FaithWorld

Lambeth Conference: News or Not?

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, 22 Feb 2008/Darren StaplesIt has been spoken of as a setting for schism. But could the Lambeth Conference — the worldwide Anglican Communion‘s once-a-decade global meeting beginning July 16 in England — be a bust when it comes to headline-making news?

That’s the way leaders of the U.S. Episcopal Church see it. There will be no grand pronouncements made or resolutions voted on, they say. The traditional Western parliamentary idea that produces winners and losers on debated issues has been scrapped for face-to-face meetings. Some of them have been baptized ”Indaba groups,” which Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has described as a Zulu term denoting “a meeting for purposeful discussion among equals.”

The Rev. Ian Douglas, a professor of World Christianity at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts who helped plan the meeting, recently told reporters at a briefing:

“I appreciate that it’s going to be a hard job for the media because there isn’t a focal point of up-down decison making, and that (much) of what’s really happening … is going to be happening in very small, very close one-on-one relationships and deep conversation.

“I  don’t envy your job. It’s going to be difficult to get ‘the story’ out of Lambeth unless you want to tell the story that as leaders come together to be better equipped in their service to God’s mission in the wider world,  not only is the Anglican Communion strengthened but God’s purposes are better fulfilled in the wider world. It’s a tough story to tell but I think it’s a story.”

Everybody loves Lugo. So what will the Vatican do?

All smiles when Lugo meets the nuncio, Orlando AntoniniNearly two weeks after ordained bishop Fernando Lugo was elected the next president of Paraguay, the Roman Catholic Church is still trying to figure out what do about him. The Vatican doesn’t want to have a bishop donning the presidential sash — mixing the priesthood with politics — but it also believes that once a bishop always a bishop, since ordination is a lifelong sacarament. The Vatican is dropping signals that it wants to find a non-controversial solution, and pundits doubt it will return the “bishop of the poor” to a lay state.

But there is no modern precedent to guide the Holy See. One Italian media outlet turned back to Talleyrand, the French bishop-turned foreign minister under Napoleon, even though the case bears no resemblance to modern Paraguay. The Vatican already suspended Lugo from his priestly duties after his entry into politics, and the Vatican envoy to Paraguay Orlando Antonini (pictured smiling with Lugo above) was quoted by Vatican Radio saying the next move was up to the pope.

Antonini added, perhaps tellingly, that Lugo wanted to remain within the Church, even though the Paraguayan leader has been quoted saying he was willing to be reduced to the lay state (here’s the Vatican Radio story in Italian). He abandoned his duties as a bishop three years ago, saying he felt powerless to help Paraguay’s poor.

Polar opposites Bush and Clinton share Methodist faith

Bush the Methodist, May 1 2008What do George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton have in common, besides a shared address in Washington? (With dates that did not overlap of course).

They actually have a shared faith: The United Methodist Church.

This may surprise many people, given the fact that their politics are polar opposites. The anti-abortion rights Bush strikes many as a Southern Baptist in everything but name; the pro-choice Clinton is seldom associated with religion though she has been actively courting the faith vote as of late.

As its general conference in Fort Worth discussed issues such as its take on humanhillary.jpg sexuality, Scott Jones, the resident bishop for the Kansas area, said differences of opinion were in the church’s “DNA” but “We are united in our mission to transform the world.”

Communion politics issue boils up after U.S. papal visit

Papal Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, 19 April 2008/Shannon StapletonA papal visit, with its weeks of build-up and intense media coverage, often seems to end with an afterglow — but very little news — once the pope and his party fly back to the Eternal City. Not so with Pope Benedict’s recent U.S. visit where, more than a week after it ended, the volatile issue of public figures, the abortion & Communion issue is making headlines.

While journalists reported that prominent Catholic politicians who support abortion rights stepped up to receive the Eucharist during Masses in Washington and New York (here’s our story and blog post), the development was little more than a footnote in the wave of coverage that washed over the visit. It was notable, however, in view of a controversy that began in 2004 when some U.S. bishops said they would deny Communion to John Kerry, then the Democratic presidential nominee, because he supported abortion rights

But during the U.S. papal Masses, not only did Kerry receive Communion but so did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani and Senators Edward Kennedy and Christopher Dodd. The conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote in the Washington Post on Monday that this “reflected disobedience to Benedict by the archbishops of New York and Washington” and did not indicate any softening of the pope’s anti-abortion position.

Catholic bishop goes YouTube to warn about Internet

If a Catholic bishop wants to warn youngsters about moral dangers lurking on the Internet, where should he go to get his message across? YouTube, of course. That’s what Bishop Peter Ingham of Wollongong , in New South Wales in Australia, has done. The four-minute clip accompanies a pastoral letter just issued by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on the same subject.

The white-haired prelate confesses up front that he’s a newbie in cyberspace. “I wouldn’t know my Facebook from my Second Life, or a blog from a chatroom,” he admits. To show how familiar young people are with the Internet, he tells the story of how a little girl learning the Lord’s Prayer misunderstood its appeal for deliverance from evil and ended it  by saying: “… lead us not into temptation, but deliver us some email , amen.”

Here’s the whole clip: YouTube Preview Image

PS: Hat tip to The Religious Write.

