NEWS ANALYSIS: Twenty-five Years After Romero’s Death, Liberation Theology Lives On

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) On that fateful evening 25 years ago, Archbishop Oscar Romero had just finished his sermon on Jesus’ parable of the grain of wheat, which bears fruit only after falling to the ground. The sound of a single shot rang through the small, Salvadoran chapel. Romero, the outspoken champion of the poor, fell to the ground, blood flowing from his chest, staining his vestments crimson. When Romero died that night of March 24, he was seen as a martyr for liberation theology, a Latin America movement emphasizing the poor.

NEWS STORY: Catholic Bishops Launch Holy Week Campaign to End Death Penalty

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops on Monday (March 21) launched a nationwide campaign against the death penalty, citing new evidence that support for capital punishment is slipping among Catholic faithful. The new campaign, released during Holy Week when Christians recall Jesus’ state-ordered execution, comes in the wake of two recent Supreme Court decisions that outlawed executions for juveniles and the mentally retarded. “I pray I will see the day when we have given up the illusion that we can teach that killing is wrong by killing people,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington. Although the church has long opposed capital punishment, the new campaign is a sign that Catholic leaders think they have gained the moral upper hand, and public opinion is fluid enough to render the death penalty obsolete, if not extinct.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Washington Cardinal Calls Schiavo Case a `Form of Euthanasia’ WASHINGTON (RNS) Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington said Monday (March 21) that the court-ordered removal of a feeding tube from a brain-damaged Florida woman is a “form of euthanasia” which the Catholic Church condemns as “gravely wrong.” McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington and the church’s unofficial liaison to the federal government, applauded the Congress and President Bush for an emergency law that will allow federal courts to review the case of Terri Schiavo after her feeding tube was removed on Friday (March 18). His remarks were among the strongest to date from Catholic Church officials, who have joined a nationwide fight to keep the brain-damaged Schiavo alive with the assistance of a feeding tube. McCarrick echoed last year’s warning from Pope John Paul II that patients in a permanent “vegetative state” still deserve proper care, including food and water. “But deliberately to remove them in order to hasten a patient’s death would be a form of euthanasia, which we believe is gravely wrong,” McCarrick told reporters.

NEWS FEATURE: Black Women Attracted to Hit Film Based on Gospel Play From `Chitlin Circuit’

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Madea’s in the house. That’s the best way to explain the success of “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” the $5.5 million movie comedy with Christian themes that grossed more than $22 million on its opening weekend and is approaching $50 million so far, despite pans from critics. Not since “The Passion of the Christ” have so many film distributors and members of the media scrambled harder to figure out something they don’t understand. Instead of Jesus, the protagonist this time is a man in a size-30 dress grinding his hips as a gun-toting grandma.

NEWS STORY: High Court Told Imprisoned Wiccans, Satanists and Others Need Federal Law

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The rights of Wiccans, Satanists and other imprisoned members of non-mainstream religions will be better protected if the Supreme Court rules that a 5-year-old federal law is constitutional, an Ohio attorney told the Supreme Court on Monday (March 21). “There is a preference for accommodating mainstream religions as opposed to non-mainstream religions,” said David Goldberger, a Columbus, Ohio, lawyer who represented several inmates of non-traditional faiths before the high court. “It’s important for us to assure that religious groups of all stripes are accommodated.” The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act falls within constitutional boundaries, he argued. Ohio’s state solicitor contended, on the other hand, that the section of the federal statute governing inmates’ religious rights inappropriately forces prison administrators to balance issues of faith and security.

NEWS FEATURE: From Catholic Campus in New Jersey, Radio Host Foments Democracy in Iran

c. 2005 Religion News Service LAKEWOOD, N.J. _ Every Wednesday afternoon, business school dean Siamack Shojai shuts the door of his office at Georgian Court University and starts his second job _ radio talk-show host. As students walk by his office, Shojai gets on his telephone and broadcasts live to his native Iran. For the past three years, his weekly Farsi-language talk show has been transmitted to the Middle East by Voice of America. The call-in show now reaches more than 1 million listeners, giving pro-democracy Iranians a forum.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Catholics Pray to Late Archbishop Fulton Sheen to Save Schiavo’s Life (RNS) Supporters of the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen say his heavenly intervention in the case of a brain-damaged woman in Florida could be the miracle needed to move him one step closer to sainthood. A grass-roots effort is under way to encourage prayers to Sheen, who died in 1979 and was best known for his popular television and radio shows in the 1950s, including “A Life Worth Living.” Supporters say his divine intervention on behalf of Terri Schiavo could both save her life and speed up the process to make him the first male American-born saint (following St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Katharine Drexel).

