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BY Jim Cosgrove
Bar Association Considers Pro-Life Proposal
FEDERALIST SOCIETY, Aug. 6 — The American Bar Association, the lawyers' professional association, will consider a resolution supporting the right to life of “those conceived but not yet born,” announced the Federalist Society, a law debating society.
The proposal may be ruled out of order on the grounds that it conflicts with the Bar Association constitution's vow to “uphold and defend the Constitution [of the United States].” Since the Bar Association has previously stated its support for Roe v. Wade, it may interpret “upholding the Constitution” to require defending abortion.
The lawyers' association will also consider a resolution opposing the newly-reinstated “Mexico City policy,” which prohibits organizations receiving U.S. money from advocating or performing abortions in foreign countries.
Do Seminaries Deserve an ‘F’ in Economics?
WALL STREET JOURNAL, Aug. 3 — In order to fulfill the Gospel command to care for the poor, ministers must understand basic economics — and seminaries may not be offering adequate preparation, the New York daily argued.
The Acton Institute, which seeks to defend classical liberalism based on Christian principles, surveyed of the presidents and deans of 251 American Christian seminaries. The survey found that seminaries devote little time to economics, and those that place the heaviest emphasis on economic issues are the most hostile to the free market, the Journal reported.
The survey covered every major Christian denomination in the United States. It found that students studied topics relating to social justice in an average of one-quarter of their classes. However, more seminary leaders thought their students left “not well prepared” on these topics (11%) than “very well prepared” (6%).
Catholic and Orthodox seminaries were the most likely to have “intensive” programs.
Woman Indicted in Dorothy Day Cottage Demolition
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Aug. 9 — A Staten Island, N.Y., woman pleaded innocent to charges of forging documents that made possible the destruction of a cottage where Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day once lived, the wire service reported.
The indictment charged that Flory Henao doctored building permits that let developer John DiScala demolish the cottage before the city's Landmarks Preservation Committee completed deliberations.
Day, who was proposed for canonization by the late New York Cardinal John O'Connor, lived in the cottage until her 1980 death.
Auden: Poetry Isn't Prayer
FIRST THINGS, August/September — Edward Mendelson's new study, Later Auden, explores how W.H. Auden's adult conversion to Christianity affected his poetry, according to a review in First Things.
Auden first came to Christianity through recognizing his own inadequacy and sinfulness, and was influenced by the existentialist Soren Kierkegaard, but later wrote that Kierkegaard was “deaf” to the joyful aspects of Christianity.
Auden emphasized the goodness of the body and free will. After his conversion, he also emphasized that poetry is no substitute for God or prayer.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Salvation Army Faces Russian Opposition
NEW YORK TIMES, Aug. 8 — The Moscow city government suggested that the Salvation Army might be a foreign “military organization” operating illegally, the New York daily reported.
The Russian capital's justice ministry cited the Protestant group's use of military-style uniforms and ranks. The Salvation Army may be kicked out of Moscow at a court hearing in September.
Any religious organization not affiliated with the country's four main religions — the Russian Orthodox Church, Orthodox Judaism, Islam and Buddhism — must periodically register with the government. In January 1999, the city of Moscow first refused the Salvation Army's application. Last June, the justice ministry argued that the group was illegal.
The Moscow justice ministry has already rejected 248 applications from churches, and plans to reject almost 200 more, including Catholic, Buddhist, and Seventh-Day Adventist groups.
Did Nature Miss the Point of Its Population Study?
WALL STREET JOURNAL, Aug. 8 — Two scholars writing in Nature magazine broke the news that world population is likely to stop growing in the 21st century, and may even decline, the New York daily reported.
The study predicted that there is “around an 85% chance that the world's population will stop growing before the end of the century,” and a 15% chance that by century's end there will be fewer people than there are today. The authors called this “welcome news,” but the Journal‘s Seth Lipsky disagreed.
Lipsky pointed out that when Asia's population more than doubled, the continent pulled off a remarkable economic boom, and “per capita food consumption soared.” The Far Eastern Economic Review noted that the United Nations called for increased population control when Asia was actually suffering from a labor shortage.
Lipsky suggested that countries with declining populations should start thinking about how to lift their sagging population figures.
Pastor Banned From Religious Activity in Belarus
KESTON NEWS SERVICE, July 30 — A Ukrainian pastor in the Belarusian capital of Minsk was banned from “public religious activity,” the religious-freedom news service reported.
Pastor Venjamin Brukh of the Church of Jesus Christ was told that he would not get the “special permission” required for foreign pastors, since according to a state official Bible colleges in Belarus produce enough pastors.
