Philocrites : Scrapbook : March 2006 Archive

Friday, March 31, 2006

Ecumenical leader: Media favor dangerous, false religion

Quoted 03.31.06:

"Mainline Protestant and Orthodox churches have been pounded into irrelevancy by the media machine of a false religion," [said the president of the National Council of Churches, the Rev. Michael Livingston]. He described what passes as religion to be, "a political philosophy masquerading as gospel; an economic principle wrapped in religious rhetoric and painted red, white and blue."

National Council of Churches 3.28.06

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Hard truths for Dems: It's the culture, stupid

Quoted 03.30.06:

Looking at the data from 1992 to 2004, Shellenberger and Nordhaus found a country whose citizens are increasingly authoritarian while at the same time feeling evermore adrift, isolated, and nihilistic. They found a society at once more libertine and more puritanical than in the past, a society where solidarity among citizens was deteriorating, and, most worrisomely to them, a progressive clock that seemed to be unwinding backward on broad questions of social equity.

Garance Franke-Ruta, American Prospect 2.5.06

Court: Gay couples must live in Mass. to marry

Quoted 03.30.06:

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in a challenge to a 1913 state law that forbids nonresidents from marrying in Massachusetts if their marriage would not be recognized in their home state.

Jay Lindsay [AP], Boston.com 3.30.06; Globe coverage 3.31.06, reg req'd

Forrest Church at Beliefnet today: There's no hell

Quoted 03.30.06:

For all my many failings, the day I wake up dead I won’t be in a cattle car on the fast train to Satan's fiery pit. Nor will you. And neither will Old Scratch himself. If he actually exists, the devil too will be saved. In the good news of universalism, God is a loving God who will not rest until the entire creation is redeemed. All creatures will be saved. There is no hell.

Forrest Church, Beliefnet 3.30.06

Employers ask interns to check out applicants' Facebook profiles

Quoted 03.30.06:

Many college students assume employers can't see their postings on Facebook.com because online profiles are available only to people with college or university e-mail accounts. But employers can work around that impediment. Rebecca Flynn, a senior at Northeastern, said she interned for a company that asked her to check out co-op applicants' profiles on Facebook.com.

"They would get resumes from a kid and I would go on Facebook.com for them," said Flynn, 22. "I've been really careful about not putting anything inappropriate on that site."

Diane E. Lewis, Boston Globe 3.30.06, reg req'd

CS Monitor reporter Jill Carroll freed

Quoted 03.30.06:

Jill CarrollKidnapped U.S. reporter Jill Carroll has been released after nearly three months in captivity, Iraq police and the leader of the Islamic Party said Thursday. She was reported in good condition. . . .

"She was released this morning, she's talked to her father and she's fine," said David Cook, Washington bureau chief of The Christian Science Monitor.

Mariam Fam [AP], Boston.com 3.30.06; more from Media Nation; Monitor updates; Monitor coverage; Globe coverage (3.31.06); Carroll says propaganda film was coerced (4.2.06)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Committee chair complains about Bush's faith pork

Quoted 03.29.06:

It is increasingly clear that only a handful of people in the administration view the [faith-based initiatives] program as anything other than a political tool to attract support from black religious leaders and to mollify the party's evangelical base. And now, even the program's most enthusiastic supporter on the Hill has pronounced it a sham. . . .

"This has gone political," [Rep. Mark] Souder charged . . . "Quite frankly, part of the reason it went political is because we can't sell it unless we can show some Republicans a political advantage to it, because it's not our base." That's a serious charge—that congressional Republicans are unwilling to increase funds for social services because the recipients of those funds might be organizations in urban, Democratic districts. But Souder's claim is backed by some enormously credible witnesses.

Amy Sullivan, New Republic 4.3.06, sub req'd

Paranoid Christian Association meets, complains about powerlessness

Quoted 03.29.06:

Among the conference's speakers were former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) as well as conservative Christian leaders Phyllis Schlafly, Rod Parsley, Gary Bauer, Janet Parshall and Alan Keyes.

Alan Cooperman, Washington Post 3.29.06, reg req'd

Monday, March 27, 2006

UCC: Why aren't mainline church leaders on TV?

Quoted 03.27.06:

"What do James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Richard Land and Gary Bauer have in common?" asked [UCC communications director Robert] Chase at a press conference in Cleveland. "Together, they have racked up 36 appearances on the Sunday news talk shows, including Meet the Press and Face the Nation, during the past eight years."

"But what do the principle leaders of the United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), American Baptist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Reformed Church in America, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, among others, have in common?" he further asked. "They haven’t appeared once."

J. Bennett Guess, United Church News 3.27.06; see Accessible Airwaves

United Church of Christ launches viral marketing campaign

Quoted 03.27.06:

This time, the [church's "Ejector Pew"] campaign, with a budget estimated at $1.5 million, extends well beyond television. The intent is to stimulate conversation and debate with so-called viral efforts that are to include a substantial online presence, on Web sites and blogs; chain letters, in the form of e-mail messages; audio podcasts; posters; events at local churches; and even merchandise like decals, tote bags, pens and golf balls bearing the phrase "God is still speaking," which is the campaign's theme.

"We've forgotten that the No. 1 way people come to faith is by one person inviting another person," said Ron Buford, the director for the campaign at the United Church of Christ in Cleveland.

Stuart Elliott, New York Times 3.27.06, reg req'd

Saturday, March 25, 2006

For Neuhaus, Catholicism is the nation's sure foundation

Quoted 03.25.06:

Several Catholic writers have contributed to fashioning a potent governing philosophy for traditionalist Christians, but the one who has exercised the greatest influence on the ideological agenda of the religious right is Richard John Neuhaus — a Catholic convert from Lutheranism, and a priest who for the past two decades has attempted to lead an interdenominational religious insurgency against the secular drift of American politics and culture since the 1960s. In his voluminous but remarkably consistent writings, Neuhaus has sought nothing less than to reverse the fortunes of traditionalist religion in modern America--to teach conservative Christians how to place liberal modernity, once and for all, on the defensive. Any attempt to come to terms with the religious challenge to secular politics in contemporary America must confront Neuhaus's enormously ambitious and increasingly influential enterprise.

Damon Linker, New Republic 3.24.06, reg req'd

Neoconservatism before the theocons came along

Quoted 03.25.06:

In 1979 in The Neoconservatives Peter Steinfels wrote that "while 90 percent of the American population retains at least some explicit commitment to religious belief or institutions, most of our cultural analysis and public philosophizing is done by the other 10 percent. That ... might change if neoconservatism challenged them with an attention to religion that went beyond debating points." Steinfels wrote before Richard John Neuhaus found corporate sponsors for his Institute on Religion and Public Life and began publishing First Things, before Novak founded Catholicism in Crisis (now Crisis), before one could open Christianity Today to read Neuhaus on the papal encyclical Veritatis Splendor, and before "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium" appeared. What Steinfels surmised might happen has happened. Neoconservative thought has stimulated vigorous and interesting discussion in traditionally conservative religious circles.

Elizabeth Mellen, review of The Neoconservative Mind: Politics, Culture and the War of Ideology by Gary Dorrien, Christian Century 2.1.95

U.S.: Enjoy your rebuilt country, Iraq! Our work here is done

Quoted 03.25.06:

The head of the U.S. program to rebuild Iraq said Thursday that the Iraqi government can no longer count on U.S. funds and must rely on its own money and cash from other Persian Gulf nations to complete the massive undertaking. . . .

The $21 billion U.S.-funded program set out to fix or build schools, roads, clinics, ports, bridges, government offices, phone networks, power plants and water systems. . . .

Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, called the U.S. plan "a dismal failure. It hasn't met any of its goals. It's left a legacy of half-built projects" that Iraq can't maintain.

Thomas Frank, USA Today 3.24.06; via CJR Daily

Friday, March 24, 2006

Bush: What do you expect me to do?

Quoted 03.24.06:

Bush and many of his fellow Republicans have done a good business over the years running against the ills of Big Government. They are so much in the habit of trashing government that even when they are in charge of things — remember, Republicans have controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for all but 18 months since 2001 — they pretend they are not.

And when their own government fails, they turn around and use their incompetence to argue that government can never work anyway, so you might as well keep electing conservatives to have less government. It's an ideological Catch-22. Even their failures prove they are right.

E.J. Dionne Jr, Washington Post 3.24.06, reg req'd

Bush quietly nullifies Congress's oversight of Patriot Act

Quoted 03.24.06:

The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates. . . .

