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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Pope Francis has published new guidelines on family life that argue the Church should show more understanding of modern realities.
The document, based on two Synods on the issue, was eagerly awaited by the world's 1.3bn Roman Catholics.
Entitled "On Love in the Family", it does not change Catholic doctrine.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Men Religion & Culture Women * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Mercy has been the animating force of Pope Francis’ three-year pontificate. And the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which the Catholic Church has been celebrating since December, is the greatest expression of the pope’s interest. Millions of Catholics are taking the opportunity to renew their faith and receive plenary indulgences during what Francis has called “a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God.”
Vatican City’s judicial system, however, is not taking the year off. Msgr. Lucio Ángel Vallejo Balda has spent the Jubilee in a Vatican City jail cell, and he could face up to eight years behind bars for crimes against the Vatican City State. He and his co-defendants won’t be the first to be prosecuted by the world’s smallest state.
There are two types of courts within the Vatican: religious and civil. Religious courts punish heretical priests, for example, and their jurisdiction extends beyond the Vatican’s walls. Penalties follow the principle of salus animarum, the salvation of souls. They come in the form of invitations to repentance, expulsion from the priestly state or, in severe cases, excommunication.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Italy * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Indian priest Tom Uzhunnalil was reportedly crucified by Islamic State (ISIS) on Good Friday. The gruesome act was committed by the Yemen unit of the dreaded terror outfit.
Father Uzhunnalil was abducted by ISIS on March 4 in the aftermath of an attack on a church in Aden. At least 16 people were killed in the Catholic prayer hall by the Islamic militants. Eyewitnesses reveal that Father Uzhunnalil was dragged out of his room and loaded into a van. The militants were not to be seen again in the region again following the attack.
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Update: CNA is reporting the news is still unconfirmed.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Asia India * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
And so we come to Good Friday, day of the Passion and crucifixion of the Lord. Every year, placing ourselves in silence before Jesus nailed to the wood of the cross, we realize how full of love were the words he pronounced on the eve, in the course of the Last Supper. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark 14:24). Jesus willed to offer his life in sacrifice for the remission of humanity's sins. Just as before the Eucharist, so before the Passion and Death of Jesus on the cross the mystery is unfathomable to reason. We are placed before something that humanly might seem absurd: a God who not only is made man, with all man's needs, not only suffers to save man, burdening himself with all the tragedy of humanity, but dies for man.
Christ's death recalls the accumulation of sorrows and evils that beset humanity of all times: the crushing weight of our dying, the hatred and violence that again today bloody the earth. The Lord's Passion continues in the suffering of men. As Blaise Pascal correctly writes, "Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world; one must not sleep during this time" (Pensées, 553). If Good Friday is a day full of sadness, and hence at the same time, all the more propitious a day to reawaken our faith, to strengthen our hope and courage so that each one of us will carry his cross with humility, trust and abandonment in God, certain of his support and victory. The liturgy of this day sings: "O Crux, ave, spes unica" (Hail, O cross, our only hope)."
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Holy Week * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI * Theology Christology
Fifty years ago, on March 22nd 1966, a new centre was set up in the heart of Rome dedicated to the building up of Anglican-Catholic dialogue. The Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey presided at the dedication ceremony in the ancient Doria Pamphilj palace, the day before his first historic encounter with Pope Paul VI that took place in the Sistine Chapel.
Exactly half a century on, Christians of many different denominations gathered in the Anglican Centre chapel on Tuesday to give thanks for those events and to commit themselves anew to the task of reconciling their divided Churches.
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It is not the fact that the French Revolution attacked clerical celibacy that is revealing, then, but which arguments they deployed against it. Earlier opponents attacked the institution as a crime against innocent bastards and faithful concubines, or as unscriptural Roman overreach, or as an implicit denigration of family life. In the case of the French revolutionaries, their arguments were primarily either utilitarian or legalistic—which may be why they sound familiar today....
More modern-sounding still, in our age of "marriage equality," are the legalistic arguments. Insofar as clerical celibacy was a form of discrimination on the basis of profession, it was deemed a violation of egalité. The most rhetorically powerful ploy of all was to elevate parenthood to the status of a basic human right, which vows of celibacy infringed upon. One abbé Cournand, upon presenting a motion in favor of clerical marriage in a Paris suburb's local assembly in 1790, said that obligatory celibacy violated clerics' "inalienable right … to exist as father and spouse." A 1795 treatise by a married priest argued that becoming a père de famille was a basic right and any act prohibiting it was "fundamentally invalid [and] an attack on liberty."
The debate over clerical celibacy was at its liveliest during the period of ambiguity following the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of 1790, since the issue of clerical marriage is not actually mentioned in that document and would not be settled until the Constitution of 1791. One pamphleteer of the uncertain interim argued that the National Assembly did not even need to clarify its position on clerical marriage, since the right to marry was implicit in the egalitarian decrees already enacted. "Lay people can marry, therefore priests can marry as well." In his eyes, it was a constitutional fait accompli. Eulogius Schneider, a former Franciscan monk who would become a prosecutor of the Terror, echoed this line of argument in 1791: "Priests are men and citizens, and by consequence, they must enjoy the rights of man and of citizen." In the hands of such innovators, the Rights of Man and Citizen proved as accommodating as our Fourteenth Amendment in the search for a never-before-dreamed-of right to marry.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch History Marriage & Family * International News & Commentary Europe France * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The meeting on 23 March 1966 led to a half-century of ecumenical dialogue through the formation of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (Arcic) and the setting up of the Anglican Centre in Rome. The Centre was dedicated on 22 March and opened a few months later. A series of events have been set up to marks its fiftieth anniversary. On Tuesday 22 March, there will be a Holy Communion service in London at St Andrew by the Wardrobe, where the preacher will be Revd Barry Nichols, secretary and former governor of the Anglican Centre, and on the same day a Eucharist service in Rome at the Anglican Centre. Bishop Stephen Platten, the chairman of governors, will preach and use the original order of service used by Archbishop Ramsey to rededicate the Centre’s chapel. In June, ecumenical Evensong will be held at Westminster Abbey to mark the anniversary with the sermon preached by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
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Union organizers now have their sights set on America’s largest Catholic university, DePaul University in Chicago. But the school’s president, Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, won’t let labor bureaucrats usurp his authority without a fight. Writing online for Inside Higher Ed in January, he noted that “whether or not a particular faculty member chooses to incorporate religion in his or her classroom overtly, the point is that it is up to the university, not the government, to decide what counts as religious perspective.” Ultimately, he wrote, “the freedom to determine what is or what is not religious activity inside our church is at stake.”
In recent years many faith-based schools have wrestled with questions about the religious and secular mix in their missions—and labor bureaucrats have noticed. Some schools have seemed to neglect their identity when hiring professors. “I’m not Catholic,” Alyson Paige Warren, a Loyola adjunct professor, told America Magazine in January, “and I don’t teach Jesuit spirituality.”
Pope Francis will have none of that ambivalence. In January 2014 remarks to a delegation from the University of Notre Dame, Francis insisted upon the “uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom.” He reminded his visitors from Notre Dame—and by extension administrators at other Catholic colleges—to protect their schools’ “identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness.”
If more religious educators prayed over that, labor bureaucrats wouldn’t stand a chance.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
To be blunt: The last thing this funeral Mass was about was "spirituality." So search the [New York] Times story and look for the role that terms such as "Christian" and "Catholic" played in its contents. What about "Jesus," you ask? Forget about it.
The strongest religious language in the [New York] Times piece linked a kind of vague, Americanized faith with a nod to current fights over religious liberty.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Media Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Christology Eschatology Soteriology
In a majestic Mass at Houston’s Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Feb. 2, history was made for the Anglican ordinariates established by Pope Benedict XVI: Their first bishop was ordained.
“In a nutshell, it means we’re here to stay,” summarized Msgr. Harry Entwistle, the ordinary of Australia’s ordinariate, which is under the patroness of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.
The new bishop, Steven Joseph Lopes, 40, a native of California, was in fact instrumental in the creation of the ordinariate that he now leads — the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
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Antonin Scalia attended the traditional Latin Mass nearly every Sunday, at St. John the Beloved church near his home in McLean, Va., or at St. Mary Mother of God church in the Chinatown section of Washington, D.C. When he went to the latter location, it was usually followed by a day of reading in his nearby Supreme Court office, which he did for decades on certain Sundays during the court’s term.
In the 20 years I saw him at Mass, not once was he protected by Supreme Court police or by U.S. Marshals. The associate justice with his home number still listed in the telephone book was surprisingly down to earth, true to his New Jersey roots. It was not uncommon to see him park his BMW on G Street in the District before Mass and put on his necktie using the car’s mirror. He would walk into St. Mary’s with his pre-Vatican II handmissal, always sitting in the same general area, near Patrick Buchanan, about halfway up the aisle on the far left side of the nave.
Justice Scalia loved music, especially opera. So when I was the director of an amateur choir at St. Mary’s in the late 1990s (in a Verizon Center-less neighborhood far different from today), we were under increased pressure during the Sundays when he attended High Mass. Our choir was admittedly awful, and even though we rehearsed every Thursday night and Sunday morning, it didn’t seem to help much....
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology
“He was a man. Take him for all in all. [We] shall not look upon his like again.” Those words from Hamlet seem appropriate on the death of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He had a powerful effect on the Court and on the law more broadly. Scalia was the most eloquent and prominent proponent of the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the “original meaning” of its words: the meaning they had at the time of their adoption. He argued, in his inimitable style, for a “dead Constitution”—whose meaning is fixed until changed by formal amendment—over a “living Constitution” that a judge can manipulate into whatever shape he wishes.
Moreover, except for Ruth Ginsburg, it is hard to imagine another justice becoming so visible in the broader culture. Many who hated Scalia’s rulings could not help but be entertained by his razor-sharp writing, which he used especially in his dissenting opinions to carve up the majority’s reasoning (my favorite is Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where among other things he referred to the majority’s “Nietzschean vision of us unelected, life-tenured judges—leading a Volk who will be ‘tested by following’” the Court’s rulings obediently). In a talk at my law school last November, he said that he wrote his dissents “mainly for you guys, for law students.” His eloquence inspired generations of lawyers and students convinced by his judicial philosophy.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General Supreme Court * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Quite aside from his legal views, what came through that night four years ago was just how keenly interested Scalia was in Church affairs, and how central reflection on his faith was to his life and his worldview.
There are, of course, Catholics who don’t believe Scalia drew the correct conclusions from his religious convictions, seeing his “originalist” view of the Constitution as more about conservative political ideology than genuinely Catholic sensibilities.
What can’t be denied is that Antonin Scalia was a serious Catholic, someone whose faith was a defining element of his life. His passing is a reminder that Catholicism’s contribution to public life in the United States may not always be ideologically coherent or predictable, but it’s profound, and he was a lifelong embodiment of that truth.
Read it all frp, John Allen in Crux.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology
Pope Francis on Friday became the first pontiff to ever meet a patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, as the two Christian leaders set aside centuries of division in a historic encounter that was held in an unlikely setting: a room at the Havana airport.
Having announced the meeting only a week ago, Francis landed in Havana about 2 p.m. for a stopover that lasted a few hours, before he continued to Mexico City for his six-day visit to Mexico. Awaiting him in Havana was Patriarch Kirill, who was making an official visit to Cuba at the invitation of President Raúl Castro.
As he approached the Russian patriarch amid the clicking of news cameras, Francis was overheard to say, “Brother.” A moment later, he added, “Finally.”
The two men embraced, kissing each other twice on the cheeks and clasping hands before taking seats. “Now things are easier,” Kirill said. Francis responded, “It is clear now that this is the will of God.”
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Why now? What world events made this historic meeting possible?
Behind closed doors, the pope and the patriarch will almost certainly talk about Ukraine and other issues. They may talk about the remaining doctrinal barriers that prevent shared Communion, in every sense of that word, between the Orthodox and Catholics.
But all signs are that they are meeting because, to be blunt, Christians have few if any safe havens right now in the lands in which they have lived and worshiped since the birth of Christianity. What happens if Damascus falls to ISIS or even to the American-backed "moderate" forces that have been killing and kidnapping Christians and members of other religious minorities at a slower rate than ISIS?
Stay tuned to see what is in the joint declaration in Cuba. I imagine that U.S. State Department leaders will be reading it carefully.
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The Vatican says Pope Francis and the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba next week in a major step to heal the 1000-year-old schism that divided Christianity between East and West.
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The March for Life — an annual rally held for four decades to protest the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court that legalized abortion — has long been dominated by Roman Catholics.
But evangelical leaders expect that on Friday (Jan. 22), there will be more evangelicals walking beside them. That’s the result of Catholic and evangelical conservatives bridging the divide to work on issues of common concern, they said.
Several hundred evangelicals gathered on the eve of the rally at a hotel near the U.S. Capitol, pledging to join forces with Catholics in the anti-abortion effort.
“There’s no tension between evangelicals and Catholics on this issue,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in an interview. However, he added that Catholics have been “more intentional about communicating the march to their constituents and see the value.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Science & Technology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals Roman Catholic * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Many media reports at the time of Archbishop Welby’s announcement suggested that his intention was to replace the communion relationship of the provinces with a much looser federal relationship in which member churches relate to Canterbury, but not necessarily to one another. The various provinces, these reports claimed, would keep the name “Anglican” but without any attempt to maintain common discipline or doctrine. Such a radical reorientation of Anglican ecclesiology would be a considerable blow to Anglican-Catholic ecumenical relations which have been predicated on the basis of a shared communion ecclesiology. However, Lambeth Palace has strongly rebutted such claims, insisting that no such abandonment of its Communion structures is intended, but rather the aim is to strengthen those structures by reappraising them and encouraging those who are currently disenfranchised to find their voice and be unafraid to offer critique.
At time of writing, the Primates’ Meeting has not yet concluded, however it is possible to make a few observations about the meeting. Firstly, Archbishop Welby has always maintained that he wants the Primates as a group to call the next Lambeth Conference, the ten-yearly meeting of all Anglican Bishops from around the world. All the indications are that the next Lambeth Conference will be announced, though mostly likely scheduled for 2020 rather than 2018, and this announcement in itself will be a strong signal of the primates’ continued desire to work for the unity of the Communion.
Secondly, while the Archbishop cannot sanction the North American provinces, he will be working strenuously to deepen the bonds of communion with those provinces which have been most scandalised by their recent decisions. The strongest protest to the North American provinces comes from those affiliated to GAFCon, a grouping that takes its name from the Global Anglican Future Conference held in Jerusalem immediately before the last Lambeth Conference in 2008. A number of the primates who will attend the January 2016 meeting are members of GAFCon, and claim to represent the majority of the world’s Anglicans. One GAFCon primate, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda has already warned that he will not continue to participate in the meetings unless “godly order” is restored. GAFCon claims not to be in communion with the Anglican provinces of North America, supporting instead a breakaway group called the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). In a strong indication of Archbishop Welby’s intention to reach out to GAFCon, he has invited ACNA’s Archbishop, the Rt Rev Foley Beach, to attend some of the Primates’ Meeting as an observer. Moreover, the Archbishop has worked hard at establishing strong personal relationships with many of these primates, which he hopes will help to avoid a rift.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Primates Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016 * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Christology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology
Leaders of the Anglican Communion are winding up a meeting in Canterbury on Friday after agreeing to temporary restrictions on the Episcopal Church in the United States for its position on same-sex marriage.
Responding to the decision, the head of the Vatican's Council for ecumenical relations says he is "grateful" the bishops have excluded any more permanent divisions which could hinder the search for reconciliation between the two Churches .
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Primary Source -- Statements & Letters: Primates Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Primates Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016 * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic
The Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev Justin Welby has invited Jean Vanier, the Canadian Catholic theologian, to address the bitterly divided primates of the worldwide Anglican communion who have been meeting this week in Canterbury to discuss the themes of living together and the creation of a community.
After two-and-a-half days the 38 archbishops were still together, defying threats of an early walkout by some African leaders over the vexed issue of the western churches’ tortuous accommodation with homosexuality.
Third world archbishops, backed by some English and American conservative evangelicals, have repeatedly demanded over the last decade that liberal American, Canadian and some British churches should be punished for tolerating gay clergy and the meeting is seen as a last chance of compromise. There have been predictions that between three and a dozen archbishops may walk out if their demands are not met.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Primates Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016 * International News & Commentary Canada Europe France * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology
Despite fervid media speculation of a walk out by some bishops on the first day of the meeting, the participants gathered for a public evensong service on Monday, accompanied by young people from the new religious community of St Anselm, launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at his London headquarters of Lambeth Palace last year.
Informal sources said during the first working session of the meeting the bishops focused on setting their agenda and listened to an address by Archbishop Welby on the history and key issues facing the Communion.
Ahead of the historic encounter, the Anglican leader asked people of faith to pray for the bishops so that they may be able to discern the will of God, despite the difficulties which challenge not only Christians but all of us in today’s world
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Primates Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016 * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology
Archbishop Justin Welby has invited the founder of the L’Arche movement, Jean Vanier, to visit Canterbury next week during the gathering of Anglican Primates.
Vanier, 86, is a Roman Catholic philosopher and social innovator who founded the L’Arche Communities - where people with and without learning disabilities share life together, living and working in community - in 1964.
The movement began with Vanier's own commitment to living in community with people who have learning disabilities in Trosly-Breuil, France, where he still lives.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Primates Partial Primates Meeting in Dublin 2011 * Culture-Watch Philosophy * International News & Commentary Canada Europe France * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has convened a meeting of leaders of all the Anglican Churches across the globe in an attempt to find common ground on which to base the continuation of the Anglican Communion. It is well worth fighting for; his bold initiative is timely. As an expression of Christian solidarity between Churches of the Western world and sister Churches in developing nations, the Anglican Communion has an exceptional record. The present threat to its existence has to be addressed, otherwise it could fall apart.
Yet the structures designed to hold it together can no longer bear the weight put on them. Attitudes to homosexuality have become the critical turning point. The tensions arise from the conservative standards of biblical orthodoxy applied by some of the increasingly assertive Anglican Churches in Africa and Asia, compared with the more liberal versions of Anglicanism reflected in church policy and practice in other parts.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Primates Partial Primates Meeting in Dublin 2011 * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
Christian joy thus springs from this certainty: God is close, he is with me, he is with us, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as a friend and faithful spouse. And this joy endures, even in trials, in suffering itself. It does not remain only on the surface; it dwells in the depths of the person who entrusts himself to God and trusts in him.
Some people ask: but is this joy still possible today? Men and women of every age and social condition, happy to dedicate their existence to others, give us the answer with their lives! Was not Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta an unforgettable witness of true Gospel joy in our time? She lived in touch daily with wretchedness, human degradation and death. Her soul knew the trials of the dark night of faith, yet she gave everyone God's smile.