BOOK REVIEW: How Two Con Artists Preyed on the Faithful With `Miracle Cars’

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Even on one of those almost-never, special days when everything clicks just right, it is hard to believe that any of the wizards of fiction could have come up with a story as bizarre as this one. Two kids working as security guards figure out a con to scam $21 million from thousands of God-fearing, good Christians by selling them cars that don’t exist. Suddenly, life is very good. If it were fiction, a lot of people would be better off.

NEWS STORY: Supreme Court to Consider Prisoners’ Religious Rights

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The right of prisoners to practice unusual religions behind bars will be at stake when the Supreme Court hears arguments Monday (March 21) about the constitutionality of a federal law. A Satanist, a Wiccan, an Asatru follower and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian say prison guards refuse to give them access to religion-specific books and ceremonial items. The inmates, in a suit against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, say that this violates their rights guaranteed by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The act makes it illegal to impose burdens on prisoners who want to practice their religion. “There has been a tendency in Ohio to accommodate mainstream religious exercise and pay much less attention to the religious beliefs of non-mainstream religions,” said David Goldberger, lead attorney who will argue before the court for the Ohio inmates.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Ailing Pope’s Participation in Holy Week Still in Question VATICAN CITY (RNS) For the first time in his more than 26 years as Roman Catholic pontiff, an ailing John Paul II will not lead Holy Week celebrations, and whether he will participate at all is still in question. On Thursday (March 17), three days before Holy Week opens with a Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican confirmed only that John Paul will give the world’s 1 billion Catholics his Easter blessing on March 27. Six cardinals will stand in for John Paul at Holy Week and Easter celebrations.


c. 2005 Religion News Service PARIS _ He has been described as a saint, a male Mother Teresa and France’s moral compass. For a few dark months, he also was vilified for defending an old friend who questioned the grisly magnitude of the Holocaust. More than half a century after Abbe Pierre first launched a call to arms against poverty and exclusion one frigid winter, the 92-year-old priest has catapulted to superstar status _ even abroad, where the secular charity he founded, Emmaus International, now operates in 50 countries. At home, the frail Capuchin father with the cane and scraggly beard was voted France’s most popular personality year after year _ easily beating out soccer star Zinedine Zidane, crooner Patricia Kaas and French President Jacques Chirac _ until Abbe Pierre took himself out of the running.

COMMENTARY: Jews and Catholics Gather Again, 40 Years After Historic Declaration

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Roman Catholic bishops, meeting at the Second Vatican Council in October 1965, overwhelmingly adopted a declaration that repudiated anti-Semitism and called for “mutual understanding and respect” beween Catholics and Jews. The document, “Nostra Aetate” in Latin or “In Our Time” was adopted by a vote of 2,221-88. Forty years, an evocative biblical number, have passed, and recently a prestigious group of religious leaders met for three days here at Catholic University, to explore the impact of “Nostra Aetate” upon two ancient faith communities, Jews and Catholics. Among the meeting’s sponsors were the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the American Jewish Committee.

COMMENTARY: Why the Miraculous Mystery of the Atlanta Hostage Drama Haunts Us

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Sometimes a story that seems a straightforward mystery solved, such as the brutal murders by a dangerous prisoner in Atlanta last week, contains within it an unanticipated mystery that turns it into two stories difficult for us to comprehend fully. This tragedy haunts us because we cannot easily grasp either mystery or see how they are connected with each other or with all of us. That means that we are dealing with a mythic story whose point is not violence, as it first seems, but spirituality. This narrative begins with the public murder of a just man and others in daylight by a man who quickly turns into a prince of darkness.

NEWS STORY: Alaska Bishop Lobbies Against Drilling in Arctic Refuge

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The bishops of the Episcopal Church, concerned about oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, dispatched an emissary to the U.S. Senate with a simple message: Leave our people _ and their caribou _ alone. Bishop Mark McDonald of Alaska said President Bush’s plan to allow drilling would destroy the habitat of the native Gwich’in people, 90 percent of whom are Episcopalians. McDonald’s visit, however, was not enough to convince the Republican-led Senate to oppose drilling. Senators narrowly approved drilling, 51-49, in a vote Wednesday (March 16).