Print Edition: Feb. 22, 2015
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BY From Selected Sources
New French Law Allows Gay Unions
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Oct. 14-The French Parliament passed a law on Oct. 20 giving legal status to unmarried couples, including same-sex partners, the Times reported.
“The new law makes France the first traditionally Roman Catholic nation to recognize same-sex unions. The decision came nearly two years after the Socialist government proposed the law, touching off protests by “conservatives” and the Catholic Church.
“The law allows couples, whether they are of the same sex or not, to enter into a union and be entitled to the same rights as married couples in such areas as income tax, inheritance, housing and social welfare,” the article reported.
Worldwide Christian Population Dips
RELIGION TODAY, Oct. 19-The Christian population worldwide is experiencing a downtick, the online news service reported.
“According to the UK Christian Handbook, 28.3% of the world's population identified itself as Christian in 1990,” Religion Today reported. “The percentage of Christians will drop to 27.8% in 2000 and to 27.1% in 2010,” it said.
The primary reason? A lower birth rate among Christian families. The report added that about 85% of the world's non-Christians live in Asia.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Excerpts from selected publications
Protesters Demand Return of the Angelus
IRISH TIMES, Dec. 7—A Sunday procession of 40 cars descended on Ireland's state TV broadcasting facility in Donnybrook to protest a decision by the station to replace its daily Angelus with a feature that makes no reference to the centuries-old Catholic prayer.
The Angelus heralds the Blessed Virgin Mary's acceptance of God's desire to become incarnate in her womb.
The mood of protesters was upbeat, said the report. “We have got protection,” smiled one, showing rosary beads and an image of Mary.
According to the article, the tradition of pausing and praying the Angelus at midday has been acknowledged on Irish television in a special, brief feature each day. That feature has now been altered to be more akin to a moment of silence and fails to show Catholics making the sign of the cross or to include an image of the Blessed Mother.
The protest, it is expected, will have no impact on the decision of the station.
Northern Ireland's Nobel-Winning Accord in Danger
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 9—As North Ireland Catholic John Hume and North Ireland Protestant David Trimble arrived in Oslo for celebrations leading up to the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize for the peace accord they helped fashion, the fruits of their efforts were faltering, the Associated Press reported.
“n the less than two months since the committee announced its decision,” said the report, “the accord has run into trouble….”
The new dispute arose when Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party repeated its demand for the outlawed Irish Republican Army to disarm as a prerequisite for including its political wing, Sinn Fein, in a new governing body in Northern Ireland.
Trimble, a member of the British Parliament, was quoted saying recently in Washington that the IRA's stance “is tending to poison the atmosphere.” But he also stressed that the peace accord was not collapsing, according to AP.
The report did not mention Hume's opinion of the issue, except to point out that the former seminarian is a well-known peace activist in Ireland and is considered the driving force behind the accord.
Crucification May Await Sudanese Priests
THE TORONTO STAR, Dec. 4—The force of Pope John Paul II's words on a visit to Sudan five years ago is still being felt. At the time, he criticized Sudan's Islamic regime's tactics, decrying their actions as “a particular reproduction of the mystery of Calvary.”
Now, those words are being recalled by activists as the Sudanese government is threatening two Catholic priests with crucifixion.
Father Hillary Boma and Father Lina Tujano are charged with terrorism on the day celebrating the current regime's coup in the nation, according to the report. The story added, “If convicted, they and 18 co-defendants could be crucified, under the medieval Islamic code that governs Sudan's legal system.”
The priests became the prime suspects in bombings on Aug. 1, when security police swept into St. Matthew's Cathedral in Khartoum to arrest the chancellor of the Catholic Archdiocese of Khartoum, accusing him of masterminding the plot.
Lawyers were prohibited from speaking to the suspects until after they were questioned—and tortured. All pleaded not guilty.
Now, state television has carried a videotape of the chancellor confessing to a crime. “Clerics here privately say he might have done so after being told it was the only way to spare his junior colleague … from further abuse,” said the report.
Excerpts from selected publications
BY Jim Cosgrove
Indonesian Riots Rage Despite Tolerance Talks
THE AGE, Nov. 23—As the first reports of new rioting in Indonesia began to come in, Melbourne's daily, The Age, reported six people dead, two churches burnt, and, possibly, a Catholic school destroyed.
Coincidentally, it said, the violence came shortly after a summit on religious tolerance in the area.
“Only three days ago, religious leaders from all denominations met to appeal for restraint in the face of heightened social tension,” said the report. It quoted Adurrahman Wahid, leader of the country's largest Muslim group, saying, “National reconciliation is needed to calm the escalating situation. There has been a trend that religions are used by certain factions to sow hatred in an attempt to maintain power.”
The rioting started when Muslim gangs heard rumors of attacks on Muslims by Christians.
75-Year-Old Imprisoned for 1950 Priest's Death
BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION, Nov. 23—A recent court decision reminded the world that, though members of the Church may have some reconciling to do with the world over past wrongs as the new millennium approaches, after the unprecedented number of martyrdoms in the 20th century, the world has plenty of reconciling to do with the Church as well.
The BBC reported that the Czech Republic has sentenced a former Czech secret police officer to five years in prison for torturing a priest to death in 1950.
Ladislav Macha, 75, was convicted of killing the priest while investigating an alleged miracle at a village church.
“In his efforts to make the priest confess to faking the miracle, Macha deprived him of food and sleep and beat him with a stick,” said the report. The priest died of his injuries.
The BBC correspondent in Prague noted that Macha has appealed against his sentence.
Excerpts from select publications
BY Jim Cosgrove
In Rural Ireland, Church Much Stronger
IRISH TIMES, Nov. 5—A recent survey in Ireland found Mass attendance is still relatively high in the country—if you look outside the cities.
Irish Archbishop Dermot Clifford said that he would like to see an increase in numbers attending confession and saying a family rosary, but he was quoted saying, “The prevailing wisdom that the Catholic Church is in terminal decline is given the lie here and in rural Ireland in particular.”
Conducted by Irish Marketing Surveys, the attendance study found that the national average of 65% of Catholics attending Sunday Mass was significantly different in rural archdioceses, like the one including much of Tipperary and Limerick. There, even the least-interested age group—18 to 34 year olds—almost met the national average, with 60% attending. For other age groups, the number was 94%.
Other rural findings: 65% of adult Irish Catholics pray daily, and 70% use holy water frequently. Nearly all were faithful to the magisterium: only 5% thought priests should be allowed to marry, and only 3% even considered dissenting on Church teaching that women can't be ordained.
Hit Pop Singer says “Abortion is Murder”
IRISH TIMES, Nov. 6—An Irish Times interviewer made the mistake recently of assuming Natalie Merchant was pro-abortion. Merchant was once the lead singer for the hit pop singing group 10,000 Maniacs. Since leaving the group she has become a popular solo pop singer.
The interviewer asked her if she wasn't a little frightened by the violence of “right-wing Christian fundamentalists” who might not like the cover of Merchant's album, where the singer is dressed as a nun. The interviewer even mentioned the recent killing of an abortion doctor as cause for alarm.
Merchant responded that she grew up Catholic and admires the Church, has great respect for nuns, and that she was not, “one of those moderns who totally discounts the convictions of thousands of people who go to their death for those beliefs.”
“Don and Karen Peris, who play on my album, are devout Catholics. I don't mess with that!” she told the paper.
She added: “And, as for the murder you mention... of course, I don't take things like that lightly.” Nevertheless, “it is criminal that so many out-spoken feminists, and members of the ‘pro-choice’ movement, deny the argument that life begins at conception.
“As much as I am annoyed by the tactics of the so-called pro-lifers, I'm also annoyed by the tactics of the ‘pro-choice’ people.... They both have valid arguments and in the work I've done with the pro-choice movement, I'm the one who stands up and says ‘personally, I think abortion is murder and that's why I've never had an abortion.’ But most of my friends have had abortions and I don't judge them on that. So all I'm saying is, let's not stifle the argument, let's not try to silence one side of the debate. Too many in the pro-choice movement do just that, shouting down the opposite point of view.”
Excerpts from select publications
BY Jim Cosgrove
Egyptian Bishop and Priests Arrested
COLUMBUS DISPATCH, Oct. 23—“Three Egyptian Christian Coptic clergymen have reportedly been arrested and charged with ‘damaging national unity,’ ‘insulting the government,’ and other crimes for their role in exposing alleged police attacks on Christians,” reported the Columbus daily, citing wire reports.
“Freedom House, a Washington-based human rights group, said the clerics — a bishop and two priests — were arrested Oct. 10, and released later the same day after being interrogated for several hours and posting bail. No trial date has been announced,” it reported.
“Citing information provided by the independent, Cairo-based Center for Egyptian Human Rights for National Unity, Freedom House said the clerics — members of Egypt's ancient Christian Church — were arrested after defending victims of alleged police brutality and torture in the southern Egyptian town of El-Kosheh.
“Arresting the three clerics, added Freedom House, means that ‘Christians face further persecution for simply protesting acts of abuse by the authorities or Islamic extremists.’”
Church Also Has Interest in Jerusalem, Says Vatican
REUTERS, Oct. 26—Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, who serves as the Vatican Foreign Minister, says Israelis and Palestinians should not decide the future of Jerusalem by themselves. He said the Church should have a say in the use of the Holy Land, too, reported Reuters News Service.
“The Holy See believes in the importance of extending the representation at the negotiating table in order to be sure that no aspect of the problems is overlooked and to affirm that the whole international community is responsible for the uniqueness and the sacredness of this incomparable city,” Reuters quoted Tauran saying in a speech in Jerusalem.
“The meaning and value of Jerusalem are so great, are so unique, that they go beyond the interests of one state or beyond bilateral agreements between one and another state,” he continued, according to the report. “It is essential that the parties to the negotiations take fair and appropriate account of the sacred and universal character of the city. This requires that any possible solution should have the support of the three monotheistic religions, both at the local level and at the international level,” said Tauran, attending a Church conference in East Jerusalem.
The report noted that last May, Pope John Paul II said he hoped “international guarantees of the unique and sacred character of the Holy City” would be in place by 2000, and that Israel responded that such guarantees were not needed, because the rights of Christians were already protected in Jerusalem.
Persecution of Christians: The Forgotten “Hate Crime”?
OREGONIAN, Oct. 25—The daily Oregonian newspaper recently published a five-day series about religious persecution by focusing on one group that has been the victim of overlooked “hate crimes” worldwide: Christians.
It opened with these dramatic examples: “A Presbyterian pastor overlooks threats and builds the first Christian church in his region of Pakistan. A mob destroys the church. Masked men invade the pastor's home and stab him to death. A mob ransacked this church in rural Pakistan, where Christians have little recourse against such violence.
“A man leaves Islam to become a Christian. Egyptian secret police arrest him without a formal charge and torture him with an electric probe to make him inform them about other converts.
“A Roman Catholic boy in southern Sudan plays in the trees with his friends. Soldiers waging a holy war capture him and send him into slavery, where he is given an Islamic name and beaten with sticks by his master's wives.”
Events like this are causing a change in attitudes, it said. “From Bosnian Muslims to Soviet Jews to Buddhists in Tibet, Americans have long been concerned about the rights of religious minorities around the world. Only recently have Christians been added to that list.”
The article went on to explore the many new efforts being made by legislators and activists to address the problem.
Excerpts from select publications
BY Jim Cosgrove
Anti-Church Activist Denied Communion & Parish Role
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, Sept. 9—An Australian activist has been barred from communion — as well as from lector and parish council privileges — because she continues publishing and organizing against a definitive Church doctrine, said a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Her parish priest, Bishop Geoffrey Mayne, serves as Bishop for the Australian Defense Forces. He twice informed her of his decision that she would be penalized, said the report.
Nugent is an executive member of Ordination of Catholic Women, a group that should have become obsolete in 1994, according to information the paper noted. That was the year Pope John Paul II issued his apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and declared that the Church had no authority to ordain women as priests. It used pointed language to call the doctrine “definitively held by all the Church's faithful,” according to the report. Again, last June, the Holy Father reiterated that “definitive” teachings were binding articles of faith and that public dissent would earn a “just penalty,” according to the report.
Nonetheless, Nugent felt like an “outcast and a victim,” said the report, which quoted her calling the Bishop's decision “an abuse of power.”
Bishop Mayne, who says Nugent was given fair warning, told the paper, “I, as a bishop or a priest, cannot in conscience give communion to someone who is working against the teachings of the Church. It's as simple as that.”
He added, “If they say you can't wear thongs into a league's club and you do, they don't let you in. To be a Catholic we have to accept the totality of the Church's teaching. You can't pick and choose, particularly in matters of faith and morals.”
School May Suffer For Ousting Teacher, Says MP
LONDON EVENING STANDARD, Sept. 30—The head teacher at St. Augustine of Canterbury Primary School in Rainham, Kent, was forced to resign because the Church considers her marriage adulterous, said a report in the London Evening Standard. Catherine Davidson's civil marriage to Neil Davidson — who remains married to his first wife in the Church's eyes — disqualified her from teaching at the Catholic school, according to the report.
The two married five months ago in the Church of England, said the report. They were apparently aware of the Church's prohibition of their marriage but disregarded it.
Member of Parliament Paul Clark warned that the high ratings the school's academic performance has earned in government tests may be jeopardized by its view of the marriage, according to the report.
“The appointment of teaching staff is a matter for [its] governing body but I'm concerned Catherine Davidson has headed the school and ensured excellent [government ratings]. The upheaval could clearly affect the standards of the school,” it quoted him saying.
