FaithWorld

Offending priest handled “by the book” by Episcopal Church leader

The Episcopal Church’s diocese of Nevada sought to calm an uproar over a former Benedictine monk who admitted sexual indiscretions with a parishioner before he was ordained an Episcopal priest by Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is now leader of the 2.3 million member U.S. church.

“It looks to me like she handled the situation by the book,” Bishop Dan Edwards said of Jefferts Schori’s actions regarding Fr. Bede Parry, a church organist and former Episcopal priest.

Jefferts Schori became the 450-year-old church’s first female leader when she was appointed presiding bishop in 2006.

Parry, 69, is a defendant in a Missouri lawsuit filed last month over his admitted sexual relationship with a male parishioner at a summer camp run by a Roman Catholic monastery. He has since resigned from the priesthood and from All Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas, Edwards said.

Jefferts Schori ordained Parry in 2004, aware that he had offended while a Benedictine monk at Conception Abbey, which runs a large monastery in Northwest Missouri.

Americans gave $291 billion to charity in 2010, more than 1/3 to religious groups

(A man dressed as Santa Claus from the Volunteers of America charity waits for donations near the Saks Fifth Avenue store in New York December 19, 2007/Ray Stubblebine)

U.S. donations to charity rose to $291 billion last year, but it was still more than 6 percent below a 2007 record as the nation struggles to recover from its worst recession in decades.  Americans gave nearly 4 percent more in 2010 compared to 2009, the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University said,  perking up after the recession sparked the biggest giving slump in four decades.

Religious groups accounted for the largest single recipient class by far, receiving more than one third of total donations, according to the study released on Monday.

Will the Arab Spring bring U.S.-style “culture wars” to the Middle East?

(From left: Olivier Roy, Cardinal Angelo Scola and Martino Diez of the Oasis Foundation at the conference on San Servolo island, Venice, June 20, 2011/Giorgia Dalle Ore/Oasis)

Where is the Arab Spring leading the Middle East? What will be the longer-term outcome of the popular protests that have shaken the region since the beginning of this year? Of course, it’s still too early to say with any certainty, even in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt that succeeded in toppling their authoritarian regimes. Some trends have emerged, however, and they’re on the agenda at a conference in Venice I’m attending entitled “Medio Oriente verso dove?” (Where is the Middle East heading?). The host is the Oasis Foundation, a group chaired by Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Roman Catholic patriarch of this historic city, and guests include Christian and Muslim religious leaders and academics from the Middle East and Europe.

In one of the most interesting — and hotly debated — presentations, the French Islam specialist Olivier Roy described the Arab Spring as “a break with the culture and ideologies that dominated the Arab world from the 1950s until recently.” It marks a clear change in the demographic, political and religious paradigms operating there, he said. The old dichotomy of the authoritarian regime or the Islamist state has broken down, he argued, and Islam is taking on a new role in the political process. In the end, the region — or at least the states where the Arab Spring brings real change — could see democratic politics marked not by major efforts to establish an Islamic state but by Muslim “culture war” controversies not unlike the way hot-button issues such as abortion and gay marriage emerge in U.S. political debates.

“Mormon question” may again dog Mitt Romney’s U.S. presidential bid

(U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney talks to supporters in Detroit, Michigan June 9, 2011/Rebecca Cook)

Republican Mitt Romney has remade himself in a second run for U.S. president, with a leaner campaign apparatus and a message focused with laser-like precision on the nation’s economic problems. But the “Mormon question” still remains for the former Massachusetts governor: are Americans ready to put a Mormon in the White House?

Surveys suggest American voters are more accepting of the idea now than when Romney staged his first presidential run in 2008. But at the margins, many remain suspicious of Mormons. A Quinnipiac University poll this week found voters less comfortable with the idea of a Mormon president than having a leader of any religion other than a Muslim, or an atheist.

Pity the pandering U.S. candidate

Politicians pandering for votes on conservative family values issues may want to think again.

A survey of 3,000 Americans by the Public Religion Research Institute found 42 percent said the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” both described them well, illustrating the complexity of the abortion issue in the minds of many.

“The terms ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ does not reflect the complexity of Americans’ views on abortion,” said Robert Jones, head of the institute.

Prayers and religious terms removed from Texas public school graduation

(High school graduates, 25 May 2007 /Chris Moncus)

A U.S. federal judge has ruled that a high school graduation in a suburb of San Antonio, Texas may not include an opening and closing prayer or the words “invocation” or “benediction.” District Judge Fred Biery ruled on Tuesday that using those words would make it sound like Castroville’s Medina Valley High School is “sponsoring a religion.”

“We think that the district has been flouting the law for decades,” said Ayesha Kahn, an attorney for Americans United for Church and State, which filed the lawsuit. “We’re glad that the court is going to put an end to it.”

No appeal of the ruling is planned, and the invocation and benediction will no longer take place, said Chris Martinez, assistant superintendent of the Medina Valley Independent School District. “Our entire school system is set up on following the rules, and we are going to do that,” Martinez told Reuters. “But this is one parent’s opinion of what we are doing. We don’t believe we have done anything wrong.”

from Our Take on Your Take:

Citizen religion

From Sri Lanka to Spain, this week's selection of images submitted to Your View depict a wide range of religions. Buddhist Sri Lankans lit candles to mark Vesak Day to honor the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha, whereas penitents in Spain marked Holy Week with a procession.

View the Your View weekly showcase here.

Heaven is a fairy tale, says British physicist Stephen Hawking

(Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking speaks at Perimeter Institute For Theoretical Physics in Kitchener, Canada, June 20, 2010/Sheryl Nadler)

Heaven is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark, the eminent British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said in an interview published on Monday. Hawking, 69, was expected to die within a few years of being diagnosed with degenerative motor neurone disease at the age of 21, but became one of the world’s most famous scientists with the publication of his 1988 book “A Brief History of Time”.

“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first,” he told the Guardian newspaper. “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

from Photographers' Blog:

How I became a pilgrim

I grew up in a country with deep Catholic traditions. I was just a year old in 1978 when Polish cardinal Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II. It was a huge surprise in the then‐communist country, a satellite of the Soviet Union, that a son of Polish soil could become the head of the Catholic Church - which was painfully divided by the Iron Curtain.

Over the years, it became a natural feeling that the pope was Polish. The words ‘pope’ and ‘Pole’ becoming synonyms in my mind. John Paul II visited Poland eight times as the pontiff but I only had one chance to see him live when his papa‐mobile passed my home in 1991. I was 14 years old and took a picture of the event.

Unfortunately, during my professional career I never took a picture of Pope John Paul II. My first such assignment came only after the late pope passed away and I was sent to Rome for his funeral. It was a really hard time with no sleep, no time for eating or bathing. I just wandered about taking pictures of thousands of pilgrims sleeping along the Vatican streets and waiting for several days to attend the funeral ceremony. The air was full of grief. I also queued for hours to get to the St.Peter’s Basilica following an endless stream of people who wanted to honor John Paul II and to take a picture of his body exhibited to the public.

Rare rally tests Vietnam’s religious tolerance

(Catholic seminarians attend Easter Sunday Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi April 24, 2011/Kham)

Vietnam has deployed troops to contain a rare mass protest by ethnic Hmong people that is testing the government’s tolerance of minority Christians, just weeks after human rights activists accused leaders of persecuting another hill tribe. As many as 7,000 Hmong people began to gather several days ago in the far-flung mountains of Dien Bien Province, near the northwestern border with Laos and China, apparently for religious reasons although some were advocating an independent kingdom, according to diplomatic, government and other sources.

The unrest was unlikely to pose a threat to the government but the demonstration is the biggest involving ethnic minorities since unrest in the Central Highlands region in 2001 and 2004. Details were scant from the hard-to-access region but a Catholic priest close to the area cited followers as saying troops had been deployed and the protesters had detained at least one government official sent to negotiate.