The Minsk City Council also recently denied all religious organizations the right to rent property.
Stop Smuggling My Sermons, Priest Tells Flock
ANANOVA, Aug. 5 — Father Pietro Zaurna, a priest of the Diocese of Milan, Italy, said that some of his parishioners are writing down his sermons and giving them to other priests in the diocese, the online news service reported.
The priest said he was “really indignant about unoriginal people who smuggle sermons.” He had found a photocopy of one of his sermons on the “black market.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Cardinal Ratzinger Compares Cloning Scientists to Hitler
TORONTO STAR, Aug. 9 — In the wake of announcements that three scientists plan to clone a human being by the end of this year, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, called cloning “anti-human,” the Canadian daily reported.
“In a certain sense, Hitler was ahead of his time as far as some modern developments are concerned,” said the cardinal, who lived through Nazi Germany as a teenager. Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, called cloning “the worst manifestation of human slavery.”
Doctor Severino Antinori was one of three pro-cloning doctors to address a panel of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington. London's Daily Telegraph reported that Antinori called Pope John Paul II and President George W. Bush “criminals” and asserted that he had a “human right” to research cloning.
Mel Gibson and Sons on Pilgrimage to Vatican City
SCOTTISH DAILY RECORD AND SUNDAY MAIL, Aug. 5 — Despite his scruffy appearance, actor Mel Gibson had a serious purpose when he turned up in Vatican City with his twin sons, the Scottish daily reported.
Gibson took Edward and Christian, 17, on a pilgrimage to the Vatican. The Australian actor wore religious symbols from the Carmelite order around his neck when he spoke with reporters.
Over Half of Ukrainians Positive About Pope
SOCIS INSTITUTE, Aug. 2 — Just over half of Ukrainians polled by the Socis Institute said that they felt “positive” about Pope John Paul II's June visit, despite condemnations form the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Fifty-one percent judged the visit to be positive, while only 14% thought it had been negative. One third of Ukrainians said the papal visit “will reinforce the international prestige” of Ukraine or “will contribute to an improvement in interdenominational relations.” Six percent thought the visit would cause Orthodox-Catholic relations to deteriorate, and 7% said the visit was part of a “plan of global expansion of Catholicism.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Activists Say Same-Sex Marriage Will Harm Family
NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE, Aug. 8 — Although a few homosexual activists claim that same-sex “marriage” will strengthen families and bring monogamy to homosexual relationships, many others promote same-sex unions precisely in order to disrupt traditional families, the online magazine reported.
One homosexual author praised homosexual unions because they would help end monogamy and the traditional family, while another predicted that such unions would require the law to assume androgyny rather than distinct gender roles.
Journalist Andrew Sullivan, perhaps the most prominent advocate of homosexual “marriage,” also noted in his book Virtually Normal that widespread acceptance of homosexual unions would likely lead to “greater understanding of the need for extramarital [sexual] outlets” for both homosexuals and heterosexuals.
National Review Online commented that supporters and opponents of homosexual unions often agree on the unions' societal effect of undermining traditional morality, but proponents want to see gender, sexual fidelity, and monogamy challenged, while opponents do not.
California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Washington are considering legislation based on Vermont's “civil unions” law, which last year accorded homosexual relationships many of the civil benefits of marriage.
Mass. Catholic Conference Backs Abuse Law
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Aug. 8 — Although a spokesman for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference had spoken earlier against a proposed law that would require clergy to report all suspected child abuse, the conference announced that it would support the bill, the wire service announced.
The bill would add clergy to a list of professionals, including teachers, doctors and day care workers, who are required to report any suspicions of child abuse. Information received in confession or in other “confidential conversations” is still confidential.
A Church youth worker pleaded guilty July 9 to 75 counts of child sexual abuse, and one Massachusetts priest will face trial in September on charges of molesting 70 children.
Cardinal George's GentlerApproach Echoes 1940s Dispute
CHICAGO TRIBUNE, Aug. 3 — The dispute over whether the predominantly black school St. Sabina could join the predominantly white Southside Catholic Conference athletic league echoed an athletic-league battle from the 1940s, the Chicago daily reported.
However, the 1940s struggle, in which a small black Catholic school was shut out of a white athletic league in St. Louis, was only resolved when Cardinal Joseph Ritter banned segregation and threatened opponents with excommunication. Most observers believed that approach wouldn't work today.
Chicago Cardinal Francis George used moral leadership and private phone calls to bring the two sides to agreement on including St. Sabina in the league. Cardinal George backed the school's inclusion in the athletic league despite league parents' fears that their children would be unsafe in St. Sabina's neighborhood.
