26 May 2007


Pew study.

21 May 2007

Latino Conversions

BustedHalo has an interesting article on Latinos converting from Catholicism to Islam.

Branch Davidians Resurgent

Remember that incident back in '93 down in Texas? Well, they're back!

18 May 2007

Abortion Backlash

Canada.com reports:

TORONTO - Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty insisted Tuesday that his duty to voters trumps his obligations to the Catholic church and Pope Benedict XVI, who has suggested that politicians who support abortion rights should be excommunicated.

"There are very few political leaders who would allow all of their actions to be informed exclusively by dictates of the church," McGuinty, who is both Catholic and pro-choice, told reporters when asked about the Pope's remarks.

"I have a different constituency than does the Pope. I am responsible for representing all kinds of people from all kinds of different backgrounds, different faiths, different cultures, different traditions."

"There's one particular aspect of myself that is in common with the Pope and (that is) I happen to be Catholic. But I have other responsibilities as well."

Catholic Online reports that a group of US House Democrats have issued a criticism of B16's abortion-excommunication statement:
“We are concerned with the pope’s recent statement warning Catholic elected officials that they risk excommunication and would not receive communion for their pro-choice views,” said the lawmakers, that included Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Joe Baca (Calif.), Patrick Kennedy (R.I.) and Carolyn McCarthy (N.Y.).

“Advancing respect for life and for the dignity of every human being is, as our church has taught us, our own life’s mission,” the House Democrats said.

"The fact is that religious sanction in the political arena directly conflicts with our fundamental beliefs about the role and responsibility of democratic representatives in a pluralistic America – it also clashes with freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution," a statement said.

16 May 2007

Jerry Falwell is Dead

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Jerry Falwell is dead.

09 May 2007

Pope Warns Catholic Politicians Over Abortion

Benedict XVI reiterated papal position in a warning to Catholic politicians:

Pope Benedict on Wednesday warned Catholic politicians they risked excommunication from the Church and should not receive communion if they support abortion.

It was the first time that the Pope, speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him on a trip to Brazil, dealt in depth with a controversial topic that has come up in many countries, including the United States, Mexico, and Italy.


The Pope said parliamentarians who vote in favor of abortion have "doubts about the value of life and the beauty of life and even a doubt about the future."

"Selfishness and fear are at the root of (pro-abortion) legislation," he said. "We in the Church have a great struggle to defend life...life is a gift not a threat."


The Pope's comments appear to raise the stakes in the debate over whether Catholic politicians can support abortion or gay marriage and still consider themselves proper Catholics.

In recent months, the Vatican has been accused of interference in Italy for telling Catholic lawmakers to oppose a draft law that would grant some rights to unwed and gay couples.

During the 2004 presidential election, the U.S. Catholic community was split over whether to support Democratic candidate John Kerry, himself a Catholic who backed abortion rights.


Only Cuba, Guyana and U.S. commonwealth Puerto Rico allow abortion on demand in Latin America. Many other countries in the region permit it in special cases, such as if the fetus has defects or if the mother's life is at risk.

08 May 2007

Mark Shea on "The Incoherence of Atheism"

Mark Shea on "The Incoherence of Atheism":

Indeed, one standard rhetorical ploy of atheists is to say, “Christians arrogantly say their God is the true God, but all these other religions can also point to claims of the supernatural and Christians denounce those as false. So why can’t I dismiss the Christian claims too?”

Two things are prompted by such an argument. The first, at the intellectual level, is to point out that the Christian is quite free to believe that every religion in the world has gotten something right (some more than others). You are even free to believe that adherents of other traditions have had real encounters with the supernatural (whether divine or demonic). However, if you are an atheist, you have to believe, a priori, that 99.999% of the human race is absolutely wrong about the thing that matters to it most. Christians have the luxury of being able to be humble before the facts. When it looks for all the world like the apostles’ behavior is best explained by the Resurrection, Christians don’t have to resort to lame theories like psychedelic bread mold at the Last Supper to account for it. When thousands (including atheists) witness the miracle of the sun dancing at Fatima, Christians don’t have to attribute it to mass hallucination. Atheist ideology has to take these desperate measures, being constrained to do so by its own ideology.

That said, it should also be noted that this tendency of atheism to cling to dogma in the face of countervailing evidence reveals something even more important about the cramped ideology of atheism.


Whatever that is, it is not the voice of reason. Rather, it is proof that the artillery of the intellect is subject to the will. That artillery can be ranged to defend against truth just as much as to defend truth. For atheism is often, though not always, driven by anger, pain or disappointment. Atheists (especially former believers) are quite often people who feel betrayed by God and who react by trying to punish him for the abusive relationship they were in or the treacherous way their pastor dealt with them or God’s failure to live up to their childhood expectations. Often they have very deep wounds. And often those wounds are caused by us believers. Not a few atheists are what they are because a Christian has behaved very badly...


Indeed, atheism is a very diverse phenomenon. Many atheists are, theologically, fundamentalists under the skin, often having the most childish and literalistic notions of what Scripture says (Richard Dawkins is an especially egregious example here). Some atheists are simply confirmed in cold hard pride. Some are honest people who just can’t, for the life of them, see what theists are talking about when they speak of their belief in and experience of the supernatural. And that just scratches the surface of the various causes of atheism.

Hate-Crime Bill

the NCR has a piece on the recent hate-crime bill passed by the House:

WASHINGTON — The White House has promised a Bush veto for a House-passed bill that would involve the federal government in local hate-crime prosecutions.

The bill, which passed the House of Representatives on May 4 in a 237-180 vote, mostly along party lines, would create a new protected status for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

Several activist groups, including the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America, opposed the bill vigorously out of concern that it could ultimately result in discrimination against Christians and others who object to public homosexuality and speak out against the establishment of same-sex “marriage.”


Christian organizations have complained that this bill will limit religious freedom, but their argument is broader than this particular bill. While it is unlikely that this bill will result in bishops, priests and pastors being hauled away for preaching against homosexuality, opponents fear that it sets up a slippery slope.


The new hate-crime bill differs from other versions in two ways. First, the bill applies to many state-level offenses (for example, simple murder). Were this bill to become law, the U.S. Attorney General would have the option to leave an alleged hate-crime offense at the state level, or to bring up the defendant on a separate federal charge of criminal civil rights violation. This carries an added sentence of up to 10 years, or life if the victim dies or is kidnapped or sexually abused.

All that is required to federalize the crime is that a weapon involved cross state lines at some point before or during the offense. “Previous federal hate-crime legislation which has passed has always been attached to a federal crime,” said Pence. “This bill effectively federalizes all hate-crimes.”

07 May 2007

B16 Travels to Brazil

Whispers reports that Benedict XVI will soon travel to Brazil. The elephants in the room? Liberation theology and creeping protestantization.

Jewish/Evangelical/Mormon Intermarriage

PBS's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly has a transcript/video report on Jewish Intermarriage.

Also, Religion News Blog is carrying a story about an intermarrying Mormon/Evangelical couple:

Tom, 63, is an evangelical Christian, raised in a Kentucky Southern Baptist church. Libit, 52, is Mormon, raised in a Texas congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Both consider themselves faithful Christians who believe in Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life. Both want the other to convert. But Tom runs Christian Research & Counsel, a ministry designed to educate the public about what he calls “counterfeits of Christianity.”

His work focuses on Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“My purpose is not to make my wife look foolish or any Mormon look foolish,” said Tom, a retired graphic designer who runs the ministry from their home. “It’s my job to try to lead them to Christ. …Obviously, my goal is to see my wife experience eternal life.”

Libit, a painter and art teacher, has learned to deal.

“Tom feels like he’s been called to this ministry, ” she said. “And if I believe he is trying to follow Christ and live a Christ-like life, then I can’t argue with him on that.”


