Catholic System Ineffective at Eliminating Clergy Theft

c. 2004 Newhouse News Service NEWARK, N.J. _ Catholic Church law has required since 1983 that every pastor appoint a committee of lay members to help set spending priorities and manage the parish’s money. But when the Rev. Joseph Hughes was allegedly taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from an off-the-books bank account at Holy Cross Parish in Rumson for his own use, he didn’t need to worry about being caught by a finance council looking over his shoulder. He simply never appointed one. The Catholic Church has been reeling for two years with revelations about clergy sex abuse.

NEWS FEATURE: Eastern Orthodox School Teaches Faith-Based Greek, Latin and `Holy Wisdom’

c. 2004 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ On the walls of Ingrid Schor’s classroom are maps of ancient Mesopotamia and pictures of the creation of the animals from Genesis that her students have colored in bright hues. The students’ handiwork offers hints of the central theme of Agia Sophia Academy _ providing faith-based, classical education. The new school housed in the basement of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church here has 24 students, is the first Orthodox school in Oregon and is one of fewer than three dozen Eastern Orthodox schools in the United States.

NEWS FEATURE: Council of Churches Sees Progress in 2004 Nonviolence Focus

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Participants in a yearlong Christian nonviolence initiative spotlighting the United States say it has encouraged the pursuit of peace, even if it appears that goodwill to all is still far from being achieved. “The idea is not to expect there will be some dramatic change in a year’s time but to build momentum,” said Deborah DeWinter, program director for the U.S. Conference of the World Council of Churches (WCC). “It’s an ongoing process.” As part of the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV), which covers the first 10 years of the 21st century, the United States was selected as its 2004 focus. That included highlighting peace-related activities of member churches and other organizations as well as conducting conferences, compiling resource materials and honoring peace workers.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Pope Defrocks Priest Who Was Shot by Man Who Accused Him of Abuse (RNS) Pope John Paul II has defrocked a Baltimore priest who was shot in 2002 by a man who said he was a victim of the cleric’s abuse. Maurice Blackwell, former pastor of St. Edward’s Roman Catholic Church in West Baltimore, was “dismissed from the clerical state” at the request of Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, according to an announcement posted on a Web site by Keeler’s archdiocese. According to the Associated Press, the defrocking became public in response to questioning by the AP, which reported the development Wednesday (Dec.

COMMENTARY: Don’t Overlook Catholicism’s Positive Stories

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) News is by its nature negative. Just read the headlines and you will find negative words in almost every one of them. The Catholic Church has had its share of sensational headlines over the past three years, most of them regarding the sex abuse scandal in the priesthood. Despite that, and the numerous unhappy stories that have thundered out of this headwater scandal, the story of American Catholicism is fundamentally positive.

Unique in a Divided Land, Israeli School Embraces Jews, Muslims, Christians

c. 2004 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _ Tucked away in a working-class neighborhood, the Hand in Hand elementary school is unlike any other in this ethnically and religiously diverse city where children of different faiths are rarely educated together. Here, Jewish, Muslim and Christian kids literally learn hand in hand. In the fall, the school’s hallway bulletin boards overflow with drawings of shofarim, or ram’s horns, to mark Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. Next to those are renderings of the ascent to heaven of Mohammed, the Muslim prophet, from the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount _ an image inspired by Ramadan, the Islamic holy month.

COMMENTARY: New Book Ponders The Passion for Christians and Jews

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) “The Passion of the Christ,” Mel Gibson’s cinematic version of the death of Jesus attracted great controversy and large audiences when the film was released last February. Critics, including both Christians and Jews, charged the movie transmitted anti-Semitic images that unfairly demonstrated Jewish responsibility and culpability for Jesus’ execution. Critics further charged “The Passion” was a serious setback to building positive Christian-Jewish relations. Because of the movie’s negative potential for influencing the attitudes and beliefs of many people, Dr. Philip A. Cunningham, the executive director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning and adjunct professor of Theology at Boston College, has edited an excellent book that sorts out the many aspects of Jesus’ death.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Republicans, Churchgoers Want More Religion in Political Life (RNS) While nearly half of Americans think religion has too much political influence, Republicans and people who attend church frequently tend to think it should have more, according to a just-released Gallup Poll. The poll, taken after the Nov. 2 elections, found that Americans generally think religion should have more influence on the country’s moral climate, but should play a less prominent role in politics. Nearly half _ 48 percent _ said religion has too much influence on politics, while 40 percent said it should have more.