As Hank Lenzen, chairman of the Southside Catholic Conference, put it, “He's the boss, but he didn't put the hammer down.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Homosexual Couples Get Legal Status in Germany
REUTERS, Aug. 1 — Angelika Baldow and Gudrun Pannier, clad in white tie and tails, were the first couple to take advantage of a German law allowing the registration of same-sex partnerships, the wire service reported.
Same-sex partners can share surnames (Baldow and Pannier became Frau and Frau Pannier, the German equivalent of “Mrs. Pannier”), and have the same inheritance rights as married couples. The law does not give homosexual couples the tax breaks married couples enjoy, nor the right to adopt children. Same-sex partnerships are formally known as “registered life partnerships.”
The law still faces a legal challenge, to be decided next year.
Pregnant Baptist Mother Forced Out of Turkmenistan
KESTON NEWS SERVICE, July 23 — Two Baptist women were ordered to leave Turkmenistan after their husbands were deported for religious activity, the religious-freedom news service reported.
One of the women, Nadezhda Potolova, is pregnant with her fourth child.
Six other Baptist families from the Council of Churches, to which the two women belonged, have been deported from Turkmenistan in the past few years despite having legal residence. Hundreds of foreign Protestants, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses and Hare Krishnas have also been deported.
Iranian Ayatollah Endorses Abortion and Sex Changes
NEW YORK TIMES, July 29 — A profile of Iranian Ayatollah Saanei in the New York daily noted that in his vigorous championing of women's equality under Islamic law, he has also endorsed abortion.
Saanei declared that women could hold any office, and that “blood money” paid in compensation for causing a woman's death must be equivalent to that paid for a man. However, he also said early abortion was permissible if the pregnancy threatened the mother's health or if the child would have abnormalities. He has also permitted some sex-change operations.
Saanei was a protégé of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He withdrew from government in 1984, and now leads Iran's Islamic reform movement, which works closely with reformist President Mohammad Khatami.
Mexican Mass Draws Leftist Ire
ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 27 — Mexico's largest leftist party is furious that a government official hung a crucifix in his office and invited employees to a Mass in a government building, the wire service reported.
The Democratic Revolution Party filed a complaint with the Mexico City comptroller and announced that it would seek to ban all religious images from government offices.
Jose Espina, a borough president from President Vicente Fox's National Action Party, hung a crucifix in his office and sent a letter on official stationery inviting government employees to a Mother's Day Mass at borough offices.
Mexico's Constitution says officials cannot give preference to any religious group. Espina argued that his actions did not violate that law.
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BY Jim Cosgrove
John Paul to Attend Premiere of Polish Movie
REUTERS, Aug. 2 — The world premiere of the Polis epic Quo Vadis will be shown in Rome, with a special guest on hand: Pope John Paul II.
The news service reported that the $18 million feature is the most expensive Polish picture ever made. Its premiere will be held with a crowd of 6,000 in the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall.
The movie is about Nero's persecutions of the Church in ancient Rome, based on the 1896 novel by Nobel Prize — winning Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz, the film is directed by by Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Oscar — nominated for 1966's Faraon (Pharoah)
Quo Vadis was filmed in Tunisia, France and Poland and will see its Polish premiere Sept. 9 in Warsaw.
Presidents and the Pope
ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 20 — Preparing to cover George Bush's visit to the Pope, the Associated Press recalled previous presidents who did — and didn't — visit the Pope:
Woodrow Wilson and Dwight Eisenhower visited the Pope, as did John F. Kennedy.
President Johnson visited Pope Paul VI in Dec. 1967, to try to keep the Holy Father from mentioning the Vietnam War in a Jan. 1 address on world peace.
Pope John Paul II visited Jimmy Carter's White House — the first pope to visit the presidential home.
Ronald Reagan and John Paul met in 1982, when they discussed how to relax the Communist grip on Eastern Europe. Their efforts changed the course of history.
ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 22 — The Associated Press reported that President Bush and the first lady found Rome to be a “romantic city.” According to the news service:
Bush gave a mock speech as he climbed down the steps of the Roman Senate, saying:
“I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe — I believe what I believe is right.”
Bush also helped his wife navigate the ancient steps in the Roman Forum in her dress shoes. They had last visited Rome when daughter Barbara took classes in the city during college.
The Bush's Italy trip included a visit to Tuscany, which included stops at the leaning Tower of Pisa and the medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Church Leaders Hope for Rebate Windfall
LOS ANGELES TIMES, July 28 — Religious leaders have joined the many secular groups urging recipients of the recent tax rebate to send the money their way, the Los Angeles daily reported.