Ireland Needn't Fear Catholic Schools, Says Scholar
IRISH TIMES, Sept. 19—New research shows that children in denominational schools are better educated and less likely to be prejudiced against other religions than children in secular schools, reported the Irish Times.
In a Trinity College debate over whether Catholic schools contribute to religious intolerance, research by the late Dr. Daniel Murphy was presented to show that the opposite was the case, said the report. Dr. Murphy's research produced four main conclusions. First, evidence from the U.S., Australia, and France showed that Catholic schools excel in “school effectiveness,” which includes academic and other categories, according to the report.
Second, his report said that where state funds are allowed to help pay for a parent's choice of a denominational school, there is little danger of “social elitism.” However, where states refuse to help fund the private education of citizens, he said the chances were higher that the best schools will be reserved for the upper-classes — although he added that American Catholic schools have been an exception to the rule in this regard. Third, he found that research in the U.S. and Australia shows that Catholic school students are “less prejudiced in religious matters than those who attend public schools,” quoted the report.
Fourth, his paper shared the “profound concern in many quarters” that denominational schools “must not be absorbed into a multi-faith pluralism that will diminish and weaken their cultural distinctiveness, rendering them less effectual as schools, to say nothing of their effective promotion of their ethical and religious ideas,” the paper quoted.
Excerpts from select publications
BY Jim Cosgrove
French Archbishop, Public Decry Anti-Family Bill
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS, Sept. 10—In France, Church leaders are warning their countrymen about the detrimental effects of a new legislative effort by homosexual activists. French news services reported that the French government is considering giving marriage-like benefits to the live-in sexual partners of federal workers.
The “domestic partners” bill will be given its first reading in Parliament October 9, said the report. Catholics have already begun to decry the measure. Archbishop of Lyon Louis-Marie Bille, president of the French Catholic Bishops Conference, told the Agence France-Presse that the law would “increase the confusion and incoherence” of contemporary society and “weaken the family” according to the report.
He said the bill was a “suitcase with a false bottom,” saying it was impossible for two people of the same sex to be a “couple,” and insisted that the law would be a first step towards gay and lesbian marriages.
The public, for now, seems to be on the side of marriage. Lawmakers have received some 60,000 postcards and a petition signed by a reported 12,000 French mayors, both in emphatic opposition to the benefit arrangement, according to reports.
Hindus Join Catholics as Singer's Victims
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, Sept. 15—Catholics have long suffered the ridicule of popular singer Madonna, who has frequently used Church symbols and art in ways designed to titillate and offend. Now Hindus are complaining that she has shown disrespect to their religious customs as well.
Said the Philadelphia daily, “The World Vaishnava Association wants the singer to apologize for what it sees as her sacrilegious performance on last week's MTV Video Awards.” The report said the group was upset at her for wearing henna marriage markings, which represent purity, while dancing provocatively in revealing clothing.
Madonna, responding through a spokeswoman, was unrepentant. “The essence of purity and divinity is nonjudgment. They should practice what they preach. If they're so pure, why are they watching MTV?” her publicist Liz Rosenberg said of the singer's view, according to the report.
“She certainly had no intention of insulting anyone. On the other hand, I personally don't see that an apology is in order,” Rosenberg said. “I don't think this organization is necessarily speaking for an entire community.”
Cover or Cooperation? Irish Unite on Abortion
IRISH TIMES, Sept. 15—Pro-abortion activists often claim that they, like their pro-life opponents, wish that there were fewer abortions. In the United States, where the slogan “abortion should be safe, legal, and rare” is used by abortion's most vehement proponents, pro-lifers say they have a hard time trusting that sentiment.
Now, in Ireland a conference called “5,000 Too Many…” claims that it wishes to unite those on both sides of the issue to find ways to reduce the number of Irish women having abortions, said the Irish Times.
The idea started when newspaper columnist Breda O'Brien suggested the two sides “bypass the debate about constitutional and legal bans on abortion, and discuss how to reduce the number of Irish women actually having abortions in Britain.”
Wrote Ms. O'Brien, “Most of the debate has centered on medical and legal issues. While this kind of debate is no doubt necessary, it has left people polarized. More importantly, it has not had a major effect on the numbers of women who travel to Britain for abortion — quite the reverse in fact.
“Those who would describe themselves as pro-choice, pro-life, or somewhere in the middle would all agree that it is a tragedy that the numbers of Irish abortions are so high.” She said that everyone could better support women suffering from “crisis pregnancies.”
O'Brien helped organize a conference at which prominent figures from both sides were set to discuss their ideas on how to better serve pregnant women. The conference's supporters and participants include: Prof. Patricia Casey, Prof. Anthony Clare, whose research shows that abortion is most often caused by distress in a neglected woman, as well as Labor Party senator Dr. Mary Henry, Democratic Left lawmaker Liz McManus and Irish Catholic editor David Quinn.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Non-Catholic Students Learn Prayers and Attend Mass
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, Aug. 11—Catholic schools are popular only as long as they downplay religion, right? Wrong, said a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
In Australia, the latest enrollment figures show that non-Catholics are flocking to Catholic schools as never before — knowing that they will be required to participate in religious education and regularly attend Mass.
In many parts of Australia, non-Catholic enrollment has grown as high as 25%. A spokeswoman at Australia's Parramatta diocese told the paper that “students come to the school knowing it has a definite ethos and commitment to religious instruction and prayer.”
It quoted one non-Catholic high school freshman student saying, “I don't see myself as being Catholic. But I pray to God at church and I learn about loving God and helping people.”
In recent tests, students averaged 97% on questions requiring that they know Catholic prayers, said the report. The schools want the students to get their scores on doctrinal questions up to that same level.
Said one school spokesman, “My hope would be that when these children finish [senior year] that there would not be any significant gaps in their knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith tradition.”
Polish Diaspora United by Church and Scouting
COLUMBUS DISPATCH, Aug. 12—The many Polish people uprooted by the devastation of World War II immigrated to the United States and other countries, assimilating to their new nations and leaving many of their former customs behind.
They haven't forgotten them, however, thanks to the International Polish Scouting Organization (which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year) and the Catholic Church.
There are Polish scouts in 11 countries. In the United States, the group now has more than 100,000 members in 11 states, said the Columbus Dispatch. Ohio was the site this month of the international group's jubilee, which is held every six years.
The Polish scouts stress their heritage, which includes Catholicism. Archbishop Szczepan Wesoly flew in from Rome to kickoff the golden anniversary jubilee with an outdoor Mass in Polish at the camp Aug. 16, said the report.
“Incorporating Polish language and heritage into programs keeps Polish-American youth in touch with their roots,” Scout leader Andy Stachowiak of New Britain, Conn., told the paper. “If you know your background, you fit in.”