NEWS STORY: In Wave of Christian Unity, Communion Becomes More Inclusive

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) They marched down the sloping concrete ramps of the Communion aisles by the thousands _ Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Lutherans and even one Catholic priest. For more than a century, Christians had scattered throughout the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y. to receive the sacrament in the small churches and denominational houses dispersed around the upstate enclave. But something was different this summer at the retreat, which is a landmark of mainline Protestantism’s search for perfection in mind, body and spirit. The night of July 31, torrential rains beat down on the roof of the open-sided theater during a performance by the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra.

NEWS FEATURE: Outrage Over Public Schools’ Handling of Christmas Reaches a Tipping Point

c. 2004 Beliefnet (UNDATED) It was the snowflake that broke the reindeer’s back. When her children’s school forbade the wearing of Halloween costumes, Lisa Lowry was mum. When her children said they were discouraged from saying “Merry Christmas” lest they offend someone who doesn’t observe the holiday, she was frustrated. But when her flute-playing daughter came home with music for the middle school December band concert and it included a medley of Hanukkah music but the only nod to Christmas was “Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland,” Lisa Lowry knew she had to do something.

COMMENTARY: Rabbi: `Stop Stripping Christmas of Christianity’

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Would you please do me a favor? Stop fooling with baby Jesus in the village square. And while you’re at it, don’t interrupt the kid singing “Silent Night” in the holiday pageant. It’s been years since this rabbi objected to public displays of creches, menorahs and Kwanzaa symbols.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Aging Pope Tells Vatican Aides He Relies Increasingly on Their Help VATICAN CITY (RNS) In a rare reference to his increasing frailty, Pope John Paul II told his Vatican aides Tuesday (Dec. 21) that with the passing of the years he relies more and more on their help. The 84-year-old pontiff made the admission at his traditional pre-Christmas audience for the staffs of his household and of the Roman Curia, the administrative and judicial bodies that help him govern the Catholic Church. “Venerated and dear brothers, thank you for your presence and for the affection with which you surround me,” John Paul said.

NEWS STORY: Documentary Follows Trials of Church with Lesbian Pastor

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond started a documentary on an urban church facing a new pastor, membership loss and financial troubles, they thought they had a compelling story to tell. But when the church’s associate pastor came out as a lesbian half way through filming and was later defrocked by a church court, the story got a lot more juicy. It’s the type of documentary filmmakers dream about but rarely find. “The Congregation,” the Raymonds’ two-hour profile of the trials and tribulations at Philadelphia’s First United Methodist Church of Germantown,will air Dec.

COMMENTARY: When Darkness Seems to Close, Hope Surprises

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) It is semi-dark when we gather for worship in a church up North. Snow is falling, temperature plunging, the day not yet fully dawned. Darkness might have eased its hold during the closing hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” a gentle tune composed 600 years ago for French nuns. But a look-at-me organist blares forth a noisy introduction that drives the people to silence.

NEWS FEATURE: Toronto Mosque Hailed as Flexible Model for Muslims in the West

c. 2004 Religion News Service TORONTO _ The handful of girls and women arriving for Friday prayers at the Islamic center make small talk before removing their coats and shoes, tying their head scarves and quietly filing into the prayer room _ just as their Muslim sisters do the world over this day. After the adhan, the call to prayer, they listen intently to the English sermon, then perform the qiyam, the standing posture. Like the men,they raise their hands to their ears and then fold them, right over left, over their hearts. Like the men, they prostrate and touch their foreheads to the ground, returning to the standing position.