By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tThere’s nothing like the realistic possibility of extinction to push people beyond euphemisms, forcing them to lay it on the line. That was the spirit of several presentations yesterday afternoon during the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, as Catholic leaders from the region described a future that might be paraphrased as “democracy or death.”
tThe disappearance of Christians from the Middle East also poses the real and present danger, speakers said, of exacerbating a “clash of civilizations” between Christian and Islam.
God in America: How religion shaped the American experience
This new three-part six-hour series premieres on PBS this week and takes on the enormous task of tracing the influence of Catholic and Protestant Christianity and Judaism on the American psyche, daily life and politics. In fact, the series suggests that the American identity and character is inherently religious.
Check your local listings; the broadcast dates and times can vary widely. Or you can watch full episodes online at your convenience: PBS.org/godinamerica.
I got a strange e-mail alert Oct. 11 that Pope Benedict XVI has apparently changed his original papal coat of arms. Most notably, he has replaced his original episcopal miter atop the shield or escutcheon with the more traditional papal tiara – a triple crown associated for centuries with the temporal as well as spiritual authority of the papacy.
Over at The Washington Post's 'On Faith' blog today, University of Dayton theology professor Vince Miller asks a question sure to set interest some people: Are tax cuts for the wealthy morally wrong?
From the piece:
On Oct. 8, Newsweek magazine ran a feature story, "The New Oil -- Should Private Companies Control Our Most Precious Natural Resource?" The report begins with an account of how 80 million gallons of water from Blue Lake, an unpolluted source near Sitka, Alaska, will soon be pumped into waiting ocean-going tankers and shipped to a bulk bottling facility near Mumbai in India, there to be processed and sold to drought-plagued Middle East countries. The project is the brainchild of two companies -- One, True Alaska Bottling and S2C Global. The former has bought rights to bottle three billion gallons of water a year from Sitka's lakes; the latter is building the facility in India.
The transfer of water is nothing new, the report notes. Los Angeles gets its water from the distant Owens Valley near the Sierras; New York City from the Catskills. What's troubling critics is the transfer of so much water from public to private hands. Free markets, supporters say, are the way to solve the world's looming water shortages.
Their loyalty to America was constantly in question. They were distrusted for their secret societies; despised for religious rituals conducted in an ancient tongue. They were not Muslims -- they were Catholics of our nation's not-so-distant past.
The church's synod on the Middle East and the continuing controversy over a proposed Muslim center at Ground Zero have sparked several comparative looks at the treatment Catholics received when they first began to assert themselves in the United States.
In The New York Times, the pastor of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Lower Manhattan recalls the tumult that accompanied plans to build New York's first Catholic house of worship -- which on October 12 celebrates its 225th anniversary. Many of those issues then resonate today.
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
While the Christians of the Middle East face a staggering variety of external challenges, from the Israeli/Palestinian problem to the rise of radical Islam, it was internal ecclesiastical questions which actually loomed largest during day two of the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.
Concretely, several representatives of the Eastern Churches of the region registered strong protests against what they almost seem to regard as a sort of “Roman imperialism” inside global Catholicism. Their basic argument is that reforms are required if the identity, authority and heritage of the 22 Eastern Churches in communion with Rome are to be preserved.
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tAs of today, the Vatican officially has a brand new department dedicated to reawakening Christianity in the secular West. Whether this new “Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelization” will actually trigger a Christian renaissance across the First World, however, very much remains to be seen.
tSo far, the lone concrete project announced by the office is a celebration in 2012 of the twentieth anniversary of publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
tPope Benedict XVI announced plans to create the new office, known in the technical parlance of the Vatican as a “dicastery,” on June 29, the liturgical feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Only today, however, was the legal document formally creating the office published.
It seems we’ve reached a new and sad moment in American politics. Big money is thoroughly corrupting the electoral system while fright over the state of the economy and an undifferentiated anger over the role of government has produced some of the most unusual candidates of recent memory.