Daily Archives: March 18, 2009

Pope visits Africa's growing flock

As Pope Benedict XVI makes his first trip to Africa as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, he will confront a phenomenon that can only be called a mystery.

Why is it that Africa ”“ a continent of bloody conflicts, forced migration, rampant health problems, and profound poverty where as many as 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger ”“ contains some of the most exuberantly religious people on earth? How do Africans find so much hope amid the hopelessness?

Unlike Europe and much of the Western world, where church membership seems to be on a constant decline, Africa is a kind of religious Klondike, where mainstream Christian churches, evangelical churches, and Muslim faiths all appear to be growing with no end in sight. The Catholic Church alone has 185 million members in Africa ”“ 20 percent of the continent’s population. In countries, like Angola, with a Catholic colonial past, Catholics make up 60 percent of the population.

Read it all.

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

NPR: Abuse At Texas Institutions Is Beyond 'Fight Club'

At a state institution for people with mental retardation in Texas, six staff members have been charged with taking part in staging what have been called human cockfights, using residents with mental retardation. The accusations have raised questions about how workers trained and hired to care for some of the most vulnerable people in society could instead treat them with cruelty.

The fights became known only because one of the workers lost his cell phone. It was found and turned over to an off-duty police officer. The phone had videos of more than a year of staged late-night fights, some as recent as this past January.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine

Patrick French: Touting Religion, Grabbing Land

The region has been handed over to the Pakistani Taliban in a foolish bargain made on behalf of Mr. Zardari’s government. Like most violent revolutionary movements, the Taliban use social injustice and a half-understood philosophy as an excuse to grab land and power. Houses and property have been taken over, and the Taliban have announced that people should pay 40 percent of their rent to their landlords and 60 percent to “jihad.”

In the district capital, Mingora, decapitated corpses were dangled from lampposts with notices pinned to them stating the “un-Islamic” action that merited death. At least 185 schools, most for girls, have been closed. Government officials, journalists and security troops have had their throats slit. Little wonder that most of my brother-in-law’s family has fled, along with 400,000 others.

What many Westerners fail to understand is that the Swat Valley is not one of Pakistan’s wild border areas. It is only 100 miles from Islamabad. In the words of Shaheen Sardar Ali, a cousin of Sana’s who is a law professor at Warwick University in England and was the first female cabinet minister in the government of North-West Frontier Province, “Swat is not somewhere you could ever see as being a breeding ground for extremism.” She remembers going to school unveiled as a child in the 1960s and studying alongside boys. But today, any girl who goes to school is risking her life.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Islam, Other Faiths, Pakistan, Religion & Culture

Benedict XVI: The Missionary Identity of the Priest in the Church

The missionary dimension of the priest is born from his sacramental configuration to Christ the Head: this brings with it, as a consequence, a cordial and total adherence to that which the ecclesial tradition has recognized as the “apostolica vivendi” forma. The latter consists of participation in a “new life” understood spiritually, in that “new style of life” that was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and which was made their own by the Apostles. By the imposition of the bishop’s hands and the consecrating prayer of the Church, the candidates become new men, they become “priests.” In light of this it seems clear how the “tria munera” are in the first place a gift, and only as a consequence an office, participation in a life and because of this “a potestas.” Certainly, the great ecclesial tradition has justly detached the sacramental efficacy of the concrete existential situation of the priest, and thus the legitimate expectations of the faithful are adequately safeguarded. However, this correct doctrinal precision does not take anything way from the necessary, more than that, the indispensable, tension to moral perfection, which should dwell in every genuinely priestly heart.

Read it all

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

New England Loses Roman Catholics

An interesting video piece from USA Today–watch it all.

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

Iraq combat deaths at 6-year low

U.S. combat deaths in Iraq have flattened at the lowest level since the war began six years ago Thursday, and the Navy has not lost a member to combat in more than a year.

Three Marines have been killed in combat since August, and none since December, records show. The Air Force hasn’t had a combat death since April, and the Navy since February 2008.

In some weeks, casualty figures for Iraq show, the number of non-combat deaths for U.S. troops topped those killed in fighting.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Iraq War, Military / Armed Forces

David Brooks: The commercial republic

Washington is temporarily at the center of the nation’s economic gravity and a noncommercial administration holds sway. This is an administration that has many lawyers and academics but almost no businesspeople in it, let alone self-made entrepreneurs. The president speaks passionately about education and health care reform, but he is strangely aloof from the banking crisis and displays no passion when speaking about commercial drive and success.

But if there is one thing we can be sure of, this pause will not last. The cultural DNA of the past 400 years will not be erased. The pendulum will swing hard. The gospel of success will recapture the imagination….