Julian Green's Diary Ends
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Aug. 17—One man who figured largely in what has been called the “20th century Catholic literary revival” has died, reported the Associated Press (AP), which learned the information from French media.
Julian Green, born in Paris to American parents and educated at the University of Virginia, was the author of several novels about the American South — in French. But perhaps he was best known for his extensive diary that chronicled his life among the Parisian elite, and which expressed a profound faith and his struggle to keep it.
He also translated Catholic poet Charles Peguy into English in language that bilingual critics have called better than the original. AP reported that he was the first foreigner to be elected to the Academie Francaise that guards the purity of the French language. He died at age 97, but the report said that he had already stopped his ambitious schedule of spending hours every day writing in his journal.
The diary itself, 40 years before his death, offers a clue why.
“You will be a better man only when you have completely lost sight of yourself and will then think of your Creator,” he told himself. “No more diary, no more mirror, no more self-complacency. A fly, after long wanderings over a windowpane in search of the sun it sees but cannot reach, being separated from it by this sheet of glass, will fly out of the window when death opens it.”
EXCERPT: Excerpts from select publications
Excerpts from select publications
BY Jim Cosgrove
Mexican Cult has Partisan Motives, Catholic Trappings
SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER, August 9, 1998—A cult begun by a former Catholic priest who split with the Church over Vatican II treats its members cruelly, said a major San Francisco Examiner investigative article, but the government refuses to intervene.
The reason: the cult runs the town of Nueva Jerusalén, which faithfully votes for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, said the article. Village leaders, followers of Nabor Cardenas — “Papa Nabor” — enforce a strict code that jails men for talking with women after the town's daily rosary, or for missing daily Latin Mass, the report said.
Villagers follow what they are told, from faith in the leader's supposed visions, or from fear of the private police force which carries forbidden military-style heavy weaponry and controls the town's substandard but much-used jail, said the report.
Mexican authorities refuse to intervene on the people's behalf, the report said, and in fact have given the town special privileges because it dependably votes for PRI in a Province that the Party might otherwise lose. Exiled villagers said that at each election they would be told that town leaders had been talking with “the Virgin,” who wanted them to vote PRI.
According to the article, the cult believes Pope Paul VI is still alive, held hostage in the Vatican basement by conspiratorial thugs, but that he will emerge before the world ends in the year 2000 in order to save mankind.
Christ's Head is Not in Scotland, Says Church
BRITISH BROADCASTING CORP., August 11—Christian thinkers from St. Paul to Pope John Paul II have reminded us that Catholic belief requires supernatural faith — but that it also ultimately depends on historical fact. If Christ did not actually rise bodily from the dead, then all of our faith is in vain.
That's why, when an anthropologist claimed to have found Christ's head, a Scottish Church official considered his theory important enough to disprove, which he did in an August 11 BBC report.
Dr Keith Laidler has written a book, The Head of God - The Lost Treasure of the Templars, explaining that there was a cult of heads in the Middle Ages, and that one chapel in Scotland had a claim to the greatest of all: Jesus Christ's. Theories of its transport to Scotland from Jerusalem involve Mary Magdalene in one version, and a Knights Templar who visited the Holy Land in another. It is still buried beneath the 15th century Rosslyn Chapel, Laidler says.
Father Danny McLoughlin, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, turned to history to address Dr. Laidler's claim: “The Templars disappeared in Scotland in the 13th century and that chapel was not built until 300 years later, so there seems to be a slight problem there, to say nothing of the other problems we would see,” he is quoted saying.
Catholics in Tasmania Protest Explicit TV
NEWS LIMITED, August 10—In the United States, “1-900” phone ads have become a staple of late-night advertising. Catholics in Tasmania hope to prevent the same thing from happening there.
A group called the Tasmanian Catholic Schools Parents and Friends Federation is objecting to the authorities about sexually explicit advertisements. The group's president, Ian Dalton, said that while the group was particularly concerned about television ads — which he says are now aired during major sporting events that kids like to watch — the federation also objects to such ads in the print media, said the report.
“It needs to be stringently monitored,” if not banned altogether, Dalton is quoted saying.
The group hopes to be successful in its efforts by showing a broad concern about community issues. The federation also voted to speak to government officials on behalf of the education budget and traffic safety issues, the report said.
Excerpts from select publications
BY Jim Cosgrove
Can the Newman Institute Help Ireland's Faith Crisis?
IRISH TIMES, Aug. 3—In the country that evangelized so much of the world for Christ, the Catholic Church is under attack. Irish Catholics say they are deeply troubled by a spirit of antagonism to their faith that bombards them in their institutions and media.
But one sign of hope may be found in the new Newman Institute for religious and catechetical studies whose opening was reported recently in the Irish Times.
Bishop Thomas Finnegan considers the Institute a first step toward a larger project to preserve a Catholic identity at “a small college with its own culture and ethos, gradually establishing links with St. Patrick's College Maynooth, the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, and [other] colleges,” he told the paper.
The report quoted the bishop saying that the Institute would stress theology because, “The relationship between truth and freedom is at the heart of today's moral crisis. The very concept of universally valid principles is called into question.… It is in this environment that a Catholic university must operate at the interface between the Church and the world of thought.”
Is New Millennium to Blame for Tidal Wave?
LONDON OBSERVER SERVICE, August 1—In a report showing an apparent misunderstanding of the Catholic celebration of the Jubilee Year 2000, the London Observer fears that Papua-New Guinea residents will blame the coming millennium for the tidal wave that recently devastated the area.
Said the report, “the tsunami that killed at least 2,000 people is likely to be interpreted as a sign of the end of the world and second coming of Christ.” It quoted an English anthropologist saying, “People will see this as the wrath of God — a punishment or act of cleansing before the millennium.”
Christine Kocher-Schmidt, of Kent University in England, went on to suggest the area's Catholicism makes matters worse.
“The discourse on the millennium is particularly strong in this area as people struggle to get to grips with bits of information trickling in from the outside world. It is a very isolated place where information is only transmitted orally and tends to become very colored by the Catholic mission.”
However, tracing these ideas to Catholicism is a mistake. The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has specifically rejected “millennialism.” Furthermore, Christ has not said that his return will coincide with the Gregorian calendar's switch-over from nines to zeros.
Catholics celebrate the Jubilee Year 2000 as a commemoration of the birth of Christ, not as a new turning point in salvation history.
Turning Family Discussions Into Ecumenical Dialogue
THE SCOTSMAN, August 6—It is an increasingly common phenomenon, but it is largely unexplored pastoral territory. How can Churches address the particular needs of Catholics and Protestants who marry each other?
Scotland's Catholic Church is set to publish an aid to Christians involved in mixed marriages. The document, Marriage, Discipline and Pastoral Practice, will be released this autumn, said the newspaper. Produced by Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS), it will give couples information about each other's faith.
Fr. John Fitzsimmons, of the Unity, Faith and Order Commission, is the report's author.
