Tuesday, January 21

Bishop complains about Israeli government treatment of Catholic clergy and seminarians

Israel's practice of denying entry visas and work permits for Catholic clergy, religious and lay people appears to be an infringement on religious liberty, a U.S. bishop says. In a letter to the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Bishop John Ricard, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Policy, said that the denial of entry visas and work permits for clergy and seminarians affiliated with the Latin-rite Patriarchate of Jerusalem violates the spirit of a 1993 agreement between Israel and the Holy See. "Extensive restrictions of this sort would appear to amount to a practical infringement of religious liberty," Bishop Ricard told Ambassador Daniel Ayalon. "Two-thirds of the patriarchate's seminarians come from outside Israel," he stated. "To prevent their study at the patriarchal seminary would prevent the normal functioning of one of the patriarchate's principal institutions."

Archbishop of Tours isn't afraid of Muslims:

"No!" Vingt-Trois replied forcefully, "I am not afraid of them." What troubles him more at this point is the "barbaric state" of the French students and young professionals, the heirs of the 1960s generation, "which has renounced all norms for life."

Vingt-Trois, who chairs the French Bishops Conference's Commission for the Family, sees "a profound anthropological crisis" in his country, a crisis caused by post-modernity's moral relativism.

"For this mistaken generation all acts are equal," he said. In other words, there is no qualitative difference between moral or immoral behavior.

"In reality, these young people have had no parents. To be sure, they have had biological fathers and mothers, who fed them. But they did not educate their children. Hence, we have a generation of young know-nothings, not just in matters of faith but in every other respect as well."

The archbishop, who at 60 is thought of as relatively young and one of the best brains in the French Catholic hierarchy, rates these "barbarian youths" the latest catastrophe coming out of the 17th- and 18th-century Enlightenment and its ideology of the absolute supremacy of anthropology.

....Rather than worry about Muslim immigrants, most of whom aren't fundamentalists anyway, the French society should endeavor to overcome "the horror of the autonomy of man," Vingt-Trois said.

He listed the bitter fruits of the Enlightenment, fruits that were anything but Christian: "There was the anti-Semitism of Voltaire, who was not a Christian. There was the anti-Semitism of the Nazis, who were pagans and Gnostics. Nobody talks about that. Nobody likes to admit that Nazism and Marxism were both children of the Enlightenment -- children that killed 60 million human beings in 20th-century Europe.

To the archbishop this was an "explosion of horror."

By comparison, the mass immigration of Muslims, mainly from France's former colonies, is less worrisome. "We do have a religious supermarket in which Islam is well placed, but less well than Buddhism." What makes both faiths attractive to many is that they have clearly defined practices.

"There is a great paradox here. Many in France who have rejected Christianity because of the obligations it imposes on the believer find it perfectly natural that Islam has even stricter rules."

Over at The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru mentions the sad figure of 40 million unborn lives lost in the wake of Roe v. Wade, making the point that it might not be entirely accurate to suggest that there would be 40 million more people here if abortion were not legal. His view might be hard to understand - that there would be fewer unintended pregnancies if abortion weren't legal.

Well, as odd as it sounds, some research backs him up. Very important is the work of pro-choice sociologist Kristen Luker who wrote a book twenty-five years ago called Taking Chances: Abortion and the Decision Not to Contracept in which she described the mindset she discovered in her research: having the knowledge of easy access to abortion was a factor in less vigilance in contracepting.

As you can see from the left, I'm back in the reading business. Not that I ever should have been out of it, considering that every other room in our house is floor-to-ceiling books. But the thing is, I've read most of those I'm interested in, and I keep hearing about new books I just have to read..and the library's been closed for about a month now. So, after I read McEwan's Atonement, I was fresh out of luck.

Why did the library close? Because they moved it. Moved the whole thing - they're doing a massive, three-year renovation, and in order to accomodate the work, they had to move the whole downtown main library - to an empty office building a few blocks away.

Yeah, the branches were open, but most of them - especially those in our part of town - just don't have what the main library has. Last week, I went to the branch in Fabulous Waynedale while Katie was at her dance lesson in Fabulous Wayndale, and I swear the fiction ran all the way from Robin Cook to Belva Plain. It was impressive.

So they got the main library moved and opened yesterday. And the news is - the temporary digs are better than the old digs! Why? Because they have more space, and therefore more room to put more books on the shelves, rather than stashing them in storage. (It was quite a system to get them. You wrote the title and location of the book on a slip of paper and went to a dumb waiter in the main lobby. You put the paper in the dumb waiter, pushed a red button that rang a bell, closed the doors to the dumb waiter, then pushed another button to get thing moving. Believe it or not, once this was accomplished, the wait for the books wasn't more than five minutes or so in my experience. I always wondered what the storage area looked like, and more than that what the Storage Elves looked like.)

