Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ponies to pope: Pay up!

A battle has been brewing between the pope and the ponies at Australia's Randwick racecourse, where Benedict XVI is to celebrate World Youth Day with about 500,000 young people next summer. Originally, local church officials had said the racecourse would be out of action for 10 weeks; now they say it will be just three days, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, and they aren't paying for anything beyond that.

Trainers, with their 700 horses and the support staff that go with them, are balking, saying the church is offering insufficient compensation and no alternative sites for training and housing. "Possession is nine-tenths of the law. If there is no one paying for the floats and no one willing to look at compensation or exercise responsibility, we'll look after our responsibilities and wish them well," said trainer's association president Anthony Cummings.

Call out the Swiss Guard?

Of course--and I realize this is going to be a very unpopular opinion--I've never really understood the purpose of gathering a million kids to "see" the pope. It seems overly expensive and even a little dangerous. Does it really have lasting benefit?

I know I'm going to get lacquered for this one. How can I be against WYD? Have it at.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Reading Mother's diary

Those who lament that nothing is sacred nowadays have new ammunition with publication of Mother Teresa's private letters, in which she admits, according to a story in the Chicago Sun-Times (and elsewhere), that she suffered a crisis of faith for much of her adult life. What's shocking is not the fact that she, like many great saints, suffered the "dark night of the soul," but that the writings that she asked to be destroyed after her death weren't.

Since when did the seal of Confession expire with death? This is really outrageous. And someone's probably making a pretty penny on it, too.

As for Mother Teresa, who can doubt her sanctity now? Despite getting almost no consolation in prayer, she soldiered on, practicing faith even when she didn't "feel" it anymore.

Agnostic my foot. She was the real deal, and her example points out the difference between faith and certainty.

Does anyone out there find her less inspiring now?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

On not doing your homework

In a misbegotten attempt to highlight the interreligious character of Jewish convert to Catholicism and former archbishop of Paris Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger's funeral, the International Herald Tribune sports this headline:

"Jewish kaddish, Catholic psalms at Notre Dame for funeral of Jewish-born French cardinal"

"Catholic" psalms, eh? Way to do your research, Associated Press.


Married priests now?

The Catholic churches in Africa, or at least their leaders, are often considered more Roman than the Romans, but a new movement for married priests founded by Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo seems to be gaining traction, according to an op-ed piece in the Times of Zambia. A number of legally married priests in Zambia are now ministering openly in association with Married Priests Now, Milingo's movement, which is funded by (of all people) the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

It would be ironic indeed if the church of the developing world--thought by many to be the future of traditional Catholicism--is the place that finally does in mandatory celibacy. But their clergy shortage is most extreme, so it makes sense that wider use of married priests would begin in places like Africa and Latin America.

Milingo is, I'll grant, a little nutty, but who knows how this might turn out? And really, would the vast majority of Catholics really care if their priests were married, as long as they were competent, compassionate ministers? Would you?

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Come out or stay in?

In another dust-up over clerical sexuality, dozens of gay and lesbian Evangelical Lutheran clergy and seminarians revealed their sexuality yesterday at the biennial convention in Chicago. At issue is whether same-sex oriented clergy must remain celibate. A third of the ELCA's 65 synods (regional districts) have supported dropping the celibacy requirement, though the convention as a whole reaffirmed it in 2005, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. A number of ELCA bishops permit clergy in relationships to continue serving, though the bishops could face disciplinary action themselves.

The question the Lutherans have to ask themselves, of course, is: Does it really matter? Is sex and sexuality really the determining factor when evaluating a pastor or candidate for ministry?

Catholics don't get to dodge that one either. And I know what my answer is. We've been ably served by gay men and women for generations, whether we've known it or not. It's time to start acknowledging it.

Lutheran CORE, which opposes any change in policy, summarizes its position on the Lutheran Churches of the Common Confession blog:

"Ultimately, we do not believe we have the right as Christians to vote on whether or not we will accept the clear teachings of Holy Scripture. Especially when an overwhelming majority of Christians through the ages and across the world have understood the texts of the Bible regarding same-sex relationships in their plain sense, we have to say, "our conscience is captive to the Word of God; unless we are convinced by clear Scripture and evident reason therefrom, we cannot and will not recant."

I imagine all the women of CORE are veiled at services, and none of them presume to teach men. All part of the "plain sense" of scripture, you know...


More "anti-Catholicism"

Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan) is complaining loudly that fellow Republican Mike Huckabee allowed a supporter to start an anti-Catholic "whisper campaign" against Brownback because he is Catholic. (Brownback crossed the Tiber from Methodism in 2002.)

"I know Senator Brownback converted to Roman Catholicism in 2002," Rev. Tim Rude, pastor of Walnut Creek Community Church, wrote in the e-mail, according to the Associated Press. "Frankly, as a recovering Catholic myself, that is all I need to know about his discernment when compared to the governor's."

Brownback demanded an apology from Huckabee, an ordained Baptist pastor, but the Rev. Huck did not offer one. Rude was a little less, well, rude, and acknowledged he chose his words poorly.

Of course, if that's what passes for anti-Catholicism these days, we're really doing great, folks. That is at least the most oblique insult I could imagine. "Recovering Catholic"--please, we say that stuff all the time!

Remember, really anti-Catholic people used to have whole political parties, so let's not get too worked up.


More sex abuse troubles in SoCal

Not L.A. this time, though. The Diocese of San Diego, currently in bankruptcy proceedings, just got an earful from the judge for hiding money--two parishes even had "secret accounts." The bankruptcy judge, having ordered a first-of-its-kind outside review of diocesan finances, now has to decide whether the deception was intentional, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. If she determines it was, she could put all the diocesan finances in the hands of a trustee. (Note to other dioceses: You take your life in your hands when you throw yourself on the mercy of the civil court.) The diocese argues the problems were minor, though the total "surplus funds" add up to millions.

Of course, what the judge is most likely to find is a completely disorganized financial mess. As many have pointed out--both on the record and off--the next big scandal to come is money, and how sloppily is gets handled at many levels of church organization. This one is worth watching--but it will likely only be bad news for the people of God in San Diego.

Watch this get even messier.