Friday, August 20, 2004

Religious News Roundup for August 20

In all our time publishing these Roundups (okay, the past week or three), we've never seen so many news items. Don't worry, this won't take as long to read as the Sunday Times.

Perhaps it's fitting to have plenty of links today, because RNR won't be around next Monday and Wednesday at least, possibly not Friday either. Between retreats and wanting to see Joe Hoeffel when he comes through town, we're going to be pretty busy.

Today's categories:

Catholic News

Let's start with the obvious: Pres. Bush's chief of Catholic Outreach, Deal Hudson, has had to resign after the National Catholic Reporter broke the story of Hudson's sexual misconduct at Fordham University. The Revealer, as always, puts the issue in its proper political context. The NYT article that really ignited the fireworks here, Hudson's pre-emptive strike in the NRO here, and Jeanne D'Arc at Body & Soul getting wicked indignant (and deservedly so) here. For our money, the best commentary on the issue so far has been Amy Welborn's discussions here and here, which ask a couple of interrelated questions: is it justified to hold public figures, in particular Catholic public figures, to a higher standard of morality than we might achieve in our private lives? And if so, what are the political dimensions of such a standard, and what are the purely moral? This provokes some thoughts of our own, but we'll save them for a later post.

Believe it or not, that's not the only Catholic story worth reporting, though. The latest round of sexual abuse audits begins, with some new methodology designed to track the effectiveness of the prevention programs. A federal court is considering a lawsuit concerning Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination, which I assume will intrigue Kos. The papal deathwatch continues, and in what might be described as a "Catholic-lite" story, the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles is fighting back against two congregations threatening to leave the bishop's oversight in favor of a more conservative African bishop.

For those of you who don't quite understand the technicalities here, in the Episcopal church (as in the Catholic and Methodist systems), it's the diocese/conference that owns the church buildings, and ministers serve at the bishop's pleasure. That gives them quite a bit more leeway in responding to such situations that a congregational polity would enjoy.

Church and State

Jerry Boykin is getting the smackdown he deserves, though punishment has yet to be decided. As one blogger noted, he apparently got some lousy advice from the JAG corps, which ruled his uniformed pro-Christian speeches appropriate.

More information is emerging on the South Carolina city council meeting that opened with explicitly Christian prayer. Turns out the lawsuit was brought by a Wiccan, who at first put up with the prayers, then asked politely that the prayers be more inclusive, and finally filed suit only after it became apparent that the prayers were becoming part of an on-going campaign to punish her for her non-conformity.

The San Francisco Chronicle (via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) looks at how the Bush administration's Faith-Based Initiative has slipped off the radar screen and into quiet executive activism.

A Maryland prison has adopted The Purpose-Driven Life as part of its rehabilitation program, which RNR takes a sign of tackiness above and beyond the First Amendment issues.

Religion and Politics

There's a pretty good article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about a recent Bush rally in St. Paul. Don't miss the Romanian couple confused by the impromptu crosses whipped up by local drug-rehab clients. Also, please note that Ricky Skaggs is apparently one of the musicians playing for the Bush campaign. With competition like that, I don't think we have much to worry about on the cultural front.

The LATimes is reporting that all may not be well with the Christian right and the upcoming RNC, despite their chipper assertions to the contrary. Meanwhile, Amy Sullivan has some friendly advice to the Kerry campaign. Namely, return phone calls from reporters working the "religion and politics" angle. While she's got a certain point, RNR wonders when she's going to get off it and move on to another one.

Peace and Justice

The Revealer doesn't think much about a Salon report from the Imam Ali shrine, but it does pass along a choice quote from Shiites gathered inside the mosque: "Why does America hate poor people so much?" It's a reminder that religion is often the only outlet of the poor and oppressed.

Swami Uptown has some great lyrics to pass on:

Did you hear 'em talkin' 'bout it on the radio
Did you try to read the writing on the wall
Did that voice inside you say I've heard it all before
It's like Deja Vu all over again

Day by day I hear the voices rising
Started with a whisper like it did before
Day by day we count the dead and dying
Ship the bodies home while the networks all keep score

Did you hear 'em talkin' 'bout it on the radio
Could your eyes believe the writing on the wall
Did that voice inside you say I've heard it all before
It's like Deja Vu all over again

One by one I see the old ghosts rising
Stumblin' 'cross Big Muddy
Where the light gets dim
Day after day another Momma's crying

She's lost her precious child
To a war that has no end
Did you hear 'em talkin' 'bout it on the radio
Did you stop to read the writing at The Wall

Did that voice inside you say
I've seen this all before
It's like Deja Vu all over again
It's like Deja Vu all over again

--John Fogerty, "Deja Vu All Over Again," from his new CD, "Premonition" (out August 30)

Nice to Know

The BBC has an excellent story on a bear in Washington state who ripped off some campers of 36 bottles of beer.

Perhaps he was inspired by this piece from Ecumenical News Int'l:

Sachsenhagen, Germany (ENI). Each week in the summertime, Pastor Josef Kalkusch orders 100 litres of beer, 30 cakes and inordinate amounts of coffee. That is because each Sunday during July and August "after the Sunday service of course", he opens the "heavenly beer garden" beneath a 130-year-old oak tree in the Sachsenhagen churchyard. He thinks it's the only church-run beer garden in northern Germany, but since so many visitors enjoy the place he hopes there are others.

Now if you'll excuse us, RNR needs to go set some bear traps around its fridge. No ding-dang bear gonna get our Yuengling, tell you what...


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