He told the newspaper: “This is about marriages between people who are Catholic and people who are fully paid-up members of their own Church. Very often, Catholics get married to someone of no faith, but this report is aimed at Catholics who are marrying someone who takes their own Church seriously.
“It will put side by side the different understandings of each Church. For example, it will tell a Catholic and a Congregationalist how to understand each other's position.”
He added that it is meant to be practical rather than a mere intellectual discussion of differences.
Excerpts from select publications
BY Jim Cosgrove
Sunday, Busy Sunday In Europe
ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 26—Americans traveling in Europe were once charmed—or exasperated—by the tendency of so many shops and services to close on Sunday. But no more. Shop-keepers blame customers in newly capitalist societies for busier and busier Sundays, said an AP report.
“We have to go with the times. People who work find it good to shop when they want,” Linda Krappe told AP who opens her train station tea store in Berlin on Sundays.
New Sunday customs seem to have taken quick hold. In France and Switzerland, old laws protecting Sunday are being removed from the books.
“The current rest-day and shop-closing laws just don't fit the attitudes and lifestyles of the population any more,” Zurich's city government is quoted saying in a proposal to allow Sunday store hours.
However, the Third Commandment's call for Sabbath rest is a serious obligation, Pope John Paul II wrote recently. And bishops agree that customers must guard the Sabbath.
“If people did not go shopping on Sunday, the stores would be closed,” said Father Adam Schulz, spokesman for Poland's bishops.
Grandmother of Jesus Draws Thousands to Quebec
QUEBEC GAZETTE, July 26—About 40,000 people visited the 2,000-seat chapel of St. Anne in Quebec to venerate her relic, a wrist-bone, on her feast day this year, said the Quebec Gazette.
St. Anne's lineage in tradition is long: she is the grandmother of Jesus. It was in her womb that the Blessed Virgin Mary was immaculately conceived — that is, conceived by her father, St. Joachim, and mother, St. Anne, but shielded from original sin by God.
St. Anne has been venerated as a protectress throughout the history of the Church, though she is not mentioned in any of the canonical books of the Bible. Martin Luther, who later disapproved of her veneration, credited her with saving his life as a young man — and entered a monastery to repay her.
She has always been a favorite in Quebec, where radio broadcasts until recently used to air prayers to her during her novena, said the report.
Scientists Say Darwin's ‘Myth’ Won't Do in 21st Century
OTTAWA CITIZEN, July 26—The 19th-century theories of adventurer Charles Darwin are on trial again, said the Ottawa Citizen. But this time his detractors are sophisticated scientists, in the international court of peer review.
Professor Michael Behe of Pennsylvania's Lehigh University and author of Darwin's Black Box says organs such as the human eye could not have evolved through chance mutations weeded out by natural selection: they are far too complex to have evolved step by small step over millennia. In fact, without all of their components in place and functioning together, they would be useless.
His book has been widely criticized by fellow biologists, but also widely read by them since its appearance in 1996. None of the book's international body of reviewers has challenged his central thesis, said the report, which summed it up: “Darwinism has no solid explanation for the complexities unearthed by modern molecular biology.”
Darwin said, “my theory would absolutely break down” if a complex organism were found that could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive small modifications, said the article.
But, says Behe, the eye and many smaller systems are just that. They require an “Intelligent Designer,” he said.
New Zealand geneticist Michael Denton also questions the theory. He challenged the idea that wholly new species can be created by tiny evolutionary steps in his book: Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, saying that “the Darwinian theory of evolution is nothing more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth of the 20th century.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
South Africa: No Funding for Catholic Hospitals?
In South Africa, Archbishop Wilfrid Napier OFM of Durban was shocked by the deep cuts being made by the South African government to Church-run hospitals and clinics. The 11% cut will have a dramatic effect on service, said a report in Melbourne's daily newspaper, The Age.
Asked the archbishop: “Is the severity of the cuts related to the religious affiliation and policies of the Catholic clinics or hospitals?” He said it is “possible to believe” that St. Mary's Hospital is out of favor because of its fidelity to Church doctrine, particularly its strong stance against abortion.
“Before the cuts were effected, we had a meeting with the health department asking them for extra funding. We were told that our clinics were not offering a holistic approach because they did not offer birth-control programs. It makes one wonder whether the cuts were done because of our attitude towards abortion. Is there something more than just financial constraints involved?” the prelate told the paper.
No other hospital of comparable size is being cut nearly as much, he added. While not disputing the archbishop's account of his meeting there, a spokesman at the health department disagreed.
“Everyone knows we are hamstrung by financial constraints. The cuts were made simply because of this. It's unfortunate that the Church believes they have been targeted because of religious policies. This is outrageous,” he said.
Did William Shakespeare Study to Be a Jesuit ‘Martyr’?
“But for a twist of fate, William Shakespeare might have been a Roman Catholic priest and spy in danger of being hanged, rather than applauded, by Protestant England's Queen Elizabeth I,” begins The Washington Post account of research by Richard Wilson, who with other donors is creating a $32 million Shakespeare museum in Hoghton Tower, England.
“Wilson, professor of Renaissance studies at Lancaster University, believes Hoghton Tower was once used as a ‘Jesuit clearinghouse’ from which young men would travel abroad to become priests, and that 16-year-old Shakespeare went there after being recruited by missionary (St.) Edmund Campion.
“For de Hoghton, owner of the hilltop manor and holder of England's second-oldest baronetcy, this theory builds on a family legend that a young man called Shakeshafte, who in 1580 worked for one of his ancestors as a tutor cum player, was in fact the Bard.
“If Shakespeare was Shakeshafte, he was a member of a household which was for six months, it seems, nothing less than the secret college and headquarters of the English Counter Reformation,” Wilson said.
Other strong evidence points to the connection between St. Edmund and Shakespeare (who, like any other Englishman of his time, spelled his name and many other words in no single, fixed manner throughout his life). In fact, if Wilson's analysis of dates is correct, it may have been Campion's capture and imprisonment in the Tower of London that prevented Shakespeare from traveling with him to the Douai school in France.
Douai (along with Rheims) is known for its translation of the Bible by expatriate Catholic Englishmen—but during Shakespeare's lifetime, in the years immediately following the Church of England's break with Rome, it served as a “school of martyrdom.” The seminarians there were trained to be shipped back into England, where they would minister the sacraments to as many people as possible until they were captured and killed, according to historians.
Scholars have debated for years—and perhaps always will—about Shakespeare's possible religious sympathies. While his plays do nothing to oppose the ruling Protestants of his time, they contain many Catholic themes and reference-points, according to Wilson and others.
Sisters Must Abandon Hospital After a Century of Service
In today's health care climate, where Health Maintenance Organizations and other health care profit-businesses dominate, patients can feel that their doctors' offices are crowded with unseen interlopers: insurance company overseers, lawyers threatening malpractice or product liability suits, and government regulators.
