RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Bernardin reported gravely ill, battles criticism on `Common Ground’ As Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin sought to quell criticism this week from fellow bishops over his attempt to heal divisions among liberal and conservative American Catholics, a Chicago television station reported the 68-year-old prelate has less than a year to live. Quoting unidentified sources, WLS-TV reported Friday that doctors had discovered the cardinal’s cancer had returned. Bernardin’s spokesman, Bob Quakenbush, declined comment, saying the cardinal would make his own announcement at a press conference later in the day. “He has a very personal story that he’d like to share with the people of the archdiocese,” Quakenbush told the Associated Press.

NEWS FEATURE: God and the Democrats: Searching for God in Chicago

c. 1996 Religion News Service CHICAGO _ At the beginning of his prime-time speech to the Democratic National Convention, the Rev. Jesse Jackson bowed his head and asked the delegates to pray for former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and others who have died since the party last met four years ago. It was a remarkable moment for a political party often branded by its opponents as godless, organized secularism bent on driving religion from the public square and undermining the values of the God-fearing citizens. But from the speaker’s platform of the United Center, where the Democrats concluded their national convention Thursday, to the hallways of surrounding hotels and a pew in a nearby church, the party faithful expressed their concerns in language that sought to define their party as one of faith and inclusiveness. Religion and spirituality are important to most delegates, said Tom Kitchen, a Wisconsin delegate sporting multiple orange, wedge-shaped pins reading”Cheese Heads for Clinton.””Religion is based on tolerance and not all religions agree,”said Kitchen, who teaches at a Catholic high school.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service TV execs, writers donate money to help burned churches (RNS) As the television police drama”New York Undercover”premiered its new season Thursday (Aug. 29) with the first of a two-part series on fictional church burnings, executives and writers from Fox and Universal Television donated $13,000 to the National Council of Churches’ Burned Churches Fund. John Matoian, president of Fox Entertainment, and Charlie Engel, senior vice president of Universal Television, each presented a check for $5,000 to Rev. Mac Charles Jones, the council’s associate general secretary for racial justice. In addition, three writers gave $1,000 each to the fund.”With these contributions, we can continue our two-fold objective of rebuilding all of the churches, thus providing safety and security to congregations who have had their churches destroyed, and intensifying our fight against the racism that is often the source of these violent acts of destruction,”Jones said Tuesday (Aug.

Beyond sound-bites, radically different ideas of family values

c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Talk about family comes as readily to politicians as wind to Chicago and sun to San Diego. Democrats who gathered this week in Chicago, like their Republican counterparts who met earlier in San Diego, know that as the campaign unfolds, President Clinton and his GOP challenger, Bob Dole, will present dueling economic visions wrapped in the warm and emotionally charged rhetoric of family values. For more than a year Democrats have sought to wrest from Republicans the identity of being the party of family values. They unleashed a torrent of talk on the subject in Chicago, beginning with gun control advocates Jim and Sarah Brady and paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve.”Over the last two years, we have heard a lot about something called family values and like many of you (I’ve) struggled to figure out what that means,”Reeve acknowledged in his speech Monday (Aug.

COMMENTARY: Political wisdom from Israel’s ancient sages

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.) (UNDATED) I’m steeling myself for a barrage of rhetoric in the coming months as presidential candidates Bill Clinton, Bob Dole and Ross Perot race to Election Day. In an act of self-defense against this inevitable verbal onslaught, it’s only fair that this beleaguered voter retaliate with the political wit and wisdom of the Jewish tradition. Bill, Bob and Ross should remember that public criticism of political leaders is a fact of life. Even the heroic, second-century Rabbi Akiba, who was arrested as a rebel by the Roman authorities and later executed as a martyr, was well aware that negative opinions about him existed among his people.

COMMENTARY: It’s morality, stupid

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)compuserve.com.) (UNDATED) Despite the urgent need for a campaign on moral issues, it will be, indeed, the economy, stupid, that will drive Bill Clinton and Bob Dole in their quest for the presidency. Anyone who believed the 1996 presidential campaign would focus on anything else could, at best, be considered naive.

COMMENTARY: How the press bears false witness against the President

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Andrew M. Greeley is a Roman Catholic priest, best-selling novelist and a sociologist at the University of Chicago National Opinion Research Center. His home page on the World Wide Web is at http://www.agreeley.com. Or contact him via e-mail at agreel(at)aol.com.) (UNDATED) You read it here first: President Clinton will be elected by roughly the same margin as he was in 1992, somewhere between 6 and 9 percentage points. Democrats will regain control of Congress, though by smaller majorities than they enjoyed before 1994.

For many Americans, church is alien territory

c. 1996 Religion News Service UNDATED _ Church attendance has suffered a five-year decline and sunk to its lowest level in two decades, according to research by the Barna Research Group of Glendale, Calif. “From the early ’80s to the early ’90s, there has been a definite change,” said the Rev. Bruce Hose, who was director of Sunday school programs for the 1 million-member Alabama Baptist Convention from 1985-95. “Not only has attendance gone down but it is a graying culture, a graying congregation.” Hose said the Assemblies of God, Southern Baptists and some other denominations have continued to make membership gains, but much of the growth is focused in the megachurches. In telephone surveys of 1,004 U.S. adults 18 and over, Barna Research Group said 37 percent of Americans now report going to church on a given Sunday.

A slain monk’s testament

c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) _ Here are excerpts from the final testament of Dom Christian de Cherge, OCSO, abbot of Atlas Abbey in Algeria and one of seven French Trappist monks slain by the Armed Islamic Group this spring. The testament was written in 1993, when rebels began issuing threats against foreigners and came to light shortly after de Cherge and his six colleagues were beheaded. _ If it should happen one day … that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Abortion sidelined at Democratic convention

c. 1996 Religion News Service CHICAGO _ Supporters and opponents of legal abortion are pressing their conflicting cases at the Democratic National Convention, but the volatile issue _ still the most divisive in the nation’s culture wars _ is creating barely a ripple among the party faithful. While the issue threatened to dominate and divide the Republicans, who gathered for their national convention in San Diego earlier this month, Democratic delegates are much less polarized on the issue. Sixty one percent of Democrats believe that abortion should be permitted in all cases, according to one poll, and so-called”tolerance”language was inserted into the party platform, saying the party will”respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue.” An effort by GOP nominee Bob Dole to insert”tolerance”language for abortion-rights supporters in the Republican platform was beaten back by conservative religious activists at the party’s convention.

COMMENTARY: Real charity means giving the poor spiritual help, too

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.) (UNDATED) At the recent Republican National Convention, much attention was paid to the work of individual Americans who have dedicated their lives to improving the plight of the less fortunate. There was the Rev. Buster Soaries, whose personal commitment to the youth of Somerset, N.J., has changed the course of many young lives. There was Freddy Garcia, of San Antonio, a former drug addict whose ministry to other addicts has a success rate, according to Oklahoma congressman J.C. Watts,”that the social scientists can only dream about.”

TOP STORY: MODERN MARTYRS: Before death, slain monk left a love letter for his killers

c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) After seven kidnapped French Roman Catholic monks were reported slain by rebels in Algeria in May, their superiors in the Trappist order headed to the strife-torn nation to arrange their burial. A grisly discovery awaited them: The killers had returned only the severed heads of their victims. But despite the brutality of that discovery, a document has come to light that adds a new dimension to their brothers’ deaths: A final testament written by the abbot of the Atlas Monastery, Dom Christian de Cherge. The message he left seems to provide a paradigm for a new kind of martyrdom in the 20th century, and a new ideal of interfaith harmony. Knowing that the militants attempting to establish an Islamic government were targeting foreigners, de Cherge had written the testament more than two years ago to affirm his admiration for the Algerian people and his belief that Muslims and Christians could live in harmony.”I don’t see …

TOP STORY: JEWISH HIGH HOLY DAYS: COMMENTARY: Begin the new year by thinking about what God needs

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Eli Hecht is vice president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He is the director of Chabad of South Bay in Lomita, Calif., and has been involved in counseling and outreach programs for more than 25 years. Contact him via e-mail at rabbieh(at sign)aol.com.) (UNDATED) Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is a time of intense self-examination. Each of us is expected to evaluate our actions of the past year to discern what we have done and what we have failed to do.

MEDICAL STORY: More grants to help doctors understand spirituality

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The National Institute for Healthcare Research awarded its second annual round of grants Tuesday (Aug. 27) to medical schools offering courses that train doctors to be aware of the connections between spirituality and clinical care. The curricula do not aim to turn physicians into chaplains, but rather help them to be as adept at understanding patients’ spiritual issues as they are at detailing medical histories.”Although science gives us physicians power, power without human values is frequently meaningless, if not downright dangerous. When looking into the abyss, a patient needs more than just …

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service New York court rejects special district for Hasidic Jewish community (RNS) A school district specially created by the state of New York to accommodate the handicapped children of the Hasidic Jewish village of Kiryas Joel, is illegal, a state court ruled Monday (Aug. 26). The law creating the special district was the second effort by the state and the enclave, located in the Catskill Mountains, to create a school district that would allow the Hasidic Jews to receive public funds for educating their handicapped children without having to mix with non-Hasidic pupils. In 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a previous state move to create the special district was unconstitutional, prompting then-Gov. Mario Cuomo and the state legislature to devise a second plan for creating special school districts for which only Kiryas Joel would qualify.”The current law brings about precisely the same result as the prior law, the creation of a special school district for the village of Kiryas Joel and no other municipality in the state,”a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court said in a 4-1 ruling.