Archive | Theology

Dalai Lama: Don’t pray for Paris, solve it yourself

The Dalai Lama says praying for Paris will do no good, since the problem won’t be solved by prayer or God. “We cannot solve this problem only through prayers,” the spiritual leader said. “I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve… Continue Reading →

Change is gonna come

Prayer Vigil ahead of Synod on the Family with Pope Francis
Much like it is with our own politics, most of what this pope can accomplish is incremental. But he’s headed in the right direction:

Pope Francis, ending a contentious bishops’ meeting on family issues, on Saturday excoriated immovable Church leaders who “bury their heads in the sand” and hide behind rigid doctrine while families suffer.

The pope spoke at the end of a three-week gathering, known as a synod, where the bishops agreed to a qualified opening toward divorcees who have remarried outside the Church but rejected calls for more welcoming language toward homosexuals.

It was the latest in a series of admonitions to bishops by the pontiff, who has stressed since his election in 2013 that the 1.2 billion-member Church should be open to change, side with the poor and rid itself of the pomp and stuffiness that has alienated so many Catholics.

In his final address, the pope appeared to criticize ultra-conservatives, saying Church leaders should confront difficult issues “fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand.”

He said the synod had “laid bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families”.

He also decried “conspiracy theories” and the “blinkered viewpoints” of some at the gathering, and said the Church could not transmit its message to new generations “at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible”.

The outcome of the gathering, over which the pope presided, marked a victory for conservatives on homosexual issues and for progressives on the thorny issue of remarriage.

The final synod document restated Church teachings that gays should not suffer discrimination in society, but also repeated the stand that there was “no foundation whatsoever” for same-sex marriage, which “could not even remotely” be compared to heterosexual unions.

The 94-article document indicated that the assembly had decided to avoid overtly controversial language and seek consensus in order to avoid deadlock on the most sensitive topics, leaving it up to the pope to deal with the details.

The synod is an advisory body that does not have the power to alter church doctrine. The pope, who is the final arbiter on any change and who has called for a more merciful and inclusive Church, can use the material to write his own document, known as an “apostolic exhortation”.

Just so we’re clear

Krzystof Charamsa

This priest wasn’t fired for being gay. He was fired for publicly and blithely ignoring his vows of celibacy, and announcing it at a press conference designed to cause maximum PR problems for the pope:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican on Saturday dismissed a Polish priest from his Holy See job after he came out as gay and called for changes in Catholic teachings against homosexual activity on the eve of a major Church meeting on the family.

Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, a theologian, had worked at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal arm, since 2003, and taught theology at pontifical universities in Rome, which have also dismissed him.

Charamsa, 43, told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper and Polish media that he was gay and had a partner. The Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin but homosexual activity is, and priests, whether heterosexual or gay, take vows of celibacy.

Charasma followed up his media interviews with a packed news conference with his partner and gay activists at a Rome restaurant. They had planned a demonstration in front of the Vatican but changed the venue several hours before it was due to have started.

Women as Roman Catholic priests? Opinions are divided, and fiery

If I had a chance to talk to Pope Frank, I would say, “If women can’t be priests because all the apostles were men, well, they were all Jewish, too. So shouldn’t priests have to be Jewish?

PHILADELPHIA — The passing crowd’s responses to the banner outside the World Meeting of Families and the women in priest’s collars holding it ranged from revulsion and anger to confusion and praise. “Amen!” a middle-aged woman cried, nodding her head and smiling, while another said, “Maybe in heaven, but not here.” “That’s just wrong!” another woman… Continue Reading →

Pope Frank: If you don’t use property for religious purposes, pay your taxes

Pope Francis

Way to lay it out there, Pope Frank!

ROME — On the eve of a trip to the United States, Pope Francis has called himself a “son of immigrants” and confirmed the point by issuing a blunt warning to any religious orders in Europe that spurn his recent call to open their doors to refugees because they want to make money off their properties instead.

Go ahead, the pope said, but be ready to pay taxes just like everybody else.

“Some religious orders say ‘No, now that the convent is empty we are going to make a hotel and we can have guests, and support ourselves that way, or make money,’” the pontiff said.

“Well, if that is what you want to do, then pay taxes! A religious school is tax-exempt because it is religious, but if it is functioning as a hotel, then it should pay taxes just like its neighbor. Otherwise it is not fair business.”

Renting space to help with operating expenses is a common practice among religious orders in Europe. For example, in Rome, a pensione operated by an order of nuns just outside St. Peter’s Square offers a room, breakfast, and Mass at 7 a.m. each day for $90 a night. They also rent their rooftop to CBS during major papal events.

The pope also announced that the two refugee families he plans to take in at the Vatican have been identified, and that they will remain “as long as the Lord wants.”

His comments came in an interview with veteran Catholic journalist Aura Miguel of Portugal’s Radio Renascença.

In the interview, Francis once again blasted what he called “a bad and unjust socioeconomic system” in the early 21st century that he faults for Europe’s current refugee crisis.

Progress

Not all the way there, but definitely a step in the right direction:

The bishops of the Episcopal Church have authorized their clergy to perform same-sex weddings, but don’t expect sweeping changes across the entire denomination anytime soon. Episcopalians voted Wednesday to allow religious weddings for gay couples, but not every priest will necessarily officiate at a same-sex wedding.

In resolutions adopted here at the denomination’s General Convention meeting in Salt Lake City this week, the bishops have endorsed new liturgies or services for same-sex couples wishing to marry in church. The bishops also approved changing the church’s canons, or rules, governing marriage, making them gender neutral by substituting the terms “man and woman” with “couple.” However, clergy were also given the right to refuse to perform a same-sex marriage, with the promise they would incur no penalty, while bishops were given the right to refuse to allow the services to take place in their diocese.

The compromise means that same-sex weddings may occur after Nov. 1, 2015, with the full blessing of the church in places like Washington, Los Angeles and New York, but likely won’t take place in more conservative parts of the church, like Dallas, Albany and Orlando.

Pope Francis vs. USA imperialism

oscar romero

I think everyone knows or suspected that the CIA ran the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, so this is a very interesting canonization:

Pope Francis is soon to beatify the late Monseñor Óscar Romero, the archbishop of El Salvador who was assassinated in 1980 by a right-wing, pro-capitalist death squad. Unlike others whom Francis has already consecrated, the Blessed (and, sooner than later, Saint) Romero will be a holy figure whose killers still walk the earth.

If a saint is a sanctified man of God, what do we call the killers of a saint? Is theirs an especial evil? I’m no theologian, but it seems that to kill a saint is in excess of mere man’s law. The Catholic Catechism exhaustively extols the sanctity of saints, saying that Christ’s “holiness shines in the saints.” How then do we describe a powerful organization that trains and gives sanction to the killers of saints? Even the Vatican says that Romero “was shot by a right-wing death squad,” which, as everyone who understands recent Salvadoran history knows, was trained in the United States.

During the Cold War, the Georgia-based School of the Americas (now called WHISC) trained tens of thousands of Central American soldiers for right-wing governments and insurgencies in order to neutralize leftist influence in countries like Nicaragua, Honduras, and Romero’s El Salvador, where civil wars in the 1970s and ’80s pitted U.S.-trained rightists against socialists and leftists who opposed their countries being used as a plantation in service of a Washington-backed elite.

A UN truth commission in 1993 would find that two-thirds of the right-wing soldiers in El Salvador’s horrific civil war were U.S.-trained, many of them to operate the “death squads” that became a feature of Central America while Washington played with a heavy hand to direct the region’s politics and economics.

Bishop Romero was a thorn in the side of Washington, preaching liberation theology in defense of the poor and becoming known as the “Voice of the Voiceless.” Increasingly worried about Washington’s meddling in El Salvador’s burgeoning war between rightists and leftists, Romero wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter in 1980, calling out the United States’ support for the murderous right-wing forces who “repress the people and favor the interests of the Salvadoran oligarchy.”

He continued, condemning Washington’s major role in the creation of an armed, brutal capitalist elite:
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Bless their hearts

APTOPIX Italy Pope Epiphany

Boy, they really are worried about this pope’s influence. What if he actually got people to stop believing climate change was a hoax? What would happen to their paychecks? By the way, the Pope happens to have a masters degree in chemistry, so they’re going to have to argue with someone who actually understands science:

You’ll never guess what crazy shenanigans the folks at the climate denying Heartland Institute — I’m sorry, I meant to say “the world’s leading think tank promoting scientific skepticism about man-caused global warming” — are up to now.

According to their latest press release, the crew is heading to Rome, to “advise Pope Francis on climate policy.” Yes, that’s actually how they put it. It seems the Pope’s upcoming encyclical on climate action is rubbing the group the wrong way, probably because he’s expected to argue, at a Vatican summit next week, that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a moral and religious imperative. It’s a statement that’s going to be hard for Christians to ignore, which is why it’s up to Heartland’s anti-science “real scientists” to show the Pope the error of his ways before it’s too late.

“The Holy Father is being misled by ‘experts’ at the United Nations who have proven unworthy of his trust,” Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast said in a statement. “Humans are not causing a climate crisis on God’s Green Earth — in fact, they are fulfilling their Biblical duty to protect and use it for the benefit of humanity.” Did you hear that, Your Holiness? The overwhelming majority of scientists are wrong about climate change, and you don’t understand the bible.

“Though Pope Francis’s heart is surely in the right place,” Bast continued, “he would do his flock and the world a disservice by putting his moral authority behind the United Nations’ unscientific agenda on the climate.”

That nice Jewish family down the street

jesus and mary

There have always been these “alternate” gospels, and frankly, we can’t really vouch for the veracity of any of them — including the originals. So what harm does it do?

Jesus was a devoted family man with two kids and Mary Magdalene for his wife, a new history book based on an ancient manuscript claims.

According to the 1,500-year-old text, there was a previously unknown plot on Jesus’s life 13 years prior to the crucifixion. The revelations were made by Professor of Religious Studies at Toronto’s York University, Barrie Wilson, and an Israeli-Canadian historical writer and filmmaker, Simcha Jacobovici.

One of the most astounding claims in the book is that Mary Magdalene was the same person as the Virgin Mary. The authors of The Lost Gospel assert that the manuscript features the names of the two children of Christ and Mary Magdalene – and even recites an assassination attempt against Mary and the children.

The book also chronicles Jesus’s connections to Emperor Tiberius and his best friend, the soldier Sejanus.

The manuscript, known as “The Ecclesiastical History of Zacharias Rhetor (of Mytilene)” has been with the British Museum and then the British Library for nearly 170 years, according to The Sunday Times. It was purchased by the British Museum in 1847 before being transferred to the British Library some 20 years ago.

The Lost Gospel, which has been translated from Aramaic, is set to come out later this month; details of the manuscript are expected to be revealed at a press conference at the British Library on Wednesday.

Some religious scholars are not enthusiastic about the upcoming release. “We’re basically looking at a sensationalist money-making scheme here,” Professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary Greg Carey told the Huffington Post.

Arguing that the text has not been “uncovered” by Jacobovici and Wilson, as they claim, the professor says “over three hundred scholarly books and articles devoted to this text” can be found online, with over twenty manuscripts of the story. The ancient novel needs no “decoding,” Carey says, as it simply has no secret meaning.

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