By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tA strong call for the cancellation of Africa’s external debts came yesterday from Cardinal Bernard Agré of Ivory Coast, who insisted that such a move would be “no longer an act of charity, but of justice.”
tAgré, now 83 and retired, spoke yesterday to Vatican Radio on the margins of the Synod of Bishops for Africa. The synod is meeting in the Vatican Oct. 4-25.
tAccording to United Nations statistics, sub-Saharan African nations still owe an estimated $200 billion in external debt, despite spending almost $14 billion annually in debt payments. The UN estimates that sub-Saharan African nations receive some $10 billion annually in foreign aid, meaning that they actually send back $4 billion more each year to affluent nations than they receive in development assistance.
tAgré told Vatican Radio that they synod, currently in its recommendations-crafting phase, “should consider this problem of the cancellation of debts which fall too heavily on many peoples.”
Courthouse News Service, a news service for lawyers, reports that a federal judge has rule that San Diego-based Catholic Answers can't sue the IRS.
After Catholic Answers posted an e-letter calling 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry a "notorious sinner," the Internal Revenue Service deemed it an "act of political intervention," something prohibited for tax-exempt organizations.
Catholic Answers had to pay $831.41 in tax plus interest. Catholic Answers paid up, but then appealed. The IRS eventually abated the tax and refunded the money, but then Catholic Answers sued.
A federal judge in San Diego today granted the government's motion to dismiss the suit, saying because it had received a full refund, Catholic Answer's claims were moot.
"The revered reputations of four of the most powerful Irish churchmen of recent times will take a hefty unspiritual nosedive with the imminent publication of most of the horrific findings of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin," writes John Cooney, a columnist for the Irish Independent.
My colleague Maureen Fiedler is correct when she notes that the issue confronting President Obama is whether or not faith-based organizations should be able to discriminate in hiring based on religion with moneys received from the federal government. Otherwise, why would be discussing the matter? And, she raises the issue of such monies being used to proselytize but that is a separate issue.
Proselytizing should not be permitted in social service agencies run by the Church. On the other hand, recall President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame when he spoke about how moved he had been by the witness and the word of Chicago’s Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. The President saw a man who lived his humanity differently because of his encounter with Christ. Was that proselytizing? The courts will doubtless have to draw lines here about what is and is not permissible and I suppose they won’t get much more accurate than Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography: “I know it when I see it.”
The Tablet, the Catholic weekly from London, has this to say about the U.S. bishops' draft pastoral letter on marriage:
The Tablet's editorial is titled "The problem with men," and the quote above is just a tiny part of the editorial's message about marriage and modern relationships. Read the full piece.
Rome -- Earlier this week, I interviewed Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, the lone American member of the Oct. 4-25 Synod for Africa, and asked him how many of the African bishops he already knew. He ticked off several, beginning with Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria -- but at that point Gregory stopped himself, saying, “I guess that doesn’t really count, because everybody knows Onaiyekan!”
tMade a bishop at the tender age of 38, and now in full stride at 65, Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan is Africa’s superstar prelate, known around the world as the voice of his continent.
It must be because last night I attended my first parent-teacher conference as a parent of a high school, that I felt drawn to this essay by Christopher L. Doyle on the Education Week Web site: Growing Up Scripted: And Losing Freedom Along the Way.
The problem is that adolescents imagine adulthood as an extension of their own experience, and most see themselves as overworked, overregulated, and overstressed. They have a point. …
My fellow NCR Today blogger Michael Sean Winters argues that faith-based institutions should be able to show preference for people of their own faith in hiring. But he omitted one very crucial phrase: "with public money."
What The New York Times editorial (with which he disagrees) was discussing was not hiring in general, but hiring people for social service programs funded by public tax dollars under the Faith-based and Community Partnerships Program. These dollars cannot be used for anything that proselytizes, or promotes a religion anyway, or the whole program would run afoul of the First Amendment.
So, if one is hiring a drug counselor, or someone to run a soup kitchen or a job-training office, it’s a neutral job -- religiously speaking -- and there is no reason to discriminate on the basis of religion. In fact, since such salaries are paid with tax dollars, there is every reason not to discriminate.
A Catholic litmus test for national health care reform from the Michigan Catholic Conference