Category Archives: Christian – Catholic

BRIEF: UNCW lecturer to speak about N.C. eugenics and Nazi eugenics Thursday

Anthropometry demonstrated in an exhibit from ...

Anthropometry demonstrated in an exhibit from a 1921 eugenics conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New York Times bestselling author and investigative journalist Edwin Black will speak about eugenics programs used against blacks and mentally disabled people in North Carolina as well as the eugenics programs of the Nazis at 7 p.m. Thursday (April 26) in the School of Nursing McNeil Auditorium, Room 1005 on the campus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

His speaking tour is based on his book War Against the Weak and is sponsored by UNCW’s History department, the Block & Rhine Fund for Jewish Studies in association with The American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Details: 910-962-3308.

– Amanda Greene

BRIEF: Temple of Israel plans an “Invite your neighbor” service

The Temple of Israel is planning its first Invite Your Neighbor Shabbat service at 8 p.m. on May 4 at 1 S. 4th St. The service will include explanations of Jewish prayers and customs and a “Torah Roll” (a close-up look at and explanation of the Torah scroll).

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky, courtesy StarNews file photo by Paul Stephen

“Many people are curious about Judaism and often aren’t sure if they are even allowed to enter a Temple or attend a service,” said Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky, spiritual leader of Temple of Israel, Wilmington’s reform Jewish house of worship. “Of course they are always welcome, and this is a great chance to reach out to people, both unaffiliated Jews and those who are not Jewish.”

Details: 910-762-0000.

– Amanda Greene

Vatican orders crackdown on American nuns

By DAVID GIBSON
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of America’s 55,000 Catholic nuns, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.

Rome also chided the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)

for sponsoring conferences that featured “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The Vatican’s disciplinary action against the LCWR was announced on

Pope Benedict XVI during general audition

Pope Benedict XVI during general audition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wednesday (April 18), one day before Pope Benedict XVI marked seven years as pontiff.

In many ways, the Vatican’s actions against the LCWR encapsulated the kind of hard line that many expected Benedict — the Vatican’s former doctrinal czar — to take when he was elected in 2005.

“The current doctrinal and pastoral situation of the LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious congregations in other parts of the world,” said the eight-page statement issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Benedict led for a quarter century before his election.

The directive, which follows a two-year investigation by Rome, also comes as the Vatican appeared ready to welcome a controversial right-wing splinter group of Catholic traditionalists back into the fold, possibly by giving the group a special status so that they can continue to espouse their old-line rites and beliefs.

The CDF, now led by American Cardinal William Levada, appointed Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain to lead the process of overhauling LCWR’s governance and reviewing its plans and programs and its relationship with certain groups that the Vatican finds suspect.

One of the groups singled out in the criticism is Network, a social justice lobby created by Catholic sisters 40 years ago that continues to play a leading role in pushing progressive causes on Capitol Hill.

The Vatican announcement said that “while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death.”

It added that “crucial” issues like “the church’s biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.”

Many bishops were angered when LCWR and Network, along with the Catholic Health Association, endorsed President Obama’s health care reform over the bishops’ objections. LCWR and Network recently endorsed Obama’s compromise with the bishop over a mandate to provide insurance coverage for birth control for employees at religious institutions, even as the bishops continue to fight it.

The Vatican said the LCWR defended itself in part by arguing that the group “does not knowingly invite speakers who take a stand against a teaching of the church church ‘when it has been declared as authoritative teaching.'” The LCWR also said that assertions made by speakers at LCWR conferences are not necessarily their own. The Vatican called that response “inadequate” and unsupported by the facts.

While LCWR did not respond to repeated requests for comment, Sister Simone Campbell, Network’s executive director, said she was “stunned” that the Vatican document would single out her group, probably over its support for health care reform.

“It concerns me that political differences in a democratic country would result in such a a censure and investigation,” Campbell said.

Campbell also strongly defended LCWR. “I know LCWR has faithfully-served women religious in the United States and worked hard to support the life of women religious and our service to the people of God.”

Throughout church history, and in particular in the United States, women in religious communities who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience have directed their work toward charitable and educational ministries — running schools, hospitals, orphanages and a range of social services that have become as much a hallmark of Catholicism as the moral doctrine that the bishops oversee.

Increasingly, however, the hierarchy in Rome and the U.S. is focusing on promoting doctrinal orthodoxy and curbing dissent.

Many women religious (as both sisters in active ministry and cloistered nuns are known) have viewed their ministry as primarily one of service, but some have openly disagreed with church leaders on a number of hot-button issues.

In 2009 the Vatican launched a wide-ranging investigation of all women religious in the U.S., prompted by concern over their commitment to doctrine and tradition as well as the sharp decline in vocations. The number of nuns in America has dropped from 179,954 in 1965 to just 55,000 today.

Some newer, more traditional communities are growing, though they still represent a small minority of the total number of sisters. They are represented by a parallel organization that is considered more Vatican-friendly than the LCWR.

That broader investigation, called a visitation, was seen by critics as a heavy-handed maneuver and prompted widespread resistance among U.S. nuns, which led the Vatican to recalibrate its approach. The final report on that investigation was delivered to the pope in January, and the results are expected to be announced in the coming months.

The LCWR investigation was a separate probe that was begun in 2008 and concluded in 2010. Benedict gave the CDF the go-ahead to take action against the LCWR in January 2011, more than a year ago. There was no explanation for the delay in publicly revealing the crackdown.

‘The Voice’: New Bible translation focuses on dialogue

Bruce Boling, holds a Bible open while participating in a Bible study group in Gallatin, Tenn., Sunday, April 1, 2012. RNS photo by Jeff Adkins/USA Today

By BOB SMIETANA
c. 2012 USA Today
Reprinted with permission

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) The name Jesus Christ doesn’t appear in “The Voice,” a new translation of the Bible.

Nor do words such as angel or apostle. Instead, angel is rendered as “messenger” and apostle as “emissary.” Jesus Christ is “Jesus the Anointed One” or the “liberating king.”

That’s a more accurate translation for modern American readers, said David Capes, lead scholar for “The Voice,” a complete edition released this month by publishing company Thomas Nelson. Capes says that many people, even those who’ve gone to church for years, don’t realize that the word “Christ” is a title.

“They think that Jesus is his first name and Christ is his last name,” says Capes, who teaches the New Testament at Houston Baptist University in Texas.

Seven years in the making, “The Voice” is the latest entry into the crowded field of English Bible translations.

Unlike the updated New International Version or the Common English Bible — both released last year — much of “The Voice” is formatted like a screenplay or novel. Translators cut out the “he said” and “they said” and focused on dialogue.

So in Matthew 15, when Jesus walks on the water, scaring his followers, their reaction is immediate:

Disciple: “It’s a ghost!”

Another Disciple: “A ghost? What will we do?”

Jesus: “Be still. It is I; you have nothing to fear.”

“I hope we get people to see the Bible — not as an ancient text that’s worn out — but as a story that they participate in and find their lives in,” Capes said.

The title for “The Voice” came from the New Testament Gospel of John and from the Greek word logos. It’s usually translated as “word” in verses such as John 1:1, which reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” in the New International Version, one of the most popular English translations.

In “The Voice,” that passage reads: “Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God.” Frank Couch, the executive editor and publisher of “The Voice,” said that translation better captures what logos means.

Mike Norris of Franklin Road Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., disagrees. His congregation follows the belief that the King James Bible is the most accurate translation in English. Other translations, he says, don’t stick to a word-for-word translation.

“They say the other translations are easier to read and more accurate,” he said. “We disagree.”

(Smietana also reports for The Tennessean in Nashville. Heidi Hall of The Tennessean also contributed to this story.)

 

Why Ross Douthat thinks we’re ‘a nation of heretics’

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat doesn't mince words in his new book ``Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.'' RNS photo by Josh Haner/New York Times

By DANIEL BURKE
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) New York Times columnist Ross Douthat doesn’t mince words in his new book “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.”

Since the 1960s, Douthat argues, institutional Christianity has suffered a slow-motion collapse, leaving the country without the moral core that carried it through foreign wars, economic depressions and roiling internal debates.

In its place heresies have cropped up — from the “God-within” theology of Oprah to the Mammon-obsessed missionaries of the prosperity gospel, says Douthat, a Roman Catholic.

In an interview with Religion News Service, Douthat explains his definition of heresy, why he thinks Mitt Romney and President Obama are both heretics, and why more Americans should argue about religion.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: The idea for the book came to me late in the Bush presidency, when the debate over religion in America was generally dominated by the clash between the New Atheists — Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett — and conservative Christians. In many ways, the debate over the existence of God is the most important debate there is, but I thought it would be useful to step back and consider what kind of shape American religion is taking.

Q: And what did you see?

A: In some ways, depending on what kinds of measurements you use — such as belief in God or spiritual experiences — the country might be more religious than ever. But that doesn’t mean that there are more traditional, orthodox Christians. Instead you have heresy: religions that draw on Christianity and yet are still miles away from the historic core of the Christian faith.

Q: How do you define heresy?

A: Looking at Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox Christians, there is an intellectual core in the Christian faith. Sometimes that core gets blurry in various places, but you have the Nicene Creed, the belief that the Bible is the inspired word of God, that the four Gospels are the best sources of information about Jesus of Nazareth. There are a lot of religious movements and ideas that diverge from that core enough to be heretical but not to be a different religion entirely.

All of this is totally debatable, and people can look at the same landscape and disagree about who a heretic is. But the term is still quite useful in describing the reality of a country that is neither traditionally Christian nor post-Christian in any meaningful way. We are in a zone between those two things.

Q: You’re not going to start another Inquisition are you?

A: (Laughs) Well, controversy is good for book sales. Obviously the hunt for heretics has a long and horrible history. An orthodoxy that doesn’t leave any room for heresy is dangerous and destructive; and a world that is all heresy and leaves no room for orthodoxy is dangerous as well. But I don’t see any particular danger in using the term to describe America today.

Q: I’ve read that you think both Mitt Romney and President Obama are heretics.

A: A lot of evangelicals and conservative Catholics will say straight out that they don’t think Mormons are Christians. If you flip that around, you find that Mormons themselves think that all evangelicals and Catholics are in a state of apostasy, that Mormons have the true Christianity. It can be an endless and pointless argument. They both claim ownership of the same religious tradition.

Q: What makes Obama a heretic in your view?

A: Obama’s personal religious beliefs are a little more opaque than Romney’s. He’s not part of a church or specific denomination. But the church (Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago) where he basically converted, or reconverted, back from agnosticism, is a church whose theology diverges and stands in judgment over the traditional Christian churches. The theology of Jeremiah Wright’s sermons is radical — and that’s the whole point. Black liberation theology is much more explicitly political and revolutionary than traditional Christianity.

Q: But is it heretical?

A: I think using the word just clarifies the distance — the very real theological distinctions — between Jeremiah Wright’s vision of Christianity and what a lot of traditional churches consider Christianity.

Q: Even if heretics are no longer burned at the stake, it seems that many Americans have an aversion to labeling others heretical, no?

A: And I would disagree with that very strongly. The promise of a liberal society is that we agree to a kind of truce where nobody will impose their religion on anyone else and the government will not set up an established church, or the Spanish Inquisition. But part of religious freedom is the freedom to have arguments about religious beliefs. People who take religion seriously should have serious public arguments.

Q: You quote Philip Rieff’s idea of a modern prophet who denounces the rise of a therapeutic, ego-driven faith. Do you see yourself in that role?

A: (Laughs) I don’t think I’m comfortable calling myself a prophet. I’m more comfortable calling myself a critic. Even though I use pretty strong language to criticize trends in contemporary theology, I also want to get at what it is about “Eat Pray Love,” for example, that so many people respond to. It’s very easy to be mocking and dismissive from a more highbrow perspective. But there is a coherent theological core at the heart of the prosperity gospel and the “God-within” schools, and I take them seriously.

Q: Why do you say this book was written in a spirit of pessimism?

A: As a practicing Catholic, I have an obvious bias in favor of institutional religion. But if you look at Christian history, the belief that everyone can follow Jesus on their own is not a particularly realistic approach to religious faith. It is a faith best practiced in community with doctrine passed down through generations. What makes me pessimistic is that all the trends in contemporary American life are toward deinstitutionalization, not just in religion but across the board.

Duke Energy CEO stands against marriage amendment while N.C. bishops re-state their position for it

By AMANDA GREENE
Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com

In front of hundreds at a Charlotte country club on April 13, Duke Energy’s CEO made a personal statement against a proposed amendment to the N.C. constitution that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Such unions are already illegal in the state, and the issue will be put to a vote on May 8.

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers compared the amendment to the Jim Crow laws in the South and said the law would be viewed in a negative light within the next decade.

Rogers is one of several high ranking North Carolina business and community officials to publicly denounce Amendment One including Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx.

On the opposite side of the debate, bishops of the Diocese of Raleigh and the Diocese of Charlotte recently issued statements re-affirming their position for the amendment.

“The public debate on the marriage amendment in our state is generating a substantial amount of misinformation on what the amendment truly means and is intended to do,” said Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh. “Contrary to the claims of those opposed, the marriage amendment: Does not prohibit businesses from providing benefits to same-sex couples. Does not change the law on domestic violence programs. Does not impact existing child custody laws or arrangements. Does not invalidate trusts, wills and end-of-life directives in which an unmarried partner is a beneficiary and/or is entrusted with the care of a loved one. Does not negatively impact employment opportunities in our state. Does not relegate same-sex couples to second-class citizen status. Does not prohibit same-sex couples from any rights or benefits that may be granted by local governments or the UNC System, if they choose to do so by changing the basis upon which benefits are offered.

While the amendment does not allow civil unions or domestic partnerships to be legally binding entities, it does allow same-sex couples and others to enter into, and enforce, private legal agreements.”

Pope turns 85 amid speculation of resignation

Pope Benedict XVI leaves Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24. RNS photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

By ALESSANDRO SPECIALE
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI turned 85 on Monday (April 16) amid renewed speculation about his declining health and possible resignation.

The German-born pope has appeared tired and fatigued in recent months and admitted at a morning Mass to being in “the final leg of the path of my life.” But on Sunday, he signaled his resolve to carry on with his duties as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, asking the faithful to pray that he have the “strength” to “fulfill his mission.”

This week will mark a double milestone for Benedict, with Thursday being the seventh anniversary of his election as pope.

Last October, Benedict started using a movable platform to carry him down the central aisle in St. Peter’s Basilica, and he leaned on a cane before boarding the plane for a recent weeklong trip to Cuba and Mexico. He his now the sixth-oldest pope since at least the 1400s; the oldest, Pope Leo XIII, died in 1903 at age 93.

Talk of possible resignation has been swirling around the pope ever since his 2010 book, “Light of the World,” in which he said that if a pope felt “no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of carrying out the duties of his office,” he would have “the right, and in some circumstances the obligation, to resign.”

Last month, prominent Italian journalists who are considered Benedict loyalists openly suggested that the pope might resign in the near future, adding new fuel to the rumor mill.

Still, despite sounding hoarse during the intense liturgical schedule of Holy Week, the pope has not canceled any appointments.

Celebrating Mass with a delegation from his native Bavaria on Monday, an emotional Benedict said he was sure God would help him “proceed safely” despite having entered “the final leg of the path of my life.”

“I don’t know what the future holds for me but I know that … God’s good is stronger than all the evil in this world,” he confided.

He later attended a small Bavarian-style festival in the Vatican. Benedict joined bishops and leaders from his native region in singing the Bavarian national hymn and watched as children performed a traditional dance. Benedict was joined by his older brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, who flew in last weekend from Germany.

Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, died in 2005 at age 84 after years of failing health. After his death, it was revealed John Paul considered resigning twice, on his 75th and 80th birthdays, but decided to continue serving “as long as (Jesus), in the mysterious designs of his providence, will want.”

 

 

BRIEF: Wrightsville Beach priest to receive statewide service award

Father Joe Vetter, a longtime North Carolina Council of Churches board member and current pastor at St. Therese Catholic Church in Wrightsville Beach, will receive the Council’s Distinguished Service Award during  the 2012 Critical Issues Seminar on April 19 in Winston-Salem.

“Joe Vetter has been an important leader within the NC Council of Churches for decades,” said Council Executive Director George Reed in a press release. “He has served as an articulate ambassador for the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, an influential liaison between the Council and Bishops Joe Gossman and Michael Burbidge, a strong voice for dialogue and understanding among Catholics and Protestants, a keen observer of the religious landscape in North Carolina, and an effective advocate for peace and justice and for the common good.”

The Distinguished Service Award honors those whose work reflects their commitment to social justice and ecumenism.

