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God is not one

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God Is Not One is the title of a new and iconoclastic book jolting the interfaith movement. Most folks involved in inter-religious dialogue spend their waking energy searching for the commonalities among faith traditions. Some even say that different faiths are simply different paths to the same God.

“Not so,” says Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University, and one of the most lucid writers in the world of religion that I have encountered. The full title of this newest book is: God is Not One: the Eight Rival Religions that Run the World and Why Their Differences Matters. I interviewed him this week on "Interfaith Voices."

Church in Belgium opts for transparency

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The Catholic Church in Belgium is taking new strides to regain its credibility, according to a report in The New York Times, and that effort begins with greater transparency and cooperation with a government commission.

Increasingly, it appears, the way to credibility is being paved by churches in largely Catholic countries, such as Ireland and Belgium, where leaders have wearied of hiding the facts and placing blame elsewhere and are now willing to divulge the breadth and depth of the offenses that occurred.

Good News Bad News

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While I'm pleased to see that a majority of Catholics in the reported survey want sisters to speak out on vital issues, I'm also dismayed that there is so little apparent concern for the investigation that has resulted largely from sisters doing what the laity favor: speaking or acting out a justice based set of convictions. Those actions have incurred the wrath of the hierarchy which, in turn, has sent the investigators in motion.

Perhaps most Catholic lay people think the Vatican's probe into the affairs of nuns is child's play or simply a routine inspection that anyone in any organization should expect, like a yearly review by the boss.

It's not a harmless exercise or a polite review in my opinion. Sisters have been singled out because many of the biggest wigs in the church complain that too many nuns have been thinking for themselves and speaking their minds in concert with other sisters on a variety of justice issues inside and outside the church.

Burqa in public places? Yes or No?

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The French cabinet last month approved legislation to ban women in France from wearing full Islamic face-coverings, the burqa, and niqab, in public areas. France, which contains Europe’s largest Muslim population, has been headed in this direction for a while.

President Nicolas Sarkozy says that his government is defending France’s secular values and protecting women's rights. His critics see Islamophobia and political opportunism behind the move and believe it is a sign that official France still does not fully accept citizens of immigrant origin.

So, is the wearing of a burqa contrary to Western values? Do people have a right to see the face of the person they are speaking with in a public arena? By allowing burqas in public places are Western societies giving in to repressive, anti-female, religious traditions? Is it right that Muslim women must cover their entire faces while men have no such restriction?

Good news on ocean life

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Irish Columban Fr. Sean McDonagh reports that cod fisheries in the North Sea are coming back.

"Environmental good news stories are rare, especially in the area of protecting biodiversity. We are told by competent scientists that extinction is rampant among plants, animals, bird and fish species. It is estimated that one third of the bird species of the world are now on the Red List of endangered species. This is why the recent report from the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) that North Sea cod which were on the brink of extinction due to overfishing a few short decades ago, are no longer endangered. The WWF document claims that stocks of cod have risen by 52 per cent from their historic low in 2006, and can now be fished once again. For people of my generation and our parents, fish (usually cod) and chips wrapped in newspaper have had a very special place in our diet.

Mercy Sister Margaret McBride speaks out in her silence

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The media is getting on to Sr. Margaret McBride who has refused to speak to the media and, as a result, has been speaking loud and clearly every day since she was told by Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted that she had been excommunicated for her participation in a hospital ethics-committee decision to abort an 11-week-old fetus in order to save a mother's life.

When less if more, silence can be clear and overwhelming.

Now some in the media are getting McBride's message -- and and are beginning to write about what she has to say. .

Sr. McBride, we are on to you! And we will stay atuned.

If the White Sheet Fits

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The rightwing went bonkers yesterday when an audiotape surfaced of Congresswoman Linda Sanchez suggesting that the effort to pass the Arizona anti-immigration law was funded in part by groups with ties to white supremacists.

On Fox News, Sean Hannity played the audiotape of Sanchez’s comments and suggested she spend less time reading leftwing blogs and more time reading the legislation. Hannity is one of those who like to deny that the Arizona law will be racist in application although I do not imagine he would qualify as someone “suspected” of being an undocumented worker. He argues that the law forbids racial profiling, raising the unanswerable question: How can a law enforcement official determine who might or might not be undocumented if they do not consider race? Of course, Hannity had just finished placing the blame for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on environmentalists, so the question is no longer how tendentious this man is but what planet he is on. Watching his show, you keep expecting the Red Queen to make an appearance.

O'Connell to Trenton

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Regular readers will know of the high regard in which I hold Father David O’Connell, CM, the President of the Catholic University of America for the past 12 years. Evidently, my opinion is shared by Pope Benedict XVI who named O’Connell this morning as the Coadjutor Bishop of Trenton, New Jersey. I am told that it is a gem of a diocese and they are getting a gem of a new bishop. Tanti Augurri.

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September 12-25, 2014

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