FaithWorld

Vatican condemns Canadian ex-bishop over child porn

(Bishop Raymond Lahey arrives at a police station in Ottawa October 1, 2009 to face child pornography charges/Chris Wattie )

The Vatican has condemned former Canadian Bishop Raymond Lahey after he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and said it planned to take disciplinary action against him.  Lahey, former Bishop of Antigonish in the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia, was charged with possession and importation of child pornography in 2009. He pleaded guilty on Wednesday and his sentence is due to be handed down later.

“The Catholic Church condemns sexual exploitation in all its forms, especially when perpetrated against minors,” the Vatican press office said in a statement on Wednesday. “Although the civil process has run its course, the Holy See will continue to follow the canonical procedures in effect for such cases, which will result in the imposition of the appropriate disciplinary or penal measures,” it added.

The case has rocked the Roman Catholic Church in Canada, particularly because Lahey oversaw the settlement of long-standing sex abuse allegations against several priests shortly before he was charged in 2009.

The Vatican has toughened up its laws on sexual abuse to tackle the scandal in the ranks of the Church, which entered a new chapter last year as increasing numbers of  victims came forward in several countries.

Canadian police charge senior Orthodox prelate with sex crimes

Canadian police have charged a senior Orthodox  prelate with sexually assaulting two boys during the 1980s, the latest in a tide of such charges worldwide involving church officials. Winnipeg police said on Thursday that Archbishop Kenneth William Storheim, 64, flew from Edmonton, Alberta, to Winnipeg to turn himself in and was charged with two counts of sexual assault.

Storheim is the archibishop of the Archdiocese of Canada of the Orthodox Church in America but has been on a leave of absence since October 1, according to a statement on the church’s website. Storheim, who was raised a Lutheran and was an Anglican rector before being received in the Orthodox Church in 1978, worked at a church in a poor Winnipeg neighborhood from 1984 to 1987 and later moved to Edmonton and Ottawa.

According to his biography on the church’s website, Archbishop Seraphim (as he is known in the Orthodox Church) “serves in a number of administrative capacities in the Orthodox Church in America. He is secretary of the Holy Synod of Bishops, chairman of the Department of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations and chairman of the Board of Theological Education. As chair of the Department of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations, he has represented the OCA at numerous events in Russia, Ukraine, the Middle East, and throughout Europe. He also is co-chairman of the Bishops’ Dialogue (North America) between the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas [SCOBA] and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Most recently, he was appointed Administrator of the Metropolitan See of the Orthodox Church in America upon the retirement of Metropolitan Herman on September 4, 2008.”

Canada’s anti-polygamy laws go on trial in Vancouver

jeffsA Canadian court opened hearings on Monday into whether anti-polygamy laws violate constitutional protections of religious freedom. The court is wrestling with civil liberties and moral questions surrounding a breakaway sect of the Mormon church that has practiced plural marriages at its compound in rural British Columbia since the late 1940s. (Photo: U.S. polygamist group leader Warren Jeffs escorted into a court hearing, in Las Vegas, Nevada, August 31, 2006/Steve Marcus)

“We are beginning on an historic reference,” Robert Bauman, chief justice of the British Columbia Supreme Court told a packed courtroom in Vancouver.

The provincial government asked the court to probe the law’s constitutionality ahead of a criminal case against leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that is expected to test the issue.

Israel rejects Jordanian bid to claim Dead Sea Scrolls

dead sea scrolls

Section of Dead Sea scrolls at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, 14 May 2008/Baz Ratner

Israel has rejected a Jordanian claim that the historic Dead Sea Scrolls belong to them. Jordan has asked Canada to seize sections of the 2,000-year-old scrolls that were recently exhibited in Toronto and hand them over to Amman.  It said Israel took the scrolls illegally when it won control over the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war .

Here’s a Reuters video report by Basmah Fahim interviewing Israeli and Jordanian officials on the issue:

from Jeffrey Jones:

Dalai Lama: Afghan war a failure

    The Dalai Lama believes the war in Afghanistan has so far been a failure, saying military intervention creates additional complications for the country.
    The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, making his first visit to the Western Canadian city of Calgary in 30 years, said foreign military intervention against Taliban insurgents has only served to make the fundamentalist group more determined.  
    The war has been "so far, I think, a failure," he told reporters, adding that he could not yet judge its outcome. "Using military forces, the other hard-liners become even more hard ... and due to civilian casualties the other side also sometimes is getting more sympathy from local people." 
    U.S. President Barack Obama is weighing calls to boost troop levels and alter strategy to reverse what officials have said is a deteriorating military situation. But the Dalai Lama said it would all have been unnecessary had the United States and the European Union spent more on aid to the region.
    "Instead of spending billions and billions of dollars for killing they should have spent billions .... on education and health in rural areas and underdeveloped areas. (If they had) I think the picture would be different."

-- Written by Scott Haggett

(Photo: The Dalai Lama speaks at a conference in Calgary, Alberta, on October 1, 2009. REUTERS/Todd Korol)

GUESTVIEW: Canada and the niqab: How to go public in the public square

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Sarah Sayeed is Program Associate and Matthew Weiner is Program Director at the Interfaith Center of New York.

By Sarah Sayeed and Matthew Weiner

A Canadian judge recently ruled that a Toronto Muslim woman must take off her face veil while giving testimony in a sexual assault trial. This tension between public space and private religion comes up repeatedly in western urban centers where Muslim women increasingly occupy the pubic square.  This time it happened in Toronto, but the issue arises regularly in western countries in the schools, workplaces and courtrooms that Muslims increasingly share with the majority population. At stake is whether a Muslim woman’s choice to dress in accordance with her religious beliefs infringes upon “our way of life.” (Photo: Sultaana Freeman testifies in court for right to wear a niqab on her Florida driver’s license, 27 May 2003/pool)

While all can agree that identity, tolerance and religious freedom are important, advocates for the face veil emphasize the upholding of freedom while opponents focus on the face veil, or niqab, as a challenge to collective identity.  Such tension between public expression of religion and collective identity is not new.  It has even gone on for centuries in Muslim countries, where religious minorities feel the tension between acceptance and their need to adapt, in varying degrees, to a Muslim majority worldview.  There is also a debate within Muslim communities about whether wearing the niqab is a religious requirement.

Canadians fill YouTube with “Amazing Grace” videos

If “Amazing Grace” is not already the most widely sung hymn in Christianity — and cyberlists, for what they’re worth, say it is — it should be by the time the Amazing Grace Project is finished. The Anglican Church of Canada invited all its congregations to sing John Newton‘s iconic hymn last Sunday and upload a video of their efforts to the church’s national office. The plan is to edit them into “one big, amazing “Amazing Grace” video and put it up on the web for all to enjoy by Christmas,” as the project website explains.

The uploads are piling up on YouTube (here’s the playlist) and it seems some congregations in U.S. states close to the Canadian border have joined in. There are a few entries from South Africa and a clip of bishops at the Lambeth Conference (see video above) enjoying the opportunity to sing from the same songsheet. If you want to be part of the final product, upload your video here by Dec. 1.

I first realised how widely known “Amazing Grace” was in 1999, at the end of the Yugoslav wars, when I was reporting from the Kosovo town of Prizren. The Serbian army had just left the town and NATO forces controlled the province. My Muslim interpreter and I happened to pass a Catholic Church one day and we went in for a look. To my surprise, a Mass was being said and the congregation was belting out a familiar tune. When I finally realised it was “Amazing Grace” in Albanian translation, I sang along softly in English. On leaving, the interpreter asked me “How do you know an Albanian hymn?”

U.S. and Canadian Jews, Muslims seek dialogue

Muslim and Jewish leaders across the United States and Canada plan to meet this weekend to discuss ways to fight anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia.

The meetings and panel discussions from Friday to Sunday — dubbed the Weekend of Twinning — are part of a broader movement of interfaith dialogue taking place against a global backdrop of tensions between religious groups.

Several of the rabbis and imams have broadcast a public service announcement on CNN appealing for interfaith understanding (see the video above) and published a full-page ad in the New York Times available here in PDF form.