Manya Brachear of the Chicago Tribune writes a story on security at churches in light of the murder of Dr. George Tiller at his Lutheran church.
In the Catholic parish setting there is little culture of security, though there are some places that implement security pretty well. St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City has good security measures, at least from observation. I know of one archdiocese that can whisk away the archbishop from the chancery's rooftop via a helicopter, if necessary. At the parish level, it's a serious matter. More needs to be done.
The health care debate is heating up this week and the church has many issues at stake in the decisions that are being made. Yet, one wonders why the Obama administration would even allow the hierarchy, which spent much of the last three months protesting the president’s appearance at Notre Dame, a seat at the table.
The poison pill for Catholics is, of course, federal funding of abortion. This has been banned by the Hyde Amendment of three decades now but the Obama administration did sign off on the District of Columbia's decision to use its funds for the procedure. That decision, however, did not involve federal funds. The concern is that if there is a government-run health insurance option in the final reform -- which is being fought on the grounds that it will stifle competition -- that option might include insurance for abortion.
If their website is any indication (it doesn’t appear to have been updated in about seven months), the group “Catholic Advocate” needs money. So I wasn’t too surprised when I received a copy of their latest direct mail fundraising appeal, produced in the form of an “Emergency Pro-Life Petition to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.”
Have you noticed the to-ing and fro-ing in the Vatican's newspaper L'Osservatore Romano over President Obama? Every time the paper -- which is not an official organ but is said to reflect the views of the Vatican -- presents something positive about Obama, it seems to balance it with another piece -- usually about a "life" issue -- to qualify the support.
For example, June 5, the L'Osservatore carried a a front-page article giving good marks to Obama's speech to the Arab world in Cairo and on an inside page ran a story that emphasized that when it comes to the Obama administration and pro-life issues, the Vatican and the U.S. bishops are in full agreement and that no compromise is possible on the right to life.
Others already have observed this yes-but support of Obama, but I was struck by the phenomenon again today as I scanned headlines from the NCR News Feed for the last few weeks:
Catholic church assets seem to be under scrutiny these days. In San Francisco, the church is disputing the payment of property transfer taxes possibly due and owing as a result of the transfer of property under the guise of "reorganization."
Now it appears that Israel's Finance Ministry wants taxes owed to it by local Catholic church institutions, as reported by John L. Allen Jr.
A whole neighborhood, or at least our block, took note this weekend as a five-year-old boy named Quinn attempted the first ride on his new two-wheeler. His feet still don't quite touch the ground when he straddles the small green bicycle he will grow into over the next few years. Better to get one too big than too small.
His dad guides him the first few yards until he gets moving fast enough to keep his balance, then he is gone, coasting and pedaling down the long sidewalk. At the end of the block he stops to turn around, falters but stays upright, pushes off and is on his way back, triumphant, his face beaming under his helmet.
"Liberation," his dad says, knowing from memory that his son is now free to go further and further into the big world.
As we enter the season of Pentecost, a guiding hand is withdrawn and gives way to an inner center of balance, self-motivation. Coming of age has its privileges and responsibilities. The world is ours to explore and influence.
The Asia News agency, a Catholic media outlet based in Rome, reported this morning that the Chief Tax Collector at Israel’s Finance Ministry, Yehezkel Abrahamoff, had notified some Catholic institutions that funds were being seized in order to compel them to settle what Abrahamoff regards as delinquent tax bills.
Less than three hours after Asia News moved the story, and in response to what the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See described as inquiries from various media organizations, the embassy released a statement indicating that the seizure was a non-starter.
“It will not be carried out, and the situation remains unchanged,” the one-sentence statement said.
Speaking on background, sources told NCR that Abrahamoff’s threat had been directed at a “major Catholic institution” in Israel. Those sources said Abrahamoff stated in a meeting with officials from that institution that his move was part of a broader strategy to compel church-affiliated institutions to pay up, regardless of the course of negotiations between the Vatican and the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
NCR reported over the weekend on the meeting of Cardinal Sean Brady, president of the Irish bishops conference and Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Benedict XVI in the Vatican.
The Irish Times is reporting that Pope Benedict was "visibly upset" when he heard details contained in the Ryan report on abuse in State institutions run by religious orders. (That's the 2,600 page report by a government commisison released last month). The newspaper cites Archbishop Martin for this quote.
Today Martin and Brady are briefing the Irish bishops on their Vatican meeting. Some kind of statement is expected from the conference later this week.
A bit of background: