hopes, Nigeria, a nation about the size of Arizona, California and Nevada combined, has become an embarrassment, a lawless country run by plutocrats. Nigeria has all the makings of a failed state: Less than half of its 148 million people have access to running water, the World Health Organization and UNICEF’s Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation have reported. Electricity is epileptic. The K-12 and public university systems are frequently beset by strikes. Roads are poor, often unpaved and unpassable. Crime is the order of the day. Nigerian police officers don’t protect and serve; their uniforms allow them to exploit, extort and oppress. If victims are not from Nigeria’s small protected class, they are sometimes murdered. Borders with neighbors such as Niger, which is known to host al-Qaeda cells, are notoriously porous.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Nigeria, Terrorism

Richard Dowden: In Africa they won’t feel lonesome tonight

I once landed at a remote airstrip in southern Sudan. The pilot dropped me off and flew away, and I was alone with a long wait for the person who was to pick me up. As we flew in I had seen nothing but bush and rock; almost no sign of human habitation.

But as I sat and waited in the shade of a tree, an old man emerged from the bush. He greeted me as if I came every day and asked if I had brought any newspapers. I had not. But he did not seem to think his journey had been wasted. We sat and chatted and then, when conversation dried up, we just sat in the shade and stared across the wooded valley.

Anywhere else it would have felt awkward just sitting there in silence. But silent companionship is just fine in Africa. Just being with someone is perfectly normal. In Britain we shut ourselves off from other people and leave the lonely to themselves, especially at Christmas. Loneliness and depression are serious afflictions, created by the way we live.

Maybe we should learn from Africa.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Africa, England / UK

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Some boast of chariots, and some of horses; but we boast of the name of the LORD our God.

–Psalm 20:7

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture