COMMENTARY: Who’s calling who divisive?

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 via e-mail at agreel(AT) (RNS)-The response of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops to the massive petition drive recently launched by a coalition of liberal Catholic organizations is a classic example of the ecclesiastical double-talk I call”bishop-speak.”It was at once a proclamation that the hierarchy is open to dialogue and a put-down of everyone in the church who is even vaguely liberal. I am sympathetic to the goals of some of the groups that comprise the”We Are Church”coalition and I am adamantly opposed to others.

ANALYSIS: TOP STORY: THE ELECTIONS IN ISRAEL Netanyahu victory could affect Israel’s ties with

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Benjamin Netanyahu’s apparent election victory in Israel could well lead to political and religious conflict between any right-wing government he is likely to form and a sizeable segment of the leadership of the American Jewish community. At least for now, the mainstream leadership of the American Jewish community-despite its generally liberal or centrist views-is expected to fall in line behind a Netanyahu-led government.”The main American Jewish groups will embrace Netanyahu,”said Henry Siegman, Middle East Project director for the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations and the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress.”He is well known here and is sufficiently popular.” American Jews’ bottom-line sense of loyalty to Israel and fear of politically undermining the Jewish state at a particularly difficult time will also serve to mute immediate public criticism, Siegman and other American Jewish leaders said Thursday (May 30). But sooner or later, Netanyahu’s hardline views on the peace process and his need to keep Israel’s more religious members of parliament within his governing coalition are likely to bring him into conflict with a significant number of American Jewish leaders.

NEWS STORY: Pope blesses cornerstone for Catholic culture center

c. 1996 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY (RNS)-The metaphor seemed inescapable. The pope was borrowing from Peter to pay homage to Paul. Or at least that’s how it appeared on Thursday (May 30), as Pope John Paul II blessed a piece of stone from the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle, the first pope, that will become the cornerstone of a $30 million cultural center to be built in Washington, D.C., and that will bear John Paul’s name.

NEWS STORY: Survey says most U.S. Catholics want liberal reforms

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-The next pope should allow women priests, married priests and more lay pontifical advisers, according to a poll of U.S. Catholics released today (May 30). The survey, conducted by the Gallup Organization, was commissioned by sociologist and author Andrew M. Greeley of the University of Chicago and Michael Hout, a sociologist and director of the Survey Center at the University of California at Berkeley. Among the findings: 69 percent of respondents said they would prefer a pope who allowed priests to marry, and 65 percent supported the idea of women priests.”Support for a more democratic and pluralistic Church is consistent and widespread among American Catholics, perhaps not such a surprising phenomenon in a Catholic population which lives in a pluralistic and a democratic society,”Greeley and Hout wrote.”Nonetheless, a desire for a more pluralistic and democratic church institution exists despite repeated statements of priests and bishops that the Catholic Church is not a democracy.” Greeley is a frequent columnist for Religion News Service.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Little Rock Methodists cancel event over bishop’s views on gays (RNS)-A United Methodist committee in Little Rock, Ark., has canceled a planned”intergenerational day of celebration”meant to bring young and old people together because the event’s invited preacher, retired United Methodist Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly, has voiced support for gay rights. Kelly, who became a bishop in 1984, was the denomination’s first African-American woman elected to the post and has been one of the church’s most sought-after preachers. She retired in 1988. She was one of 15 bishops who signed a statement at the denomination’s General Conference, or top policy-making gathering, in Denver last month urging the church to ease its ban on the ordination of gays to the ministry.

NEWS STORY: Ruling could boost religion defense in drug cases

c. 1996 Religion News Service SAN FRANCISCO (RNS)-An unusual federal appeals court ruling in a drug smuggling case allows Rastafarians to argue that they should legally be able to use marijuana for religious reasons. The ruling from the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco orders a Montana federal judge to retry drug possession charges brought against three alleged marijuana smugglers. The smugglers-tried after a federal investigation dubbed”Operation Reggae North”-claimed they were Rastafarians and that their use of pot was a constitutionally protected religious practice under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). In separate rulings both before and after RFRA was enacted in November 1993, Judge Jack D. Shanstrom of Billings dismissed the religious-use defense.

COMMENTARY: When you wish upon a store

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.) (RNS)-A charismatic cult is on the rise, threatening the moral integrity of America. I speak of the Cult of Disney. Do not misunderstand me. I’m no latter-day Scrooge who says”Bah, humbug!”to the amusements of contemporary society.

NEWS STORY: N.C. Lutheran bishop resigns after allegations of sexual misconduct

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Bishop Mark W. Menees of the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has resigned as a bishop and from the Lutheran ministry following allegations against him of sexual misconduct, the denomination announced Wednesday (May 29). Menees’ resignation was effective May 25. A statement from the denomination’s Chicago headquarters said the Rev. H. George Anderson, the church’s presiding bishop, confronted Menees with the allegations of sexual misconduct. Menees acknowledged their accuracy and immediately resigned, the statement said.

NEWS STORY: Islamic court in Kuwait proclaims Christian convert an apostate

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-An Islamic court in Kuwait Wednesday (May 29) proclaimed Hussein Qambar Ali, 45, guilty of apostasy-abandoning Islam, the majority religion in the Persian Gulf Arab state-because of his conversion to Christianity. Hussein, who has taken the Christian name Robert, has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Constitutional Court. Because Hussein’s case is believed to be the first of its kind in modern Kuwait, his punishment is unclear. Asked if Muslims might take the ruling as permission to kill Hussein, Judge Jaafar al-Mazidi, who chaired the Shi’ite court in Kuwait City, told the Reuter news agency,”That is possible.”

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Russian panel rejects ban on foreign missionaries (RNS)-A committee of the State Duma, or lower chamber of the Russian Parliament, has rejected a call by the Russian Orthodox Church to ban foreign missionaries. The committee is at work on a new religion law to replace a 1990 statute. Many government and Orthodox officials consider the current law too liberal because it gives preachers of all organizations and sects, both foreign and domestic, freedom to operate in Russia. The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church asked the parliament to ban missionary work by foreigners unless the missionaries had an invitation from Russia and worked within the framework of a Russian religious organization.

TOP STORY: RELIGION IN AMERICA: At 30, Krishna movement seeks to overcome its past

c. 1996 Religion News Service ALACHUA, Fla. (RNS)-At 44, David Jakupko is a successful real estate agent specializing in”country homes and large properties.”He drives a late-model Jeep Cherokee and lives with his wife and two children in a five-bedroom house complete with a swimming pool and six wooded acres. A self-described”social conservative”who reads Forbes magazine and belongs to the local chamber of commerce, Jakupko, born in Wilkes Barre, Pa., into a Roman Catholic family, appears to have always lived entirely within the American mainstream. In fact, he has a decidedly non-mainstream past, just as he has another name.

Hare Krishna: A modern offshoot of an ancient movement

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-The Hare Krishna sect is a modern offshoot of a 16th-century Hindu devotional movement. The sect traces its theology to the Bhagavad-gita, a 5,000-year-old Sanskrit text, and worships the Hindu deity Lord Krishna as the”supreme personality of the Godhead.” Members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), as Hare Krishna is formally called, are supposed to refrain from eating meat, fish or eggs; gambling; having sex outside of heterosexual marriage or for other than procreation; and ingesting intoxicants of any kind-including tobacco, coffee or tea. Devotees adopt a two-part spiritual name:”Dasa”for men and”Dasi”for women, denoting they are servants of God, coupled with a Sanskrit word describing one of Krishna’s many attributes.

NEWS FEATURE: Dockside chaplain works to keep sailors’ faith afloat

c. 1996 Religion News Service NEWARK, N.J. (RNS)-Keeping up a brisk line of chatter, the Rev. Mario Balbi tooled his big red Dodge van through the truck-choked streets of Port Newark-Elizabeth, heading for the big Taiwanese container ship, Ming America, tied up at the Maher Terminal. On this clear, wind-whipped day, the Ming America was first on the Catholic port chaplain’s list of ships to visit. Balbi has been “hopping ships,” as he calls it, for 25 of his almost 50 years as a priest. He averages 1,800 ships a year, and to the crews of each he brings an infectious laugh, an eye for problems, a helping hand and an open heart.

COMMENTARY: One family’s loss of unexpected life

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Samuel K. Atchison is an ordained minister and has worked as a policy analyst and social worker to the homeless. He currently is a prison chaplain in Trenton, N.J.) (RNS)-We have been blessed in our marriage with two beautiful daughters. We were unaware that we had created another life until the unmistakable signs of miscarriage presented themselves. A baby, though unexpected, would have been welcomed to our family as a blessing.

COMMENTARY: Remembering my father, with sadness and joy

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, of Sudbury, Mass., is the author of nine books. The following commentary, suitable for Father’s Day, is taken from his latest book,”Invisible Lines of Connection: Sacred Stories of the Ordinary,”published by Jewish Lights Publishing of Woodstock, Vt. (RNS)-My father was, among many things, a sign painter. I grew up amidst art gum erasers, mat board and paint brushes.