ROME -- Ferment around defending the heritage and prerogatives of the Eastern Catholic churches continues to swirl at the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, as yesterday a Lebanese prelate proposed launching a Vatican commission to study ways of revitalizing the office of Patriarch.
If we understand liturgy as how every culture shapes and affirms its basic assumptions, values and principles, we will begin to see something so pervasive that it has become invisible to us. Fish do not know they are in water, and we human beings do not normally think about culture or our point of view or as subjective but as simply “reality.”
But, in fact, the world we know is the product of both personal and communal conjuring, reinforced by protocols, symbols, rituals, common narratives and assumptions. This is liturgy.
And if you still can’t see it, think of weekend football, the costumes, colors, behaviors and expense in both time and money that people devote to reinforcing their fan identity and loyalty.
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tArchbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, which has a large community of Christians belonging to various Eastern churches from the Middle East, said he would not be opposed if those Eastern churches decided to ordain more married priests in North America.
tBoth Vigneron and Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto also said, however, that bishops from Eastern churches do not seem to have a consensus on such a move.
tThe comments came during a press conference today organized by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Canadian Catholic media network “Salt and Light.”
tYesterday, Archbishop Antonios Aziz Mina, a Coptic prelate from Egypt, argued in favor of extending the practice of married priests in the Eastern churches during the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.
On Oct. 2, fourteen anti-torture activists picketed outside the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. to call attention to -- among other things -- the Obama administration’s use of the state secrets defense to dismiss lawsuits brought by men kidnapped and tortured by the U.S. government.
Instituted in 1953 during the Cold War case of Reynolds vs. the United States, the state secrets privilege allows the executive branch to refuse to produce evidence for a court case on the grounds that the evidence is secret and would jeopardize national security interests and foreign relations if disclosed.
The “privilege,” which was invoked only four times between 1953 and 1976, is fast becoming the Justice Department’s standard response to cases calling for investigation into government abuses of terrorism suspects.
Formerly used to exclude specific evidence from a trial, “state secrets” is now invoked to shut down cases altogether.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time.
The Archdiocese of Detroit has warned Catholics to stay away from a national conference of liberal Catholics to be held in Detroit next year. Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron, meanwhile, has call upon organizers of the conference to cancel their plans, saying they are in opposition to the Catholic faith.
Vigneron has his sights set on limiting the impact of the American Catholic Council, a movement aimed “to bring together a network of individuals, organizations, and communities to consider the state and future of our Church, according to the council’s web site.
The National Catholic Rural Life Conference, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, has revised their Study Guide, Global Climate Change: A Catholic Reponse. It's available at the NCRLC Web site.
The Guide uses a reflection/action methodology called Shared Christian Praxis. The process has five progressive movements, beginning with identifying where people are in their life experiences, then engaging them in critical reflection on their experiences and relating those experiences to the Story and Vision of our Catholic faith. This process concludes with outlining the dimensions for future actions -- by an individual, a group, or an entire community. The end result is meant not only to change attitudes but to change behaviors on behalf of solidarity with the world and with God's creation.
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
t“Holy Land” has long been a dicey bit of vocabulary for some Jews, who historically tended to see it either as a Christian way of planting a flag in the region, or simply as a circumlocution to avoid saying “Israel.”
These days, a new sensitivity has been added to the mix: Talk of a Christian exodus from the Holy Land, many Jews in Israel and elsewhere argue, obscures the fact that Christians have it better in Israel than virtually anyplace else in the Middle East.
tThat’s an important claim for Israel, not only because of its self-image as the region’s lone true democracy, but in light of the massive financial and military support that flows from the United States – where a perception of a hostile climate for Christians in Israel could have damaging political repercussions.
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.