Former bishop wins presidency of Paraguay

Fernando Lugo, 22 April 2008/stringerFernando Lugo shed his cassock to win Paraguay’s presidential election on Sunday, ending 61 years of one-party rule in the South American country. Lugo stepped down as bishop of one of Paraguay’s neediest areas three years ago, saying he felt powerless to help the poor. A year later, he left the priesthood to launch his political career.

The Vatican responded by suspending him, but he remains a bishop under canon law because the Catholic Church views ordination as a lifelong sacrament.

Paraguay’s bishops said they recognise the mild-mannered, sandal-wearing Lugo as the new president, adding this may be the first country where a Catholic bishop has been elected leader.

U.S. Episcopal Church urges action on climate change

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, 14 March 2007/SIPHIWE SIBEKOThe Episcopal Church has been riven by the issue of ordaining gay clergy and the broader issue of gay rights. Now Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has taken a stand on an issue which is probably not as divisive, at least in Episcopal and Anglican circles: climate change.

In a letter to the U.S. Senate on Monday, Schori urged the body to “take up climate change legislation at the earliest possible moment.”

“Climate change is a threat not only to God’s creation but to all of humanity,” Schori said, noting that her concerns were formed by both her faith and her training as a scientist. She has a background in oceanography, making her perhaps better qualified than most spiritual leaders to comment on the issue.

How many Catholics will hear disputed Good Friday prayer?

A Good Friday procession at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, 21 March 2008/Yannis BehrakisGiven the discussion about the new Latin prayer to be read at Catholic Good Friday services in the Tridentine rite today, I’ve tried to find estimates for how many people will actually hear it. Jewish groups have expressed dismay that the new version of the prayer, which drops references to the “blindness” of the Jews but still calls for their conversion. The leader of Germany’s Jewish community said she could not fathom how the German-born Pope Benedict could “impose such phrases on his church.” The Vatican rejects this criticism and sources there say it could soon issue a conciliatory note. So there’s a lot of talk about this issue, but how much is actually happening on the ground?

Actually, the vast majority of Catholics attending Good Friday services around the world will not hear this prayer in Latin but a different one in their own native language. That prayer is based on a 1970 text without any explicit reference to the conversion of the Jews. There is no official number for how many will attend the Latin services in the older Tridentine rite that Pope Benedict promoted with a ruling last year authorising wider use of the old Latin Mass. But even ardent supporters of the traditional rite agree that the number is very, very small. Some have objected to our use of the term “tiny minority” for it, saying this was dismissive and implied the number was insignificant. It wasn’t, but it’s very hard to write about such a small amount without seeming to write it off.

Fr. John ZuhlsdorfLooking for anecdotal evidence, I first turned to the excellent conservative Catholic blog What Does The Prayer Really Say? (which just swept the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards). This was a logical step since its lively moderator, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (“Fr. Z”), had just taken us to task for writing “tiny minority.” I posted a question about how to describe the size of this group and several readers chimed in, suggesting words like “rare” (sounds like an endangered species), “relatively few in number” (too vague), “some” or “a few” (even more vague) or “small but growing minority” (that adds movement, but it’s still vague). Even the most neutral synonyms for “tiny” — diminutive, microscopic, miniature, minuscule, slight or wee (for my Scottish colleagues) — can be read as dismissive. How would Fr. Z put it — paupera lingua angliae?

Rare clerical revolt hits U.S. Catholic diocese

Priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville, Illinois are staging a rare rebellion — demanding that their bishop, Edward Braxton, resign because of a lack of “collaborative and consultative leadership” since his installation in June, 2005.

Bishop Edward Braxton and his coat of armsBecause of the bishop’s lack of cooperation, consultation, accountability and transparency, it is the judgment of a great number of the presbyterate that he has lost his moral authority to lead and govern our diocese,” 46 priests — representing about 60 percent of those regularly assigned to parish work in the diocese — said in a statement issued on March 12. He should resign, they added, “for his own good, for the good of the diocese and for the good of the presbyterate.”

The priests said the problems they’ve had with their bishop were only exacerbated by a revelation earlier this year that he had used restricted funds to buy conference room furniture, vestments and other items for use in the diocesan cathedral.

Episcopal Church likely to pass over lesbian candidate for bishop

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts SchoriIs there a straw that will break the Anglican Communion’s back? One move that, like the gay bishop consecration that started the current crisis, can trigger a landslide that finally pushes the Communion into schism? Religion reporters are now watching each and every conference and bishop’s election to see if it will hit the tripwire.

The next flashpoint in the Anglican Communion’s struggle with gay issues looked like it could come from Chicago, where the Episcopal (U.S. Anglican) diocese on November 10 will pick a new bishop from among eight candidates, one of them an openly gay woman. The Episcopal Church promised last month to “exercise restraint” in naming further homosexual prelates. In an interview this month, its Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (in picture at right) stressed there would be “no outcasts in this Church.

Judging from how things look now, the lesbian Rev. Tracey Lind, who is now the dean of Cleveland’s Trinity Cathedral, may not be among the favorites vying for the post, Chicago Tribune religion reporter Manya Brachear reported on Monday.