At first, Tom showed an interest in Mormonism. He studied with Mormon missionaries for three months. Then, an Episcopal gave him a book that questioned the central tenets of Mormonism.

Tom became consumed with getting Mormons to prove that their faith lined up with the Bible and mainline Christianity. He engaged Libit in heated debates, loaded her down with religious readings and challenged her to help him research her faith.

About a year and a half into their marriage, overwhelmed with Tom’s didactic lectures, Libit left. She stayed away for about two weeks. The second time she left, several years into the marriage, she intended to part for good.

Three months later, she called Tom and said she wanted to come back. She knew he wasn’t changing. He didn’t expect her to budge either.

“I wanted to figure out how we could make this work,” Libit said. “I don’t know why we’re together. Maybe it’s just to show people that opposites can love each other.”


Tom says he will never give up on his wife. He writes her love letters, laced with arguments on following mainline Christianity. They disagree on what it takes to gain eternal life. Tom won’t comment on Libit’s fate, leaving judgment to God. Libit believes Tom will make it to the lowest kingdom of glory.

Papal/Vatican Photos

National Geographic has (sadly, only five) photos of the Vatican, etc. Very pretty.

L'Osservatore Romano photos are available on a Vatican site.

Head of the ETS Converts to Catholicism

Jimmy Akin reports that the president of the Evangelical Theological Society, Dr. Francis Beckwith, has converted to Roman Catholicism.

The Vatican's Photographers

CNS has a short piece on the Vatican's photographers:

The papal photographers are also the only ones allowed to shadow the pontiff almost everywhere he goes, even during more private moments -- be they special audiences inside the Vatican with heads of state or an intimate luncheon with cardinals or bishops.

According to the head of the Vatican's photo service, Salesian Father Giuseppe Colombara, the job of the four official papal photographers is to create a visual record of the pope's activities and important Vatican events.


For the past 30 years, papal photographers have captured and preserved thousands of unforgettable scenes as varied as Pope John Paul II collapsing into the arms of his aide after being hit by bullets in 1981 to him trying on U2 singer Bono's sunglasses during a 1999 meeting with the Irish rock star.


Before the Vatican photo service was established, the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, hired professional photographers "from the outside" to take papal pictures, Father Colombara told Catholic News Service.

Then in 1977, the newspaper's editor in chief decided the paper should hire its own photojournalists who would work exclusively and specifically on covering the Vatican and the pope.


But the shooting and snapping ease hit a speed bump in 2005 after the election of Pope Benedict, who was not used to being trailed by cameramen and having bulbs flash and shutters click at his every move.

However, Pope Benedict is much more comfortable now with his personal paparazzi, Father Colombara said, and has often directly expressed to the photographers his appreciation for their hard work.

02 May 2007

New Cardinals

Whispers reports:

Sometime over the next four weeks -- more likely toward month's end -- Benedict XVI is widely expected to announce his intent to augment the College of Cardinals with 20 or so new members. An announcement of a 28 June consistory (the second of this pontificate) would be in line with the Pope's stated wish to gather his cardinals more frequently than in the reign of John Paul II, not just to add to the number of the papal "senate," but also to take soundings from them and allow the "princes of the church" to get to know each other better, with an eye to the day when those under 80 will gather to elect his successor. Further adding to the building consensus of the tipped date, three of the current 108 cardinal-electors superannuate this month... not to mention that, as previously cited, late June marks the 30th anniversary of the conferral of the red hat on the newly-ordained archbishop of Munich and Freising, Joseph Ratzinger.

Bullet Sent to Archbishop Bagnasco

The BBC reports that Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco recently received a bullet in the mail:

The threats against the archbishop began last month when the doors of his cathedral in Genoa, northern Italy, were daubed with graffiti.

The Vatican opposes a draft bill on civil unions currently in parliament.

Monsignor Bagnasco received an envelope at the end of last week containing the bullet along with a picture stamped with a swastika, media reports say.

Police have now assigned an armed guard to the bishop.