Sunday, August 25

I still haven't seen Signs,, but I'll throw Stephen Holden's NYTimes (LRR) critique of the film's spirituality your way, anyway.

The exploitation of magical thinking in mass entertainment — the "touched by an angel" syndrome — triggers an almost allergic reaction in me. It strikes me as a sentimental palliative that encourages people to wallow in passivity and wait for miracles instead of doing for themselves. As much as I admired the craft behind the whopper ending of "The Sixth Sense," that movie left me feeling manipulated by a spiritual huckster. And so does "Signs."

An interesting look at the neo-Pentecostal movement in Black churches:

Scholars who study the African-American church consider neo-Pentecostalism and the rise of the black megachurch to be the most significant trends in the past two decades.Although there are no official statistics, historian Vinson Synan said a conservative estimate is that a third of mainline black churches - Baptist and Methodist - have embraced neo-Pentecostalism; that's about 5 million people. Perhaps more significant is that nearly all the African-American megachurches (those with more than 2,000 members) are neo-Pentecostal, including Bethel AME, Empowerment Temple AME, and New Psalmist, New Shiloh and Mount Pleasant Baptist churches in Baltimore. But the success of neo-Pentecostalism has prompted debate about the nature and mission of the black church. On one side are the longtime heroes of the civil rights movement, who express grave concerns that church-based social activism is being cast aside by the new emphasis on entertaining worship services, which they deride as "shake and bake," and by the creation of a cult of celebrity preachers.... There is hesitation among the generation of neo-Pentecostal ministers to directly criticize men they consider their elders, for whom they profess respect and admiration. But the ministers also offer no apologies for their approach. "When social action became the emphasis, the church lost its balance," said the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the city's oldest and largest black church. "Now, what the principles of this movement have done is to help us regain the balance between spirituality and social action."

At last, at last:

Here's Rod Dreher's WSJ piece online

An accused Cleveland-area priest fights back

In an April 8 letter to his staff and congregation, Lieberth announced his leave and acknowledged an "isolated incident" involving a 17-year-old boy. He said he apologized to the youth and his parents for "violating their confidence" and received the parents' forgiveness. He went through multiple psychological assessments before continuing a ministry that eventually brought him to Holy Family. In a recent interview, Lieberth's brother said the priest had acknowledged a "spontaneous" and "unplanned" incident with the teen on their trip. But, as Rev. Lieberth wrote in a July 22 letter to his staff, he has denied committing any sexual abuse of a minor, as the Dallas charter defines such behavior. Reading from the charter, Lieberth's brother said sexual abuse is defined as "contacts or interaction . . . when a child is being used as an object of sexual gratification for the adult." "Father Joe denies that his behavior meets that test," David Lieberth said.

So....now. Before we get all upset about the unjustly accused priests gamely fighting back, let's take a close look at this story, in particular.

It involves a priest who has been accused by two men of making sexual advances of various sorts...while they were on driving trips out to the West with him. In one of the incidents, the priest has admitted that something occurred, but that it doesn't meet the standard of "abuse" defined by the bishops. The other accuser has very specific accusations, which the priest denies.

The truth of it is murky, and the priest deserves fair treatment, but doesn't it seems as if something is strange here? Taking kids on long driving trips? Why?

Theologians re-thinking the whole "giving scandal" thing

But since the revelations that some bishops routinely failed to inform the public or prosecutors that some priests were molesting minors, Catholic theologians and ethicists are rethinking the priority the church has attached to protecting rank-and-file Catholics from the dark secrets of their church.''Clearly, this disaster was shaped, in part, by a misplaced preoccupation with institutional repute,'' said Julia A. Fleming, an associate professor of theology at Creighton University, a Jesuit school in Nebraska. ''As is often true in such cases, attempts at damage control eventually compromised the most basic form of reputation - the reputation for decency.''

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