This will be especially good for Katie, since the childrens' section seemed to have every book published before 1985 in storage. All the Oz books except the first couple, for example. The All-of-a-Kind-Family books. The Children of Green Knowe books. Don't what I'm talking about? Get a kid. You will.

So I used precious babysitter time (having Joseph yelling to be let down in the library is bad enough. Having him yelling when I don't know where I'm going is worse) and fetched some books - those on the left, plus another by Marly Youmans, who wrote Catherwood, a book called The Wolf Pit, which won some award for best Civil War fiction last year.

I'm glad the library reopened. I was worried about what the homeless people were going to do in the cold - and no, that's not sarcastic. I was.

Last week, the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced the appointment of four "Directors of Pastoral Life" for parishes - 1 deacon, 2 sisters and 1 married lay woman, along with the appointment of three priest pastors. The appointment of the lay woman, in particular, generated much discussion, particularly among bloggers and others who sniped that the Archdiocese has 449 priests and 162 parishes - how can you say this move was necessary?

Today, the Communications director of the Archdiocese generously sent me a copy of the letter they're sending out to inquiries on this score. It reads in part:

Having received a number of very similar emails, each mentioning a total of 449 priests in the Archdiocese of Baltimore available for 162 parishes, it seems that incorrect – or, at best, misleading – information concerning our situation has been posted on the Internet.

We wish that this were true. Obviously, if we had 449 priests available for parish service, staffing would not be a challenge. In reality, however, we project that 174 priests will be available in two years for active service in our 162 parishes – as Pastors, Associate Pastors, and Senior Priests nearing retirement.

It is true that, in addition to our archdiocesan priests, there are a number of religious priests residing here – in fact, religious priests account for more than half of the 449 total cited above. However, the vast majority of these men are not available for parish service, working at universities, seminaries, high schools and other institutions run by their orders. As in other dioceses, we have religious communities assuming responsibility for as many parishes as they are willing and able to accept. But they, too, are facing declining numbers, and we have had religious communities pull out of several parishes in recent years.

.....This week’s announcement is one step in fulfilling our promise that every parish is well cared for with effective spiritual and administrative leaders – ensuring that the worship experience on Sunday is all it can be, with a priest who is a presence in each parish. It is important to note that parishes with Pastoral Life Directors also will be assigned sacramental ministers – priests who will be responsible for their sacramental life and worship. Additionally, each parish has a priest who is canonical Pastor.

It remains our goal to have priest as full-time Pastor in each parish. We have stepped up our vocation recruiting effort, and urge you to pray for vocations – as well as to ask family members to consider whether they are being called to the priesthood. However, Pastoral Life Directors have served well in leading 4 parishes here – as well as in approximately 600 parishes across the nation

Hope that clears things up and calms things down.

Dalai Lama lets monks cover up

Severe, icy wind made the air feel much colder than the recorded temperature of 1°C at Sarnath, the traditional northern India site of the Buddha's first teaching, and the Dalai Lama told followers to cover their heads.Tibetan monks normally don't do that. A cold wave has killed more than 1 600 people across South Asia, with more than half of them dying in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where Sarnath is located.When the Dalai Lama saw shivering monks bundled up in maroon and saffron robes, sitting on mats for an outdoor ceremonial prayer, he urged common sense over tradition."It's too cold here, cover yourselves properly," the Tibetan Buddhist leader told about 200 monks at the Dhamekha Stupa, where the Buddha is said to have taught the principles of the religion he founded.

The Mother of All Rights:

Roe v. Wade anniversaries make me think of the last scene in "Schindler's List," the film about Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who saved a small number of Jews during World War II. The final scene features actual Schindler survivors with their children and grandchildren, lining up to place stones on his grave in Israel. What makes the scene so powerful is not just the surprising number of progeny already produced by the Holocaust escapees, but the staggering number of men, women and children who aren't there, who never had a chance of life because the Nazis gassed those who would have been their parents and grandparents.

When Roe comes up, it has Schindler-like reverberations in my own family. The fact is, my husband and I, our four children, his three siblings, and their combined eight children all owe our lives to the fact that the famous Supreme Court decision did not come until 1973 (and its British equivalent until 1967). For all 17 of us are descended from two unwanted pregnancies -- two pregnancies that produced two hasty marriages, some happiness, rather more sadness, and, eventually, two divorces. And I have to say, boy am I glad that those pregnancies -- dismaying and unexpected as they were, entailing the compromises that they did for those involved -- weren't tidied up in a clinic so that the young mothers in question could "get on with their lives." You, gentle reader, would have been deprived of nothing more than my editorial voice. I, and 16 kinsfolk, would have been robbed of everything.

From CT:

Sarah Hinckley stresses about religious jewelry:

Why was I wearing a cross? Was it to advertise my Christianity? Was it the only way anyone would know me as a Christian? Could my faith not mark me as strongly as a piece of pretty metal? And on and on—the inner vortex of a self-conscious Christian can be as sinfully ignorant of God's grace as the external veneer of righteousness. At any rate, I quit wearing any kind of religious jewelry at all.

The rightness or wrongness of my sudden conviction aside, the wearing of a cross as decoration bears some reflection. Its origin was a hideous instrument of state-sponsored execution. It killed not by the wounds it inflicted on wrists and feet but by thirst, suffocation, and heart failure. When these means took too long, the criminal's legs were crushed with an iron club in order to hasten death, a technique called crurifragium. The cross was not a tool for hasty and efficient elimination of unwanted specimens; it was a device of premeditated intimidation.

Political and religious zealots, pirates, slaves, and sub-citizens were its most frequent victims. The Romans regularly crucified the paterfamilias of a significant enemy clan with his whole family gathered to watch. In 88 B.C., the Judean king and high priest Alexander Jannaeus crucified 800 Pharisees who opposed him. A hundred years before the death of Jesus, 6,000 slaves were crucified along the Appian Way after Spartacus's rebellion. For nearly a thousand years, crucifixion was a favored form of death-by-torture until it was outlawed by the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great, in A.D. 337 out of respect for the crucified Christ. And we give miniatures of the cross to preteen girls?

Abuse panel to look at causes.

German historian takes a controversial look at the impact of Allied firebombing on the German population

Interest has been building for some time. In a series of lectures in 1997, author W.G. Sebald criticized his fellow novelists for ignoring the topic of German suffering, and in 2002 Nobel Laureate Gnter Grass responded with a short novel about the Red Army's massacre of German refugees in the waning days of the war. But the person most responsible for the revival of suppressed memory is Jrg Friedrich, an independent historian who previously specialized in the Holocaust.

His book, "The Fire: Germany Under Bombardment, 1940-45," which has been on the bestseller lists since last November, is both painstaking and painfully detailed. It catalogues, city by city, raid by raid, the razing of Germany, recording every lost architectural masterpiece, every percentage of living space destroyed, every death toll. It also depicts the human cost of the firestorm: piles of suffocated victims in bunkers, incinerated corpses shrivelled to the size of hand luggage, children boiled alive in water used to extinguish burning houses.

Most controversially, "The Fire" uses a vocabulary previously reserved for Nazi war crimes to characterize the strategy of indiscriminate area bombing that was developed by Arthur T. Harris, commander in chief of the RAF Bomber Command, and endorsed by Churchill. While the book does not explicitly call Sir Winston a barbarian, it characterizes the deeds he authorized as "massacres, "acts of terror," and "campaigns of mass extermination."

Born in 1944, Friedrich is a jovial, aging left-winger who holds interviews in, of all places, a British tea room on Berlin's Kurfrstdamm, a posh boulevard almost completely destroyed in World War II. When the conversation turns to the raids, he becomes deadly serious. The idea for the book, he says, evolved from his work on the Holocaust, which led him to examine the Nazi war-crimes trials. "One of the military commanders accused of civilian massacres in the Ukraine asked the question, 'What's the difference between lining people up against a wall and dropping bombs on them?' I tried to find an answer and couldn't, other than the fact that the one killing took place horizontally, and the other vertically."

Predictably, the British aren't amused at the implications of such words for the man recently voted the greatest Briton of all time. The conservative Daily Telegraph reviewed "The Fire" under the headline "Germans Call Churchill a War Criminal," and the book has elicited criticism in liberal papers like The Guardian as well. German historians like Hans-Ulrich Wehler have also taken Friedrich to task for emotionalizing the issue and focusing on the gory details instead of on the larger context. The wholesale destruction of cities, they point out, was a staple of military theorizing in the late 1930s, and was first practiced by the German Luftwaffe in Spain, Poland, and Holland. In the wake of the evacuation of British ground troops from the Continent at Dunkirk, the RAF was Britain's only means of attacking the German war machine, yet precision raids suffered high losses and rarely hit the intended military targets. (The only casualty of the first precision air raid on Berlin, for instance, was a suburban woodshed.) The advantage of indiscriminate area bombing was that you were bound to destroy something, and it was hoped that if ordinary Germans took enough of a pounding, they would rebel against the government that had initiated the war.

Canadian Anglican bishop has just about had it with "dissenters"

who oppose church-sanctioned same-sex unions.


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