Walt Whitman got America right in his essay, “Democratic Vistas.” He acknowledged the vulgarity of the American success drive. He toted up its moral failings. But in the end, he accepted his country’s “extreme business energy,” its “almost maniacal appetite for wealth.” He knew that the country’s dreams were all built upon that energy and drive, and eventually the spirit of commercial optimism would always prevail.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, History

Human rights group welcomes reinstatement of Pakistan Chief Justice

Human Rights Focus Pakistan(HRFP) has welcomed the reinstatement of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and other judges and wrote a letter appealing him to take a sue motu notice on discriminatory laws and their misuse.

The Chief Justice was asked to give special attention the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan, in particular the following sections of the Pakistan Penal Code 295B & 295C.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Law & Legal Issues, Pakistan, Religion & Culture

Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt: Does the Future have a Church of England?

I have already noted the threats, that are well-known to exist, to the future of the Anglican Communion. From a careful reading of the Communiqué following the recent meeting in Alexandria of the Primates of the Communion, and on the basis of what some of them have written and said since, it would be foolishly optimistic to imagine that the existing difficulties were on the point of being overcome. One commentator seems to me to have summed up the situation well when he wrote: “(the communiqué) seemed to mark the acceptance, finally, of the unbridgeability of the Communion’s divide over sexuality and biblical authority, while leaving the outworking of this conclusion still undetermined.”

It may well be the case that only a proportion even of ‘active’ members of the Church of England are much concerned about the Anglican Communion. But even those less concerned would, I think, be faced with questions both within their churches, and from their friends and in the Media, if the Communion were explicitly, by decisions of responsible bodies, to divide. This too would suggest that things were not as they had been ”“ and the more so, if there came (as I think that there would quickly come) pressures upon the General Synod, or upon individual Dioceses, to make choices between the (by then) divided parts of the Anglican Communion.

Many fewer people, I think, are aware of the growing head of steam, in the ‘Global South’ and more accurately among the ‘GAFCON’ elements of the Communion, for a early Review of the processes for the appointment, and of the role, of the Archbishop of Canterbury, on account of the post-holder’s responsibilities as the senior Primate of the Anglican Communion, and as one (arguably, and certainly at present, the most significant and effective) of its four ‘Instruments of Communion’. Specifically, should these roles and responsibilities in and for the contemporary Anglican Communion be located in the See of Canterbury, whose occupant is an appointee of the British Crown (and to date a Briton though today not an Englishman), rather than in an (Arch)bishop elected, like every other Primate, by his peers.

Here are complex questions (explored already in the Hurd Commission’s Review of the See of Canterbury published in 2001): of the relationships of the Provinces of the Communion, and so of Anglicanism itself, to the See, and to the Cathedral, of Canterbury; of the future of the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury (and so of other English Bishops) by the Crown; and of the possibility of an Archbishop of Canterbury who was not British ”“ but could such a person fulfil the roles of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the life of England and of the Church of England? (Could we imagine an English bishop today as Archbishop of Nigeria, or of Australia?) These questions have the potential to cause a good deal of unsettled-ness in the Church of England, and to divert a good deal of energy, if the Global South presses them as I believe that it will.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Religion & Culture

Alberta bishop defends oilsands against media sensationalism

The debate over Alberta’s oilsands is taking on religious overtones these days.

Two months after a Roman Catholic bishop wrote a scathing letter against the province’s vast and controversial energy development, an Anglican bishop has spoken out against “vilifying one of the most exciting and challenging projects in Canadian history.”

John Clarke, bishop of Athabasca ”” a diocese that covers all of northern Alberta ”” said in a pastoral letter that some politicians and news reports focus on negative images of the oilsands, such as the mining process, tailings ponds and dead waterfowl.

“It is time for all (of) us across the Diocese of Athabasca and the Canadian Church to support the good work of the people of Fort McMurray, and not allow the agenda to be driven by the sensationalism of the National Geographic approach,” Clarke wrote in a letter published last week.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources

Gambling on Good Friday a 'terrible desecration' warns Archbishop Freier

Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, today described Tabcorp’s proposed move to allow gambling on Good Friday as a “terrible desecration.”

“Good Friday is a day of profound significance for many Australians because it’s the day we remember Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.

“To turn Good Friday into yet another day with easy access to gambling would be abackward step.

Read it all.

Update: There is a lot more heree on this as well.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Gambling

Fifth Episcopal bishop of Northwest Texas to be ordained Saturday

Four months after his low-key election as the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas, the Rev. J. Scott Mayer will receive a high-profile ordination Saturday.

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and the first woman elected primate in the Anglican Communion, will preside at the ceremony as chief consecrator.