A Greensboro native, Vetter has served parishes in Cary, Siler City, Raleigh and Southport and has been a campus minister at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. He was editor of “The North Carolina Catholic” newspaper, and has served the Diocese as Director of Family Life, Director of Communications, Vicar for Priests, Vicar for Religious and Chancellor/Moderator of the Curia. He serves on the Board of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation.

The award presentation is during the seminar, Eating Well: For Ourselves, for Our Neighbors, for Our Planet, which will explore food as a faith and social justice issue. Topics include the economics of hunger in the midst of plenty, food and water insecurity and peace, buying local, food and spirituality, issues of climate change and personal health.

– Amanda Greene

Poll shows Christianity good for the poor, bad for sex

By ANNALISA MUSARRA
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

WASHINGTON (RNS)Americans feel the “Christian faith” has a positive

Sex & Religion

Sex & Religion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

impact on help for the poor and raising children with good morals, according to a new poll, but it gets a bad rap on its impact on sexuality in society.

In a new study conducted by Grey Matter Research, more than 1,000 American adults were asked if the Christian faith had a positive, negative, or no real impact on 16 different areas of society, such as crime, poverty and the role of women in society.

Strong majorities (72 percent) said Christianity is good for helping the poor and for raising children with good morals. Around half (52 percent) said Christianity helps keep the U.S. as a “strong nation,” and nearly as many (49 percent) said the faith had a positive impact on the role of women in society.

Although Christianity has been criticized for its traditional views on abortion, contraception and gender roles, “Americans aren’t buying into it,” said Ron Sellers, president of the Arizona-based Grey Matter Research.

Sellers said he wasn’t surprised that Americans hold their most negative perception for how Christianity impacts sexuality: 37 percent felt there was a negative impact, compared to only 26 percent who felt it was positive.

In six of the 16 areas, sizable numbers of Americans said Christianity had little or no impact, including the environment, business ethics, civility and substance abuse. Americans were roughly split, at about one-third each, on Christianity’s impact on racism.

“What’s real concerning to me, from the perspective of a religious leader,” Sellers said, “is when people say, ‘Eh, it hasn’t had a real impact.'”

The total sample of 1,011 adults selected at random from all 50 states had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

St. Mary Catholic Church turning 100, readying itself for basilica status

The domes of St. Mary Parish. Photo courtesy of St. Mary.

By AMANDA GREENE
WilmingtonFAVS.com
Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com

St. Mary Catholic Church in Wilmington is many marvels.

It’s an artistic marvel. The church’s domes of brick and stone dedicated in 1912 use no steel or wood beams and no nails.

Its ministry to the poor, St. Mary Tileston Outreach, serves about 9,000 people a year. Its newer dental clinic serves hundreds.

“I’ve been here just under six years, and St. Mary is very well known in the community, and the poor know us as well,” said Father Bob Kus, St. Mary’s priest.

And without much parking in its Fifth Avenue neighborhood, the church welcomes thousands each weekend to six services. The church has about 6,000 members.

Today, the parish welcomes immigrants from every continent except Antarctica. It has the first Hispanic affiliate of the Maryknoll Society in the United States.

In January, the church opened a medical clinic near its sister parish in

Altar servers in Reitoca. Photo courtesy St. Mary Parish.

Reitoca, Honduras. On its first day, the clinic served 280 area villagers, said Father Kus.

And this week, St. Mary is celebrating another major milestone – its centennial – with a special Mass at 6 p.m. Friday (April 13) at the church on the corner of Fifth and Ann streets. Bishop Michael Burbidge of the diocese of Raleigh will officiate the Mass.

A mother church for Catholics in the eastern part of North Carolina, St. Mary was dedicated as St. Mary Pro-Cathedral in 1912 and returned to being St. Mary Church in 1925, when the Diocese of Raleigh was established.

Viewed as a sacred place of contemplation, the church was deemed a shrine in the Diocese of Raleigh in 2005.

And soon it will become a basilica, the second in North Carolina. Father Kus recently received word that one of two Vatican congregations (institutes) have already approved St. Mary’s basilica documents.

“And I’m told the other approval won’t be long at all,” he said. “But that will require a name change so we’ll have a separate celebration for that.”

Amanda Greene: 910-520-3958
On Twitter @WilmFAVS