FaithWorld

Catholic univ. basketball coach rapped over abortion, stem cells

Pope Benedict with professors at Sacro Cuore (Sacred Heart) Catholic University in Rome, 25 Nov. 2005The Vatican has been stressing for years that Catholic universities should have a distinctively Catholic character and follow Church doctrine. Pope John Paul II spelled this out in a 1990 document called Ex corde Ecclesiae and Vatican officials have used this to discipline universities that stray too far from Church teaching. Traditionally, rebellious theologians were the ones who caught their eye. In recent years, bioethical issues have emerged as a flashpoint. Universities researching in vitro fertilisation or embryonic stem cells — both of which the Church opposes — have been threatened with withdrawal of their Catholic status unless they stop.

Now the question has come up whether a basketball coach at a Catholic university can be in favour of abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Mollie Ziegler at GetReligion has picked up a fascinating story about Saint Louis University’s coach Rick Majerus, who expressed his personal views to a local reporter while attending a Hillary Clinton campaign rally. SLU describes itself as “a Jesuit, Catholic university.” It is not legally controlled by the local Catholic diocese. St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke is one of the most outspoken Catholic prelates in the United States — he said in 2004 he would deny communion to John Kerry because of his pro-abortion views, said the same last year about Rudy Giuliani and has now said it about Majerus. And he says SLU should discipline Majerus.

Rick Majerus (when he was still University of Utah coach), 28 March 1998/Mike BlakeIt’s hard to imagine that Burke will just let this drop because of details such as the lay composition of its board or how the state of Missouri views the university’s status. If this document on Ex corde Ecclesiae by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is any guide, he seems to have a moral responsibility for all Catholic universities in his diocese, whether they officially come under his control or not. What he can do is not clear. The Vatican has ways to exert its influence, especially with the Jesuits. Look at the way it pushed Fr. Tom Reese out of the editor’s chair at America magazine.

Coincidentally, this comes just after the Jesuit order elected a new superior general, Adolfo Nicolas (a Spaniard, like its founder Saint Ignatius). Shortly before the vote, Pope Benedict sent the outgoing superior general a letter recalling the order’s special vow of obedience to the Pope. Vatican Radio said Benedict made a special point of asking “that the Congregation reaffirms, in the spirit of Saint Ignatius, its own total adhesion to Catholic doctrine, in particular on the crucial points under attack today from secular culture”.

This is a story to watch.

Vatican daily has Jewish historian comment on Bush and Auschwitz

Apologies aren’t easy, especially for the infallible.*

President Bush visits Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, 11 January 2008During his visit to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, President George Bush saw aerial photos of the Auschwitz death camp taken by American planes during World War Two and was quoted as saying: “We should have bombed it.” This presented an interesting challenge to the Pope’s daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. Critics have long accused Pope Pius XII of failing to help Jews during the Holocaust and his successors of failing to say mea culpa in apology. German-born Pope Benedict heard the same in May 2006 after he avoided the issue during a visit to Auschwitz. So how should the Vatican daily report what looked like an indirect apology (the first of its kind?) by the U.S. president?

The Sunday edition showed the way. L’Osservatore, a once-bland broadsheet livened up under its new editor Giovanni Maria Vian, invited the Jewish historian Anna Foa to write a front-page commentary on “The Missed Bombing” (text in Italian). She writes: “A president of the United States, George W. Bush, has admitted publicly what many historians and a part of public opinion have been saying for years: that in 1944, the Americans should have bombed Auschwitz.” Foa noted that, as early as 1942, information about the death camps had reached “the Red Cross, the neutral countries, the Holy See, the chancelleries of the Allies. Many of these reports were not believed at the time. But in 1943, all governments knew.

Pope Benedict enters Auschwitz death camp, 28 May 2006/Pawel KopczynskiBombing Auschwitz could have slowed or stopped the slaughter there, especially of the half a million Hungarian Jews deported in the summer and autumn of 1944, but the Allies did not do it. Not because bombing would not be useful, Foa writes, but for “a more general reason: saving the Jews did not have priority in the overall management of the war.” Bombing the train tracks leading to Auschwitz or even the gas chambers themselves “would have broken the silence that settled over the death camps, given the war an incomparable ethical motivation and forced all of Europe to know” what was happening there.

Interesting quote on “new atheists” in the U.S., Britain

the_god_delusion_2.jpgHere’s an interesting quote on the “new atheists” and their popularity in Britain and the United States from Andrew Brown’s review of religion reporting in 2007 for the London Anglican weekly Church Times:

The backlash against Richard Dawkins and his chums, already detectable last Christmas, is coming along more strongly in this country now, even though the New Atheist movement seems to be doing very well in the United States, and will, I predict, continue to do so. Dawkins-type atheism has a distinct social role over there. It is fundamentalism for the college- educated, offering the same kind of certainties, and a similar range of enemies, in a world that has grown threatening, impersonal, and insecure for everyone.

Do you think the “new atheist” wave has peaked? Or will it keep on going?

Rare spotlight on U.S. Baptist drive to convert Hindus

Indian Christians carry cross on Good Friday near Cochin, 25 March 2005On the world religion scene, one interesting trend concerns the growing number of Christian missionaries seeking to convert people in developing countries. Many are evangelicals from the United States or South Korea, often trying to convert Muslims. We usually hear about them when their work creates tension or leads to a diplomatic incident. It’s rare to see a lengthy report on what a mission is actually doing and how it is received.

The Commercial Appeal daily in Memphis, Tennessee has just published a fascinating report on a mission to convert Hindus in India that is sponsored by a hometown Baptist church. Bellevue Baptist in Memphis spends $5.5 million each year for missionary work around the world. The Commercial Appeal’s Trevor Aaronson visited the National Training Institute for Village Evangelism in Hyderabad, which Bellevue supports, to see what it does on the ground. These missions can be controversial. In several Indian states, Hindu nationalists have protested against missionary work and passed laws banning conversion from one religion to another. World churches are working on a code of conduct to help spread their faith without antagonising other religions.

Aaronson’s article is a zoom-lens look at one mission, its problems, its links to its American donors and the reactions of the Hindu nationalists. He presents the mission warts and all, which has sparked off a lively debate on the paper’s Web site. As Daniel Pulliam over at GetReligion notes, this is “an impressive journalistic endeavor for a local newspaper … the activities of churches often go uncovered, particularly missionary work.”

To trust or not to trust — Vatican diplomat vents frustration at Israel

Italians have a wonderful phrase they use when things don’t work out as they had hoped: “It was better when it was worse.”

Archbishop Pietro SambiThat was the thrust of controversial comments about the Catholic Church’s relations with Israel by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, currently the Vatican’s nuncio (ambassador) to the United States and formerly the papal envoy to the Jewish state.

Sambi, who was nuncio in Israel from 1998-2005, could not have been clearer about his discontent: “If I must be frank, relations between the Catholic Church and the state of Israel were better when there were no diplomatic relations.” That was the opening salvo in a long interview in Italian with www. terrasanta.net, an on-line publication of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.

Burnout on the God beat – second top religion writer calls it quits

Covering religion may be harmful to your faith. Two leading religion journalists — one in Britain, one in the United States — have quit the beat in recent months, saying they had acquired such a close look at such scandalous behaviour by Christians that they lost their faith and had to leave.

Bates article in New HumanistStephen Bates, who recently stepped down as religious affairs writer for the London Guardian, has just published an account of his seven years on the beat in an article entitled “Demob Happy” for the New Humanist magazine. Bates followed the crisis in the Anglican Communion for several years and even wrote a book on it, A Church At War: Anglicans and Homosexuality.

“Now I am moving on,” his article concludes. “It was time to go. What faith I had, I’ve lost, I am afraid – I’ve seen too much, too close. A young Methodist press officer once asked me earnestly whether I saw it as my job to spread the Good News of Jesus. No, I said, that’s the last thing I am here to do.”

A Massachusetts Yankee in Pope Benedict’s Court

Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican CityU.S. ambassadors are often chosen not for their expertise but because of the size of their campaign contributions. For his next envoy to the Vatican, however, President George W. Bush seems to have opted for one of the best qualified Americans he could find. Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon probably knows more people in the Vatican than all of her predecessors combined. She is almost certainly better connected there than any of her future colleagues from the other 175 countries with diplomatic relations with the Holy See. She has a resumé no other diplomat could match, including leading a Vatican delegation to a United Nations conference and advising the Catholic Church on three different pontifical organisations.

The Pittsfield, Massachusetts native still has to be confirmed by the Senate. She would not be the first woman U.S. ambassador to the male bastion that is the Vatican. Corrine “Lindy” Boggs served from 1997 to 2001.

Mary Ann GlendonIn 1994, Glendon became the first woman to lead a Vatican delegation to an international conference — a role that usually was assigned to clerics, preferrably archbishops. It was the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 (see her account of the conference here). While Pope John Paul’s choice of Glendon for that role raised some eyebrows in the Vatican, it also greatly enhanced her profile as one of the Church’s leading laywomen and academics.Since 2004 she has been president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which advises the Pope on social issues, and also serves on the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family. She is the author of numerous books , including “Abortion and Divorce in Western Law.”

Bioethical dilemmas know no boundaries

Bioethical dilemmas know no boundaries. France found that out this weekend when the daily Libération revealed that a French couple that had used a surrogate mother in the United States had won a long legal battle to be recognised as the parents of the twin girls who resulted from the arrangement. Surrogacy is illegal in France. French officials refused to register the twins as the couple’s daughters, leaving them in a legal limbo for seven years. But an appeals court finally granted their wish, arguing it was in the children’s best interests to recognise the U.S. birth certificates that listed Dominique and Sylvie (their surname was not published) as the parents.

an expectant mother France banned surrogacy in 1994 in the hope of preventing a “rent-a-womb” market from developing. But this option is expressly banned by law only in France, Germany and Italy, according to the association CLARA which campaigns to change the French law. It is legal in other places, including Britain, Canada, Greece, New Zealand and some U.S. states. According to the twins’ father Dominique, between 20 to 40 French couples cross the Atlantic every year to have a child with a surrogate American mother.

Since Sylvie and Dominique were recognised as the twins’ parents in a state where surrogacy is legal, they could not be brought to court for breaking the law there. French courts tried to try them for aiding and abetting a case of surrogacy or violating the civil status of the children, but neither charge led to a conviction, Le Monde reported.

In God’s name — The Economist surveys religion in the world

The Economist cover, Nov. 3, 2007The Economist, which printed God’s obituary in its millennium issue, has produced a long and very interesting survey on religion and politics around the world in its latest issue. There’s also an editorial on the separation of church and state and an audio interview with the author John Micklethwait.

As the editor of one of the leading journals of the globalised world, it’s interesting to hear what he says about religion:

“Religion is a bulwark against globalisation for a lot of people. I think you see this particularly in the Islamic world,” he said. But there was also a positive side, which he said could be seen in the United States where so many people read Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life. “They’re saying, look, here’s a lifestyle that helps you get the best out of globalisation. I think a long time ago, we made this sort of category mistake, which was to associate modernity with secularism. I think, really, modernity goes much better with pluralism.”

Rapid change as Turkey strives to match Islam and democracy

President Abdullah Gul accompanied by Chief of Staff General Yasar Buyukanit, August 31, 2007It is now clear that Turkey, a country to which Western visitors have often applied adjectives such as “timeless” and “slothful”, is changing profoundly, and with un-Oriental speed.

Anyone who’s been following the news out of Turkey this year has to nod in agreement when reading the lead to Christopher de Bellaigue’s interesting article in the New York Review of Books. It was only last April that the army issued a veiled threat to intervene if the governing AK party — usually called a “party with Islamist roots” — tried to overturn Turkey’s secular system.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called their bluff and won a snap general election, allowing his AK partner Abdullah Gül to be elected president. The AK-led government now plans to replace the military-era constitution with a new document that will confirm “our democratic, secular and social state and guarantee basic rights and freedoms”, as Gül told parliament early this month.