NEWS FEATURE: At West Point Graham Grandson Marches To Different Drum

c. 2003 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Three decades ago, West Point awarded the Rev. Billy Graham its highest civilian honor _ the Sylvanus Thayer Award. Today, the evangelist’s grandson Edward Graham looks forward to his West Point graduation and a military commission for active duty at a time when war seems imminent. In an interview with Religion News Service, the third son of evangelist Franklin Graham and grandson of the legendary the Rev. Billy Graham said he wears his family stripes as proudly as he wears the West Point grays. His conversation, disarmingly earnest, reflects easy confidence tempered with a pronounced humility, strong convictions and a deep faith in God.

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c. 2003 Religion News Service Vatican Opens Archives on Pre-World War Relations with Germany VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican has given historians access to 394 folders of documents dealing with pre-World War II relations with Germany, which it hopes will help to remove doubts about Pope Pius XII’s attitude toward the Nazi persecution of the Jews and clear the way for his beatification. Professors Agostino Giovagnoli of Catholic University of Milan and Emma Fattorini of Rome’s Sapienza University were the first of some three dozen applicants to have access to files when they were unsealed on Saturday (Feb. 15). The documents deal mainly with diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Germany during the pre-war years of 1922 to 1939 when Pius XI was pope and Archbishop Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, served first as ambassador to Germany and then as secretary of state.

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c. 2003 Religion News Service Bush Petitions Supreme Court to Hear Pledge Case WASHINGTON (RNS) The Bush administration has formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule a lower court decision and allow the Pledge of Allegiance to include the words “one nation under God.” U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson said last summer’s ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said the pledge violates the separation of church and state is “manifestly contrary” to previous church-state cases. “Whatever else the (First Amendment) may prohibit, this court’s precedents make it clear that it does not forbid the government from officially acknowledging the religious heritage, foundation and character of this nation,” Olson wrote Wednesday (April 30) in his argument. California atheist Michael Newdow sued in 2000, saying his daughter should not be forced to listen to the Pledge of Allegiance in her classroom. The first court to hear the case dismissed it, but the San Francisco-based appeals court ruled in Newdow’s favor.

NEWS STORY: Archbishop Criticizes Official Hired to Assess Church’s Sex Abuse Reforms

c. 2003 Religion News Service NEWARK, N.J. _ Newark Archbishop John J. Myers has delivered a stern rebuke to Kathleen McChesney, the former FBI official hired by U.S. Catholic bishops to assess church reform in the wake of the priest sex-abuse scandal, saying her decisions have perplexed a number of church leaders. Myers’ remarks came in a letter declining an invitation to attend an upcoming meeting of a reform-minded group of Catholics, Voice of the Faithful. McChesney, executive director of the Bishops’ Office of Youth and Child Protection in Washington, is scheduled to speak at the group’s meeting May 13 in Little Falls, N.J. McChesney, once the third-highest official in the FBI, was hired in November by a national panel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “I have met with Dr. Kathleen McChesney,” Myers wrote to a member of Voice of the Faithful April 21.

COMMENTARY: Rape No Therapy for Trauma of Rape

c. 2003 Religion News Serice (The Rev. Marie M. Fortune is editor of the Journal of Religion and Abuse and founder of the Seattle-based Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence. She is the author of “Is Nothing Sacred? The Story of a Pastor, the Women He Sexually Abused, and the Congregation He Nearly Destroyed,” and an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ.) (UNDATED) There seems to be some confusion as to the nature of pastoral counseling provided by priests to rape victims. The Rev. Roman Kramek, a Polish priest serving a parish in New Britain, Conn., told police over the holidays he had sex with a teenage rape victim in her family’s apartment in order to counsel her and show her that sex with men doesn’t have to be bad. He questioned the victim about the rape and then, ignoring the young woman’s protests, began to touch her breasts and crotch and to have intercourse with her.

NEWS STORY: Catholics Prepare for Changes in Communion Ritual

c. 2003 Religion News Service CLEVELAND Raising their hands at the Lord’s Prayer. Losing the handshake and embracing the person in the next seat at the sign of peace. In an extra act of reverence, bowing before receiving the Communion host. And undoing a lifetime of tradition by not kneeling in prayer after Communion.

NEWS STORY: Religious Comfort in a Time of War _ Online and Off

c. 2003 Religion News Servic (UNDATED) At an online “prayer chapel” of the United Church of Christ, military relatives are sharing prayer requests for the safe return of their loved ones. The Jewish Federation of Rockland County, N.Y., has started “Operation Matzo Meals” to send care packages to Jewish troops who may celebrate Passover in the midst of battle. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is distributing a “community safety kit” to help Muslims and Arabs prepare for possible discrimination in the event of a possible anti-Muslim backlash. Even before the bombs began falling on Baghdad, religious leaders across the country grappled with how to meet the needs of those who would be affected _ from the ranks of the military to their worried family members to grass-roots Americans concerned about the crisis.

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c. 2003 Religion News Service Bishops’ Labor Day Statement Appeals for Migrant Workers WASHINGTON (RNS) The annual Labor Day statement by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops appeals for fair treatment for migrant farm workers who “still have a claim on our conscience.” Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, chairman of the bishops’ domestic policy committee, said migrant workers deserve safe working conditions, affordable housing and legal rights. “The plight of agricultural workers may not be on the evening news or in the headlines, but it should be at the heart of our thoughts, reflections and priorities as we celebrate Labor Day this year,” McCarrick said. The bishops will consider a statement on the rights and plight of illegal immigrants and migrant farm workers when they meet in Washington in November. McCarrick called for a “just and fair legal pathway” that “protects the basic labor rights of foreign-born workers and recognizes the reality of so many of these workers in the field.” Migrant workers already in the United States should be eligible for legal residency, McCarrick said.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Ten Commandments Symbolize the Sacred for Evangelicals

c. 2003 Religion News Service BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _ To Alabama’s dominant evangelical Christian population, the Ten Commandments stand as a powerful symbol of the sacred, not a quaint myth about the origins of law. “Evangelical Christians, particularly here in Alabama, have a strong conviction that it’s part of biblically inspired Scripture,” said Don Hawkins, president of Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham and former host of the “Back to the Bible” radio program broadcast on 600 stations worldwide. “They take this literally.” Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore put that belief into a symbol _ a hulking, 2.6-ton monument in the Alabama Judicial Building that, graven image or not, still stands for many as an embodiment of biblical principles.

COMMENTARY: Near-Future of Catholicism in America Is a Close Call

c. 2003 Religion News Service (David Gibson, former religion writer for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., is author of “The Coming Catholic Church” (HarperSanFrancisco), to be published June 30.) (UNDATED) More than a year after the Catholic hierarchy gathered in Dallas to try to head off the galloping clergy sexual abuse scandal, and in the wake of their recent meeting in St. Louis, the future course of American Catholicism remains uncertain. Charges and countercharges between bishops and their critics still fill the air, nasty legal disputes still command headlines, and victims continue to come forward with accounts of awful misdeeds. When Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien of Phoenix was arrested in the death of an innocent pedestrian in a hit-and-run accident while driving home from a confirmation Mass, the tragedy seemed to epitomize the church’s haplessness.

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c. 2003 Religion News Serevice Presbyterians Tweak Late-Term Abortion Policy DENVER (RNS) The Presbyterian Church (USA) revised its position on late-term abortions Thursday (May 29) to say a fetus should not be aborted to save the life of the mother if it could survive outside the womb. Delegates to the church’s annual General Assembly meeting revised the abortion policy first set in 1992 and then amended in 1997 and 2002. Though the policy remains essentially the same, the 548 delegates rejected an alternative statement that would have been slightly more restrictive. The policy calls late-term, or “partial-birth,” abortions a “matter of grave moral concern” that should be used only in cases of rape or incest, a threat to the mother’s health or a fetus’ “untreatable life-threatening medical anomalies.” The revised policy, adopted on a 405-108 vote, says that when a mother’s health is threatened by a pregnancy and if the “baby may be able to live outside the womb, a procedure should be considered which gives both the mother and the child the opportunity to live.” In one minor addition to last year’s policy, the church said it “appreciates the challenge each woman and family face when issues of personal well-being arise in the later stages of a pregnancy.” Delegates rejected a measure that would have removed the rape and incest provisions in a 353-150 vote.

NEWS FEATURE: Baptist Pastor Counsels Would-Be Spouses in New Book

c. 2003 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Peggy McMickle came home on the subway from working all day in downtown Manhattan to prepare dinner. Her husband, Marvin, a graduate student, was relaxing on the couch watching Walter Cronkite and the nightly news. At the end of the show, he walked into their small kitchen and told his wife, “All is right with the world.” She turned to him and said, “Maybe in the world, but not in this apartment.” Sitting together recently on the couch in their Shaker Heights, Ohio, home, the McMickles smiled as they recalled the story from the early days of their marriage. But when it happened, both remembered, it was a painful moment of truth.

NEWS FEATURE: Public Radio Program Lets Believers Speak Their Faith At Length

c. 2003 Religion News (UNDATED) Krista Tippett has spent time in journalistic, diplomatic and theological circles. But it was her time on a lakefront, wooded property taking oral histories of people involved in the 20th century movement for church unity that led her to start a radio program called “Speaking of Faith.” The hourlong show, produced by Minnesota Public Radio, has been carried by 250 stations nationwide since its monthly _ now weekly _ broadcasts began in 2001. Years before hosting the program, Tippett spent time at the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research in Collegeville, Minn., talking to “great minds” of the church who had been involved in ecumenical work, from Pentecostals to Armenian Orthodox. “At the institute …

NEWS FEATURE: A Book of Nun Fun: Sisters Share Tales of What School Kids Say

c. 2003 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ The sermon went on and on, and a little boy in the front row started talking during Mass. Sister Adelle told the child sitting next to her to go up and tell him to keep quiet. The boy dutifully walked up to the front, then past the boy in the first row and up to the lectern. There he told the priest, “Sister said you should stop talking.” The tale from the Catholic school front is one of 150 told by Cleveland Sister Mary Kathleen Glavich in her new book from Paulist Press titled “Catholic School Kids Say the Funniest Things.” In recent years, Catholic nuns have been the target of humor on shows like “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You” and movies in which sisters are portrayed as ruler-wielding battle-axes.