It is easy to forget that Catholic religious sisters invented hospitals, and had a monopoly on the industry for most of medical history. The Toronto Star remembered the not-so-distant better days in a June 28 report:
“The names are legendary at St. Michael's Hospital—Sister Vincentia, Sister Maura, Sister de Sales. In the old days, you never knew the nuns' last names, but you knew their reputation—they ran the hospital and they were strong, smart, and formidable.”
“Up until the more casual '60s, nurses stood when doctors and nuns entered a room. You knew the nuns were coming by the rattle of wooden rosary beads or the rustle of starched white habits.
“When there was chaos in the operating rooms, with surgeons competing for space, sisters were sent for to restore order and keep the peace.
“Their pockets were deep. Sister Maura McGuire could pull out a sandwich for a hungry man or a wad of cash for an impoverished intern's honeymoon.
“But in this new world of hospital restructuring and corporate rearrangements, the last of the Sisters of St. Joseph are leaving St. Michael's Hospital, which the order built and founded 106 years ago.”
“Chuckie Shevlen, a St. Mike's nurse for 33 years, appreciates the training [the nuns] gave her. ‘[They] made us feel it was magnificent, something as simple as giving someone a bath,’ she says.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Korean Cardinal Country's ‘Most Influential Religious Leader’
When the president of South Korea visited the White House recently one thing was overlooked — he is Catholic, part of a Church whose influence is growing in the Asian country.
But as President Kim Dae Jung was appearing on American television sets, the current issue of Asia Week was reporting another sign of Church influence in Korea.
“Perhaps South Korea's most influential religious leader, Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou Hwan, archbishop of Seoul for 30 years, is resigning,” it announced.
“Under [Cardinal] Kim, the Catholic Church came to play a role disproportionate to its size in South Korea. The Myongdong cathedral in the heart of Seoul, where [Cardinal] Kim has his office and held forth at Sunday Masses, served as a sanctuary for dissidents, student activists, and militant labor leaders of every religious stripe. [Cardinal] Kim will remain active — he retains the title of cardinal and is still the administrator for the Pyongyang diocese in North Korea.”
Cardinal Kim, 76, will be succeeded by Bishop Nicholas Cheong Jin Suk, 67, of the Chongju diocese.
Kobe Bryant Dwarfs the Sacred Heart
The Sacred Heart, the solemnity that was celebrated June 19, is dear to French Catholics. The devotion, which resulted from the visions of a French nun, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, has traditionally been so popular in France that to Parisians, the beautiful, white Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) Church is often considered more of a landmark than even Notre Dame Cathedral.
Now, the French have a competing passion, said the Associated Press June 5. It lists the traditional sights of Paris as: the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, and Kobe Bryant.
“Kobe Bryant?” “Travelers arriving in Paris for the World Cup are greeted by two familiar sights as they enter the capital from the north.
“To the right, gleaming white atop Montmartre, is Sacre Coeur, the … basil-ica visited by millions of worshipers and tourists each year.
“To the left, decked in yellow and purple, is Bryant, the young star of the Los Angeles Lakers, taking up the side of a building in an advertising mural for Adidas.
“In the bumper-to-bumper traffic that usually clogs the expressways in that area, the 80-foot-high Bryant is harder to miss than Sacre Coeur.”
As Faith Exits Ireland, the Culture of Death Enters
In Ireland, activists have struggled to make their country more “modern” in several respects: more liberal abortion laws, legal divorce, less church attendance — and, in 1993, a legalization of suicide. They may have gotten more than they bargained for.
Reuters reported June 8 that the suicide rate there has skyrocketed — and some attribute it to the nation's move away from the traditional bulwarks of individual and social strength: family, religion, and morally strong laws.
“More people killed themselves in Ireland last year than died in traffic accidents, official government data showed,” said the report. “The 14% increase from 1996 to 433 suicides was the highest figure ever recorded in the republic, and exceeded by two the number of deaths on Irish roads.
“Male suicides outnumbered female by 355 to 78, and young or early middle-aged people formed the largest group of suicides. Eight of the suicides were by children aged between five and 14. Health expert Feargal Bowers said the figures were surprising in the context of Ireland's booming economy, growing so fast it has earned the sobriquet the ‘Celtic Tiger.’”
“Bowers said an increase in the divorce rate, and the diminishing number of people attending church could have contributed to the high suicide rate.”
“Ireland's highly orthodox Roman Catholic traditions have been eroded in recent years, with new legislation on such issues as abortion and divorce winning approval.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Indonesian Catholics Targeted by Riots
For days, ethnic Chinese in Indonesia were the targets of rioters and looters demanding President Suharto's resignation, which came May 20. Those same ethnic Chinese are among the wealthiest people of their country. Many of them are also Catholic, said a May 18 Reuters story.
According to the report, a large congregation gathered a few days after the riots at a special Mass: “Indonesia's largely Christian Chinese took time off from sifting through their ransacked and burned out shops and homes today to give thanks to God ... and to pray for their future.
The article quotes the church's pastor saying that he — and many of his parishioners — wanted President Suharto to quit.
“He is retarding reform. So are his ministers. The cabinet here is ... just the friends of the president.”
A parishioner added another complaint: “The government has done nothing to protect us. We are scared of more riots — it could happen any time.”
The Christian Chinese population has done so well in Indonesia (where they own 70% of non-land wealth), said one expert quoted in the article, because their strong family networks make them better organized than other Indonesians.
Nigerian Bishops Sound Alarm
Africa's largest and fastest growing Catholic population could be put at severe risk by new political developments, say its bishops.
Plans are underway in Nigeria to transition from military to civilian rule by October — and military ruler Sani Abacha has a plan to introduce democracy in the nation. But many pro-democracy groups say Abacha's plan — and his nomination as the unopposed candidate in the first election — is a farce.
According to a May 17 Reuters report, the nation's Catholic bishops issued a statement saying, “The latest developments in our long and tedious transition program are leading us in a direction that gives us grave cause for concern.... Now our worst fears are coming to pass before our very eyes ... and so we call on all Nigerians: ‘Watch out: there is danger ahead.‘”
Dozens of people have been arrested for protesting government abuses in Nigeria, whose Catholic population is at 12 million and growing.
Vanier Says Sanctity is Normal
Jean Vanier is used to being asked if he is a saint, reports the May 17 Ottawa Citizen. After all, both of his parents are being considered for canonization — and his l'Arche homes for the disabled are doing great good.
Vanier, however, “has little patience for the idea that he may someday be declared St. Jean. He says it is a cop-out to say that a Mother Teresa or a Jean Vanier are somehow different than the rest of us,” said the report.
Vanier said he has an answer ready for those who ask him if he is a saint, according to the article: “What is important is that they become saints.”
He has a similar answer when asked what it was like growing up in a household with the saintly Georges and Pauline Vanier. It was normal, he says.