In one of her writings, we read: "We wait impatiently for paradise, where God is, but it is in our power to be in paradise even here on earth and from this moment. Being happy with God means loving like him, helping like him, giving like him, serving like him" (The Joy of Giving to Others, 1987, p. 143). Yes, joy enters the hearts of those who put themselves at the service of the lowly and poor. God abides in those who love like this and their souls rejoice. If, instead, people make an idol of happiness, they lose their way and it is truly hard for them to find the joy of which Jesus speaks.
--Pope Benedict XVI (my emphasis).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI * Theology Anthropology Christology
Today, the Son of God is born, and everything changes. The Saviour of the world comes to partake of our human nature; no longer are we alone and forsaken. The Virgin offers us her Son as the beginning of a new life. The true light has come to illumine our lives so often beset by the darkness of sin. Today we once more discover who we are! Tonight we have been shown the way to reach the journey’s end. Now must we put away all fear and dread, for the light shows us the path to Bethlehem. We must not be laggards; we are not permitted to stand idle. We must set out to see our Saviour lying in a manger. This is the reason for our joy and gladness: this Child has been “born to us”; he was “given to us”, as Isaiah proclaims (cf. 9:5). The people who for two thousand years has traversed all the pathways of the world in order to allow every man and woman to share in this joy is now given the mission of making known “the Prince of peace” and becoming his effective servant in the midst of the nations.
So when we hear tell of the birth of Christ, let us be silent and let the Child speak. Let us take his words to heart in rapt contemplation of his face. If we take him in our arms and let ourselves be embraced by him, he will bring us unending peace of heart. This Child teaches us what is truly essential in our lives. He was born into the poverty of this world; there was no room in the inn for him and his family. He found shelter and support in a stable and was laid in a manger for animals. And yet, from this nothingness, the light of God’s glory shines forth. From now on, the way of authentic liberation and perennial redemption is open to every man and woman who is simple of heart. This Child, whose face radiates the goodness, mercy and love of God the Father, trains us, his disciples, as Saint Paul says, “to reject godless ways” and the richness of the world, in order to live “temperately, justly and devoutly” (Tit 2:12).
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Faith leaders from across Britain have condemned a growing crackdown on Christmas in Muslim countries.
Brunei threatened yesterday to imprison for up to five years anyone who celebrates the Christian festival in public. The former British colony’s new penal code could also hand out $20,000 fines for any ceremony contrary to Sharia, including singing religious songs, sending festive greetings or putting up Christmas trees, crosses or candles.
Somalia’s leading clerics issued a similar edict in 2013, which they reiterated yesterday. Sheikh Mohamed Khayrow, the religious affairs minister, said that “all events related to Christmas and new year celebrations are contrary to Islamic culture”. They could “damage the faith of the Muslim community” and risk attracting terrorist attacks from Al Shabaab, he added.
In China, which has 70 million Christians and is set to overtake America as the world’s largest Christian country within a decade, large outdoor crosses on hundreds of churches have been dismantled by officials from the atheist Communist party. Some churches have been demolished in the eastern city of Wenzhou, dubbed the “Jerusalem of China”.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Coptic Church Orthodox Church Roman Catholic Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations
Ironically, after all of this, Christmas lost its luster for me. The rank materialism became too much to bear, and the Christmas season morphed from being a time I savored into something I tried to survive each year. Santa Claus, Christmas trees, the holiday jingles—they all felt like pagan oppression. When people complained about a war on Christmas I often smirked and thought to myself, Where do I sign up? Honestly: When a sale at Crate & Barrel gets entangled with the birth of Jesus Christ, something has gone horribly wrong.
But then I realized that I had allowed the secular celebrations of Christmas to crowd out its transcendent meaning. As theologian N. T. Wright points out, it’s Christmas that is the moment when God launched a “divine rescue mission” of humankind.
God didn’t just condescend to come to earth as a human. He came as a helpless infant. The King of Kings was born amid barnyard animals and piles of hay after His lowly parents were turned away from better lodgings. When the Magi came to see the Lord, there was no security on hand to judge whether they were worthy. The Messiah was approachable.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas * Culture-Watch Media Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals Roman Catholic * Theology Christology
Did you catch the subtle, but very important, difference between the lede and the actual quote from the document?
The lede says that it is wrong for Catholics – which would mean priests, laypeople and other Catholic individuals – to try to win Jewish individuals to Christian faith. But what does the document say? It says that the Catholic Church, as an institution, "neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews (italics added)."
So evangelism by individual Catholics talking with individual Jews is acceptable, while organized efforts targeting Jews alone – perhaps a Catholic version of Jews for Jesus – are considered out of bounds.
Thus, the headline and the lede need to be corrected to reflect the actual content of the story and the document on which it is based.
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Fifty years after the first major Catholic document rejecting anti-Semitism, the Vatican released a new document on Thursday reiterating that Catholics shouldn’t try to convert Jews and calling for a joint effort in the fight against religious discrimination.
Jewish leaders on hand for the Thursday presentation largely welcomed the document, although one complained that it doesn’t go far enough in recognizing the centrality of the land of Israel for Judaism.
Called “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable,” the document is a theological reflection that builds on five decades of interreligious dialogue that began with Nostra Aetate, a 1,600-word declaration from 1965 that helped reshape Catholic-Jewish relations.
The new document underlines the importance of Catholic-Jewish relations, calling the bond unique “in spite of the historical breach and the painful conflicts arising from it.”
Among other points, it plays down, though it does not reject entirely, missionary efforts directed at Jews.
Read it all and a BBC article is there also.
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[KIM] LAWTON: Many across the faith community condemned the plan as discriminatory and a violation of religious liberty. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said their faith was being unfairly singled out by a lynch mob. Thousands of US faith leaders wrote an open letter urging Trump to repudiate his comments. Reverend Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called the plan “reckless rhetoric.”
RUSSELL MOORE: The idea of banning people from the country simply because of what they believe? It’s shocking to me. When I first heard this, I had to stop and say, did I really hear that correctly and listen to it again. It’s really troubling.
LAWTON: He said his evangelical beliefs motivate him to speak out.
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On October 30, 2015, a joint Lutheran-Catholic statement was issued after a protracted consultation by theologians of both confessions: “On the Way: Church, Ministry and the Eucharist.” The opening phrase means on the way to full mutual recognition and intercommunion, which both sides acknowledge as having been the will of Jesus and as being the intended final relationship between the two communities. [As a sociologist I must observe that there is also a tacit empirical assumption here—that the disunity between churches weakens the credibility of the Christian faith. This may be true in Europe, where both Lutherans and Catholics come out of a history of state churches—and where secularization, as a decline of religion, has gone farther than on any other continent. In the United States this alleged nexus between Christian unity and the plausibility of the faith is less persuasive.]
“On the Way” was published jointly by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest and more liberal wing of Lutheranism in this country (known, not always affectionately, as Aunt Elka), and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. There has also been input from the Lutheran World Federation, the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and the World Council of Churches (to which most Protestant and Eastern Orthodox churches at least nominally belong despite cacophonous disagreements). This document builds on an earlier joint statement in 1993 on the doctrine of justification, which has been a major disagreement between Lutherans and Catholics: The statement concluded in a somewhat tortured argument that there really were (or were no longer) any fundamental disagreements. It therefore decided, logically enough, to withdraw the solemn mutual condemnations (so-called anathemas, “accursed be…”) between Rome and its “separated brethren” (a phrase now considered impolite).
The gist of “On the Way” is a list of “32 agreements” (there is also an honest acknowledgment of issues on which there still is disagreement). Coming to the document as a non-theologian one is likely to be less than overwhelmed by what is supposedly agreed upon...
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Several states amended their constitutions to preserve the non-denominationally Protestant nature of the public schools, while barring any public funding of so-called “sectarian,” or Catholic, schools. Though Rep. Blaine’s attempt to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution ultimately failed, many states succeeded.
So it is that engines of animus toward Catholics have been transmuted into engines of animus against all religion. Those today who rely on these sordid provisions disclaim any anti-Catholic animus or hostility toward religion. They insist they are merely trying to maintain a “strict separation” between church and state.
That makes no sense. The Douglas County scholarship program does not provide aid to religious schools or any schools. It provides aid to Douglas County students. Not a penny of that money can flow to any school—religious or not—without the private choice of parents. That independent choice breaks any link between church and state.
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Did you ever wonder why the world is the way it is? Or what your purpose in life is? Or what good is the church? Or why there are so many religions? Or whether things will be okay?
People have been asking big, existential questions like these for a long time. Members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue of Canada (ARC Canada) are asking them again—and offering some responses—in a new ecumenical common witness initiative called “Did You Ever Wonder…”: Small Answers to Big Questions.
“With this project, our national Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue is attempting something new: how can we witness to our commonly held faith together?” explained Anglican co-chair Bishop Linda Nicholls.
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Dec. 7 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most pivotal documents in the Catholic Church’s 2,000-year history: Dignitatis Humanae, or “On the Dignity of the Human Person.” Issued at the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the work stated the church’s belief “that the human person has a right to religious freedom.”
This declaration was at once revolutionary and reaffirming of Catholic tradition—and its significance has only increased as attacks on religious freedom have proliferated in the intervening years.
In many ways, the Catholic Church’s affirmation of religious liberty echoes the American tradition of religious freedom, articulated so forcefully in the writings of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson and given constitutional enumeration in the First Amendment.