In the [signing statement quietly issued after he signed the bill], Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would "impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."

Charlie Savage, Boston Globe 3.24.06, reg req'd

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Third volume on MLK is best book on Sixties

Quoted 03.23.06:

At Canaan's EdgeHow did King survive [J. Edgar Hoover's character assassination]? He would not have, if he had ever stooped to returning hate for hate with Hoover. That would have tripped him up without fail. King said, "I refuse to hate," and repeatedly told his allies that love was their only real weapon. That is the profound lesson in the power of nonviolence. Hate and violence are self-destructive. Whatever his other faults, fidelity to nonviolence was King's one towering virtue.

Garry Wills, New York Review of Books 4.6.06; buy At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965–68 by Taylor Branch from Amazon.com

Jealousy: Why gay marriage doesn't lead to polygamy

Quoted 03.23.06:

One isn't the number of people you want to sleep with. It's the number of people you want your spouse to sleep with. . . .

As women gained power, they began to choose what they really wanted. And what they really wanted was the same fidelity that men expected from them.

Gays who seek to marry want the same thing. They're not looking for the right to sleep around. They already have that. It's called dating. . . . That's why marriage, not polygamy, is in your nature, and in our future.

William Saletan, Slate 3.23.06; responses

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Two more bishops nominated for Episcopal Presiding Bishop

Quoted 03.22.06:

Bishop Charles Edward Jenkins III of Louisiana and Bishop Francisco Duque-Gomez of Colombia announced their intention to accept nomination at the House of Bishops meeting at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Episcopal News Service 3.19.06; earlier (3.13.06), initial nominees (1.25.06)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Penn. clergy organizing Santorum-aligned voter drives

Quoted 03.21.06:

Weeks after the Internal Revenue Service announced a crackdown on political activities by churches and other tax-exempt organizations, a coalition of nonprofit conservative groups is holding training sessions to enlist Pennsylvania pastors in turning out voters for the November elections.

David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times 3.21.06, reg req'd

Meet the 9/11 conspiracy theorists

Quoted 03.21.06:

This is not a movement that takes its Nagra tape recorders to document Dealey Plaza acoustics to ascertain which bullet came from what angle. When 9/11 Truth "researchers" cite "the physical evidence," they usually mean the referred reality of photographs or videos posted on the Net. Paul Thompson, whose 9/11 timeline has become the undisputed gold standard of Truth research, does all his work on the Net. "I don't have to be any particular place to do this," says Thompson, who for a while moved to New Zealand so it would be easier for him to concentrate.

Yet it is difficult to deny the allure of this movement. The conspiracist has always relied on a degree of magical thinking. As Marshall McLuhan would swear if he weren't dead, there has never been a more conspiracy-ready medium than the Net. It is an exhilarating serendipity that every surfer has felt: the glorious synchronicity in the way one link handshakes the next, the sensation of not knowing how you got there but being sure this is the right place. Such miraculous methodology cannot simply be random. For the moment, it feels like Truth.

Mark Jacobson, New York 3.27.06

Monday, March 20, 2006

Mainline Protestant to Evangelicals: Have fun with Caesar!

Quoted 03.20.06:

We mainliners were once offered the deal you [Evangelicals] have now — social action in exchange for faithfulness — and we bit hard. We're so far out of political power now that we're remembering the first task of the church is to be the church, not to play chaplain to a political party or nation. It's tempting to trade fidelity for influence, but it's hard to get fidelity back, and influence doesn't satisfy.

Jason Byassee, Christianity Today 3.16.06; via Talk2Action

Whole Foods 'organic' isn't all that eco-friendly

Quoted 03.20.06:

Let's say you live in New York City and want to buy a pound of tomatoes in season. Say you can choose between conventionally grown New Jersey tomatoes or organic ones grown in Chile. Of course, the New Jersey tomatoes will be cheaper. They will also almost certainly be fresher, having traveled a fraction of the distance. But which is the more eco-conscious choice? In terms of energy savings, there's no contest: Just think of the fossil fuels expended getting those organic tomatoes from Chile.

Field Maloney, Slate 3.17.06; that's why I shop at Harvest Co-op instead

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Kos: Democrats need a noise machine

Quoted 03.19.06:

The strongest part of your book [Crashing the Gate] argues that Democrats are in desperate need of savvier consultants, their own Karl Rove, to help them build a political majority. Why would you want them to be more like Republicans?