“Like most men, Dad never spoke about emotions, and Mom was always blurting them out. They were an incredible pair.”
The newspaper profiled him on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Ottawa's l'Arche community.
BY Jim Cosgrove
African Nation Silences Catholic Radio
The BBC reported April 20 that “The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has suspended broadcasts by a Catholic radio station in the eastern city of Kisangani.”
“In a BBC interview, the deputy interior minister, Faustin Munene, accused Radio Amani of dabbling in politics. He said it should stick to religious affairs.
“In addition to its own output, the station rebroadcasts programs of the BBC World Service. Security forces have been stationed in the radio's offices since the suspension on Saturday.
“Correspondents say that journalists in Congo have come under increasing pressure in recent months not to criticize government policy.
“A newspaper editor—Andre Ipakala of La Reference Plus—was reported to have been arrested on Sunday.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Ingredients in the Kosovo Conflict
Mother Teresa would express sadness at—but would intimately understand—the fierce racial tensions in Kosovo, which pit its majority Albanian population against a Serb minority rule.
As a child growing up in Skopje, Macedonia, Mother Teresa found herself at the center of just such a situation. Her father was a leader in a movement for Albanian independence in Macedonia, whose predicament is similar to Kosovo's.
In an article in The Los Angeles Times March 23, Isuf Hajrizi fills in some facts about the Albanians and their lands and sheds light on a situation that is becoming a difficult one.
Seven million Albanians today live in Albania itself and in five surrounding countries: Mother Teresa's Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, and the current hot spot, Kosovo.
The Albanians, originally Illyrians, inhabitants of the prized Roman prefecture Illyricum, have been disinherited in their own lands since the sixth century, he writes.
In Kosovo, 200,000 Serbs rule over 2 million Albanians.
The problems there are better characterized as racial conflict, rather than religious: Albanians of different religions have tolerated each other for years in these nations. Muslims predominate, but often join in the feast day celebrations of their Catholic and Orthodox countrymen.
Kosovo is rich in gold, silver, copper, and lead—which, Hajrizi speculates, is the real reason for Serbian interest in the country.
BY Jim Cosgrove
TV Star Urges Global Contraception & Abortion
The U.S. television show Dallas has been extremely popular overseas, where some have even credited it with subverting communist regimes by giving people a look at unbridled capitalism. So it is understandable that the U.N. Population Fund would choose a star of the show, Linda Gray, to be its spokeswoman.
The Washington Post (Feb. 2) called Gray the Fund's “glambassador.” “Working with the fund's celeb-heavy Face to Face program,” the account continued, “Gray will star in documentaries to promote greater access for women to health care, birth control, and abortion, and an end to sexual violence.”
The controversial nature of her work—which critics say is designed to change the cultures of Third World nations to conform to some of the worst aspects of first-world culture—seemed lost on Gray in her quoted remarks about her recent trip to Nicaragua.
“There are wonderful health care promoters who explain to the women that their mothers had 10, 12, 14 children but that they don't have to have that many,” she said.
In describing her new work Gray said, “I have been a Hollywood celebrity for many years.… I don't know whether wisdom kicks in or age kicks in, but it's time to share.”
Museum of the Culture of Death?
“This is a disgrace for our century. Human dignity should also be respected after death, and that is not the case here.” Beate Reinecke, of Hanover, Germany, reported her disgust in the guest book at Mannheim's Museum for Technology and Work.
The Museum currently features an exhibition of dead bodies prepared by “anatomical artist” Gunther Von Hagens, according to Newsday (Feb. 3). The exhibits are preserved and “anatomically highlighted” by a process Dr. Von Hagens developed that shows brightly colored organs through transparent or missing skin.
Though ostensibly meant to teach viewers about anatomy, many—the local Catholic Church included—are deeply disturbed by a display of dead bodies. Included in the exhibit:
√ “Totally Expanded Body,” a dismembered corpse with eyes suspended by wires behind a face and in front of a brain.
√ “The Runner”, a corpse in a lifelike running pose, but with certain muscles “peeled back” as if in a strong wind, for viewers to examine.
√ A woman's corpse, spit in half lengthwise, with the woman holding various internal organs in her hands.
√ A simulated pregnant woman's corpse, cut open to reveal an unborn child's corpse within.
Each member of the exhibit (apart from the infants) agreed to donate his body to the project before death, after being given information of about Dr. Von Hagen's plans, according to the article. That did not stop local Church officials from criticizing the exhibit as an affront to human dignity with a commercial rather than a scientific aim.
Pro-Lifers Come to 11-Year-Old's Aid
Little “M” has, temporarily, become one of the most famous people in her native Brazil, but few people know her real name, according to a Miami Herald report (Feb. 2).
M's case has gained great notoriety because it exemplifies the “hard case” scenarios that abortion proponents like to focus the abortion debate on. M was impregnated last August by a rapist, she turned 11 in December, and is due in May.
She is able to have a legal abortion in Brazil—both because she is the victim of a rape and because her small size makes her pregnancy dangerous—but a drama that has been played out in the Brazilian media began when she attempted to do so.
First, pro-life activists intervened. Then local authorities postponed her abortion until after they could speak to her parents. Apriest spoke to her parents, too, showing her father a videotape of The Silent Scream. Finally, pro-lifers offered to pay for sophisticated medical care that could help keep her—and her unborn child—safe.
“I'm happy now” that the birth will proceed, M is quoted saying. “My father wanted me to have the abortion. I didn't want to have it.”
The father, Walter Oliveira, a farmer, summed up his reasons for finally deciding to accept the advice of the pro-life side. “It was hard to know what was right, except that 95 people were saying one thing and only five were saying something else.” The material assistance offered by pro-lifers further helped convince him, he said.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Double Wedding for Two of Fifteen Kids
“With 15 children, Mrs. Bernadette Reeves has mastered the art of organization,” said the article in Melbourne, Australia's The Age [Jan. 10].
“Those qualities were brought to the fore yesterday as she added the final touches to the double wedding of daughters Kathleen, 29, and Helen, 24.
“Two brides, two grooms, eight bridesmaids, eight groomsmen, and a flower girl stretched across the front of St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church in North Melbourne as testament to the organization that went into yesterday's wedding.
“Making the event easier for Mrs. Reeves was that she too was part of a double bridal party at the same church 43 years ago.
“Only one of the Trentham-based Reeves clan was unable to attend to watch sisters Kathleen and Helen marry respective partners Dean Crewther and Rodney Smith….
“According to the brides’ mother, there were many similarities to the day she and her sister Margaret married in the same church. ‘Even some of the faces are the same,’ Mrs. Reeves said.”
According to the article, Mrs. Reeves was pregnant for 135 months out of one 22-year span. Her children range in age from 19 to 41.
“The father of the brides, Mr. Alan Reeves, looked relieved,” said the report.
