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Catholics for Equality

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I joined a media teleconference this morning that marked the official opening of Catholics for Equality, the stated purpose of which is "to mobilize the 62 percent of American Catholics who support freedoms for all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Catholics for Equality and an affiliated foundation will channel that support into action for legislative, political and cultural change."

Today's Muslims Yesterday's Catholics?

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Current American anti-Muslim bias is being commonly compared to 19th century anti-Catholicism. I think that's sloppy history.

Hateful behavior against belief in general is inexcusable in a society that espouses free speech and religious liberty wherever it happens. And it has happened in every time, whether against free-thinkers, Mormons, Catholics or Jehovah's Witnesses.

While violence against innocent newcomers and non-conformists is always wrong, the fears that underlie those hostilities are often distinctive.

Was the fear of Catholicism itself in the 19th and 20th centuries irrational, based purely on a blind defense of Protestant theology and democratic values?

Surely it was in part. Since the Reformation, Rome had been the symbol of the anti-Christ in many Protestant circles as well as a threat to a young nation whose ethos was democratic and Protestant.

But as the Notre Dame historians point out in their piece in the latest New York Review of Books, those fears were also grounded in concrete foundation. Popes in the latter half of the 19th century railed against egalitarianism and democracy in a frenzied reaction to Europe's revolutionary forces.

Right-wing rage - a supplement

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Quick follow-up to my blog yesterday, about the patterns of right-wing rage that spring up after the election of Democratic presidents. A new book has just hit the shelves, by Philadelphia Daily News columnist Will Bunch. The title: The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama.

Bunch -- also a senior fellow at the left-leaning research group Media Matters -- notes, too, that right-wing radicalism and Democratic presidents are often two peas in the same political pod, but makes special note of one new element: mainstream acceptance.

Blowback from Florida pastor hits Christians in Kashmir

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tFallout from the threat by a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Qur’an on the 9/11 anniversary has reached into the faraway province of Kashmir in India, where Muslim separatists have seized the occasion to launch violent protests directed both against the government and the province’s tiny Christian minority.

A Christian school in the town of Tangmarc in Kashmir has been burned down, fortunately with no one inside and no injuries. At least 19 people reportedly have lost their lives, however, in the broader wave of violence currently gripping Kashmir.

Today the Italian daily La Stampa carried an interview with Bishop Peter Celestine Elampassery of the Diocese of Jammu and Kashmir, which numbers 16,260 faithful.Elampassery spoke about the threats Christians in his corner of the world face, and how the Qur’an-burning crisis has aggravated them. The following is an NCR translation of the interview.

Are the Christians of Kashmir a target because of Pastor Jones?

Newt Gingrich selling book at National Shrine Sunday

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The comments section of a post about Newt Gingrich over at the Commonweal blog yesterday reveals an interesting factoid: This weekend the former Speaker of the House will be hosting a book signing at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Details about the event can be found at Gingrich's website here.

Personally, I find the choice of venue to be more than a little concerning. I'm not a fan of Gingrich, but more importantly I don't think politicians of any stripe should be able to use church property -- especially such a high profile church as the Basilica -- to sell books or espouse their views.

But I can see where others might disagree. It's tricky territory.

What do you think?

A road to Damascus

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This is a little dated, but still relevant I think because of its clarity of thought and the invitation at the bottom.

Gabe Huck, the longtime editor at Chicago-based Liturgical Training Publications and a not infrequent contributor to NCR and NCR projects, sent us a copy of this open letter to Pastor Terry Jones, the now infamous preacher from Florida.

The letter comes from Fr. Elias Zahlawi, an Arab and a Roman Catholic priest, in Damascus, Syria.

An update on our Web site comment system

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Visiting these pages over the past couple of years you may have noticed something unique about NCR: We let virtually anyone comment on our online stories. We don't require registration to post a comment on our Web pages and, as best we can, we only moderate out comments that present personal attacks or are simply inappropriate for a public forum.

We do this to encourage conversation, to provide a tiny (but growing every day) corner of the web where people can come to engage one another in thoughtful discourse about issues facing the church and society as a whole.

By and large this experiment works. We receive many comments that are obviously well reasoned. We also receive many that reflect deep personal feelings and convictions which add substantively to the conversation.

Separating church and state

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Yesterday, Sept. 12, was the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's speech to a meeting of the Greater Houston Ministerial Alliance. The speech, in which he addresses his faith and the need to separate church and state, has become the template to measure politican's private faith and public service.

NCR, ran an analysis of current religion-political relations that used Kennedy's speech as a starting point: JFK and the cafeteria bishops: 50 years after Kennedy asserted independence from the pope, tide has turned.

Now read this story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Santorum injecting faith into presidential discussion

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