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What To Do With Terrorists

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The decision by Attorney General Eric Holder to bring Khalid Sheik Mohammed to justice in a New York courtroom has occasioned all manner of comments, most of them absurd. Finally, today, an op-ed in the Washington Post attains the sublime. Jim Comey and Jack Goldsmith, both former Bush administration officials point out better than I can why Holder’s decision is defensible.

The most salient arguments they make are that the military tribunals are no panacea and the civilian courts have already handled these kinds of cases. Under the military tribunals erected by President Bush, a grand total of three prosecutions have been achieved in eight years. Conversely, Zacarias Moussaoui, a co-conspirator with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, was successfully prosecuted in a federal court as were other terrorists from the infamous “shoe bomber” Richard Reid to the “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh.

The Manhattan Declaration

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The Internet and blogsphere is buzzing this morning about the The Manhattan Declaration, which calls itself "a 4,732-word statement signed by a movement of Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Christian leaders who are collaborating around moral issues of great concern."

The Assocaiated Press says about it:

The 4,700-word document, called "The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience," sounds familiar themes from political and social debates over the health care overhaul and gay marriage battles.

While acknowledging that "Christians and our institutions have too often scandalously failed to uphold the institution of marriage," the group rejects same-sex marriage. The declaration states that opening a legal door for gay marriage would do the same for "polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships."

President Barack Obama's desire to reduce the need for abortion is "a commendable goal," but his proposals are likely to increase the number of elective abortions, the document contends.

Nov. 20, St. Edmund of East Anglia, King and Martyr

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Today is the feast of St. Edmund, King of the East Angles, martyred by the Danes in 869. His feast is celebrated by the Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church, and the Roman Catholic Church.

This icon illustrates various elements of St. Edmund's story. The Danes tied him to a tree and shot arrows at him until he "was all beset with their shots, as with a porcupine's bristles." They beheaded him and threw his head into the woods where a wolf guarded it until the King's followers came to retrieve it. In 1849 the tree that was believed to have been the site of Edmund's martyrdom fell down and was chopped up. An arrowhead was found at the heart of the tree.

Coins were struck in memory of St. Edmund within 20 years of his death. "The St Edmunds memorial coinage, current in East Anglia during the Danish rule, is a unique indication of the extraordinary reputation of Edmund, already recognised as a Saint."

Reflections on Harvey Cox and The Future of Faith

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I just interviewed the noted theologian, Harvey Cox, on his new and provocative book, The Future of Faith. I strongly recommend the book.

Cox divides the history of Christianity into three "ages": the Age of Faith (the early Church up to Constantine), the Age of Belief (Constantine to about the mid-20the century), and the new Age of the Spirit (still emerging in the last 50-60 years). At the risk of oversimplifying, he says that the second age, the “Age of Belief,” emphasized subscribing to proper and orthodox teachings. It was pre-occupied with creeds, and statements of belief. Thus, it discovered heresies, inquisitions and other ways to exclude people from the community of “belief.”

The third age, which he says is still in formation, is the Age of the Spirit, which emphasizes – not what people believe – but how they live, how they treat one another, how they experience the divine through spiritual practices or ritual. It is global, and in many ways, interfaith, with practices being borrowed across faith traditions. His examples include a wide range, from the Community of Sant ‘Egidio to liberation theology to global Pentecostalism.

The bishops and translations

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Does anyone else feel like the U.S. Bishops are living in the 13th century? They are actually spending time together – precious time – trying to decide whether or not to accept grammatically inaccurate and awkward translations of the prayer of the Mass. It’s time they simply told the Vatican that such culturally specific and pastoral issues are their province. English translations need to be done by English speakers who use the American idiom. (And the American idiom these days, by the way, is gender inclusive – although the U.S. Bishops themselves still have a way to go on that point).

Instead of arguing over nouns and verbs, the Bishops could be spending time on really pressing issues like climate change, hunger in the world, nuclear disarmament, or building an interfaith movement.
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How to Get Them on the Same Page When They're Reading Different Books

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Law and Order, Dissidents Unit, starring Cardinal Francis E. George as chief enforcer, and a repertoire team of U.S. bishops.

Religion is a messy affair, and the messiness tends to take on a dialectical quality. In Catholicism, strong central control stands in tension with flexible, personal freedom. In America, where Catholicism met its first major challenge in a democratic setting, the decentralized pole has strengthened at the expense of hierarchical authority.

Cardinal George, in the first session of the annual bishops' conference, signaled that the bishops have felt the time was right to again assert their authority. He and others have demanded that Catholics affirm what the church says about major issues like abortion or quit calling themselves Catholic.

He also serves notice to Catholic publications and universities that it's time to examine whether they're worthy of the name. Already before the meeting, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Rhode Island rebuked Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)for disagreeing with the church on abortion rights.

Monk expelled for ordaining four women

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Now where have I heard this story before?

This from the blog, "Religion, Sex and Politics."

The popular monk Ajahn Brahm has been disciplined by the Thai forest monastery sangha founded by the Venerable Ajahn Chah because he was involved in ordaining four women as nuns, orbhikkunis, in a ceremony on October 22 at his Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery in Perth, Australia.

The Wat Pah Pong Sangha's action of excommunication (revoking Bodhinyana's status as a branch monastery) has resulted in a firestorm of controversy in the Theravada Buddhist world. The ordination of nuns is illegal under Thai Buddhist law because the order of nuns became extinct sometime between the 11th and 13th centuries, after which, the argument goes, no new bhikkhunis could be ordained since there were none left to preside over an ordination.

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July 18-31, 2014

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