To get their message out, the Republicans created this entire conservative noise machine. They have Fox News and The Washington Times and the 700 Club and just about the entire talk-radio dial. They have this incredible ability to promote whatever the big issue of the day is. There is no partisan liberal media that is working in concert with the Democratic Party in order to sell whatever the party is selling.

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, interviewed by Deborah Solomon, New York Times Magazine 3.19.06, reg req'd

How 'Fair Trade' prices translate into wages

Quoted 03.19.06:

Fair Trade labels don't list the amount paid to farmers; that sum requires research. The amount can vary depending on the commodity. An analysis using information from TransFair shows that cocoa farmers get 3 cents of the $3.49 spent on a 3.5-ounce chocolate bar labeled "organic fair trade" sold at Target. Farmers receive 24 cents for a one-pound bag of fair trade sugar sold at Whole Foods for $3.79.

The coffee farmer who produced the one-pound bag of coffee purchased by Mr. Terman received $1.26, higher than the commodity rate of $1.10. But whether Mr. Terman paid $10 or $6 for that fair trade coffee, the farmer gets the same $1.26.

Jennifer Alsever, New York Times 3.19.06, reg req'd

The ideal candidate?

Quoted 03.19.06:

Ribbing aside, [Sen. Barack] Obama's seeming perfection — as a gifted orator, award-winning author and proven intellect who was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review — has become something of a political marvel in itself, as Democrats survey the landscape of potential presidential candidates and endlessly wonder if he is the one to lead them back into favor after a season of darkness.

Anne E. Kornblut, New York Times 3.19.06, reg req'd

Friday, March 17, 2006

Mainline seminary enrollments up, but students don't want to be pastors

Quoted 03.17.06:

Across the country, enrollment is up at Protestant seminaries, but a shrinking portion of the graduates will ascend the pulpit. These seminarians, particularly the young ones, are less interested in making a career of religion than in taking their religion into other careers. . . .

Only about half of those graduating with a Master in Divinity now enter parish ministry, Mr. Aleshire said. The portion has fallen sharply in a generation, he said, and declined 10 to 15 percentage points in the last five years alone.

Neela Banerjee, New York Times 3.17.06, reg req'd

Romney 'on the same page' with Christian right

Quoted 03.17.06:

In an apparent pitch to the crucial evangelical base of the Republican Party, Governor Mitt Romney says he has been "at the forefront" of the nation's toughest cultural battles and that his values are "on the same page" with the Christian right.

Boston Globe 3.17.06, reg req'd

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Ohio clergy form interfaith group, denounce divisiveness

Quoted 03.16.06:

A new group founded by ministers and rabbis who feel drowned out by the religious right began a campaign on Tuesday to make sure other voices are heard in this year's elections.

We Believe Ohio, comprised of more than 100 clergy, promised to promote issues that can unite rather than polarize.

"We believe people of faith are meant to build bridges, not construct barriers," said the Rev. Tim Ahrens of the First Congregational Church in Columbus. "We will not allow the voice of religion to be co-opted by intolerant values."

John McCarthy [AP], SanLuisObispo.com 3.14.06; Groups says 'Yes to justice for all,' Dayton Daily News 3.12.06, reg req'd; Jim Wallis confirms public dialogue with Ohio GOP-aligned preacher, Dayton Daily News 3.15.06, reg req'd

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Class war fiercest in red states

Quoted 03.15.06:

The class war is being waged more fiercely in the Republican states than in the Democratic states. The income divide is especially sharp in the South, where it is reinforced by a strong racial divide.

"In poor states," Gelman and his colleagues write, "rich people are much more likely than poor people to vote for the Republican presidential candidate, but in rich states (such as Connecticut), income has almost no correlation with vote preference. . . . In poor states, rich people are very different from poor people in their political preferences. But in rich states, they are not."

This suggests that our country may be even more polarized and divided than we thought.

E.J. Dionne Jr, Washington Post 3.15.06, reg req'd; see Rich state, poor state, red state, blue state: What's the matter with Connecticut?, Andrew Gelman et al. 11.30.05

Why I am a Unitarian: A Jewish story

Quoted 03.15.06:

It is a sunny spring Sunday in Sacramento. As has been our custom for the last twelve years, my husband and I and our two sons enter our Unitarian Church. As I sit quietly in the sanctuary, bedecked with banners representing twelve of the world's religions, I muse on how I, who was raised in a moderately observant Conservative Jewish family, have wound up here.

Sara Holtz, InterfaithFamily.com

Harvard law students pressured Catholic Charities counsel to withdraw

Quoted 03.15.06:

To publicize that many students viewed Ropes's work for Catholic Charities as anti-gay, Lambda members discussed staging protest rallies when Ropes arrived on campus this fall to recruit new associates, stationing themselves outside interview rooms to tell entering students about the firm's work for Catholic Charities, or signing up for interview slots and using the time to voice their dismay.

"The words 'boycott-slash-picket' were thrown around," said Peter Renn, a third-year student and Lambda board member who said he had wanted to shame Ropes into ending its work on behalf of Catholic Charities and warn the firm that the issue could hurt recruiting at Harvard.

Sacha Pfeiffer, Boston Globe 3.15.06, reg req'd

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Catholic Charities turns its back on children

Quoted 03.14.06:

When Catholic Charities handled my son's adoption, we received nothing but love and support from his social worker and therapist. The staff of the post-adoption program provided by Catholic Charities brought us back from the brink of disaster on many occasions.

My son is old enough to understand why Catholic Charities decided to end adoptions. He is angry and bewildered. His response was, "That's crazy. Without gay people, many children wouldn't be adopted." My son's birth family wasn't capable of caring for him, his extended family failed him, and now the Catholic Church says his adoptive parents aren't qualified to raise him.

Karen Oster, Boston Globe 3.14.06, reg req'd; also: Children wait 3 to 5 years for adoption in Mass. (letter, Boston Globe 3.14.06)

UCC president decries right-wing attacks on mainline churches

Quoted 03.14.06:

The [Institute on Religion and Democracy] supports and encourages campaigns of disruption and attack in Mainline churches through its Alliance of Church Renewal [sic]. . . . The IRD pursues its political agenda in the churches through three strategies: campaigns of disinformation that seek to discredit church leadership, advocacy efforts at church assemblies seeking to influence church policy, and grass roots organizing which, in some cases, encourages schismatic movements encouraging members and congregations either to redirect mission funding or even to leave their denominations. . . .

Even more perversely, the IRD, through related organizations in its Association of Church Renewal, encourages grass roots dissenting movements within denominations using classic political organizing around “wedge issues,” issues such as gay marriage or ordination, or Middle East policy. These movements do far more than encourage vigorous theological and moral debate within denominations; in reality they seek to disrupt, ultimately to control, and failing that to dismantle mainline denominations.

The Rev. John Thomas, president and general minister of the United Church of Christ, speaking at Gettysburg College 3.7.06

Catholic Church has a religious right to distasteful views

Quoted 03.14.06:

Is our commitment to equality so strong that we are willing to put Catholic Charities out of business because it won't promote an agenda that it views as morally wrong?

The issue is not whether the Church or the state has the better of the debate over gay families. When freedom is at stake, the issue is never whether the claimant is right. Freedom of the press protects publication of pornography, blasphemy, and personal attacks. Freedom of religion is above all else a protection for ways of life that society views with skepticism or distaste.

John Garvey, Boston Globe 3.14.06, reg req'd

Abortion isn't 'bad'; it's 'awful'

Quoted 03.14.06:

"Awful" is better than "bad," because women who did not find their abortions awful are not damaged by a movement that describes them that way; they get to feel strong and lucky, and become objects of sympathy rather than derision. And the word encompasses within it references to a mix of tragedy and physical pain and moral uncertainty that should help women with less than positive abortion experiences feel able to speak about them, instead of having to join pro-life advocacy groups, as they do now. It would allow advocates to acknowledge some less than pleasant facts, as well, and the very description would act as a warning to people that the experience is one to be avoided at all costs, because it is, well, awful.

Garance Franke-Ruta, Tapped 3.13.06; followup 3.15.06

Saturday, March 11, 2006

'Intensifying clash between church and state'

Quoted 03.11.06:

The decision yesterday by the [Archdiocese of Boston] to end its century-old adoption program illustrates a dramatic and intensifying clash between church and state, as Beacon Hill and the Vatican move in opposite directions on a wide variety of social policies, including not only homosexuality, but also abortion, bioethics, and emergency contraception.

The collision between the state's nondiscrimination policies and the church's opposition to adoption by same-sex couples is likely to have implications in the American political arena, where the rights of gays and lesbians have emerged as a major wedge issue, and in the Catholic Church, where dissatisfaction with church teachings has caused a major rift between laypeople and bishops.

And the inability of the state and the church to find a way out is the latest, but likely not the last, example of the complex challenges posed by the increasing reliance of state and federal governments on faith-based institutions to deliver social services.

Michael Paulson, Boston Globe 3.11.06, reg req'd; see Catholic Charities stuns state, ends adoptions (Patricia Wen, Boston Globe 3.11.06)

Everything you ever wanted to know about Scientology

Quoted 03.11.06:

In June of last year, I set out to discover Scientology, an undertaking that would take nearly nine months. A closed faith that has often been hostile to journalistic inquiry, the church initially offered no help on this story; most of my research was done without its assistance and involved dozens of interviews with both current and former Scientologists, as well as academic researchers who have studied the group. Ultimately, however, the church decided to cooperate and gave me unprecedented access to its officials, social programs and key religious headquarters. What I found was a faith that is at once mainstream and marginal — a religious community known for its Hollywood members but run by a uniformed sect of believers who rarely, if ever, appear in the public eye. It is an insular society — one that exists, to a large degree, as something of a parallel universe to the secular world, with its own nomenclature and ethical code, and, most daunting to those who break its rules, its own rigorously enforced justice system.

Janet Reitman, Rolling Stone 2.23.06

Friday, March 10, 2006

Catholic Charities to stop all adoption services

Quoted 03.10.06:

The Boston Archdiocese's Catholic Charities said Friday it would stop providing adoption services because state law requires them to consider gays and lesbians as parents. . . .

"The world was very different when Charities began this ministry at the threshold of the twentieth-century," the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, president of Catholic Charities, and trustees chairman Jeffrey Kaneb said in a joint statement. "The world changed often and we adapted the ministry to meet changing times and needs. At all times we sought to place the welfare of children at the heart of our work.

"But now, we have encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve," they said.

Steve LeBlanc [AP], Boston.com 3.10.06

Ratzinger II: Gays unworthy to adopt even 'difficult' children

Quoted 03.10.06:

In his e-mail, [Archbishop William Levada, who is now prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,] acknowledged that he had been told by Brian Cahill, executive director of Catholic Charities in San Francisco, that three "difficult to place" children were adopted by gay parents there. Levada said those placements involved "prudential judgments" about the needs of the children, church teachings, and the mission of the agency.

However, in the e-mail he said a 2003 Vatican document makes clear that "Catholic agencies should not place children for adoption in homosexual households." . . .

Cahill . . . had said this week that he was concerned that his agency might be required to stop gay adoptions, given events in Boston. According to his updated figures, he said, in the past five years, of the 136 children adopted through his agency, five were placed with gay or lesbian parents. Cahill said he was aware of the Vatican pronouncement but believed that the gay adoptions were appropriate, given the agency's religious mission to "serve the needs of vulnerable children."

Patricia Wen, Boston Globe 3.10.06, reg req'd

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Cheney's presidency

Quoted 03.08.06:

Cheney is Bush without the charm, the religiosity, the Michael Gerson speech texts, and the Presidential sheen. What he personifies, above all, is the raw reality of Bush’s signature policies, all of which he has had a strong hand in creating.

Hendrik Hertzberg, New Yorker 3.13.06

Daniel Dennett defines religious people right out of religion

Quoted 03.08.06:

'Breaking the Spell' by Daniel C. DennettAs Dennett knows full well, the biggest challenge for anyone who wants to put religion under the microscope is figuring out what goes on the slide. What is religion, anyway? How can you tell it apart from ideology or philosophy? How do you distinguish religion­s, with their quirks and presuppositions, from nationalities or professions, with their quirks and presuppositions? How is being Catholic different from being American, or being a human rights worker?

Judith Shulevitz, Slate 3.8.06

Deval Patrick's monthly mortgage payments near $29,000

Quoted 03.08.06:

[Mass. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deval] Patrick has heavily mortgaged his family's real estate. He and his wife are now carrying mortgages worth a total of $5.9 million on their Milton home and a Berkshires vacation home. Based on the interest rates of the loans, which the Globe reviewed, the Patricks' mortgage payments are roughly $27,000 per month. . . .

The Patricks have always met their obligations, public records show, with the exception of a period in 1996, when Patrick was assistant US attorney general in charge of the Civil Rights Division in Washington. That year, a tax lien was placed on the Patricks' Milton home after they failed to make payments on $8,778 in back taxes they owed to the IRS.

Frank Phillips, Boston Globe 3.8.06, reg req'd

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Hollywood steps back into the closet

Quoted 03.07.06:

It's fine for Hollywood to urge gay tolerance. But it should give America an actual homosexual to tolerate first.

The defeat of "Brokeback" exposes this blind spot all too clearly. Best-director winner Ang Lee praised the fictional "cowboys" in his movie for their bravery. But the real — and truly audacious — Truman Capote went unthanked in best actor winner Philip Seymour Hoffman's acceptance speech.

The culture of the movie business isn't all that different from the military or sports. An accusation of homosexuality can turn a star litigious or, in some cases, relentlessly straight.

Wesley Morris, Boston Globe 3.7.06, reg req'd

Monday, March 6, 2006

Will Cardinal O'Malley ever warm up?

Quoted 03.06.06:

After three years, the archbishop of Boston remains aloof and enigmatic to many, a distant figure in flowing robe and simple sandals. Now Pope Benedict XVI's decision to elevate O'Malley to cardinal signals a new permanence to his posting in Boston and is spurring hopes that the relationship between the shy friar and the more than 2 million Catholics he leads will deepen into a more personal bond. . . .

[O'Malley] recently told the pope that he does not believe Capuchins should serve as cardinals, the princes of the church who influence Vatican policy. Unassuming followers of Saint Francis, the tiny order of 11,000 eschews ornamentation and adulation, preferring missions in the poorest corners of the world.

Michael Levenson and Maria Cramer, Boston Globe 3.6.06, reg req'd

Movies: 'Quality is now a genre'

Quoted 03.06.06:

These days big studio movies do not, as a rule, excite the intellect or stir the soul: that's what specialty titles like "Brokeback Mountain" are for. In the last few decades, the American movie industry has become increasingly split between high-concept spectacles engineered to attract as many viewers as possible (think flypaper) and niche products pitched to specific audiences. In this climate, films released through a studio specialty unit, like "Capote" and "Good Night, and Good Luck," are just one niche among many, like horror or teen flicks. Their principal value doesn't come from ticket sales, but from the prestige and awards they confer on a parent company. In Hollywood, as a friend recently quipped, "Quality is now a genre."

Manohla Dargis, New York Times 3.5.06, reg req'd

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Globe columnist: Time for liberals to leave Catholicism

Quoted 03.05.06:

Liberals raised as Catholics refuse to accept this reality. We think we can be prochoice, pro-gay marriage, pro-gay adoption, and in favor of married and female priests and still call ourselves Catholic. The people who make the rules say we don't meet the criteria.

Every pronouncement from Pope Benedict XVI draws another line between official church doctrine and liberal ideology. When do liberals choose one side or the other?

Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe 3.5.06, reg req'd; The Episcopal Church welcomes you; so does United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist Association

Bishops' policy on gay adoptions may capsize charity

Quoted 03.05.06:

The decision by the state's Catholic bishops to seek to exclude gays and lesbians from adopting through Catholic social service agencies could imperil millions of dollars in donations from corporations and philanthropies that have their own nondiscrimination policies to abide by.

"It's definitely a concern," said Jeff Bellows, a spokesman for the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, which was the largest private donor to Catholic Charities of Boston last year with a gift of $1.2 million. "We have an antidiscrimination policy in accordance with the law and to protect the freedom of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable."

Patricia Wen, Boston Globe 3.5.06, reg req'd

Saturday, March 4, 2006

High-church Evangelicals

Quoted 03.04.06:

Evangelical Christians, who center their worship services on praise and preaching, have long considered rituals such as the Imposition of the Ashes to be nonbiblical, man-made, "too Catholic." Historically, the evangelical movement has defined itself, at least in part, by opposing such practices.