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Following their historic encounter, the archbishop met with Cardinal Augustin Bea, the new head of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, leading to the invitation of Anglican observers to the Second Vatican Council. The meeting also paved the way for the first official encounter between their successors, Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey in March 1966 and the establishment of an Anglican Centre here in Rome.
The current director of that Centre and representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Vatican is New Zealand Archbishop David Moxon. He talked to Philippa Hitchen about their upcoming 50th anniversary celebrations and about the significance of Archbishop Fisher’s visit to the Vatican in December 1960….
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About [former TEC Bishop Jeffrey] Steenson, his is an interesting side story because of the politics that got him elected as bishop in October 2004. He was running against five other candidates, one of whom was a northern Virginia cleric called Martyn Minns. Minns pastored the historic –- and sizeable – Truro parish in Fairfax, Va., and looked as though he had the election wrapped up. Then Steenson’s name was put in late in the selection process and a more liberal coalition called Via Media was behind him. Steenson was also a local priest and he ended up winning on the third ballot. Minns was first runner-up.
Minns went in a different direction and got elected an Anglican bishop in the province of Nigeria in mid-2006. That gave him the ammunition to lead 11 Episcopal churches in northern Virginia out of the denomination later that year. His story is too long to go into here but I’ve always wondered what would have happened had Steenson been more honest about his bent towards Rome and refused to run for bishop. Had Minns been a bishop in New Mexico instead of pastoring one of the largest conservative parishes in Virginia, the formation of a powerful counter movement against the Episcopal Church might have gone in a different direction.
I’ve always thought that one reason for the American Anglican split-off from the Episcopal Church nearly a decade ago was not so much the election of a gay man as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 although that was a huge factor. It was also the politicking that went on in numerous dioceses where qualified conservative candidates for bishop were foiled by liberal groups who found less-qualified moderate candidates to beat them. Northern Virginia was full of such conservative leaders whose orthodox theological stances made them unelectable and there were a lot of priests like them around the country.
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Pope Francis prayed at a shrine honoring Ugandan martyrs who died rather than renounce their faith on Saturday, amid hopes that his presence might ease the unrest that has emerged as the country prepares for next year’s election.
On the fourth of the pontiff’s six-day African tour, he honored a group of Catholic and Anglican martyrs who were burned alive after refusing to renounce their faith in the late 19th century. Earlier in the day, he visited sanctuaries honoring the Catholic and Anglican martyrs in the city of Namugongo and celebrated Mass to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their canonization.
The martyrs’ stories show that “fidelity to God, honesty and integrity of life, and genuine concern for the good of others bring us that peace that the world cannot give,” the pope said.
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At first the rise of charter schools—to 7,000 today from 1,900 in 2000—was thought to be the nail in the coffin for Catholic education, which had been in decline for decades. Charters offer many of the same strengths as Catholic schools: order, kindness, discipline, high expectations (ideas initially borrowed from parochial institutions). But because charters are publicly funded, families don’t have to pay tuition. How could Catholic schools possibly compete with that?
Within the past few years, however, the borrowing has begun to go in the other direction, as Catholic schools poach staff from charter networks, draw from the same donors, and model their operations on charter successes. America’s usual miracle-workers—competition, civil society, entrepreneurial wealth and philanthropy—have come to the rescue of religious education.
Consider the Partnership for Inner-city Education, a nonprofit formed in 2010 to take responsibility for six Catholic schools serving disadvantaged children in Harlem and the South Bronx. The chairman of the Partnership’s board is Russ Carson, an equity-capital pioneer who also helped build KIPP charter schools in New York. Mr. Carson and fellow donors put millions of dollars into upgrading the campuses of these six Catholic schools.
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In less than two weeks I will be delivering a paper in Atlanta at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS). It is a group in which I have held membership since 1988. It meets every year with the much larger academic alliance, the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). I was the 57th President of ETS before I resigned both my presidency and membership in May 2007, a week after I had been received back into the Catholic Church of my youth.
Since November 2007 I have participated in five EPS/ETS meetings. Some Catholic friends have expressed amazement (and dismay) that I still identify (with the appropriate caveats) as an Evangelical of a sort, even though I have, in many venues, offered critical assessments of aspects of the dominant streams of Evangelical theology that part ways with what the Catholic Church teaches.
So, for example, I have argued against the Reformers’ understanding of justification, for apostolic succession, the sacrament of penance, and transubstantiation, and for the permissibility of accepting theistic evolution (though, of course, rejecting philosophical naturalism). I explained in 2010 and 2011 how my own internal deliberations on the nature of the Reformation were instrumental in my return to the Catholic Church. And yet, I find myself back again at EPS/ETS among scholars, writers, and teachers who, with few exceptions, disagree with me on these matters. Why do I do it? There are two reasons.
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A South West Bishop has met the Pope at a synod in Rome.
The Rt Revd Tim Thornton, the Bishop of Truro, represented the Anglican Church at the Roman Catholic Synod on the Family at the Vatican.
While in the Italian capital, Bishop Tim has been joining in debates around divorce and homosexuality and has even managed to squeeze in a couple of minutes with Pope Francis.
He said there had been "major differences in the room".
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A friend of mine, happily married for many years, likes to tell a story. Over a 30th-anniversary dinner, and after a little too much wine, he said, “I love you, sweetheart. I’ve never been unfaithful, and I never will be.” He repeated that line a couple more times during the evening—until his wife put down her fork and said with all the warmth of a glacier, “Are you seeing someone else?”
The lesson of the tale: Even when done innocently, emphasizing one’s fidelity a little too often and earnestly can yield unwelcome results. Such may be the case in Rome, where more than 250 Catholic bishops from around the world have gathered in a three-week synod, ending Oct. 25, to discuss “the vocation and mission of the family in the contemporary world.”
Synods, from the Greek synodos for meeting or assembly, are purely advisory. They offer counsel to the pope on matters he chooses. As the Catholic Church’s supreme pastor, he can listen to their advice, ignore them or do something in between. But it is a rare bishop of Rome who would disregard the consensus of his brothers, so synods carry collegial weight.
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Mussie Zerai was once a refugee.
Now the 40-year-old Roman Catholic priest from Eritrea, helps migrants trapped in the North African deserts and rickety wooden boats drifting across the Mediterranean Sea.
“It is my duty and moral obligation as a priest to help these people,” Zerai said in a telephone interview. “For me it’s simple: Jesus said we must love one another as we love ourselves.”
The little-known priest, now based in Rome and Switzerland, was among this year’s nominees for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Pope Francis. (The prize, announced Friday, was awarded to the National Dialogue Quartet, which helped build a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia.)
Zerai runs a center that receives calls from distressed migrants who have fled their countries in hopes of finding a better life in Europe. He relays refugees’ GPS coordinates to coast guard and naval authorities so they can launch rescue operations.
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A synod proposal to allow Anglican spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion has been rejected by the Archbishop of Birmingham.
The proposal, contained in the working document is due to be discussed at the synod next week.
If approved it would mean Anglicans being allowed to present themselves at Communion during Mass if they were married to a Catholic but unable to attend a service in their own denomination.
Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, co-chairman of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (Arcic), set up to further unity, has criticised the move, however, saying it did not meet the demands of either the Code of Canon Law or the Ecumenical Directory.
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Fox News’ highly reluctant Jesus follower has found a new church.
Kirsten Powers, USA Today columnist and contributor to Fox News, announced her decision on a live broadcast of “The Five.”
“Tomorrow night at 7 o’clock, I'm becoming Catholic!” she told viewers.
Powers, who grew up in the Episcopal Church, became an evangelical about 9 years ago, after attending Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. Listening to Tim Keller preach opened the door for her to believe in God.
“I came to realize that even if Christianity wasn't the real thing, neither was atheism,” she wrote in a 2013 testimony for CT. “I began to read the Bible. My boyfriend would pray with me for God to reveal himself to me.”
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My parish is a short drive from the house. Every Sunday I see the same people at 8:30 a.m.: the older couples whose children are grown, the many young families with their children, the teenagers who came with their parents but who would rather be in bed. This is the Mass I almost always attend alone. There are a few others who are also alone, though not many.
I serve as an acolyte twice a month, and on these Sundays I sit up at the front beside the priest. On other Sundays, I sit near the front of the church with a family I know. Apart from them, I know the director of music and worship, the deacons and the priests. Others in the parish are mainly just familiar faces, although they are the people with whom I take Communion each and every week.
At the end of Mass, I drive home to pick up my wife, Kim, and our three boys for the 10 a.m. liturgy at the Episcopal parish we attend as a family. Like my Catholic parish, this church is thriving, filled with young and old from a variety of backgrounds. There are cradle Episcopalians, ex-evangelicals who found life in the beauty of Episcopal liturgy and disaffected Roman Catholics. Because this is my family’s parish, I know these parishioners more deeply than the ones at my Catholic parish. My children play with their children, and our families regularly hang out together. During the liturgy I sit with Kim and my oldest son while his two brothers are downstairs for Sunday school. When it comes time for the Communion, we process to the altar rail where my wife and my son take Communion together. I cross my arms and am blessed by the priest. Apart from a few children, I’m the only person who does this.
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Pope Francis on Monday told a contentious gathering of the world's bishops on family issues to put aside their personal prejudices and have the courage and humility to be guided by God.
Francis told 270 cardinals, bishops and priests that the three-week synod isn't a parliament where negotiations, plea bargains or compromises take place. Rather, he said, it's a sacred, protected space where God shows the way for the good of the church.
