Let my people go

Nicholas Cafardi, the Catholic legal scholar who raised some eyebrows (and some blood pressures) with his endorsement of Barack Obama on these pages a few months back, is back in the spotlight with another swipe at the U.S. Catholic bishops. Money quote: “Every time in the past that the People of God have been held captive by civil power, it has benefitted civil power and hurt God’s people. This time is no different. It is time to end the Republican captivity of our church so that, no longer enthralled to one political party, our bishops can recapture their entire prophetic voice.”

Hindus find new faiths in marriage

c. 2008 Religion News Service NEWARK, N.J. _ The perfect man for Aparna Kachalia, who was born to Hindu parents from Bombay, will be one who loves the 20-year-old sophomore at Dartmouth College and treats her well. If he happens to be Hindu, great. If not, no problem. “A lot of people in my generation are more open to marrying outside the religion,” said Kachalia, a native of Edison, N.J. “It depends on how open your family is.

At this church, there’s always room at the inn

c. 2008 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ Eric Bahme no longer apologizes for being a preacher who keeps his eye on the bottom line. He is both a pastor and a businessman, he says, because that’s how God made him. “Within every single person, God plants a desire,” said Bahme, 45.

COMMENTARY: Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) I doubt that much sleep was lost, in heaven or on earth, when the tiny Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, Ill., recently voted to secede from the national Episcopal Church for being too liberal. With 1,800 members scattered over a large area bordering the Mississippi River, the diocese has long been a recalcitrant outpost of the fading Anglo-Catholic wing of the Episcopal Church. Its stern refusals _ No to women as priests, No to homosexuals, No to theological diversity _ have played poorly in Peoria. Its 24 congregations have an average membership of 75, far below the 400 needed for economic viability, and far below, for example, the Diocese of Connecticut’s 368 members per congregation.

Whither interreligious dialogue?

RNS contributor David Gibson considers Pope Benedict’s latest statement on the subject here. John F. Cullinan reflects on the recent Vatican seminar with Muslim leaders here.

Tmatt goes after On Faith (again)

Terry Mattingly over at GetReligion is going after the Washington Post’s On Faith blog -again. This time, he’s following a critique by Andrew Walsh up at Trinity College’s Religion in the News journal that picks apart On Faith for having too much opinion, not enough news. The money quote from the Religion in the News folks: “It’s odd to empanel such an array of characters as omnibus experts, as if they all had worthwhile opinions about every conceivable religion question that might come up. At the heart of old-school journalism is the conviction that newspapers are obliged to find and quote genuine experts who have real knowledge of the matter at hand. That seems to have gone by the wayside on-line, where opinion is all.”

Visitor card fingers alleged church robber

Here’s a unique crime story: The Ledger of Lakeland, Fla. reported last week that a 28-year-old man was charged with robbing a Southern Baptist church after authorities tracked him down through the visitor’s card he filled out at the previous week’s service. Harold Williams of Lakeland, Fla., was charged with robbery and disrupting a religious assembly at Crystal Lake Baptist Church. He had filled out his name and address on the card. In an unusual twist, it turns out that the person from whom the offering was snatched was the stepmother of Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

Tantrum

Various people have been trying to figure out why various conservative Catholic bishops and associated lay eminences seem to have gone off their meds since the election. Writing in Slate, Melinda Henneberger puts it down to anxieties over the Freedom of Choice Act, a piece of legislation beloved of the pro-choice left that would (presumably) roll back all abortion restrictions to the day after Roe v. Wade. Barack Obama, perhaps in full pander mode, once told Planned Parenthood he would sign it if it ever came to his desk. Joe Feuerherd of the National Catholic Reporter contends that it’ll never happen, and ubiquitous Catholic blogger David Gibson agrees, claiming that FOCA is nothing more than a politically useful red herring for the conservatives. Well, OK, but does that mean all the hysteria is just for show?

That Woman

This, from Lauren Collins’ interview with Mike Huckabee in the current New Yorker, is worth pondering:While some of Huckabee’s gripes come off as rinky-dink—in the book, he admonishes Romney for hogging golf-cart parking spaces during the Iowa straw poll—others are more stinging. Asked about Sarah Palin, he responded, “She, uh, was an appropriate choice, because she put John McCain back in the game.” That was the get-along answer, but a few minutes later the new, aggrieved Huckabee resurfaced. He recalled, “It was funny that all through the primary—I mean literally up until McCain got enough delegates to win—people said, ‘You know, Huckabee’s really running for Vice-President. Gee, Huckabee would be a great Vice-President.’ And from that day forward, when I actually was no longer running for President, nobody ever said, ‘Gee, Huckabee would be a great Vice-President.’ ” Neither was he quite so unperturbed by the Palin pick: “I was scratching my head, saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute. She’s wonderful, but the only difference was she looks better in stilettos than I do, and she has better hair.’ It wasn’t so much a gender issue, but it was like they suddenly decided that everything they disliked about me was O.K. .

Pope may change sign of peace in the Mass

VATICAN CITY -Pope Benedict XVI may change the sequence of the Catholic Mass, including the sign of peace exchanged between worshippers, in order “to create a more meditative climate” of worship, a senior Vatican official said.

Dalai Lama says he will lead until death

CHENNAI, India-The Dalai Lama tried to end speculation that he is on the verge of retirement, telling a gathering of Tibetan spiritual leaders that he has a “moral responsibility” to lead until his death.

New report says global hunger crisis worsening

WASHINGTON-The number of people living in extreme poverty has grown by 100 million, and the number of hungry people has increased by 75 million in the last two years, according to a report issued Monday (Nov. 24) by the Bread for the World Institute.

Bob Jones University apologizes for racist policies

Bob Jones University, the conservative Christian school in Greenville, S.C., that did not admit African-American students until 1971 and banned interracial dating until 2000, has apologized for its past racial policies.

Jews, Muslims seek better ties in `Twinning’ program

NEW YORK-Nicole Neroulias reports on a new nationwide interfaith initiative that says Jews and Muslims have more to learn than fear from each other. More than 100 mosques and synagogues signed up for a “Weekend of Twinning” in hopes of forming relationships to confront the dual threats of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Monks, now homeless, look to future after wildfires destroy monastery

c. 2008 Religion News Service SANTA BARBARA, Calif. _ For more than 60 years, Mount Calvary Monastery sat as a patch of holy ground high atop the Santa Barbara hills, home to seven Benedictine Anglican monks whose only jobs in life were prayer and welcoming pilgrims. Now, after one of the most devastating fires to ever hit Southern California, visitors are left with a different kind of religious experience _ a pile of charred ruins. As drivers make their way to the monastery along narrow roads, banners hanging from side posts thank firefighters. Green vegetation turns to black-dusted earth.