But that might be changing. New Hope, a nondenominational church of about 60 members, is one of a small but growing number of evangelical congregations that are beginning to experiment with worship elements more commonly associated with such highly liturgical traditions as Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and Anglicanism.

"This is evangelicalism finding its way toward classic Christian spirituality," said Bill J. Leonard, dean of the divinity school at Wake Forest University. "Religious faith is not simply the verbal and the rational. There really is a mystical tradition that can be conveyed in these nonverbal ways."

Matthew Hay Brown, Baltimore Sun 3.2.06; via GetReligion

Police nab Mass. church-scammer, looking for accomplice

Quoted 03.04.06:

Middleton police Captain James DiGianvittorio said 25 to 30 churches and charitable organizations have reported giving money to a duo matching descriptions of Dow and Brennan, from East Boston to Ipswich. Many people took pity on them not just once, he said, but three or four times over several months.

"I didn't think it was going to mushroom into what it did; it's amazing," he said of the investigation. "I've talked to different religious organizations across the North Shore today, and they pretty much all say the same thing: The scam was very well perpetrated. The story was very believable."

Lisa Wangsness, Boston Globe 3.4.06, reg req'd

Johnny Cash saved by love — oh, yes, and also by Jesus

Quoted 03.04.06:

For a movie that is so scrupulously accurate in so many respects, "Walk the Line" makes surprisingly little of the abiding faith that Mr. Cash always credited, along with Ms. Carter, for saving his life.

Robert Levine, New York Times 3.4.06, reg req'd

Cohousing for elderly grows out of UU congregation

Quoted 03.04.06:

They are unlikely revolutionaries. Bearing walkers and canes, a veritable Merck Manual of ailments among them, the 12 old friends — average age 80 — looked as though they should have been sitting down to a game of Scrabble, not pioneering a new kind of commune.

Opting for old age on their own terms, they were starting a new chapter in their lives as residents of Glacier Circle, the country's first self-planned housing development for the elderly — a community they had conceived and designed themselves, right down to its purple gutters.

Patricia Leigh Brown, New York Times 2.27.06, reg req'd; thanks, GR!

Friday, March 3, 2006

Catholic Charities board members deplore bishops' gay adoption ban

Quoted 03.03.06:

Seven members of the board of Catholic Charities of Boston, including prominent business and media leaders, announced their resignations yesterday, saying that the Massachusetts bishops' effort to prohibit gays from adopting children from Catholic social service agencies "threatens the very essence of our Christian mission."

Patricia Wen, Boston Globe 3.2.06, reg req'd; Lt Gov Healey sides against Romney on bishops' request, Patricia Wen, Boston Globe 3.3.06, reg req'd

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Protestants embrace Ash Wednesday

Quoted 03.01.06:

The showy practices typical of Lent — fasting and vigils, ashes and incense — once helped define the split of the Reformation. When they broke away in the 16th and 17th centuries, most Protestant churches left behind anything that smacked of Catholic practice. (Though a few "high-church" denominations — Episcopalians, for example — remained partial to ashes and other staples of Catholic ritual.) So, what's at work when Protestants and Catholics find common cause in fasting and foot-washing? While no one's ready to declare an end to 500 years of ecumenical disagreement, the widening appeal of Lent reflects the interest among believers of all kinds in traditional ways of worship.

Andrew Santella, Slate 2.28.06

Despite Boston mosque flap, Jews, Muslims seek dialogue

Quoted 03.01.06:

"We cannot solve the Israeli-Palestinian situation in a small group in Boston or Cambridge," [said Imam Salih Yucel of the Boston Dialogue Center]. "Let's bring our children together. Let's know each other. We do not know the Jews and the Jews do not know us."

Charles A. Radin, Boston Globe 3.1.06, reg req'd

Romney may seek accommodation for bishops' ban on gay adoptions

Quoted 03.01.06:

The governor's shift occurred on the same day that three members of the board of Catholic Charities of Boston resigned over the bishops' decision to seek the exemption from the state antidiscrimination policy, according to a board member. The 42-member board, which is dominated by lay people, has gone on record unanimously in favor of continuing to allow gays to adopt.

Patricia Wen and Frank Phillips, Boston Globe 3.1.06, reg req'd; earlier: Bishops to oppose adoption by gays, seek exemption from antibias laws 2.16.06