COMMENTARY: Hooray for Hollywood

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Charles W. Colson, former special counsel to Richard Nixon, served a prison term for his role in the Watergate scandal. He now heads Prison Fellowship International, an evangelical Christian ministry to the imprisoned and their families. Contact Colson via e-mail at 71421,1551(at sign) (RNS)-When Hollywood film mogul Frank Capra quit the business in disgust a quarter century ago, he minced no words about the reasons why.”The winds of change blew through the dream factories of make-believe, tore at its crinoline tatters,”Capra wrote in”The Name Above the Title,”his autobiography.”The hedonists, the homosexuals, the hemophilic bleeding hearts, the God-haters, the quick buck artists who substituted shock for talent all cried: Shake em! Rattle em!

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c. 1996 Religion News Service Episcopal Church agrees to settle civil suit against former treasurer (RNS)-Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning of the Episcopal Church has announced that the church reached an agreement to settle its civil suit against former treasurer Ellen F. Cooke, who pleaded guilty to embezzling church funds, and her husband, Nicholas T. Cooke III. A one-paragraph statement agreed to by lawyers for the Cookes and the denomination said the agreement includes transfer to the church of”substantially all of their (the Cookes’) liquid assets, valued at approximately $100,000.” In addition, the statement said Mrs. Cooke will turn over an unspecified amount of”tangible personal property of the church”which Mrs. Cooke had in her possession. When the allegations against her were first made public last May, the church said Mrs. Cooke’s embezzlement included misuse of a church credit card that she used to buy $325,000 in personal items, including jewelry and Tiffany glassware.”The terms of the agreement will not be further publicized, but the church is satisfied that the settlement is in the church’s best interest under all the circumstances in this case,”the statement said.

TOP STORY: JUDAISM IN AMERICA: Butchers have a beef with state kosher laws

c. 1996 Religion News Service NEW YORK (RNS)-It wasn’t the $11,000 fine that hurt the most, say Long Island butchers Brian and Jeffrey Yarmeisch. It was the damage to their reputation in the Jewish community after they were cited in 1993 for violating New York state’s kosher food laws. Though the fine was soon rescinded, the publicity resulted in a drop-off of more than 20 percent of their business, they say. So, three years later, the owners of Commack Self-Service Kosher Meats in Commack, N.Y., filed a federal lawsuit in January to overturn the state’s kosher-food inspection laws.

NEWS FEATURE: Dating service founder seeks matches made in heaven

c. 1996 Religion News Service HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (RNS)-Ever since the original matchmaker created Adam and Eve, men and women have been trying to find the perfect mate. While she certainly doesn’t claim to be God, Kimberly Gura hopes she can help people, especially Christians, find their mate through Perfect Match, a Christian dating service. “First of all, God is running the business, not me,” said Gura, a single mother of three children.

NEWS STORY: Bishop threatens to excommunicate Catholics in `incompatible’ groups

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-The Roman Catholic bishop of Lincoln, Neb., is threatening to excommunicate Catholic members of a dozen groups whose ideas he considers incompatible with church teachings. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz said he has forbidden Catholics in his southern Nebraska diocese from belonging to Planned Parenthood, the Freemasons, the Hemlock Society, Catholics for a Free Choice and eight other groups.”Membership in these organizations or groups is always perilous to the Catholic faith and most often is totally incompatible with the Catholic faith,”the bishop declared in an official edict published Friday (March 22) in the diocesan newspaper, The Southern Nebraska Register. Bruskewitz said any of the 88,000 Catholics in his diocese who are members of the named organizations will be barred from Holy Communion after April 15. Those remaining as members a month later will be excommunicated, he said.

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c. 1996 Religion News Service Newspaper says Hickey blocked Jesuit from school post (RNS)-Vatican officials have barred a provincial superior of the Society of Jesus in Maryland from becoming president of the Jesuit Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass., according to the National Catholic Reporter. The Reporter, an independent liberal Catholic weekly, said in its current issue (dated March 29) that the Rev. Edward Glynn, who leads the Jesuit order in Maryland, was rejected for the Weston post by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education-despite having been unanimously endorsed for the post by Weston’s board of trustees and faculty. The newspaper said the Vatican office gave no reason for its decision, nor is it required to do so. However, the Reporter also said that”it is widely speculated”that Cardinal James A. Hickey, archbishop of Washington, who serves on the Vatican congregation, was the”obstacle”preventing Glynn’s appointment.

TOP STORY: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: Ousted French bishop makes cyberspace his pulpit

c. 1996 Religion News Service PARIS (RNS)-He was removed from his diocese by Pope John Paul II for spouting progressive views. But one year later, Monsignor Jacques Gaillot has eluded the church by connecting with followers on the World Wide Web. Often described as the church’s first”virtual bishop,”Gaillot says he will not be denied his right to preach social and moral principles at odds with the conservative positions of the pope.”This is against what they wanted,”Gaillot said of the church’s attempt to muffle him.”The fact that they took away my diocese was a strategy for them to stop me from speaking.” If so, it obviously hasn’t worked.”He’s the first virtual bishop because he’s not responsible for a community,”said Morvan Boury, a magazine writer in Paris, one of many journalists who keeps tabs on the prelate.

COMMENTARY: Give me that on-line religion

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Robert Kirby is a Mormon humorist and regular columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune.) (RNS)-I just received my copy of Christian Computing, a magazine devoted to helping Christians funnel the spirit of God through their computers. Reading through Christian Computing, it’s plain that religious folk are making the leap into the modern age. There are ads and articles for everything from crudely sketched Christian clip art to Bible data bases so comprehensive they can figure out 2,000 years of accrued interest on Judas’ 30 pieces of silver. Program names for Christian software fairly shimmer with religious overtones: Seraphim Systems, DoveSoft, QuickVerse, HyperBible, PowerChurch Plus, Tithe For Windows, BibleWorks and PontiusPerfect.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Christian music sales grow at faster rate than other genres (RNS)-Gospel music sales are growing faster than sales of other major forms of popular music, according to a study released Thursday (March 21) by the Gospel Music Association. Between 1991 and 1995, gospel music has averaged 22 percent growth per year. Citing its study and data from the Recording Institute Association of America, the Gospel Music Association said other genres of music, such as rock, pop, urban, country and rap, have had annual growth rates of 5 percent or below. Bruce Koblish, president of the Gospel Music Association, attributes the growth in sales of Christian music to increased marketing techniques and the inspirational lyrics of the music.”The diversity of our styles of music has made it more accessible to more people,”Koblish said in an interview with Religion News Service.

TOP STORY: MEDICINE AND ETHICS: Physicians’ classic anatomy work used victims of Nazi murders

c. 1996 The Jerusalem Report (RNS)-One day in April 1993, Dr. Howard Israel, an oral surgeon at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, prepared for an operation by doing what he always did beforehand: Reviewing the terrain in his trusted copy of”Pernkopf’s Topographical and Applied Human Anatomy,”considered a classic reference work for surgeons, specialists and anatomists. While the doctor studied the book’s detailed anatomical paintings, a colleague dropped by the office and casually observed:”Did you know that those cadavers you’re looking at may have been victims of Nazi murder?” It was a remark that would transform Israel’s life, turning him into a detective, and ultimately leading him to evidence of a monstrous medical legacy from the Holocaust. It appears that corpses depicted in Dr. Eduard Pernkopf’s book, which was fist published in Germany and Austria in 1937 and is still in print in four languages today, include Jewish Holocaust victims. And pieces of those bodies-preserved in formaldehyde for more than 50 years-are still in use as specimens at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.

TOP STORY: THE HOLOCAUST: A message of tolerance from the woman who sheltered Anne Frank

c. 1996 Religion News Service CLEVELAND (RNS)-To watch Miep Gies with children is to understand why Anne Frank loved her. Gies, who risked her life to hide the Frank family from the Nazis during World War II, told Cleveland-area junior high school students that for a long while she hated all Germans and Austrians because of the deaths of her friends in concentration camps. But it was Anne’s father Otto, who had lost his wife and two daughters to the Nazi death camps, who taught her the need for tolerance. “Otto Frank asked from me like I ask of you: Stop saying `the Jews,’ `the blacks,’ `the Asians,’ `the Arabs’,” Gies, 87, recently told the students.

NEWS STORY: Pope says priests obliged to remain celibate

c. 1996 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY (RNS)-Pope John Paul II told the Roman Catholic Church’s 400,000 priests Thursday (March 21) that they are obliged to remain faithful to their vows of celibacy. In his annual letter to priests marking Holy Thursday, which celebrates the sacrament of priestly ordination and falls the week before Easter (April 7), John Paul wrote,”Priests in the Latin Church take on the commitment to live in celibacy. If vocation is watchfulness, certainly a significant aspect of the latter is fidelity to this commitment throughout one’s whole life.” The pope has consistently opposed allowing Roman Catholic priests to marry, though he has approved decrees permitting married priests from other Christian denominations, such as the Anglican Church, to receive ordination and carry out priestly duties.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Grahams to receive Gold Medal on National Day of Prayer (RNS)-Evangelist Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth, are scheduled to receive the Congressional Gold Medal on May 2, the National Day of Prayer. The joint meeting of Congress will be held at 2 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda to honor the Grahams, said Jack Cox, press secretary for Rep. Charles Taylor, R-N.C. Attendance will be by invitation only, he said. President Bill Clinton signed a bill in February authorizing the award, after it was passed by both houses of Congress. Taylor introduced the bill to the House of Representatives.

COMMENTARY: The graceful fiction of Andre Dubus

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Andrew M. Greeley is a Roman Catholic priest, best-selling novelist and sociologist at the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. His home page on the World Wide Web is at Or contact him at his e-mail address: agreel(at sign) Check RNS Online for a photo of Andrew Greeley.) (RNS)-Andre Dubus, author of the new collection of short stories,”Dancing After Hours,”(Knopf) is the best Catholic storyteller since Graham Greene.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Amnesty International slams China’s human rights record (RNS)-Amnesty International, the London-based human rights groups, said Tuesday (March 12) that despite giant economic strides, “human rights violations occur on a massive scale in China.” The international rights group’s criticism was contained in a 121-page report, “No One is Safe: Political Repression and Abuse of Power in the 1990s.” While praising China for “remarkable achievements” in meeting the needs of the country’s 1.2 billion people, it said the Beijing government breaks both its own human rights laws and international law. “Time and again, the authorities have demonstrated that they are willing to use any means, whether legal or illegal, to protect the established order, particularly when confronted with rising levels of criticism,” the report said. Chinese officials have persecuted human rights advocates, political dissidents, labor activists, Tibetans, Muslims, Christians, prisoners and some pregnant women, according to the report. Harassment and surveillance, arbitrary arrest and “verdict first, trial second” judicial procedures were cited in the report as examples of human rights violation in China.