Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Vatican Observatory director sums up Intelligent Design --
Father George Coyne says:

Intelligent design is a religious movement based on fear that if you don't teach an alternative to evolution, we will have a lot of little atheists running around.

Heh. While I lean toward the belief that a massive increase in atheism is probably not a good thing, that's no excuse for ignoring facts.
(12:36 PM) 0 comments

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Is This a Thinly Veiled Attack on Scientology? --
This Los Angeles Times story claims that CBS is mulling a pilot for a series by Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer about an organization with similarities to Scientology.

According to a copy of the script, "Orpheus" concerns Guy (Nicholas D'Agosto), a young would-be lawyer whose whirlwind romance with small-town siren Sue Ellen (Mena Suvari) sidetracks him into a shadowy, menacing group called "Grand Design," or GD. GD attracts new believers with a bestselling quasi-philosophical book akin to Hubbard's "Dianetics" and, like Scientology, uses a complicated ranking system for followers. GD-ers even boast of their exploits on behalf of victims of Hurricane Katrina, recalling similar missions publicized by Scientologists.
(10:11 PM) 0 comments

HIV in Africa --
The Catholic bishops of Burundi are requiring couples to get HIV tests before getting married.

I don't really see a problem with this, especially if, as the article says, the information will not be given to anyone besides the couple, not even the priest. Encouraging people who engage in risky behavior to get HIV testing can only be a good thing. It also sounds like there may be a problem with people not disclosing their HIV status to their prospective spouses. What good is marriage if not built on a foundation of openness and honesty?

I also tend to think this helps women more than men, if one thinks that the men in a marriage are more likely to engage in multiple partners, frequent a prostitute, or engage in other potentially harmful activities. Those are the sorts of cultural practices that people tend to cite when talking about the spread of AIDS in Africa, right?

In the U.S., some states require STD testing before granting a marriage license. Is anyone up in arms over that practice? It is also possible for those in Burundi to get civil marriages outside the church, so this isn't denying anyone the right to marry.

Am I missing something here that should give me cause for concern?
(4:14 PM) 0 comments

Monday, March 27, 2006

Restoring the Honor of the Catholic Church --
Relapsed Catholic Kathy Shaidle doesn't seem to like how Catholic bishops are showing mercy and compassion with regards to immigration.

"American bishops and cardinals have to do something to regain the moral high ground they deservedly lost, having reigned during the largest scandal in the history of the American Church. They let child molesters run rampant for decades, tried to cover up their crimes then bankrupted their diocese –- and now the hierarchy wants to dole out advice about border security, crime and 'justice'?

The Church absolutely needs to re-establish its moral authority. Even the most conservative of Catholics must understand that Church teaching on whatever your pet subject is, whether it be abortion, war, or economic justice, is futile given the erosion of confidence in the institution itself. Part of the recovery is reacting properly to the church abuse scandals. This may or may not be occurring. But part of that is also actively taking its role as a moral teacher.

To do this, the Church should probably shy away from making potentially sex-related issues a priority for a while, to combat a perception that Christians are sex-obsessed or sexual hypocrites. This doesn't mean that the Church should abandon its teachings on issues such as abortion or homosexuality (or euthaniasia, which seems to be perceived by some as an abortion proxy more than anything else), only that it should work on other issues to build up its moral authority so that people will actually listen on other issues.

When speaking to Americans, what are some salient issues with moral dimensions? War, torture, capital punishment, immigration, economic justice.
(7:41 PM) 0 comments

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Hamas on Islam and Society --
'Just World News' by Helena Cobban links to a a Hamas lawmaker speaking on the creation of an Islamic state.

Islam is not merely the enactment of laws but is preceded by a large-scale process of mobilization and education. Furthermore, sharia, or Islamic, law cannot be realized unless an independent and sovereign state is established, which is not the case at present. Therefore, we in Hamas are first concerned with completing the liberation of Palestinian land.

But once this is accomplished, we will leave it to the people to choose the political system they want. We believe that if Islam is implemented, it will be the reference for values of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights. That is, we seek to build a civilized civil society where everyone enjoys rights and equality. This society will not be unjust or ignorant, as some have tried to portray it. The main goals that Islam aims to achieve are represented in the preservation of five pillars: religion, intellect, self, money and progeny.

For example, we believe in all women's rights in terms of education, work, choice in marriage and political participation. These are guaranteed by preserving the status of women and their privacy and not allowing them to be exploited or harmed. We do not seek forcefully to restrict her to a certain dress code but try and guide her to that which will preserve her wholesomeness.

Heartfelt words or liberal-sounding propaganda? I prefer to wait and see.
(6:34 PM) 1 comments

A Killer Becomes a Priest -- reports on a convicted murderer who became an Episcopalian priest after attending divinity school through an off-campus program while in jail.
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Friday, March 10, 2006

Faith-Based Agencies in Pakistan --
QThe Christian Scientist Monitor reports on the indispensible aid given by miltant Islamic groups to victims of an earthquake in Pakistan.

Some of these groups are the social services portions that the Pakistani government cracked down on as part of its alliance with the U.S. It is a question of whether there should be optimism that the focus of such groups will shift mainly to welfare or if these groups will get a boost in prestige allowing them to enter the political arena like Hamas did in Palestine.
(2:29 AM) 0 comments

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A DIfference Among Pro-Lifers --
This Christianity Today Magazine article suggests that pro-life groups have mixed feelings over the recent anti-abortion law in South Dakota.

Even some leading anti-abortion activists panned the South Dakota ban. National Right to Life released a matter-of-fact statement in response to CT's request for comment: "Currently there are at least five votes, a majority, on the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade." Americans United for Life (AUL), a key architect of the incremental strategy, said the ban will boost fundraising for pro-choice organizations and politicians. Daniel McConchie, AUL vice president and chief of staff, also doubted South Dakota can successfully defend the ban before the Supreme Court. "As we say around the office, you have to be able to count to five," McConchie said. "We can't do that yet."

McConchie said that if South Dakota loses its bid to defend the bill through the legal system, the state will be obligated to pay the legal fees for pro-choice groups that challenge the ban. Such challenges could come any day now. Still, McConchie said AUL will back South Dakota's defense.

Agree or disagree with the pro-life position, the incremental approach seems under-used by the left. Time and again, I've told gay marriage advocates that if they want their goal, the incremental approach is the appropriate one to use. The Clinton universal health care plan failed in part because it tried to do things on a massive scale rather than incrementally. On the flip side, I think that the Bush administration could have had a lot smoother Iraq war if they had just built the case for war incrementally, including at least pretending that war is a last resort and bothering with sham weapons inspections rather than rushing in as if on some secret timetable (to get the war over and done with before the 2004 elections, for example).

Sometimes, I think that there is a correlation between an increasing amount of full-frontal nudity in films and an increasing desire for full-frontal assaults in the American political arena.
(1:50 AM) 0 comments

A DIfference Among Pro-Lifers --
This Christianity Today Magazine article suggests that pro-life groups have mixed feelings over the recent anti-abortion law in South Dakota.

Even some leading anti-abortion activists panned the South Dakota ban. National Right to Life released a matter-of-fact statement in response to CT's request for comment: "Currently there are at least five votes, a majority, on the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade." Americans United for Life (AUL), a key architect of the incremental strategy, said the ban will boost fundraising for pro-choice organizations and politicians. Daniel McConchie, AUL vice president and chief of staff, also doubted South Dakota can successfully defend the ban before the Supreme Court. "As we say around the office, you have to be able to count to five," McConchie said. "We can't do that yet."

McConchie said that if South Dakota loses its bid to defend the bill through the legal system, the state will be obligated to pay the legal fees for pro-choice groups that challenge the ban. Such challenges could come any day now. Still, McConchie said AUL will back South Dakota's defense.

Agree or disagree with the pro-life position, the incremental approach seems under-used by the left. Time and again, I've told gay marriage advocates that if they want their goal, the incremental approach is the appropriate one to use. The Clinton universal health care plan failed in part because it tried to do things on a massive scale rather than incrementally. On the flip side, I think that the Bush administration could have had a lot smoother Iraq war if they had just built the case for war incrementally, including at least pretending that war is a last resort and bothering with sham weapons inspections rather than rushing in as if on some secret timetable (to get the war over and done with before the 2004 elections, for example).

Sometimes, I think that there is a correlation between an increasing amount of full-frontal nudity in films and an increasing desire for full-frontal assaults in the American political arena.
(1:50 AM) 0 comments

Liberal Catholic Blogging --
A comment by me to this Catholic Sensibility post.

Am I a political liberal who is a church-going Catholic with a blog?

Yes, although I tend to just note random intersections of religion and politics rather than any theological works of my own. You will, however, see me stand up for a non-secular view of progressivism against secularist progressives who seems almost anti-religious in comments on various blogs and websites (although I have more or less stopped hanging out at DailyKos).

Am I liberal Catholic in the sense of those who agitate for women priests, legalized abortion, and other "liberal" causes? No, and you'll probably never see me agitate for any changes I may desire (I don't complete agree or disagree with the liberals that the conservative Catholic bloggers bemoan) in the odious, aggressive manner that some do because I believe there is a right way and a wrong way to go about making changes in the Catholic Church and some liberals are no better than the Society of St. Pius X in that regard.

There are a lot of liberal ex-Catholic blogs out there, although they don't write primarily about their Catholic experience. It's a lot harder to find obviously liberal Catholics with a semblance of orthodoxy, perhaps because their focus isn't on the liberalism that separates them from more conservative Catholics, but on the not inconsequential things they do have in common.
(1:24 AM) 0 comments

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Speaking of Buddhism. . . . --
This Christian Science Monitor article covers the "Dharma Army" taking to the streets to protest Thailand's prime minister.
(5:09 PM) 0 comments

The Dalai Lama Interview | The Progressive --
The Progressive interviews the Dalai Lama, who speaks on topics such as women in Buddhism, his preferred future of Tibet, the next Dalai Lama, and other issues.

He also answers questions about terrorism and the Iraq war.

Question: What are your thoughts on the Iraq War?

The Dalai Lama: When September 11 happened, the next day I wrote a letter to President Bush as a friend—because I know him personally. I wrote this letter and expressed, besides my condolences and sadness, a countermeasure to this tragedy: a nonviolent response because that would have been more effective. So this is my stance. And then just before the Iraq crisis started, millions of people from countries like Australia and America expressed their opposition to violence. I really admired and appreciated this.

When the war started, some people immediately asked me if it was justified or not, whether it was right or wrong. In principle, any resort to violence is wrong.

With regard to the Afghanistan and Iraq cases, only history will tell. At this moment, Afghanistan may be showing some positive results, but it is still not very stable. With Iraq, it is too early to say. There are so many casualties; there is so much hatred.

Q: What are the sources of terrorism, and what is its solution?

The Dalai Lama: Initially, terrorism was a certain mixture of politics, economics, and religion. Now, it seems that terrorism is more individual and done to avenge personal grudges. So there are two kinds of terrorism.

Just after September 11, some reporter asked me why terrorism happens. I told him that my view is that such acts are not possible unless you have very strong hatred and very strong willpower and determination. That tremendous hatred comes from many reasons. The causes of this hatred may be going back centuries. Some people say that the West has a cruel history. These people also may see the achievements of Western countries—in terms of the economy, education, health, and social achievements—as a result of exploitation of poorer countries, including Arab countries. Western nations get rich by using resources such as Arab oil. Meanwhile, the countries supplying them raw materials remain poor. Due to such injustices, jealousies are created. Then, there’s perhaps a religious factor. In some places, there’s the concept of one religion, one truth. In the Muslim world, there’s the notion of Allah. The Western, multireligious modern society is some kind of a challenge to this. These, I feel, are the main causes, and, when combined with lots of anger and frustration, cause a huge amount of hate.

The countermeasures for such things are not easy. We need two levels. One level—the immediate—various governments are taking, including some violent methods, right or wrong. But we have to have a long-term strategy, too. In the Muslim world, certain mischievous individuals will always be there, just like among Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists. We can’t blame the entire Muslim society because of the mischievous acts of a few individuals. Therefore, at the general public level we must cultivate the notion of not just one religion, one truth, but pluralism and many truths. We can change the atmosphere, and we can modify certain ways of thinking.

Then, second, there should be a spirit of dialogue. Whenever we see any disagreements, we must think how to solve them on the basis of recognition of oneness of the entire humanity. This is the modern reality. When a certain community is destroyed, in reality it destroys a part of all of us. So there should be a clear recognition that the entire humanity is just one family. Any conflict within humanity should be considered as a family conflict. We must find a solution within this atmosphere.

It’s not easy. If we tackle these problems the wrong way, then while today there is one bin Laden, after a few years there will be ten bin Ladens. And it is possible that after a few more years, there will be 100 bin Ladens.

His response on the Iraq war seems pragmatic. It appears he is allowing people to believe in a war that is wrong but justified.

The notion of two kinds of terrorism seems fairly interesting. I wonder which acts of terrorism the Dalai Lama envisions as being motivated primarily by personal grudges.
(4:59 PM) 0 comments

Living with Tares - Christianity Today Magazine --
Christianity Today Magazine brings us the Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II, Episcopalian bishop of Northern Indiana, who ponders theologically conservative Christians leaving liberal denominations, but does not wish to join the exodus.

Why do I not join those who have left or are leaving? Why do I stay? Serving a broken and divided church is a hard calling, and I do not minimize the difficulty of the task or the inevitable disappointments that I will encounter on the journey. But the Lord, for his good purpose, has (I humbly believe) thrown into one church Christians of radically different and sometimes theologically incompatible perspectives. Is it possible that in the midst of this painful discontinuity, he may do a work that none of us can foresee? It is in that hope and in remembering that he is Lord of the church and in charge of the big picture that I follow Jesus in the Episcopal Church.
(4:38 PM) 0 comments

Orange Catholic Controversy --
Jimmy Akin weighs in on the recent dis-invitation of Catholics in a Catholic parish once led by a conservative pastor. Akin understands that he has only heard one-sided protests from the disgruntled parishioners' side.

One commenter notes:

Califonia has a law which allows clergy (of whatever the church's equivalent is) to revoke an invitation to a public place. That is, kick out trouble makers. Since church's are, usually, public the invitation has to be revoked. This could be the bishop/priest making use of this provision in Californian law to restrict access in the future.
(4:31 PM) 0 comments

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Can Democrats Peel Off Evangelicals from the Republicans --
"Amy Sullivan writes about a Democrat-led effort to allow Bible classes in Alabama schools which is being blocked by Republicans.

The holy skirmish down in Alabama, with its “GOP blocks votes on Bible class bill” headlines, may seem like just a one-time, up-is-down, oddity. But it's really the frontline of a larger war to keep Democrats from appealing to more moderate evangelical voters. American politics is so closely divided that if a political party peels off a few percentage points of a single big constituency, it can change the entire electoral map. To take the most recent example, African Americans, who represent 11 percent of the electorate, cast 88 percent of their ballots for Democrats nationally. But Bush was able to get those numbers down to 84 percent in key states like Ohio and Pennsylvania in 2004—and kept the White House as a result. Republican strategists recognized that a significant number of black voters are very conservative on social issues but have stayed with the Democratic Party because of its reputation for being friendlier to racial minorities. The GOP didn't need a strategy to sway the entire black community; it just needed to pick off enough votes to put the party over the top.

Democrats could similarly poach a decisive percentage of the GOP's evangelical base. In the last election, evangelicals made up 26 percent of the electorate, and 78 percent of them voted for Bush. That sounds like a fairly inviolate bloc. And, indeed, the conservative evangelicals for whom abortion and gay marriage are the deciding issues are unlikely to ever leave the Republican Party. But a substantial minority of evangelical voters—41 percent, according to a 2004 survey by political scientist John Green at the University of Akron—are more moderate on a host of issues ranging from the environment to public education to support for government spending on anti-poverty programs. Broadly speaking, these are the suburban, two-working-parents, kids-in-public-school, recycle-the-newspapers evangelicals. They may be pro-life, but it's in a Catholic, “seamless garment of life” kind of way. These moderates have largely remained in the Republican coalition because of its faith-friendly image. A targeted effort by the Democratic Party to appeal to them could produce victories in the short term: To win the 2004 presidential election, John Kerry needed just 59,300 additional votes in Ohio—that's four percent of the total evangelical vote in the state, or approximately 10 percent of Ohio's moderate evangelical voters. And if the Democratic Party changed its reputation on religion, the result could alter the electoral map in a more significant and permanent way.

That's why, insiders say, the word has gone forth from the Republican National Committee to defeat Democratic efforts to reclaim religion. Republicans who disregard the instructions and express support for Democratic efforts are swiftly disciplined. At the University of Alabama, the president of the College Republicans was forced to resign after she endorsed the Bible legislation. A few states away, a Missouri Republican who sponsored a Bible literacy bill came under criticism from conservatives for consulting with Brinson and subsequently denied to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter that he had ever even heard of Brinson. But as for Brinson himself, he's already gone. “Oh, they're ticked at me,” he says. “But it's because they're scared. This has the potential to break the Republican coalition.”

I generally agree with Democratic outreach to religious-minded voters, but I dislike thinking about it in terms of a Rovian political calculus. My own pet idea has been reclaiming some of the erosion of the Democratic Catholic vote.

It's not about crafting "religion-friendly" legislation, it's about demonstrating that you share some of the same moral underpinnings, even if you have divergent policies. Let those religious folks who wish to vote Democrat be full partners in the party coalition rather than peons and tools like they are in the GOP.

Like an abusive boyfriend, Republicans keep moderate evangelicals in the coalition by alternating between painting their options as bleak and wooing them with sweet talk. You can't leave me—where are you going to go? To them? They think you're stupid, they hate religion. Besides, you know I love you—I'm a compassionate conservative. The tactic works as long as evangelicals don't call the GOP's bluff and as long as Democrats are viewed as hostile to religion.

George W. Bush isn't really a tool of the evangelical right. Once liberals get it through their heads that Bush isn't really a theocrat and separate the reality from the rhetoric, then maybe the Democrats have a shot.

Kieran Healy at Crooked Timer replies, citing my hero, the sociologist-priest Andrew Greeley. Kevin Drum tries to be open-minded about his colleague. Atrios is more skeptical and thinks it is pandering to the wrong crowd. PZ Myers is even more hostile.
(2:45 PM) 0 comments

Monday, March 06, 2006

TAPPED: March 2006 Archives --
Via Matthew Yglesias at TAPPED comes this Washington Post article by Thomas B. Edsall on how Republicans sought to use 9/11 to break the Democratic stranglehold on the Jewish vote.

Nearly five years ago, immediately after the Sept.11, 2001, attacks, Republican strategists identified what they hoped would be a powerful new engine of support. "September 12 Republicans" were Jewish Democrats and independents who would switch their allegiance because of their concern over national security and their appreciation of President Bush's stalwart support of Israel.

Of course, the GOP doesn't just care about votes.

But the much-trumpeted effort by the Bush White House to make deep inroads on the Democrats' historic claims on Jewish voters -- and, even more important politically, the campaign contributions of Jewish donors -- has not materialized in any convincing fashion, according to poll data, fundraisers and campaign finance reports.

One would almost think that Republicans don't care about the black vote because there is not a huge pool of rich black donors.

DeLay's problems, likewise, have set back GOP efforts in cultivating Jewish supporters. He has been one of Congress's most aggressive and outspoken backers of Israel's Likud government, and sponsored resolutions of support that were often so strongly worded that some Democrats -- including those who had supported Israel's Labor Party -- abstained or voted no. Republicans cited these votes in arguing that the Democratic Party could not be counted as a reliable ally of the Jewish state.

Which would make sense if most American Jews support Likud.

There's always a danger of seeing September 11 as this watershed event that changed everything forever. It could be, but it may turn out not to be and more political fallout will be due to the Bush administration's response rather than the event itself. For a great number of people, it hasn't made much of a difference. Almost everyone who will be changed has already been changed. The question is how much 9/11 changed people who aren't old enough yet to vote.
(9:29 PM) 0 comments

Bush Is Unclean --

Hindu priests who look after the memorial of Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi conducted a purification ceremony at the shrine after a visit from President Bush. But it wasn't the president who offended them, it was the sniffer-dogs who scoured the area ahead of his visit.
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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Fancy Store-Bought Dirt: Two Unrelated Thoughts About Tony Batista --
Via Matt (via Greg) comes a Minneapolis Star Tribune story on baseball player Tony Batista, back from a year in Japan:

If anyone thought Batista would shrivel from his Japanese experience, they were mistaken. Like anything in his deeply spiritual life, he speaks of it now as part of God's divine plan.

With Fukuoka, he said, he handed out Bibles inside the clubhouse to his Japanese teammates.

"And they read the Bible," he said, without sounding surprised. "So I think God probably said, 'You're done over there. So go back here to Minnesota and talk about Jesus Christ to those guys.' "
(2:14 PM) 0 comments

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Legacy of Pius XII --
Via Haaretz, Pope Benedict speaks on Pius XII.

Pope Benedict XVI praised the World War II-era pope, Pius XII, as a great pontiff but stopped short of endorsing his case for beatification, according to a transcript released Friday by the Vatican.

Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958 and was a Vatican diplomat in Germany and its secretary of state before that, has been criticized for not doing enough to save Jews from the Holocaust. His supporters say he made every effort to help Jews and other victims through quiet diplomacy.

. . .

That Pius maintained restrictions on Jews in Rome's ghetto and also condoned the church's decision to have papal guards take a Jewish-born boy away from his family because he had been secretly baptized. The boy grew up in a Catholic boarding school and eventually became a priest.

Benedict, a member of the Hitler Youth when he was a seminarian, has made a point of reaching out to Jews, following in the footsteps of John Paul. He has publicly condemned the Nazi regime and recalled the tragedy of the Holocaust on several occasions.

In his response, Benedict made no mention of Pius XII's cause for beatification, although he did praise the late pope as being particularly dear to Germans.

"It seems that this is also an occasion to express gratitude for all the great popes of the last century," Benedict said, listing each pope from the 1900s.

Benedict XVI is too much the good Catholic soldier to ever say anything bad about Pius XII, even if that were his opinion of the late pontiff. So far, B16's pontificate has not been the militant one that some had hoped for. There are those who seem to wish for the beatification and sainthood of Pius XII as a blow against those criticial of the Church's role during World War II.

I tend to think there are two questions. Did the Catholic Church do enough during World War II? Did Pius XII do the most he could possibly do to save the Jews? I think it is possible to answer yes to the first question and no to the second question (although I decline to say that those are the correct answers). It is quite possible that the wartime pope did could be reasonably expect of him but fell short of all that was humanly possible.

Some advocates of Pius XII uphold him, in part, because they (wrongly) feel that any flaw in the man must cast doubt upon the goodness of the Catholic Church. Some who want to tear down Pius do so because they want to use it as an argument that the Catholic Church is flawed. If these agenda-drive people on both sides are in control of the debate, the truth will never be known.
(8:17 PM) 0 comments

How Do Conservatives Feel About Pope Benedict --
Via Roman Catholic Blog, a Richard McBrien article suggesting that conservative Catholics are beginning to feel uneasy about Pope Benedict XVI.

I've noted some uneasiness on Catholic blogs out there. There is wondering about why Benedict hasn't gotten around to smiting the liberals as they expected. There was displeasure because the Vatican deplored equally the disrespect of the Danish Muhammad cartoons and the ensuing violence.

Neuhaus and others, including Father Joseph Fessio, one of Joseph Ratzinger's former students, were not happy with the pope's appointment of Archbishop William Levada to succeed himself as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In fact, Neuhaus writes, the appointment has "occasioned widespread puzzlement"-presumably among the same Catholics who were most enthusiastic about the results of last April's conclave.

Father Neuhaus's criticism of Archbishop Levada is based on what he perceives as a certain softness in his approach to the issue of homosexuality while heading a diocese centered in a city "commonly called the gay capital of the world."

To compound the new pope's "puzzling" appointment of Archbishop Levada to the CDF was his subsequent appointment of George Niederauer as Levada's successor in San Francisco. According to Neuhaus, Niederauer, while bishop of Salt Lake City, "had a reputation of being... gay-friendly," and was "somewhat ambivalent," in Neuhaus's opinion, regarding the recent Vatican instruction on gays in seminaries and the priesthood. Father Neuhaus was particularly "astonished" by Bishop Niederauer's publicly stated rejection of sexual orientation as the cause of the sexual-abuse scandal in the priesthood.

But let's go straight to the source. Neuhaus writes:

Among those who greatly admired Cardinal Ratzinger and were elated by his election as pope, there is a palpable uneasiness. As of this writing, he has not made what are perceived to be needed personnel changes at the top levels of the Curia. Benedict’s first major appointment, that of Archbishop William Levada to succeed him at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, occasioned widespread puzzlement. With particular pertinence to the present discussion, Levada, for all his considerable gifts, did not distinguish himself in his teaching, and his seeing to it that others taught, the Church’s moral doctrine during his ten years as archbishop of San Francisco, a city commonly called the gay capital of the world.

Troubling also to those who watch this pontificate with hopeful concern is Benedict’s appointment of George H. Niederauer as Levada’s successor in San Francisco. While in Salt Lake City, Bishop Niederauer had a reputation of being, as it is said, gay-friendly. He broke with other religious leaders in opposing a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The announcement of his appointment to San Francisco was met with great public rejoicing by Dignity, New Ways Ministry, and other gay advocacy groups.

In an interview with his diocesan paper in Salt Lake City, Niederauer seemed somewhat ambivalent about the recent Vatican instruction. He is asked about requisites for being ordained to the priesthood, and takes the aforementioned position of dissenters on what is meant by “affective maturity”:

Nierderauer: One implication is the need for what this document calls “affective maturity,” meaning that all the loving and relating that a priest does must be centered in Christ and consistent with the priest’s commitment to Christ and the Church. This kind of single-heartedness does not allow for a relationship in any priest’s life that would weaken his commitment to Christ and his Church. Another implication of this affective maturity is that every celibate priest needs to be free to relate in a warm, human way to the men, women, and children to whom he ministers, in a manner that is genuine and still consistent with his commitment to Christ the Priest.

Interviewer: That’s all fine and good, but can a man who is homosexual be an effective priest?

Niederauer: If any priest has the affective maturity described above, and in the document, then with God’s grace, he can effectively minister as a priest. What the Church, the bishop, and the seminary must determine in the course of a priestly candidate’s formation is whether the candidate has the gifts of affective maturity, has made them his own, and is living them out faithfully.

Bishop Niederauer does say, “In addition, it would be inconsistent for the priest and confusing for the Catholic faithful if a priest differs from the Church in any of its moral teachings.” He does not say, at least in this interview, what that moral teaching is with respect to homosexuality, and, perhaps more significantly, he does not say what should be done, if anything, about priests who are inconsistent and causing confusion to the faithful; never mind that they are, according to Catholic teaching, imperiling their souls and the souls of others.

The statement by Niederauer that attracted most attention, however, was this: “Also, some who are seriously mistaken have named sexual orientation as the cause of the recent scandal regarding the sexual abuse of minors by priests.” This is nothing short of astonishing. One can agree that it was not the cause, meaning the only cause. There is, for instance, the negligence and complicity of bishops, and of the seminaries in their charge. But to deny, as the bishop seems to be denying, a causal relationship between homosexual priests and the sexual abuse scandal is, well, astonishing. Research commissioned by the bishops themselves shows, as the whole world now knows, that more than 80 percent of the instances of abuse were with teenage boys and young men. It does not require a Ph.D. in psychology to recognize—although a Ph.D. in psychology might be helpful in denying—that men who want to have sex with boys are more likely to have sex with boys than men who do not want to have sex with boys.

Those who several years ago tried to deny the obviousness of the connection have, with notable exceptions, run out of delusions. Even the editors of Commonweal write:

At least in this regard, Rome’s concerns are not entirely misplaced. It is no secret that something went terribly wrong in U.S. seminaries in the late 1960s, the 1970s, and even into the 1980s. Both gay and straight priests, as well as former seminarians, acknowledge that, as many priests left to marry, the proportion of priests who were gay increased dramatically, and in some places, gay subcultures flourished. What role this breakdown in discipline and morality played in the sexual abuse of minors is not clear, but the idea that it played no role in a pattern of abuse in which 80 percent of the victims were male is untenable.

The appointment of Archbishop Levada to head CDF was certainly Benedict’s decision, as was the appointment of Bishop Niederauer to succeed him in San Francisco. According to informed sources, the latter appointment was made on the recommendation of Archbishop Levada.

For people like Neuhaus, homosexuality has become a prime issue. He holds it as the primary cause of the priest abuse scandals. He does have some points in that we do live in an overly sex-obsessed culture and sex/gender identity as become too large of a component for personal identity for too many people. I think Pope Benedict would say that we have to appropriately balance sexual identity with other portions of ourselves rather than sublimating it entirely. He sounds a lot like disenchanted liberals who want the Democrats to stand for something rather than rolling out pandering Kerry-esque politicians. For Neuhaus, the Church is in no way inspiring unless it stands strongly for something, and he wants that stance to be over homosexuality.
(2:30 PM) 0 comments

Women in the Institutional Catholic Church --
Via The Lesser of Two Weevils, an AP story:

Pope Benedict said Thursday he will consider increasing women's "institutional" role in the church but reiterated they would remain barred from the priesthood, Italian news agencies reported.