From the Blood of the Martyrs
Korea may be living proof of the maxim that triumph springs from the blood of the martyrs.
“The recent election of Kim Dae Jung means that South Korea for the first time will have a Roman Catholic president-a reflection of the stunning growth of Christianity in one of Asia's most religiously diverse nations,” read a report in The Washington Post [Jan. 15].
“Kim is one of the first Catholics to lead an Asian nation, with the exception of the predominantly Catholic Philippines. In his New Year's address, he alluded to the deep Catholic faith that has influenced his career, calling South Korea's economic crisis and his election ‘God's will,’” reported the article.
The paper quoted Kim crediting God with preserving him despite attempts on his life and years of imprisonment by South Korea's military dictators in the 70s and 80s.
“I have been imprisoned, I was sentenced to death, but I always believed in my cause and trusted in God,” he is quoted saying. “I thank God for what I have accomplished … I try to practice God's words, ‘Love thy neighbors.’ And I'm trying to make a just society, which I think is also God's message.”
According to the article, “the first priest it [the Catholic Church] sent was met at the border and beheaded… In the next 100 years, an estimated 10,000 Catholics were killed, usually beheaded, and their bodies were thrown into the Han River” until the end of the 19th century and an increase in trade with the country.
Pope John Paul II has canonized 103 Korean martyrs, according to the article, so that now Korea has more canonized saints than any non-European nation.
The Catholic Church is the single largest religious organization in Korea, according to the article, though Catholics only make up 7% of the population. Buddhists there are split into thousands of different sects, and the Protestants into more than 400.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Father Abraham Had Many Sons
Jewish, Muslim, and Christian believers have one man in common: Abraham. So said Roman Catholic theologian, Father Karl-Josef Kuschel of the University of Tubingen, Germany, when he addressed the Academy for Judaic, Christian and Islamic Studies at its 20th anniversary this month, as reported in the Nov. 15 Los Angeles Times.
Father Kuschel “sees the patriarch Abraham is the linchpin of three religions, because his two sons, Isaac by Sarah and Ishmael by Hagar, are the ancestors of Jews, Christians (Isaac), and Muslims (Ishmael). If the religions recognized the commonality of origin, a different climate could result. This openness, Kuschel said, might influence political leaders. This was certainly true of Anwar Sadat, who spoke of the Abraham connection in his famous speech to the Israeli Knesset in 1977 that launched the Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations,” the newspaper reported.
Benjamin Hubbard of Cal-State Fullerton suggested three ways this common ground could be established more firmly: (1) Conduct “an interfaith prayer service on special occasions at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, using a still-to-be written prayer book drawing on the writings of interfaith scholars"-perhaps at the time of Easter, Passover, and ‘Id al-Adha', which coincide, or Christmas, Hanukkah, and Ramadan. (2) Dialogue between the three faiths wherever they are represented in large communities. (3) More emphatic calls to mutual understanding by the leaders of the three monotheistic faiths.
November Important to Vietnamese Catholics
Asian Catholics, particularly the Vietnamese, celebrate November-which the Church devotes to remembering the dead-in a particularly intense way, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer from Sunday, Nov. 16, 1997.
“November devotions … blend naturally with the traditional Buddhist and Confucian practices of honoring ancestors,” writes Mary Beth McCauley. “Catholics call this, ‘the communion of saints,' a union of the living and the dead, those in heaven and those on their way there, all of whom share prayer, good works, communication, and ultimately, the love of Christ.…”
“Vietnamese Sister Cecilia Trung Hieu Tong called the month of the holy souls a time of ‘great honor of our ancestors. We believe that we live in a spiritual world,'” where we are very close to the dead, she said, according to the article.
Common devotions of Vietnamese Catholics are adding the names of deceased loved ones to the prayers of the faithful, bringing flowers to Church, saying the rosary, and arranging to have Mass said in homes.
“Every evening throughout the year … many Vietnamese pray at an altar in the family's living room. Such altars are commonplace among Catholic and non-Catholic Vietnamese, and imitate at home the setting of the Buddhist temple.… Altars of non-Catholics tend to be divided in half, with one side devoted to God and the other to ancestors.… Catholics devote the entire altar to God, but keep pictures of ancestors nearby.”
Some 20% of Vietnamese in America are Catholics, according to an estimate quoted in the article.
BY Jim Cosgrove
English Burn Pope in Effigy
Catholic universities often speak of their “Catholic heritage,” and then embrace “diversity.” Critics charge that one English town does the reverse: it embraces its anti-Catholic heritage while giving lip service to diversity.
As the BBC news reported Nov. 5, 1997, the town of Lewes, in Sussex county, England, once again burned Pope Paul V in effigy on Guy Fawkes Day, Nov. 5 this year.
“Father Eric Flood, the parish priest in Lewes, says the ritual of burning effigies of Pope Paul V in the town centre every year is ‘moral racism.’ His comments come as one of the five Bonfire Societies of Lewes says it will go ahead with plans which include igniting a firework-stuffed effigy of the man who was Pope at the time of the Gunpowder plot.
Keith Austin of the Cliff Bonfire Society defended the event as part of the carnival's tradition.
“That tradition began when Guy Fawkes led a Catholic insurrection to get rid of the Protestant King James the First of England. The plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill the king failed and Guy Fawkes along with his co-conspirators was hanged. A relieved king decided to fertilize anti-Catholic feeling by making the event a public holiday. It's no longer a public holiday in Britain but Lewes, where 17 Protestants were [put to death during a Catholic reign] enthusiastically kept up the tradition. Tonight 3,000 people will parade through the town in what has become one of Britain's wildest nights out. For most of the thousands of people who line the streets every year it's a party—with banners, flaming torches, and singing. But for the Catholic Church as long as the Cliff society continues to burn its effigies—which last year included the current Catholic bishop—it's an anti-Catholic ritual that's got to stop.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Marian Krzaklewski (kuh-zak-LEV-ski), today's heir to Lech Walesa as Poland's Solidarity leader, brings great vigor—and pro-Catholic sentiment—to Poland's government, according to a New York Times profile (Sept. 23).
During President Clinton's July visit to the country, Krzaklewski refused to attend a state dinner in his honor.
“He would never, he said, cross the threshold of a presidential palace while afor-mer communist like President Alexander Kwasniewski was the inhabitant,” a Western diplomat recalled his saying.
“Now, Krzaklewski, who rebuilt the Solidarity coalition, which unexpectedly routed the former communists in Poland's [recent] parliamentary elections, has a government to build, a task that will be difficult. …
“He believes that the Roman Catholic Church should be allowed a prominent place in Polish society. The top item in his 21-point agenda for Poland is a ‘pro-family, social policy to help mothers with young children. …’”
The article, by Jane Perlez, also notes that voters from several demographic groups voted for Solidarity in the recent election—including women, who some thought would balk at Solidarity's pro-life stance.
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