The Rt. Rev. Sam Hulsey, who served the diocese as bishop from 1980 to 1996, and Mayer’s predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Wallis Ohl, who served from 1997 until his retirement on Jan. 1, will serve as co-consecrators.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

Steven Pearlstein: Wall Street's Dangerous Refusal to Learn

You have to wonder what else has to go wrong, how much more wealth will need to be destroyed, before the people on Wall Street get the message that it’s no longer business as usual.

The latest outrage, of course, is over the $400 million in retention bonuses promised to those financial geniuses at AIG’s Financial Products unit last year, months before the insurance giant was essentially taken over by the government in a bailout that already has required an injection of $170 billion in taxpayer money.

The legal argument for honoring these ill-considered contracts is that a deal is a deal and that trying to abrogate them will only wind up costing the government even more in legal fees and punitive damages. But that doesn’t mean the government and its handpicked new management team at AIG were powerless to renegotiate those contracts long before last weekend’s deadline.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Stock Market, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package, Theology

Claire Disbrey: Why the world needs a new ethical language

What we need is a language of ethics that both the religious and the secular feel easy with. The ethical language of rules, which tells us that certain categories of behaviour (such as killing, lying, and adultery) are always wrong, is one that some Christians favour. But Jesus taught, and Paul consistently confirmed, that rules such as the Ten Command­ments should point us towards developing character ”” becoming more gentle, trustworthy, and faithful people ”” rather than just keeping outward regulations. Rules certainly have no attraction for modern secular people.

The ethical language of conse­quences ”” do whatever has the best outcome for the most people ”” similarly underestimates the richness of the Christian concept of love, and can easily slip into a sort of hedonism that is of little help in building common values.

The ethical language that seems best suited for pluralistic democracies is the language of rights. But, for people of faith, this sits uneasily with the idea of the need for detachment from self-centredness, which features prom­inently in the ethics of all the main world religions, and with the idea of a holy sovereign creator, which lies at the heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology

At G20, Kremlin to Pitch New Currency

The Kremlin published its priorities Monday for an upcoming meeting of the G20, calling for the creation of a supranational reserve currency to be issued by international institutions as part of a reform of the global financial system.

The International Monetary Fund should investigate the possible creation of a new reserve currency, widening the list of reserve currencies or using its already existing Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs, as a “superreserve currency accepted by the whole of the international community,” the Kremlin said in a statement issued on its web site.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Europe, Globalization, Russia

AP: March Madness, indeed! No clear favorite in NCAAs

For the next two days, Butler, Dayton, Arizona, even North Dakota State can bask in the same euphoria and hope as Louisville, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and North Carolina.

There are 65 teams in the NCAA tournament, and every single one of them is thinking “Why not me?” After the craziness in college basketball this year, who’s to say any of them are wrong?

“I really do think it’s wide open,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said Monday. “I think any of us can get beat. I don’t think there’s a dominant team out there.”

I am really looking forward to it. Read it all–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

Lure of Facebook makes it a popular fast for Lent

College students were the first to hit on the Facebook fast. This year, adults — the fastest-growing Facebook demographic group — have taken on the challenge. Now Italian Roman Catholic bishops are onto it. Sort of. They’re urging believers to take a high-tech fast for Lent by switching off iPods and abstaining from instant text messaging.

Paul Griffith, a professor of Catholic theology at Duke Divinity School, said the church doesn’t have a problem with technology as such — only its overuse.

“The concern is that technology like e-mail and the Internet can substitute for genuine human relationships,” Griffith said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lent

Mistrial by iPhone: Juries’ Web Research Upends Trials

Last week, a juror in a big federal drug trial in Florida admitted to the judge that he had been doing research on the case on the Internet, directly violating the judge’s instructions and centuries of legal rules. But when the judge questioned the rest of the jury, he got an even bigger shock.

Eight other jurors had been doing the same thing. The federal judge, William J. Zloch, had no choice but to declare a mistrial, wasting eight weeks of work by federal prosecutors and defense lawyers.

“We were stunned,” said the defense lawyer, Peter Raben, who was told by the jury that he was on the verge of winning the case. “It’s the first time modern technology struck us in that fashion, and it hit us right over the head.”

It might be called a Google mistrial. The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors gathering and sending out information about cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country, upending deliberations and infuriating judges.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Law & Legal Issues

Jewish fury at visit by Iran leader

Melbourne Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier is under fire from the Jewish community for hosting a function for former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami while he is in Melbourne this month.

Jewish Community Council of Victoria president John Searle wrote to Dr Freier saying the Jewish community found it inconceivable that the Anglican Church would host “such a man” or even meet him.

He declined an invitation to attend and asked Dr Freier to reconsider.

Mr Searle told The Age that although Mr Khatami, president of Iran from 1997 to 2005, was regarded as a reformist, he was a sponsor of terrorism, a Holocaust denier and leader of a country that has often threatened to “wipe Israel off the map”.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Inter-Faith Relations, Iran, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths