RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service White House Questions Newsweek’s Handling of Quran Story (RNS) The White House is questioning Newsweek’s handling of a report that the Muslim holy book was desecrated by interrogators at a U.S. military base in Cuba. The magazine’s editor has issued an apology to readers. Newsweek reported in its May 9 issue that investigators for the U.S. military had confirmed that American interrogators had “flushed a Quran down a toilet” while attempting to get terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to talk. In an editor’s note in the May 23 issue, Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker said the magazine has since learned that there are questions about the source of that allegation, which sparked deadly violence abroad.

Father of Ohio Priest Canonized by Orthodox Church

c. 2005 Religion News Service ZITOMISLICI, Bosnia-Herzegovina _ Orthodox faithful in at least one slice of America can feel a little closer to heaven today. The Serbian Orthodox Church, led by Patriarch Pavle, canonized the father of a Cleveland-area priest in an elaborate ceremony Sunday that elevated 30 martyrs of the Second World War to sainthood. Pavle kissed an icon of the 30 martyrs, then held it up for the benefit of the thousands packing the grounds of the monastery here. He passed it around for the other church hierarchs to venerate.

Anglicans, Catholics Find Common Ground on Virgin Mary

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Roman Catholic and Anglican leaders on Monday (May 16) announced newfound agreement on the Virgin Mary, putting to rest disagreements on her role in salvation that had simmered for almost 500 years. The 81-page booklet, released in Seattle by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), said the churches now see eye-to-eye on divisions that helped spark the 16th-century Protestant Reformation. However, the statement said the only two Catholic dogmas that carry the weight of papal infallibility _ that Jesus’ mother was born without “the stain of original sin,” and was “assumed body and soul” into heaven at the end of her life _ remain an obstacle for some Anglicans. Traditionally, Anglicans have rejected the pope’s power to proclaim any doctrine as infallible, and have been skittish about the Marian dogmas.

Christian Fiction Pioneer Tackles New `Monster’: Evolution

c. 2005 Religion News Service PELHAM, Ala. _ Frank Peretti sat in the Amen Corner, a banjo on his lap, playing the theme song from “The Beverly Hillbillies.” He was at the Christian bookstore here promoting his latest horror novel, “Monster.” His first novel, “This Present Darkness,” has sold more than 2.5 million copies since 1986. “That was the book that broke the barrier for Christian fiction,” Peretti said. “It certainly made my career.” Since the days when Peretti had difficulty attracting a publisher for his first novel, the Christian publishing industry has embraced Christian fiction and the market for spiritual-theme novels has exploded, led by the “Left Behind” series.

COMMENTARY: N.C. Political Pastor Is Just the Start

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) It seems the mixing of conservative politics and religion reached its breaking point in the person of 33-year-old Chan Chandler, the North Carolina Baptist pastor who resigned last week (May 10) after apparently attempting to force out some members who voted Democratic in the last election. The fact of the matter is that Chandler was inevitable. Given the growing convergence between religion and politics in the South, especially the identification by many conservative Christians of the GOP as God’s Own Party, eventually somebody was going to come along and do exactly what Chandler did. It is heartening that his actions have been rejected by some mainstream Baptist leaders.

COMMENTARY: Health Insurance Is Great _ When You Have It

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) “How much do you think this bottle of pills costs?” asked my wife, several days after I had returned home from a month in the hospital for the treatment of acute leukemia. I was stunned when she told me the price for a 30-day prescription was more than $4,000. With our insurance coverage, our actual cost was a $25 co-payment. A few weeks later, Betsy again played the guessing game, holding the bill from the Vanderbilt Medical Center.

Pope Puts John Paul II on Fast Track to Sainthood

c. 2005 Religion News Service ROME _ Pope Benedict XVI announced Friday (May 13) that the Vatican will give John Paul II _ the pope who created more blesseds and saints than all his predecessors combined _ a head start on the road to sainthood by allowing the process to begin immediately. Responding to unprecedented popular demand that resembled sainthood by acclamation in the early church, Benedict made the surprise announcement barely six weeks after John Paul died on April 2, and little more than three weeks after his own election on April 19. The announcement took on added drama because it came on the 24th anniversary of an attempted assassination of John Paul II by a Turkish gunman during an audience in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Knights of Columbus, Students Want to Intervene in Pledge Case (RNS) The Knights of Columbus and almost a dozen California public school students have asked a federal court to allow them to intervene in the renewed lawsuit by an atheist who seeks to have “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. The Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed the motion in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, saying a decision in the case will directly affect its clients. The 11 students and their parents disagree with Dr. Michael Newdow that the words “under God” in the pledge are unconstitutional. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, successfully pushed Congress to add the words to the pledge in 1954.

Congregation is Ultimate Guardian of Catholic Orthodoxy

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has a long and, some would say, infamous history. Once known as the Office of the Holy Inquisition and later the Holy Office, it has served for almost five centuries as the ultimate guardian of Catholic orthodoxy. From the suppression of heresy of seven centuries ago to the publication in 2000 of the controversial “Declaration Dominus Iesus” that reaffirmed the supremacy of the Catholic faith, the congregation and its predecessors have sought to interpret and enforce Catholic doctrine with clarity and precision. Under its former head, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, the office decreed that Catholic faith and morals are unchanging and not open to evolving standards of modern society.

Pope Names San Francisco Archbishop as Guardian of Catholic Doctrine

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Pope Benedict XVI on Friday (May 13) named the archbishop of San Francisco, William Levada, to the pope’s old job as guardian of the Catholic faith, making Levada the highest-ranking American ever to serve at the Vatican. Levada, 68, was named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a powerful post that Benedict himself held for nearly a quarter-century until his election as pope on April 19. In his new post, Levada will be responsible for policing all aspects of church teaching, making him in effect the church’s theology czar. His portfolio covers some of the church’s most sensitive issues, including homosexuality, abortion and sexually abusive priests.

Exhibits to Honor John Paul II’s 85th Birthday

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ If he were still alive, Pope John Paul II would turn 85 on Wednesday (May 18). Two museums are celebrating his birthday with new exhibits including a display of a gift from President Bush, a pair of the pope’s skis and a tribute to his enduring love for the Jewish people. “One of the nicest things I’ve ever done in my life is tell the vicar of Christ that … we will mount an exhibit in honor of his 85th birthday,” said Rabbi Abie Ingber, an organizer of the exhibit at Xavier University in Cincinnati and executive director at the Hillel Jewish Student Center.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Christian Groups Join in Global Day of Prayer on Sunday (RNS) Christian organizations around the country are gearing up for a worldwide prayer event to be celebrated Sunday (May 15) on Pentecost. The Global Day of Prayer, scheduled on the day that Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, will bring together religious leaders from various denominations to pray for the world and to create Christian unity. Organizers of the worldwide event said it will take place at thousands of sites in more than 150 countries. In the United States, Dallas will serve as the main location for the day of prayer.

COMMENTARY: Jews and Maybe Catholics Return to Ancient Languages

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) I vividly remember a unique meeting a few years ago at the seminary for the Archdiocese of New York in Yonkers when a dozen rabbinical students spent the day studying together with a group of candidates for the Roman Catholic priesthood. The two sets of future clergy quickly discovered they had much in common, including similar concerns about pastoral care, family stability and meaningful religious education for members of their congregations. Of course, students being students, they shared complaints with one another about some of their teachers and seminary administrators _ things that always take place at such interreligious gatherings. However, there were two major surprises.

German-Born Pope, `Particularly Sensitive’ to War, Urges Peace

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday (May 12) that living through the “devastating and inhuman ideologies” of Nazism and communism in his native Germany has made him “particularly sensitive” to the need to seek peace through dialogue. Benedict made the unusually personal statement in his first address on international relations since his election as pope April 19. He spoke in French at an audience for diplomats accredited to the Vatican. The address was relatively brief, little more than a page long, but it contained a warm invitation to China, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia to enter into diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

COMMENTARY: Vatican Sends Message to American Catholics With Ouster of Jesuit Editor

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Many observers are puzzled that the Vatican would force the mild and moderate Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest, to resign as editor of America, one of the nation’s oldest and most respected Catholic magazines. Reese is not a theologian but a political scientist, and he and his associate editors have offered admirably balanced discussions of the great issues of interest not only to Catholics but to all persons concerned about the moral issues of our age. That, of course, is what made Reese the perfect target for an intervention aimed less at him individually than at theologically sophisticated Catholics collectively. As Bill Clinton explained that he did some things “because I could,” Vatican officials singled out Reese because they could.