To “evolve” means “to unroll a scroll”

Pope Benedict reminds the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, as it contemplates evolution, that “there is no opposition between faith’s understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences.”

The First Amendment

We’ve entered the wacky pre-election days, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at anything. But the Dole ad is one for the history books, and now we’ve got Sarah Palin claiming that media criticism of her for criticizing Barack Obama threatens her First Amendment rights. That’s a beautiful thing. But, as Cab Calloway once sang, can’t we talk about religion? I’m hoping that Sister Sarah will claim that her Free Exercise rights are threatened by someone raising an eyebrow about Bishop Muthee.

He Who Cannot Be Named

It’s obvious that the alleged anti-Semite that McCain apparatchik Michael Goldfarb cannot name is Jeremiah Wright, who has made statements sufficient to warrant considering him less than friendly toward the State of Israel. Why can’t Goldfarb name him? I have little doubt that he’s under orders from the campaign not to–and the question is why. I can think of a few reasons, all mutually reinforcing. Let me list them, a la Letterman, in what I suppose to be reverse order of importance.

The other Antichrist candidate

A friend from England writes: “Just in case America is tempted to do something stupid on Tuesday please tell everyone you know that “Vice President Sarah Palin” is an anagram of “Is Perhaps Evil Incarnate.”

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Conservative rabbis name woman to top staff job NEW YORK (RNS) Twenty-three years after the Conservative Jewish movement began ordaining female rabbis, a woman has been tapped to lead its Rabbinical Assembly. Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, 43, will become executive vice president of the 1,600-member global body in July, succeeding Rabbi Joel Meyers, who will retire after 20 years in the position. With this appointment, the Conservative movement becomes the first of the three major streams of Judaism to name a woman to lead the day-to-day operations of a rabbinical association. Reform rabbis elected a woman, Rabbi Janet Marder of Palo Alto, Calif., to a two-year term as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis in 2003.

Vatican says seminaries should screen for gay priests

VATICAN CITY-Psychological testing should be used to help Catholic seminaries detect traits-including “deep-seated homosexual tendencies”-that render men unsuitable for the priesthood, the Vatican said on Thursday (Oct. 30). The statement appears in a new document, “Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood.”

Queen asked to pardon 17th-century witches

LONDON -A campaign has been launched in Britain to try to persuade Queen Elizabeth II to grant a royal warrant pardoning more than 400 men and women who were executed as witches in England four centuries ago.

COMMENTARY: Is this the best we can do?

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Perhaps it’s the political season that brings on this present melancholy and the realization that the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes still stands: “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.” Or perhaps it’s our current economic instability that gives rise to the sense of doom and a certain “thin-ness” of human existence. Four years before the great crash of 1929, T.S. Eliot wrote these sobering lines: “We are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men.

Cinema churches bring God to the big screen _ and to where the people are

c. 2008 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ When the medieval church wanted to communicate the biblical narratives to a largely illiterate society, it used stained glass windows to illustrate the stories. So as the modern church looks for ways to reach a generation unfamiliar with the Bible, the most obvious medium, they say, is movie theaters. “Theaters are our 21st century stained glass,” said Joel Schmidgall, one of the pastors of National Community Church, a congregation that meets in four campuses _ three movie theaters and a church-owned coffeehouse_ around Washington. “We wanted to be in the middle of the marketplace where people are use to going already,” he said.

Vatican says seminaries should screen for gay priests

c. 2008 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ The Vatican on Thursday (Oct. 30) recommended that Catholic seminaries test certain applicants for psychological traits _ including “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” _ that could render them unsuitable for the priesthood. The statement appears in a new document, “Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood,” published by the Congregation for Catholic Education, which supervises Catholic seminaries around the world. While they do not mandate psychological testing as an automatic part of the seminary admission process, the guidelines call for expert evaluations “whenever there is a suspicion that psychic disturbances may be present.” The document states that such evaluations can help diagnose any of several “possible problems that block the vocational journey,” including excessive aggression, inability to trust others, and a “sexuality identity that is confused or not yet well defined.” The guidelines place particular emphasis on the requirement of priestly celibacy.

COMMENTARY: Is this the best we can do?

Perhaps we can blame this sense of melancholy on the political season-the realization from Ecclesiastes that “all is vanity.” Or maybe it’s our current economic instability that gives rise to the sense of doom and a certain “thin-ness” of human existence. (Dick Staub is the author of “The Culturally Savvy Christian” and the host of The Kindlings Muse ( His blog can be read at

All Hallows Eve

That whacky Jim Martin up at America magazine has gotten together with the guys at Busted Halo (always a dangerous combination) for a quick video primer on Halloween, All Saints Day, and why St. Frances Cabrini is the patron saint of parking spaces (I always thought it was St. Jude). The best part is actually at the end, when the credits roll. Those crazy Jesuits.