Monday, August 28, 2006

I'm getting a Darwin fish thing for my car

The Guardian is reporting that B16 is convening his annual gathering of former doctoral students, including Schoborn (see last post), to discuss--guess what--creation and evolution. Looks like Coyne's ouster may be more than mere retirement after all. (Though the Guardian also notes that Coyne had asked to be replaced for health reason.)

Creepier still, however, is Papa Ratzi's group--sounds suspiciously like another unelected, unaccountable right-wing think-tank like those plaguing both America and the church today. Think George Weigel and his American Enterprise Institute-type crowd. The last thing I want is Ignatius Press founder Joseph Fessio (Bene-buddy and provost of Ave Maria University) dictating church policy on evolution.

We don't need the pope to deal with the classically American Intelligent Design problem. There's a reason the U.S. bishops have left this thing alone: It's stupid! Schonborn had no business giving his two euro-cents on a U.S. matter--his archdiocese of Vienna is a damn mess as it is. Cardinals are advisors to the pope, not the rest of the world's bishops. It's called subsidiarity, which means local matters are best dealt with on a local level.

So butt out, Christophe!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Schonborn strikes back!

The Dark Lord of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn--if you are to believe conspiracy theorists anyway--has engineered the removal of his nemesis, Jesuit Father George Coyne, as head of the Vatican Observatory, according to Religion News Service. Coyne, 73 and director since 1978, publicly took on Schonborn over the latter's New York Times op-ed piece supporting intelligent design (ID). Coyne responded in a brilliant Tablet (U.K.) piece and a talk at a Florida university supporting the scientific theory of evolution.

Of course, no one is acknowledging that Coyne's views had anything to do with the change--although some conservative sites are claiming the Vatican removed the "controversial" Coyne--but of interest is the fact that the August 19 announcement from Rome didn't even mention Coyne. His replacement, 43-year-old Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, also a Jesuit, holds a doctorate in astronomy and is an expert in stellar evolution (not the biological kind).

If there's some machination behind Coyne's dismissal, it'll come out. And if B16 was behind it, that doesn't bode well for Jesuits, as former America editor Tom Reese could well attest.

No girlz allowed--the Bible says so!

Everyone by now has surely heard of the case of Mary Lambert, 81, fired as a Sunday school teacher "for being a woman," at least as the New York State North Country Gazette reports it. Both the pastor of the Watertown, New York Baptist church and its deacon council (whose members are 55 percent women) insist there are other reasons Lambert was fired after 54 years--but they still come back to 1 Timothy 2:12: "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent." Just how did the pastor convince those women to go along?

You know, this just makes all Christians look stupid, especially when applied so inconsistently, even at the First Baptist Church of Watertown, where more than 80 percent of the Sunday School teachers are women.

Then again, we Catholics are no better. At least Tim LaBouf, the pastor in question, has a Bible passage expressly forbidding women from teaching. The Catholic scriptural argument against the ordination of women rests on the assumption that there were no women at the Last Supper, accounts of which mention both the "twelve" (Matthew and Luke) and "the disciples" (all four gospels), and at least that latter group included women.

Oh well, I guess we all use scripture when it suits us...

Friday, August 18, 2006

What did you do on your summer vacation?

If you're Archbishop John Sentamu, Anglican Archbishop of York and second only to the archbishop of Canterbury in the Church of England, you camp out in your church.

Sentamu, a native of Uganda, became increasingly disturbed by the coverage of the conflict in Lebanon, so he decided to skip his German vacation, pitch a tent in his cathedral, Yorkminster, and go on a 7-day water fast, praying every hour from 9 am to 5 pm and getting up for further prayers through the night.

All you folks who wish young people would return to the church should give Sentamu a second look, according to the Guardian, whose reporter writes, "The interview finishes in time for [Sentamu] to return to prayer. A few minutes later, he is back beside me, silently handing over a card. Inside, a 17-year-old girl has written to tell him how moved she has been by his action and is enclosing her pocket money, a £20 note. 'If only this generosity, this desire to love your neighbour, could spread,' he says, 'we could solve this without war.' "

Another noteworthy quote: "I think this has taught me to listen and not to grumble. We as a church are preoccupied with sexual morality, but there is a more important morality in terms of poverty, justice and equality. This has been helpful. One drop of water cannot turn a water wheel but many drops can." This while many of his brother bishops are practically campaigning among conservative Episcopal bishops in the U.S. about the gay issue.

Preach it, brother.

Oh, and by the way, Sentamu started his fast on Sunday; a ceasefire went into effect on Sunday. Not wanting to take any credit, the archbishop notes, "The more I pray, the more coincidences there are."

Don't try this at home

Well, when it rains, it pours: Father Daniel Rupp of Barton, Vermont has decided to race in a demolition derby to raise $6,000 and send his Catholic school teachers to Rome. Known for his, ahem, unorthodox approach to fundraising--Rupp has raffled pigs and sold roses at his parish--the priest plans to sell sponsorships; sponsors names will appear on Rupp's car, the "Vicar General" (gag!). The local funeral home has already signed up, though Rupp admits they have the most to gain if his race is, well, let's say unsuccessful.

The response by diocesan officials was measured, acording to the Burlington Free Press: "He knows that in doing something so worthwhile, that God will watch out for him," said the Rev. Peter Routhier, vicar general of the diocese. "There'll be a number of people praying this will be safe -- and that it's the only time he does this."

Worthwhile or not, I for one would not want to have to explain myself to St. Peter having died in a stock car race--in the middle of a priest shortage at that!


Well don't eat this--a collection of chocolate droppings alleged to look like the Virgin Mary. (I, however, don't quite see it.) What's better are the comments from the MSNBC story (all the following are comments from the story):

I'm curious as to why the Virgin Mary always chooses to reveal herself in food--grilled cheese, chocolate ... what is she really trying to say? I think she is trying to reach out to Nicole Richie.

Personally I think it looks like an owl.

I always knew chocolate was God. [CtotheL: Can't argue with that!]

Of course, then there's Cruz Jacinta, who found the chocolate Virgin, a mom who's been having marital difficulties: "I have big problems right now, personally, and lately I've been saying that God doesn't exist. This has given me renewed faith."

Maybe it is Mary.

Pope chat

It would seem strange to overlook the TV and radio interview Papa Ratzi gave to four German journalists, which took place on May 8 but is only now being released in English (available on the U.K. Tablet's website).

Granting that the questions were softballs to say the least (a lot of Holy Father-this and Holy Father-that--though probably just a question of protocol), Benedict seems to have been charming, affable, and moderate. He was given plenty of opportunity to go on a tirade about secularism and same-sex marriage and the like, but he repeatedly returned to the idea that Catholicism needs to present a positive vision rather than just saying "no" all the time. He even seemed to be trying to avoid saying things that would seem negative, although his answer to why the church continued to oppose the use of condoms in the effort against HIV/AIDS seemed unnecessarily meandering and a little obtuse.

I'll let you read it for yourself--it's worth the 20 minutes it will take. But in light of B16's general positive tone, openness to dialogue, and appreciation for collegiality of all things, one starts to wonder if there isn't indeed some bad cop to Bennie's good, who keeps running around issuing scathing condemnations right and left.

Either that or we've got a Jeckyll-and-Hyde pope on our hands. Better send Katie Couric in to find out.

Could I be the next Rocco Palmo?

Or Amy Welborn?

Well, probably not, but thanks to Renee Schafer Horton of the Tucson-area Explorer newspaper, I've finally got some press coverage. Renee, a Catholic who writes her "Faith Matters" column for the paper, interviewed me a couple of weeks ago about my post on the ordinations of 12 women on a river outside Pittsburgh, giving me plenty of column space to make my point that the real issue around ordination is why we continue to insist that virtually all sacramental ministry require a priest.

Anyway, here's the link to Renee's column, and back to my original post on the ordinations--in case you missed it.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bingo, begone!

The Catholic bishop of Calgary, Alberta in Canada, Fred Henry, is turning the screws on parishes and Catholic schools that use bingo and casino nights as fundraisers, demanding that they seek alternative methods of raising cash. Henry has been more in the news lately for his strident opposition to same-sex marriage in Canada.

"The end doesn't justify the means. It is morally wrong for a Catholic school, club, society or parish to co-operate with an industry exploiting the weak and the vulnerable," said Henry, according to an article in the Calgary Sun. "We simply can't do it." He vowed increase pressure on institutions that don't get in line, though he didn't initially mention breaking their kneecaps.

Well, though I don't have much use for Henry's standard arguments against the civil rights of gay and lesbian people in Canada--he claims the goal of gays who want to marry is to "acquire a powerful psychological weapon to change society's rejection of homosexual activity and lifestyle into gradual, even if reluctant, acceptance"--I think he's right on this one. We Catholics may not be against gambling as such, but using it to fund our ministries is at least a little shady, given how ruinous gambling has been for many.

Which just goes to show how it's possible for Catholics (at least this one) to disagree on one issue but agree on others. Though I don't think the Knights of Columbus (see a couple of posts ago), who I'm sure run a couple of parish gambling operations themselves, would agree with me on either point.

Oh well. It's a big tent. Definitely large enough for all that Columbian plumage.

News flash: Bishop actually meets with faithful

Wow. After a mere three years, the archbishop of Boston has finally met with members of Voice of the Faithful, the reform group organized after the sex abuse scandal broke in Boston. Truly a model of responsiveness to the needs of God's people.

Neither VOTF nor O'Malley would comment on the content of the meeting nor if they would meet again. A spokesperson for O'Malley said that the archbishop had not relaxed the ban that had prevented VOTF members from meeting in their own parishes. The ban against VOTF has been in place since now-resigned-in-utter-disgrace Bernard Law imposed it in 2002.

People can rant all they want about the church not being a democracy--a claim I think is a bit broad anyway--but for a bishop to refuse for three years to meet an organized group of baptized Catholics with legitimate grievances is an absolute disgrace and a disservice to the people of God.

Furthermore, that the contents of this meeting should remain private is equally problematic. The issues at stake--transparency, accountability, stewardship of the resources of God's people--are public matters. This is not some private dispute between the archbishop as a person and a couple of influential Catholics; this is a public issue about the relationship between the local church and its leader. While the blame for the time it took to get this meeting lies with the archbishop, the fact that VOTF is willing to play along in the quiet game is disheartening. That's not going to get them the kind reform they want.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Knights joust with UW-Madison

In a flare-up seemingly destined for the courts, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has decertified the campus Knights of Columbus chapter because it admits only Catholic men; state law requires that campus-affiliated organizations be open to all students regardless of religion and be run by students. Although the university originally released a statement that it had reached an agreement with the Knights to create an affiliate organization that would be open to all students, the Knights are protesting that no such deal had been struck.

This seems to me to be a no-brainer: If the Knights want university recognition (and probably a chunk of student fees to go with it), they should be open to all students; actually, it might be a great opportunity for evangelization. If the Knights impressive enough, they might attract some new folks to Catholicism. On the other hand, if they want to restrict membership, they can easily affiliate with a local parish. Piece of cake. Like it or not, if you want public recognition at a state school, you have to play by their rules. Let this be a lesson to all you folks who want public funding for Catholic schools; you can expect the same.

I know, I know, this is just another example of liberal academia taking potshots at us poor Catholics. Then again, it could be a great opportunity to show how calm and open Catholicism can be, unthreatened by the people who might want to share our work but aren't ready to accept our beliefs.

It'll be OK, guys. And if it doesn't work out, you can always change your mind. That parish is probably just right down the street.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Springs of water, bless the pope!

With the pope on summer hiatus, there's not been much of interest to report, unless you count India's Catholic bishops encouraging their flock to multiply, since the percentage of Christians in the area is declining. Not sure that's the best idea, seeing that India already has more than a billion people, but I think I've made my views clear on this one.

A new monument to JPII in his hometown of Wadowice is, however, making headlines as a new source of magic--sorry--healing water. Whoever built the new statue cleverly installed a fountain, knowing full well that Catholics can't resist bottling water from shrines, apparition sites, and churches, which makes for good business in holy water-holding and other related devotional merchandise.

Wadowice Mayor Ewa Filipiak spoke tellingly of her hopes for the water, especially if JPII is beatified: "[The fountain] has turned into an additional and very welcome attraction and embellishment of this place linked to John Paul II." An attraction, eh? Like Disneyland?

Of course, many Poles have a great devotion to the former pope, but if the local authorities really wanted it to seem authentic, they should have either made it look like a spring rose up spontaneously--or at least not revealed the true purpose of water, which, according to the mayor was simply meant to enhance the gray-brown color of the monument.

Well, at least the town well that provides the water is from the 16th century, which makes the water at least really old if not particularly holy.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The loons are loose

Showing no sign of scaling back it's anti-gay rhetoric, the Vatican announced today its theme for the 40th annual World Day of Prayer for Peace--and also identified "propaganda and the growing acceptance of disordered lifestyles contrary to human dignity" as factors that are "weakening the hearts and minds of people to the point of extinguishing the desire for ordered and peaceful coexistence."

Nice. So now the gays are to blame for there being no peace in the world.

Of course the Vatican statement also identified "aberrant ideologies [and] the misguided use of science and technology" as "a threat to humanity," arguing that "peace is in danger when human dignity is not respected and when social coexistence does not seek the common good."

As true as at least some of that may be, is this the best we can do for world peace? You'd think a document entitled, "The Human Person: The Heart of Peace," might be a little more hopeful. Instead we get another impenetrable tirade.

Well, perhaps when the final statement comes out, it will be at least readable, if not worth reading. Chalk this one up to another missed opportunity.

And who is the homophobe running amok in the halls of the Eternal City? This is getting old.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Liberals in the Catholic blogosphere?

Every time the media quotes a Catholic blogger, the appositive "Catholic bloggers tend to be conservative" generally appears. I know of few other left-leaning Catholic bloggers, but surely I'm not the only one. Anyone else out there?