The bishops are debating how the church can better care for Catholic families at a time when marriage rates are falling, divorce is common and civil unions are on the rise. The main sticking points include how the church should welcome gays and divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.
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The pope has returned to Rome after his historic trip to the United States, but the message and meaning of his words and actions are still being debated. We are joined by John Carr, director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought, and Pat Zapor, who covered the pope’s trip for Catholic News Service, about how the pope was received, what he said and did, and what the impact of his message may be on the Catholic Church and beyond.
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....there’s no way to view the encounter other than as a broad gesture of support by the pope for conscientious objection from gay marriage laws, especially taken in tandem with his statement aboard the papal plane that following one’s conscience in such a situation is a “human right” – one, he insisted, that also belongs to government officials.
So what does it mean?
First, it means that Francis has significantly strengthened the hand of the US bishops and other voices in American debates defending religious freedom.
In the wake of a massively successful trip in which Francis was lauded for his stands on issues ranging from climate change to immigration to fighting poverty, it will be more difficult for anyone to wrap themselves in the papal mantle without at least acknowledging his concerns vis-à-vis religious freedom.
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It is this fantasy of living in an endlessly adjustable world, in which every physical boundary can be renegotiated, that shapes the opening reflections of the encyclical and pervades a great deal of its argument. The paradox, noted by a good many other commentators, is that our supposed “materialism” is actually a deeply anti-material thing. The plain thereness of the physical world we inhabit tells us from our first emergence into consciousness that our will is not the foundation of everything—and so its proper working is essentially about creative adjustment to an agenda set not by our fantasy but by the qualities and complexities of what we encounter. The material world tells us that to be human is to be in dialogue with what is other: what is physically other, what is humanly other in the solid three-dimensionality of other persons, ultimately what is divinely other. And in a world created by the God Christians believe in, this otherness is always communicating: meaning arises in this encounter, it is not devised by our ingenuity. Hence the pope’s significant and powerful appeal to be aware of the incalculable impact of the loss of biodiversity: it is not only a loss of resource but a diminution of meaning. “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us” (33).
The argument of these opening sections of Laudato si’ repeatedly points us back to a fundamental lesson: We as human beings are not the source of meaning or value; if we believe we are, we exchange the real world for a virtual one, a world in which—to echo Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty—the only question is who is to be master. A culture in which managing limits is an embarrassing and unwelcome imperative is a culture that has lost touch with the very idea of a world, let alone a created world (i.e., one in which a creative intelligence communicates with us and leads us into meanings and visions we could not have generated ourselves). The discussion in Chapter III of the obsessive pursuit of novelty in our lives draws out very effectively how the multiplication of pure consumer choice produces not greater diversity or liberty but a sense of endless repetition of the same and a lack of hope in the future. Once again, the underlying issue is the loss of meaning. It is fully in keeping with this general perspective that what Pope Francis has to say about the rights and dignities of the unborn (120) is seamlessly connected with the dangers of a culture of “disposability” in which the solid presence of those others who do not instantly appear to contribute to our narrowly conceived well-being can so readily be forgotten.
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The new Global Goals have emerged from an international three year process of listening. The UK government, led by the Prime Minister, played a really key role.
There is huge ambition here. According to the UN document: “Never before have world leaders pledged common action and endeavour across such a broad and universal policy agenda”. And again, “We can be the first generation to succeed in ending poverty just as we may be the last to have a chance of saving the planet”.
The goals are more comprehensive this time. There are 17 goals and 169 targets. They are therefore less catchy but much more realistic. They recognize that all kinds of things are interconnected in tackling poverty. They are also goals for every country not simply for the developing world. The British government has promised to implement them alongside governments in Africa and Asia. There is a much stronger emphasis on building strong, honest, robust governments and institutions as well as on aid and generosity. There is a strong slogan which focuses on helping the weakest so that no-one is left behind.
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Dammer, the University of Scranton professor, said people are often skeptical of religious people in prisons, and particularly those who convert behind bars. “The common thought by correctional officers or people who run prisons or even the general public is that people who are involved in religion in prison because …[they] think they’ll get parole easy or earlier,” he said. This isn’t really the case, he said; especially as states have moved away from indeterminate sentencing, or prison terms that involve a range of possible lengths, this kind of pious performance hasmattered less for helping people get parole.
“Do some inmates use religion in prison in a manipulative way? Absolutely. They do it to meet women at services, they do it to get goods and services,” he said. “Most of them, though, don’t do it for this myth—just to get out of prison. They do it to help them live in prison in a way that helps them survive.”
Religious figures play various roles in prisons. Institutions will usually have hired chaplains on staff, sometimes euphemistically called “faith representatives.” These chaplains often oversee groups of volunteers who come into prisons to run bible studies and other programs. In one prison that Dammer studied, “the only contact [inmates] had with anybody was with the chaplains, who would walk up and down the hallways and read the bible. [Otherwise], it was 23 hours a day of total solitary confinement.”
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He is certainly not a Marxist, and he’s not a “liberal” as American politics understands the terms. But he has been a gift to liberals who are also Christians, to religious believers whose politics lean left.
It’s a gift the religious left sorely needed, because the last few decades have made a marriage of Christian faith and liberal politics seem doomed to eventual divorce. Since the 1970s, the mainline Protestant denominations associated with progressive politics have experienced a steep decline in membership and influence, while American liberalism has become more secular and anti-clerical, culminating in the Obama White House’s battles with Francis’ own church. In the intellectual arena, religiously-inclined liberals have pined for a Reinhold Niebuhr without producing one, and the conservative fear that liberal theology inevitably empties religion of real power has found all-too-frequent vindication.
Pope Francis has not solved any of these problems. But his pontificate has nonetheless given the religious left a new lease on life. He has offered encouragement to Catholic progressives by modestly soft-pedaling the issues dividing his church from today’s liberalism — abortion and same-sex marriage — while elevating other causes and concerns.
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DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
Well, I thought it’s so clear how countercultural he is. We have ideological fights. He’s anti-ideological. He’s personalist. Somebody once said, souls are not saved in bundles, and he’s with each individual human being.
I loved the moment, little girl on the street, she came up to his caravan, and he embraced her. That was a moment, the pope and the individual. And so he represents community an ethos of community and uplift, which is just different than our horizontal politics.
It’s a vertical axis he’s on. And so, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, I think everybody felt uplifted, and both uplifted by his example and his humility, but also humbled by — he believes that the church is a hospital for the souls, and so he offered that as well.
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First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favorable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.
Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).
The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action.
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..The Roman Catholic Church that Pope Francis will encounter on his first visit to the United States is being buffeted by immense change, and it is struggling — with integrating a new generation of immigrants, with conflicts over buildings and resources, with recruiting priests and with retaining congregants. The denomination is still the largest in the United States, but its power base is shifting.
On the East Coast and in the Midwest, bishops are closing or merging parishes and shuttering parochial schools built on the dimes and sweat of generations of European immigrants. In many parishes, worshipers are sparse, funerals outnumber baptisms, and Sunday collections are not enough to maintain even beloved houses of worship.
In the West and the South, and in some other unexpected pockets all over the country, the church is bursting at the seams with immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Latin America, but also from Asia and Africa. Hispanic parents put their children on waiting lists for religious education classes and crowd into makeshift worship spaces, but avoid predominantly Anglo parishes because they do not always feel welcome there.
“The ethnic face of the church is changing, and the center of gravity and influence in the church is shifting from the East to the West, and from the North to the South,” Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles said...
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The U.S. Catholic Church is expanding quickly in the South and West, largely driven by immigrants from Latin America filling pews in Atlanta, Houston and in Southern California.
Meanwhile, the church is contracting in the East and upper Midwest, where historic Catholic strongholds like Boston, Detroit and New York City are closing parishes as population or attendance declines.
The result: Old-line dioceses are battling to keep their doors open, even as fast-growing ones are scrambling to meet the needs of the growing faithful.
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Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.
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An enthusiastic crowd of 11,000 ticketed guests gathered on the South Lawn of the White House this morning as President Obama officially welcomed Pope Francis to the United States.
Among the overwhelmingly Catholic audience there to greet him on his first US visit was a smattering of evangelical leaders.
Leith Anderson and Galen Carey from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. David Anderson, pastor of Bridgeway Community Church. Lisa Sharon Harper from Sojourners. Joel Hunter of Northland Church.
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The symbolism of the morning services, which Francis now holds four times a week, is clear: a humbler papacy, where the pope is foremost a pastor to the flock, not a king. But a humbler papacy hardly means humbler papal ambitions. Francis is not just trying to change the Roman Catholic Church. He seems determined to change the world.
Popes are expected to challenge society. But Francis, 78, who lands in Cuba on Saturday and prepares to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for his first visit to the United States, has achieved a unique global stature in a short time.
His humble persona has made him immensely popular, a smiling figure plunging into crowds at St. Peter’s Square. He speaks in deeply personal terms about people discarded by the global economy, whether refugees drowned at sea or women forced into prostitution. His blistering critiques of environmental destruction have seized the world’s attention.
But he is also an inscrutable tactician whose push to change the church has stirred anxiety and hope — and some skepticism. Many conservatives project their fears onto him. Many liberals assume he is a kindred spirit. Others argue that Francis is less concerned about left or right than he is about reversing the church’s declining popularity in Latin America and beyond.
Read it all from the front page of Saturday's New York Times.
Pope Francis arrives in the U.S. on Tuesday, September 22nd, for five busy days in Washington, New York and Philadelphia. Managing editor Kim Lawton asks American Catholics about the beliefs that shape the Pope’s view of the world, and Tom Roberts, editor-at-large of National Catholic Reporter, and Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute of Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, join host Bob Abernethy in the studio for a conversation about their expectations for the Pope’s trip.
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My dad was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1970, the same year that he married my mother and began doctoral studies in theology at Oxford. But Catholicism always pulled at him. In Providence, he argued with the Episcopal bishop over the Assumption of Mary — the belief that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven immediately upon death, part of Catholic dogma but not accepted by all Anglicans.
At Oxford, he devoured the writings of one of England’s most famous Catholic converts, Cardinal John Henry Newman. Even his children weren’t immune. My parents named me Mary Benedicta, a name that evokes images of a wimple-bedecked nun. (They gave my brother the middle name of “Becket” after Thomas Becket, venerated by both Catholics and Anglicans as a saint.) So when Pope John Paul II issued a pastoral provision in 1980 allowing qualified married Episcopal priests to convert to Catholicism and retain their ministry, my father applied. In 1984, after two years of preparation, he was one of the first priests ordained under this process in the United States.
As Pope Francis prepares for his United States visit this week, priestly celibacy is up for discussion for the first time in decades. In February, in response to a question about married priests during a meeting with the Roman clergy, the pontiff stated that the issue was on his agenda. His secretary of state has reaffirmed that celibacy can be discussed because it’s a matter of church tradition, not core tenets.
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Since he was elected by his fellow cardinals in 2013 to head the Roman Catholic Church, Francis has captivated the public imagination the world over with his down-to-earth demeanor even as he tries to fit a new vision onto the ancient institution he leads.
He's bringing that vision to North America with a visit to Cuba beginning Saturday and to the United States on Sept. 22-27. The trip embraces the lofty — with addresses to Congress and the United Nations — as well as the lowly — meetings with homeless people and migrant families. It will be the first time that the 78-year-old pontiff has set foot in the U.S.
His very lack of flamboyance has, paradoxically, turned him into a spiritual rock star and newsmaker who has graced the covers of Rolling Stone, Time and National Geographic. Rapturous crowds greet Francis worldwide; a million or more people are expected to attend his outdoor Mass in Philadelphia on Sept. 26.
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The current Archbishop seems to have decided that a new approach is called for. There is a mood of crisis. He has postponed indefinitely the Lambeth Conference due to be held in 2018, and last December stated that the worldwide Anglican Communion possibly “will not hold together”.
But we should beware seeing him as wringing his hands in desperation; he is far from saying that it is all up for Anglicanism. Archbishop Welby’s experience in conflict resolution calls for a more hands-on approach: speaking directly to disaffected parties rather than proposing abstract solutions. He has set himself the task of meeting every Anglican Primate personally, and his call to the Anglican Primates to meet in Lambeth next year should be seen in this context.
It is indeed difficult to imagine a solution to the present crisis, when, for example, Nigerian bishops declare themselves to be out of communion with their American brethren. To our Catholic ears, the language used by the Archbishop’s staff of "moving into separate bedrooms" sounds an effective end of communion, a formalising of a rift – and for Roman Catholics, such an arrangement would indeed signal a serious breach of communion.
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The [proposed new] process will be shorter, simpler and, if possible, free. The pope said he wished that “the heart of the faithful” awaiting clarification might not “be oppressed for a long time by the darkness of doubt.” Many oppose loosening requirements: Cardinal Raymond Burke has warned of a “false mercy” if the determination process isn’t rigorous.
My wife and I met in 2005 and dated for 18 months before marrying in a Brussels church in 2007. I reasoned that a sacramental endorsement would heal some of our serious problems. I was wrong, and we separated in 2010. A year later I moved to Pittsburgh. Why would I rehash all that by getting an annulment? My ex-wife and I have no children, and we have remained friends.
Annulments, I thought, were for extreme cases—bigamy or incest, for instance. My marriage was a failure but it wasn’t a sham, and I didn’t want to pretend that it never happened, which an annulment seemed to imply. And who likes recounting blunt truths about past immaturity and impulsiveness? It would also be complicated. I live in Pittsburgh and my ex-wife is in Brussels. Then there was the cost, as much as $1,000.
And yet: A Catholic marriage ceremony is solemn, extraordinary and majestic. I made a fundamental promise—to love and be with somebody until one of us died. My word mattered, and my commitment was etched on the church’s books.
So this spring I ordered the paperwork. I wrote up our story, and chose four witnesses: my two best men, one of my sisters and the priest who married us. The request was accepted. A marriage tribunal invited me to testify. On a sunny day in June, I drove a rental car from my parents’ house in Brussels to the grand 18th-century diocesan headquarters in Namur....
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...this close contact both with poverty and with political terror has undoubtedly given Pope Francis a perspective on the Church and its government that is a good deal more impatient with bureaucratic proprieties than many Vatican insiders would like. Vallely describes this particularly well, making excellent use of many contacts at high levels, explaining the dysfunctional conduct of many of the central bodies in Rome and the mediocrity and incompetence of various very senior figures (he also rightly notes some of those who stood out against this depressing background, not least the Vatican’s head of interfaith relations, the shrewd, patient and generous Cardinal Tauran). It is difficult to know how fast one can expect reform to move in this context; and yet, despite the frustration expressed in some quarters, an outsider can only marvel at the speed with which Francis has moved to purge the most intractable.
[Paul] Vallely devotes a full and candid chapter to the continuing and heartbreaking business of dealing with clerical abuse, concluding that Francis has been slow to make it a priority as Pope, and that his record in this area as a diocesan bishop was at best average. Like practically all bishops who were in post before about the mid-1990s (this writer was one), he had little training and little awareness of the scale and depth of the problem. But he has now set up an effective, even aggressive body, with representation from survivors of abuse. It remains to be seen how it will change things, yet it is typical of the man that once he has identified a priority, he will look for measurable movement in a short timescale.
There will be many more books written about the present papacy, but these two provide first-rate and provide first-rate and complementary pictures. Both are profoundly sympathetic but not hagiographic. That itself is a tribute to the stature of a pope who is not afraid of challenge, and not afraid to confess and confront his failures. It shows Jesuit training in detachment, yes, no doubt. But also something more centrally and simply Christian; something about faith, hope and love.
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We live in a time of exile. At least those of us do who hold to traditional Christian beliefs. The strident rhetoric of scientism has made belief in the supernatural look ridiculous. The Pill, no-fault divorce, and now gay marriage have made traditional sexual ethics look outmoded at best and hateful at worst. The Western public square is no longer a place where Christians feel they belong with any degree of comfort.
For Christians in the United States, this is particularly disorienting. In Europe, Christianity was pushed to the margins over a couple of centuries—the tide of faith retreated “with tremulous cadence slow.” In America, the process seems to be happening much more rapidly.
It is also being driven by issues that few predicted would have such cultural force. It is surely an irony as unexpected as it is unwelcome that sex—that most private and intimate act—has become the most pressing public policy issue today. (Who could have imagined that policies concerning contraception and laws allowing same-sex marriage would present the most serious challenges to religious freedom?) We are indeed set for exile, though not an exile which pushes us to the geographical margins. It’s an exile to cultural irrelevance.
Read it all from First Things.
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The number of Catholic priests in Canada has fallen sharply in recent decades, so any ordination is a rare event.
But Friday's example of the sacrament in Saint John was particularly unusual — because the new priest was surrounded by his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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So, when Wendell and I were researching The Wind in the Reeds, we learned a fascinating story from his Uncle Lloyd (“L.C.”), who is now 81. It’s a piece of civil rights history that amazed both of us. Lloyd had never told Wendell the story, and it’s the kind of story that might have been lost to history.
Father Harry J. Maloney, a big, bluff Irishman from New York City, had given his life as a priest of the Josephites, a Catholic religious order founded by Rome in the 19th century to provide priests to serve freed black slaves in America. Believe it or not, there were lots of Catholic slaves. In Louisiana, if the master was Catholic, his slaves were also baptized as Catholics. After the Civil War, they had no black priests, and the segregated culture made it impossible in most places for black Catholics to share churches with white Catholics. The Josephites dedicated their lives to serving African American congregations.
In 1948, the New Orleans archdiocese sent Father Maloney to Assumption Parish, where Wendell’s ancestors were living, to serve the black Catholics there.
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ZENIT spoke with Father Tarcisio Giuseppe Stramare of the Congregation of Oblates of Saint Joseph, director of the Josephite Movement, about Tuesday's feast of St. Joseph the Worker....
ZENIT: What does “Gospel of work” mean?
Father Stramare: “Gospel” is the Good News that refers to Jesus, the Savior of humanity. Well, despite the fact that in general we see Jesus as someone who teaches and does miracles, he was so identified with work that in his time he was regarded as “the son of the carpenter,” namely, an artisan himself. Among many possible activities, the Wisdom of God chose for Jesus manual work, entrusted the education of his Son not to the school of the learned but to a humble artisan, namely, St. Joseph.
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ope Francis called on the faithful Sunday to not only welcome asylum-seekers to Europe but to give them shelter and help them begin new lives, as the leading edge of a migrant wave began dispersing across Germany or moving on to points north and west.
In a span of 24 hours from early Saturday to early Sunday, more than 13,000 people made their way into Germany via its border with Austria, the biggest share of them from war-racked Syria, but with large contingents of Afghans and Eritreans as well.
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Finally, Francis explained his notion of how theology ought to be practiced. The theologian, he said, is the child of his people. "He cannot and does not wish to ignore them. He knows his people, their language, their roots, their histories, their tradition." That knowledge leads the theologian "to recognize that the Christian people among whom he was born have a theological sense that he cannot ignore." (The sense of the faithful is an abiding theme of Francis's ministry.) What's more, the theologian is a "believer," a "prophet"—because the theologian "keeps alive an awareness of the past and the invitation that comes from the future."
“There is only one way of practising theology: on one's knees," according to Francis. That is not merely an act of prayer that precedes the intellectual work of theology. The relationship between thinking and prayer "a dynamic reality." Doing theology "on one's knees," the pope concluded, "means encouraging thought when praying and prayer when thinking."
Read it all from dotCommonweal.
“The moral foundation of political economy,” to use Lord Acton’s phrase, rests on the connection of liberty with right, of right with duty, of duty with leisure and delight, and of all with transcendence.
Our most unsettling economic problems are actually not economic but moral—moral ones that cannot be simply passed on from generation to generation. They need to be chosen and internalized by each person in each generation at the risk of deflecting material goods from their proper purposes.
Work likewise is not exclusively for its own sake. Rather work, while being an expression of human dignity and concrete accomplishment, aims at a product, aims at the material wellbeing in which something more than work can happen. The basis of culture, as Josef Pieper wrote in a famous thesis, is not only work but also leisure that lies beyond work. We work in order to have leisure, not the other way around.
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Pope Francis on Wednesday (Sept. 2) told his followers to clamber down from their lofty skyscrapers, reclaim public spaces and rejoin communities.
Speaking at his weekly public audience at the Vatican, the pope said it was up to families to rejuvenate cities.
There may be a lot of ways to spend one’s free time in a city, but love is missing, Francis said.
“The smile of a family is capable of overcoming this desertification of our cities. And this is the victory of the love of a family,” he told followers in St. Peter’s Square.
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Some of the following predictions are guaranteed to be wrong. Casting the runes of the future is an imprecise art. However, the broad themes of the next 100 years are already taking shape.
The first is the de-Christianising of England, where the number of Christians is dropping. This affects the Catholic Church as it does the others, yet not all are falling at the same rate. The most acute crisis is in the Church of England, where recent independent statistics show membership fell from 40 per cent of the population in 1983 to 17 per cent in 2014, a drop of 58 per cent.
Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has argued that the writing is now on the wall, and the Church of England is only a generation away from total extinction. Unless something truly radical happens to reverse decades of decline, the Church of England and its many charms will have disappeared before 2050. (The numbers look similarly bleak for the Church of Scotland, whose membership dropped from 36 per cent of the population in 2001 to 18 per cent in 2013.)
The death of the Church of England will be immensely significant. For the first time since the reign of King Henry VIII, the Catholic Church will again be the largest Christian denomination in England.
The second big theme will be the general trend in global religion. Although Christianity is waning in Europe, religious adherence (including to Christianity) is increasing globally, which will make the world in 2115 a more religious place.
Behind this trend, the big story is Islam, which is the world’s fastest growing religion. Today, there are 2.2 billion Christians and 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide. By 2100 the positions will have reversed, with Islam overtaking Christianity to become the single largest religion on the planet.
The life of an English Catholic in 2115 will be significantly affected by the consequences of these two trends. These are my predictions...
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Cardinal William Joseph Levada, once the highest-ranking American official at the Vatican, was arrested last Thursday in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, for drunken driving and is now set to respond to the charge in court next month.
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Next month a hilltop square in Rome is due to be named Piazza Martin Lutero, in memory of Luther’s achievements. The site chosen is the Oppian Hill, a park area that overlooks the Colosseum.
The move has been six years in a making, following a request made by the Seventh-day Adventists, a Protestant denomination, Italian daily La Repubblica said. The original plan was to inaugurate the square in time for the 500th anniversary of Luther’s historic trip to Rome in 2010. City officials were not able to discuss the process behind naming the square or the reason for the holdup.
Despite Luther being thrown out of the Catholic Church during his lifetime, the Vatican reacted positively to news of the square’s upcoming inauguration. “It’s a decision taken by Rome city hall which is favorable to Catholics in that it’s in line with the path of dialogue started with the ecumenical council,” said the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, deputy director of the Vatican press office, referring to a gathering of churchmen to rule on faith matters.
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On a hot August morning, 30-year-old Sister Bethany Madonna sits before the altar of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist. Seated alongside her are seven other women, also in their 30s, also dressed in blue habits and long white veils.
The moment has been years in coming: the day they consecrate themselves to Jesus Christ as they offer their final vows as members of the Sisters of Life.
Which provoked a question: What could lead a personable young woman from a happy family to give up everything -- especially at a moment when women have never had as many opportunities before them?
It’s a reasonable question.
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Is the Pope Catholic? Of course. Wait ... no! Oh, hang on -- yeah, yeah, he is. pic.twitter.com/Hql9d8Inw5— Freakonomics (@freakonomics) August 11, 2015
Life is stranger than fiction.
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..Pope Francis, who was born in Argentina, knows how to talk in a language that is not simply a replay of liberation theology. During his trip, which included visits to Ecuador and Paraguay, he repeatedly invoked the idea of a “Patria Grande,” a great Latin American homeland, brought about through greater social, political, and economic unity. Such appeals for unity have been made in the recent past by the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, but they have their origins in the stirring rhetoric of Latin American independence heroes such as José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar.
Notably, Pope Francis was a crucial figure, behind the scenes, in the recent secret diplomatic rapprochement between the United States and Cuba. In May, Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, a lifelong communist, went to the Vatican to see Francis and remarked, “If the Pope continues to speak like this, sooner or later I will start praying again and I will return to the Catholic Church—and I’m not saying this jokingly.” Evo Morales, for his part, said, “For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a Pope—Pope Francis.”
But it is not only the leftists of Latin America who see something in the pontiff. Paraguay’s conservative President, Horacio Cartes, was equally effusive, lauding him for “his direction [that] lights the way and also gives us a grand task: to work together, with sacrifice and perseverance, so that we might have a country that is more equal for all.”...
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For years Catholics and evangelical Protestants have found common cause especially in opposing abortion and homosexual practice, including gay marriage and challenges to Christian privilege. They have also stood together to assert their right to conscientiously object to laws they find morally repugnant.
But does this mean they're friends? Jamie Manson's sharp-eyed piece on the pope's embrace of some of the more visible evangelical figures suggests it is so. If that is the case, it must be a rather narrow version of friendship that collides with the pope's major message in several ways.
Rick Warren , Tony Perkins, Jim Robison and the others identified as Francis' amigos are an unblended lot. They act on their individual agendas (evangelicalism being perhaps the truest form of free enterprise extant) and not only compete for audience but frequently stir mutual friction. They publicly stand four square against shared moral evils, however, and that alone makes for friendships of convenience with official Catholicism. Warren has become the media go-to preacher for his image as the "new evangelical" who shows sympathy with broader social causes like environmentalism, but so far that advocacy has barely shown itself.
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In recent days, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis have all spoken out on the vital issue of climate change. It is vital, because the long-term future of the Earth and its inhabitants is at stake. It is no less a matter than that.
The issue of climate change led to the landmark Rio Earth Summit in 1992, which set out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system. What is termed the Conference of Parties (COP) regularly reviews the implementation of the Rio action programme. The next COP will be held next December in Paris and, for the first time in two decades of UN negotiations, will seek to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, aiming to keep global warming below 2°C.
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People of Irish Catholic ancestry will be able to trace their origins back almost 300 years online from Wednesday.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys will officially launch online the entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms held by the National Library of Ireland (NLI).
Involved are more than 370,000 digital images of the microfilm reels on which the parish registers are recorded and which will be accessible free of charge.
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The Catholic Church in England and Wales is turning to the pioneer of the Alpha course to inspire parishes to evangelise.
The Revd Nicky Gumbel, vicar at the Holy Trinity Brompton church in South Kensington, London, is due to address 850 diocesan representatives at Proclaim ’15, a national Catholic evangelisation gathering in Birmingham on Saturday.
The Alpha course is a 10-week introduction to Christianity borne out of the charismatic Evangelical movement and is now used by more Catholic churches worldwide than Anglican ones.
Clare Ward, home mission adviser to the bishops’ conference said Mr Gumbel had been invited to help parishes shift their mentality “from maintenance to mission”.
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One reason that this has been rather shocking to American Catholics is that we have had, at least for the last century or so, a fairly benign relationship with the environing culture. Until around 1970, there was, throughout the society and across religious boundaries, a broad moral consensus in our country, especially in regard to sexual and family matters. This is one reason why, in the 1950's, Archbishop Fulton Sheen could find such a wide and appreciative audience among Protestants and Jews, even as he laid out fundamentally Catholic perspectives on morality.
But now that consensus has largely been shattered, and the Church finds itself opposed, not so much by other religious denominations, as it was in the 19th century, but by the ideology of secularism and the self-defining individual -- admirably expressed, by the way, in Justice Kennedy's articulation of the majority position in the case under consideration.
So what do we do?
We continue to put forth our point of view winsomely, invitingly, and non-violently, loving our opponents and reaching out to those with whom we disagree. As St. John Paul II said, the Church always proposes, never imposes. And we take a deep breath, preparing for what could be some aggression from the secular society, but we take courage from a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.
The Church has faced this sort of thing before -- and we're still standing.
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An historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is "getting closer every day," a senior Orthodox prelate said in an interview published on 28 June.
The unprecedented meeting would be a significant step towards healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity, which split in the Great Schism of 1054.
"Now such a meeting is getting closer every day but it must be well prepared," Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church's foreign relations department, said in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.
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Almost on cue, there were three different news stories about abortion and Down syndrome around the time of the encyclical’s release. New blood screening, for instance, has resulted in a 34 percent increase in such abortions in Britain. Just a few days later, a Washington Post guest columnist argued such routine and systematic screening — not least because between 67 percent and 92 percent end up aborting — constitutes the formal “elimination of a group of people quite happy being themselves” under “the false pretense of women’s rights.” And then there was the story of the truly despicable company stealing the image of a child with Down syndrome for their Orwellian-sounding test kit named “Tranquility.”
You couldn’t ask for a more revealing practice of the throwaway culture Pope Francis so strongly decries. It doesn’t matter that people with Down syndrome are happier than those who are “normal;” our consumer culture’s tendency is to turn everything into a mere object or tool of the market, and when the object or tool is no longer useful, we simply discard it. These children don’t meet the quality-control standards of the consumer, and so the product simply gets thrown out as so much trash.
But one of the central themes of Pope Francis’s encyclical is that all creation has value independent of its value within a consumer culture. In response to my sharing the three stories mentioned above on social media, an old friend sent me a touching e-mail (parts of which are shared here with permission) about her sister with Down syndrome. She remembers that her family was initially sad and worried — but now, looking back, “it truly made no sense....”
Read it all from Charles Camosy in the Washington Post.
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“Catholic teaching maintains that marriage is a faithful, exclusive and lifelong union between one man and one woman joined in an intimate partnership of life and love—a union instituted by God for the mutual fulfillment of the husband and wife as well as for the procreation and education of children.
“Partnerships of committed same-sex individuals are already legal in California. Our state has also granted domestic partners spousal-type rights and responsibilities which facilitate their relationships with each other and any children they bring to the partnership. Every person involved in the family of domestic partners is a child of God and deserves respect in the eyes of the law and their community. However, those partnerships are not marriage—and can never be marriage—as it has been understood since the founding of the United States. Today’s decision of California’s high court opens the door for policymakers to deconstruct traditional marriage and create another institution under the guise of equal protection.
“Although we strongly disagree with the ruling, we ask our Catholic people, as well as all the people of California, to continue to uphold the dignity of every person, to acknowledge individual rights and responsibilities, and to maintain support for the unique and irreplaceable role of traditional marriage as an institution which is fundamental to society.”
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Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.
The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.
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The rector of the Paris Grand Mosque has sparked uproar by suggesting that disused churches could be turned into mosques. Dalil Boubakeur, who recently said France needed double the 2,000 or so mosques it now has, said on French radio this was a sensitive question but he thought it could be done.
“We have the same God ... I think that Muslims and Christians can coexist and live together,” he said in a radio interview.
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At the June 18 launch of the highly-anticipated encyclical Laudato Si (The Care for Our Common Home), Cardinal Peter Turkson acknowledged a critique that the Church is taking sides on scientifically still-debatable topics such as global warming, pollution, species extinction and global inequality’s impact on natural resources.
“The aim of the encyclical is not to intervene in this debate, which is the responsibility of scientists, and even less to establish exactly in which ways the climate changes are a consequence of human action” he said. Instead, the goal of the document is to promote the well-being of all creation and “to develop an integral ecology, which in its diverse dimensions comprehends ‘our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our surroundings,” the cardinal said, quoting the encyclical.
“Science is the best tool by which we can listen to the cry of the earth,” Cardinal Turkson said, noting that regardless of the various positions, studies tells us that “today the earth, our sister, mistreated and abused.”
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People of faith need to focus on the moral and spiritual elements of the crisis brought about by rapid climate change, Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, said today in response to Pope Francis's encyclical on the issue.
In a statement issued from Cape Town, the Archbishop said:
"I would like to thank Pope Francis for this historic, ground-breaking letter. I look forward to studying it in more detail.
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Opposition to the encyclical has been building for months. The Heartland Institute launched a campaign to “Tell Pope Francis: Global Warming is not a Crisis,” asking readers to “Talk to your minister, priest, or spiritual leader. Tell him or her you’ve studied the global warming issue and believe Pope Francis is being misled about the science and economics of the issue. Refer him or her to this website.” Others have suggested that Francis is advocating Latin American style socialism.
Hyperbole is part of politics. But there seems to be a fairly large disconnect between the criticism of Laudato Si (much of it made prior to the release of the actual text) and the encyclical itself. The actual document is a more measured affair. For one thing, it’s not even really accurate to call it a “climate encyclical.” Most of the document is devoted to other environmental issues (ranging from clean drinking water to biodiversity) or to the proper Christian perspective on the environment generally. Only a small portion of the lengthy encyclical is devoted to climate change per se, and much of what the encyclical does say about climate change is in keeping with the prior statements of John Paul II and Benedict XVI on the issue. The encyclical says that:
A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. . . . It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space.Read it all.
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“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.
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Appealing to the entire world, Pope Francis urged everyone to read his upcoming encyclical on the care of creation and to better protect a damaged earth.
“This common ‘home’ is being ruined and that harms everyone, especially the poorest,” he said June 17, the day before the Vatican was releasing his encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”
He said he was launching an appeal for people to recognize their “responsibility, based on the task that God gave human beings in creation: ‘to cultivate and care for’ the ‘garden’ in which he settled us.”
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Several denominations partnered with the Canadian government for nearly a century to run the more than 130 residential schools, including Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and the United Church of Canada.
Winnipeg’s Anglican bishop says the report provides a framework for action and education, such as including indigenous perspectives in theological schools, studying the history and legacy of residential schools, and understanding the role of churches in colonization.
"For us, the TRC report is not threatening and it gives us a shot in the arm to really keep the agenda of healing and reconciliation and working in partnership with aboriginal people in front of (our) people," says Bishop Donald Phillips of the Diocese of Rupert’s Land.
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Father [Junipero] Serra spent most of his missionary life in Mexico. However, his greatest legacy was founding California’s first nine missions—there are 21—and the 600-mile connecting trail El Camino Real that runs from San Diego to Sonoma. Dozens of roads and schools, including NFL quarterback Tom Brady’s alma mater, are named in his honor. Generations of California fourth-graders have had to construct miniature cardboard models of the missions.
While being Christianized, natives learned how to cultivate crops, raise livestock, weave clothes, make soap and perform other tasks necessary to sustain themselves. Father Serra was as integral to California’s founding as John Winthrop was to the settlement of Plymouth Bay. Gov. Jerry Brown has hailed the priest as “a very courageous man and one of the innovators and pioneers of California.”
Yet revisionist historians take a dim view of the missions. A fourth-grade state history textbook (which my class used in 1997) noted that “for the people who had lived in California for hundreds of years before the Spanish arrived, the growth of the missions was tragic . . . Thousands of Indians died, and by the end of the 1800s much of the Indian way of life had died also.”
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Award-winning American author and devout Catholic Flannery O’Connor will appear on a new postage stamp this summer, the U.S. Postal Service announced last week. The stamp is decorated with peacock feathers, a tribute to the family peacock farm in Georgia, where O’Connor did much of her writing.
Famous for her Southern-Gothic fiction style, O’Connor’s best-known works include her first novel, Wise Blood, and many short stories, such as A Good Man Is Hard to Find. A collection of her works, The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, won the 1972 National Book Award for fiction and was named the Best of the National Book Awards, 1950-2008, by a public vote.
The “forever” stamp for 3-ounce packages will be available June 5.
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We too easily forget that every good service the government provides comes with a growth in its regulatory power. And that power can be used in ways nobody imagined in the past.
We also forget Tocqueville’s warning that democracy can become tyrannical precisely because it’s so sensitive to public opinion. If anyone needs proof, consider what a phrase like “marriage equality” has done to our public discourse in less than a decade. It’s dishonest. But it works.
That leads to the key point I want to make here. The biggest problem we face as a culture isn’t gay marriage or global warming. It’s not abortion funding or the federal debt. These are vital issues, clearly. But the deeper problem, the one that’s crippling us, is that we use words like justice, rights, freedom and dignity without any commonly shared meaning to their content.
We speak the same language, but the words don’t mean the same thing. Our public discourse never gets down to what’s true and what isn’t, because it can’t. Our most important debates boil out to who can deploy the best words in the best way to get power. Words like “justice” have emotional throw-weight, so people use them as weapons. And it can’tbe otherwise, becausethe religious vision and convictions that once animated American life are no longer welcome at the table. After all, what can “human rights” mean if science sees nothing transcendent in the human species? Or if science imagines a trans-humanist future? Or if science doubts that a uniquely human “nature” even exists? If there’s no inherent human nature, there can be no inherent natural rights—and then the grounding of our whole political system is a group of empty syllables.
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Marking the liturgical feast of Holy Trinity Sunday, the Pope reminded those present that it is celebrated in honor of the most fundamental of Christian beliefs, the mystery of the three Persons of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, — who are all equally God, and cannot be divided, the Pope said this solemnity renews in us “our own mission to live in communion with God and with each other”.
He said: “We are not called to live without the other, above or against the other, but with the other, for the other and in the other”.
This – the Pope said - means welcoming and bearing witness to the beauty of the Gospel; loving each other, sharing joy and suffering, learning how to forgive”.
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