The pontiff made the comments during an audience with Rome's parish priests, the Apcom and ANSA agencies said.

Benedict said he would begin reflecting on the possibility of giving "institutional" recognition to women after noting women's "charisma" had always played an important role in the church, the agencies said.

I'm not entirely sure what this means. Some will interpret it as the first step in moving closer to considering the possibility of women priests. And Benedict supposedly pushed for his predeccessor to not speak ex cathedra when saying that women cannot be priests. Benedict strikes me as the pragmatist who believes that the future may require women priests but who is unlikely to make that step himself. And the Church certainly couldn't make steps in that direction before getting discipline under control to stifle dissent if that were an eventual momentous change. I consider myself agnostic on the question of whether women should be priests. I accept the status quo and I would not reject a change in the status quo coming from the Pope, but I don't believe this is a fruitful avenue for agitation.

I'd be curious to know how many women work in Vatican services such as banking, news agencies, and theological colleges.
(2:09 PM) 0 comments

St. Patrick's Day Is On a Lenten Friday --
Whispers in the Loggia is keeping a scorecard of diocese in which bishops are granting dispensations to eat corned beef on St. Patrick's Day, which happens to fall on a Friday during Lent.

In the archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal-designate Sean Patrick O'Malley has granted the indult (there'd be a revolt if he didn't).

(12:10 AM) 0 comments

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Cardinal Willing to Obey the Law --
No, it has nothing to do with covering up pedophile priests.

Via the Los Angeles Times:

In his most forceful comments to date, Mahony said he would instruct his priests to defy legislation — if approved by Congress — that would require churches and other social organizations to ask immigrants for legal documentation before providing assistance and penalize them if they refuse to do so. That provision was included in the immigration bill recently passed by the House of Representatives; a similar proposal is in the version that the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to begin debating this week.

Although some parishes engaged in civil disobedience during the sanctuary movement to harbor Salvadoran refugees during the 1980s, Mahony's call to all priests to defy the law would mark a first for the cardinal.

"The whole concept of punishing people who serve immigrants is un-American," Mahony said. "If you take this to its logical, ludicrous extreme, every single person who comes up to receive Holy Communion, you have to ask them to show papers. It becomes absurd and the church is not about to get into that. The church is here to serve people…. We're not about to become immigration agents. It just throws more gasoline on the discussion and inflames people."

Mahony has long been a strong advocate of immigrant rights, opposing efforts to deny public benefits to undocumented migrants through Proposition 187 in 1994. California voters approved the widely popular initiative, but it was later struck down by the federal courts as unconstitutional.

Immigration has once more risen to the top of Mahony's agenda because of what the church believes is a punitive House immigration bill that criminalizes aid to undocumented migrants and contradicts gospel values, said Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala of the archdiocese's San Gabriel Valley region.

Cardinal Roger Mahony is calling on Catholics to fast and pray for humane immigration reform. The man is no stranger to controversy. He enraged several with his highly expensive plan for LA's new cathedral, Our Lady of the Angels. Pro-life groups have attacked him for, in their eyes, "coddling" pro-choice politicians. Priest abuse victims groups have criticized him for wishing to keep files confidentals. He got into a tiff with EWTN's Mother Angelica over her criticism of one of his pastoral letters as tending toward secularization.
(9:20 PM) 0 comments

Hooray for Patriarchy --
Shrine of the Holy Whapping notes that Pope Benedict dropping the title of Patriarchy of the West suggests the future creation of multiple patriarchates in the west.
(2:05 PM) 0 comments

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

When Bush Prays. . . . --
The Baptist Press News via Jesus Politics:

Speaking under the auspices of the WCC, Argentinean Nobel Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel denounced American policies in Latin America and spoke against U.S. President George W. Bush.

“Dictatorship in Latin America was imposed by the United States,” he alleged. “All the methods of oppression which we see come from over there, from the Empire [the United States].”

Speaking against the American President, Pérez Esquivel, said, “When Bush prays, God covers his ears.”
(10:55 AM) 0 comments