New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan was featured on last night's "60 Minutes" and the episode demonstrates one of the main reasons his fellow bishops selected him to lead the USCCB last November: The man radiates personal warmth and he joy in his vocation is evident to all. As our own John Allen, who was the sole expert commentator called upon by CBS, noted, the bishops are aware that they have an image problem and they want to put their best face forward. Dolan is one of their best faces.
On Wednesday, the last day of his Latin America tour, President Barack Obama will pay his respects at the tomb of martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero at the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador.
At a press briefing on the trip, Press Secretary Jay Carney said:
"Then the last day, Wednesday before we come back, the President will have an opportunity to tour the National Cathedral in San Salvador and, at the National Cathedral, to pay respects at the tomb of Father Oscar Romero, who, of course, is a hero to many people in the Americas."
The visit is of enormous symbolic significance, not least because Romero was gunned down by paramilitary troops who were armed and encouraged by the United States. Romero was and is, as Carney noted, a hero to many people in the Americas. His stand against the national security state of his day was prophetic and he met a prophet's end: Murdered by those who resisted his call to conversion and his defense of human dignity.
The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships has inaugurated a new program to encourage interfaith cooperation in community service on college campuses nationwide. President Obama announced the new program in a video message.
"As a Christian who became committed to the church while serving my community, I know that an act of service can unite people of all faiths – or even no faith – around a common purpose of helping those in need. In doing so, we can not only better our communities, we can build bridges of understanding between ourselves and our neighbors," President Obama said in the video message. "While we may not all believe the same things – and we don’t have to – we can certainly agree that together, we can make a difference."
You can see the entire video message here.
Michael Gerson is probably the most thoughtful conservative writer in America today. In this morning's Washington Post, he looks at the tactics of James O'Keefe, the young man who produces these sting videos aimed to entrap conservative targets such as ACORN and NPR. Gerson exposes the danger of this type of muckracking faux-journalism. With enough editing, you can make anyone look like a monster, but the point of journalism is not to make anyone look like a monster, it is to report the reality of a situation. O'Keefe is not a journalist he is just a politcal hack in the long history of hacks. Had he been a young adult in the early 70s, I am sure he would have been one of those who broke into the Watergate. If he had been around in the 50s, I am sure he would have helped Joe McCarthy smear innocent people. And, of course, because ethics and ideology are never all on one side, one can imagine him air-burshing photos for Joe Stalin's KGB in the 1930s.
Talking with a religion reporter for a major newspaper yesterday, we both voiced our surprise that the congressional hearings into the supposed radicalization of American Muslims held last week by Cong. Peter King had so little traction. I have drunk thin red wines with longer legs. Most of the commentary, in fact, focused on the emotional testimony of Cong. Keith Ellison, who was there to debunk King's charges. The lone representative of law enforcement at the hearings also failed to read from King's desired script, and commented upon the many ways the American Muslim community were helping law enforcement uncover any whiff of radicalization.
I wondered if I had missed something and did some searching and found this article at TNR by Tiffany Stanley who reached the same conclusion: The hearings were a big yawn.
The fact that the hearings were so ineffectual is a good thing, but it does not detract from how pernicious their intention. Still, better to have evil be ineffectual than not.
In his sermon at the recent service of repentence at Dublin's pro-Cathedral, which was magnifcent in every way, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin spoke this sentence: "Young Irish people are among the most catechised in Europe but apparently among the least evangelized."
Armed with a request from the Arab League for direct intervention in Libya, and a Security Council resolution that authorizes “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in that country from the harm being inflicted upon them by dictator (and madman) Moammar Gaddafi, the United States and its allies are preparing for battle. Western troops have not been seen along the Libyan shores since Montgomery chased Rommel from El-Alamein all the way to Tunis where, with help from Patton, the Hun was hurled off the African coast once and for all. Now, we want the Hun back.
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Civil Rights has issued a broadside attack against those of us in the media - he mentions NCR by name - who dare to report accurately on the crimes committed against young people by members of the clergy. If only he was as upset about the crimes as he was about the reporting!
But, Donohue discerns a liberal agenda behind the reporting, and claims we at NCR and elsewhere want the Church to adopt our liberal views on sexual matters and are using the sex abuse crisis to that end. He writes: "We know what's going on: get Catholics so riled up that they will demand the Church adopt the liberal agenda on sexuality. They just don't get it: it was the detour from orthodoxy that allowed the abuse scandal to take hold in the first place."
Joanna Brooks, at Religion Dispatches, looks at the "dark side" of the Brigham Young University honor code.
I understand the value of honor codes, especially at a place like West Point which is doing more than providing an undergraduate education, it is training men and women to defend each other under extreme circumstances. But, a university should also be a place where students are allowed to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Honor codes can have a chilling effect that warrants examination and Brooks is right to examine it.
Cathy Grossman, at USAToday, looks at the controversy at California's Crystal Cathedral which announced the other day that it was demanding its choirsters sign statements that they oppose sex outside of traditional marriage.
Evdiently, no one sought the opinion of the church's founder Robert Schuller, who has stepped away from the demand that his choir pass a test of orthodoxy. He pointed out that he has never required the choir members be Christian.
As Grossman points out, Schuller's comments are a bit confusing, but they nonetheless breathe a healthy sense of tolerance.
I would add that I suspect Schuller understands something that every pastor in America understands: A music program with no gays is going to be a lousy music program!