E-mails, letters, fliers and even exhortations from the pulpit encouraged congregants to send the checks, which range from $300 to $600, to churches. The refunds are the first tangible results of the 10-year, $1.5 trillion tax plan signed by President Bush in June. Rebate checks worth a total of $38 billion, will arrive in mailboxes over a period of 10 weeks.
Portland Catholics Protest ‘Antichrist’ Billboard
KOIN.COM, July 26 — A billboard claiming that the Pope is the Antichrist provoked a swift response from the Portland, Ore., Catholic community, the online Portland-based news site reported.
The billboard appeared on a local stretch of Interstate 5. The Archdiocese of Portland asked all Catholics to call the billboard's owners, Outdoor Media Dimensions, and ask that the billboard be removed. Archdiocese spokesperson Mary Jo Tully said that similar billboards have appeared in western Oregon since 1993.
Senate Won't Give Faith-Based Groups Exemption
WASHINGTON POST, Aug. 2 — Religious organizations that receive government funding under President Bush's faith-based initiative will not get extra protection from anti-discrimination laws, the Washington daily reported.
Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., the bill's sponsor in the Senate, agreed to drop a provision that would make it easier for religious charities to avoid state and local anti-discrimination laws. Local laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, for example, may conflict with a religious charity that wishes to avoid hiring active homosexuals.
Santorum removed the provisions that would protect religious charities from such anti-discrimination laws in order to win support for the bill from prominent Democrats like Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.
Contraceptive Ad Dropped From Movie Promotion
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Aug. 1 — The makers of the teen sex comedy “American Pie 2” scrapped part of a tie-in marketing plan after objections from the Motion Picture Association of America, the wire service reported.
Universal Pictures and Ansell Healthcare Inc., maker of Lifestyles condoms, had planned a joint marketing deal including a sweepstakes, placement of Lifestyles condoms in the film, and a television commercial promoting both the movie and the condoms. But the Motion Picture Association rejected the commercial, so it will not be shown.
The association reviews all marketing materials produced by member studios. The association does not allow condoms in commercials meant for general audiences.
BY Jim Cosgrove
War Crimes Tribunal Criticizes Croatian Bishops
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, July 25 — A spokeswoman for the United Nations war crimes tribunal condemned Croatia's Catholic bishops for a recent declaration accusing the court of unfairness in its investigation of the 1991-95 Serb-Croat war, the wire service reported.
The Church statement, issued by the Croatian bishops’ Justice and Peace commission, suggested that the UN tribunal was engaged in “collusion” with those who sought to “undermine Croatian independence.” The tribunal had indicted two Croatian generals for war crimes against ethnic Serbs.
Many Croatians see their country as a victim of the conflict, not an aggressor, since almost a third of Croatia was occupied by Serbs after Zagreb declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.
But the bishops’ statement insulted “both the international law and international justice in general,” said war crimes tribunal spokes-woman Florence Hartman.
Judge Who Sentenced Bishop's Killers Flees Guatemala
REUTERS, July 25 — Guatemalan judge Yassmin Barrios fled the country after sentencing four men convicted of murdering a Catholic bishop, the wire service reported.
Barrios was attacked with a grenade and received threats before the trial was conducted earlier this year, but still sentenced the killers of Bishop Juan Gerardi to up to 30 years in prison. The bishop was killed in April 1998, two days after releasing a report blaming the military for most of the human rights abuses during Guatemala's 36-year civil war.
Pakistani Christian's Appeal Rejected in Blasphemy Case
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, July 25 — A Pakistani court rejected an appeal from Amnesty International on behalf of a Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy, the wire service reported.
Ayub Masih was arrested in 1996 for allegedly speaking against the prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam. He was condemned to death in 1998 under Pakistan's strict 1985 blasphemy law. Syed Sajjad Haider, president of the Pakistan chapter of Amnesty International, challenged the verdict, but his appeal was rejected.
Masih can still appeal to Pakistan's supreme court. Dozens of people have been convicted for blasphemy in Pakistan, but so far none have been executed.
Matchbook Bible-Smugglers Hope to Expand Apostolate
ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 2 — Almost 20 years ago, Paul Lemons began creating thousands of matchbook-sized Bibles — each with its own magnifying glass — to be smuggled behind the Iron Curtain into the Soviet Union, the wire service reported.
Today, despite the fall of the Soviet Union, Lemons’ Alabama-based East European Harvest is still printing the tiny Bibles in a variety of languages.
They are shipped to countries within the former Soviet bloc, where evangelical Protestants often run into government opposition, and Lemons hopes to take on new projects in Africa and China.
Lemons, 80, runs the printings entirely on donations. He now makes normal-sized Bibles as well.