Dolan on Williamson: Pope’s bad

Maybe. In its story on New York’s new archbishop, the Jewish Week got this from Paula Simon, executive director of Milwaukee’s Jewish Council for Community Relations.Simon, in a telephone interview with The Jewish Week, said the
archbishop apologized for the impression given by the pope’s action
that the Catholic Church condones denial of the Holocaust’s historical
authenticity. “We’re embarrassed. This is inappropriate,” she reported
the archbishop as saying about lifting of the excommunication of Bishop
Richard Williamson, who has said the Holocaust was exaggerated and no
Jews died in the Nazi gas chambers.It certainly seems as though Dolan, on the eve of his translation to the Big Apple, was directly criticizing the pope’s action. No?Update: Meanwhile, the Vatican is rejecting this by way of apology from Williamson: “To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologize.”

So long, Jimbo

Or not. According to Eric (“Nothing Happens in Colorado Springs that I don’t know about”) Gorski, Dobson will continue to be the marquee personality of Focus on the Family. The question is whether his slow fade from administrative responsibilities will make any difference in the organization’s life and times.As a force in the wide world, and even in Colorado, Focus has seemed to be in decline for several years now. Dobson’s own on-again, off-again engagement in politics was particularly erratic this time around. On the other hand, in the world of national religious right organizations, there’s nothing much out there vying to be next in the line of succession from Moral Majority to Christian Coalition to Focus.

Common Ground, Intl. Division

You’ve got your secular human rights advocates and your unsecular religious liberty advocates, and last week, Hillary Clinton pissed off both by assuring the Chinese that such matters would not get in the way of the two countries working together on the global economic crisis. True no doubt, but not the kind of thing secretaries of state are supposed say out loud. Then, this week, along comes the annual State Department report on human rights around the world, and the word on China is not good. As in:The government’s human rights record remained poor and worsened in some
areas. During the year the government increased its severe cultural and
religious repression of ethnic minorities in Tibetan areas and the
Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), increased detention and
harassment of dissidents and petitioners, and maintained tight controls
on freedom of speech and the Internet.

Perkins vs. the pornstar

Politico is reporting that an interesting pair might be running against Louisiana Senator David Vitter in the 2010 senate race. Pornstar Stormy Daniels and Family Research Council Chief Tony Perkins are reportedly both interested in the senate seat. Daniels doesn’t have political experience; her body of work is a little more, um, risque (even for Louisiana). That hasn’t stopped some from urging Daniels to run. C-Span might become a much more popular late night channel should she pull it off.

House members call for anti-abortion steps in spending bill

(RNS) More than 180 House members sent a letter to House Democratic leaders on Wednesday (Feb. 25), calling for upcoming spending bills to maintain longstanding anti-abortion provisions. “These measures … reflect the moral concerns of many Americans who do not wish to see their tax dollars used for any organization that provides abortion services,” said the letter. The letter asks House Democratic leaders to maintain provisions such as the Hyde Amendment, in effect since 1976, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions except in limited cases.

Court sides with Montana church over free speech

(RNS) The free speech rights of a Montana church were violated when it was told to register as a political committee after hosting an anti-gay marriage event in 2004, an appeals court ruled Wednesday (Feb. 25). The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals about Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church in East Helena, Mont., overturned a lower court decision. The church participated in a “Battle for Marriage” satellite simulcast in 2004 and distributed petitions in support of a successful initiative to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman in Montana’s constitution. “We conclude that, by applying its disclosure provisions to the church’s (minor) in-kind contributions in the context of a state ballot initiative, the commission violated the church’s First Amendment rights,” wrote Judge William C. Canby Jr. In a concurring opinion, Judge John T. Noonan wrote that “An unregulated, unregistered press is important to our democracy.

Women from across Judaism to gather for prayer event in New York

NEW YORK — More than 350 women from four Jewish movements will gather in New York City (March 1) for an unprecedented dialogue on female spirituality in Judaism. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish participants in the sold-out event, called “This Is My Prayer – Va’ani Tefillati: Jewish Women in Prayer,” will come from all the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The schedule includes a lecture on ritual baths by Anita Diamant, an author and president of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh, and a performance by folk singer Debbie Friedman. The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Aliza Lavie, author of last year’s “A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book,” which inspired the event. The conference aims “to bring women from across the Jewish denominational spectrum together, something that does not happen frequently, to talk about a subject dear to all of us: the ways in which we feel a need to reach out to God in gratitude, pain, or even anger,” explained Dr. Anne Lerner, director and founder of the Jewish Women’s Studies Program of The Jewish Theological Seminary, one of the sponsors.

U.S. Catholic and Jewish leaders meet to mend fences

WASHINGTON — In the wake of controversies that have roiled longtime Jewish-Catholic relations, leaders from both faiths announced the launch of a new permanent dialogue between Catholics and Jews in the United States. The joint project of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center and the Anti-Defamation League, announced here Thursday (Feb. 26) comes at a time of significant tension between the Vatican and the international Jewish community. Jewish organizations are outraged that Pope Benedict XVI readmitted into the church in January leaders of the Society of St. Pius X, including Bishop Richard Williamson, who has denied that millions of Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

Hard times

The rough economic climate has the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association laying off 55 people, 10 percent of its entire workforce by March 20 of this year. The layoffs and other money saving measures taken by the evangelical ministry are expected to cut 15 percent of the annual budget. Despite declining revenue from books and endowment funds, BGEA plans to continue its ministry outreach with a series of festivals with Franklin Graham this summer along the Mississippi River. “In uncertain times, the message of God’s love is more relevant than ever,” said Ken Barun, the ministry’s senior vice president for communications Blog post by Christopher Guzman.

Tibetans mark their new year with a protest

TONGREN, China: It was an auspicious start to Losar, the Tibetan New Year: Snow fell across this mountain valley as red-robed Buddhist monks in a prayer hall began chanting and beating drums. But a monk watching the ritual Wednesday morning wanted to make one thing clear: The ceremony was one of mourning, not of celebration. “There is no Losar,” he said. “They killed so many people last year.”

No. 1, meet No. 2

Arkansas churches finally have something in common with bars: Church goers cannot carry concealed weapons into their places of worship. While the State House approved a measure allowing concealed weapons to be taken to church, the bill died when the Arkansas state judiciary committee stalled its passage. The issue raises some interesting church-state questions.The First Amendment secures the right to free religious expression, the Second Amendment the right to bear arms. Should 1 meet 2? “It’s not the role of the state to preserve the sanctity of the church, and it’s not the role of the state to impose religious judgment calls on churches,” said Nathan Petty, a pastor at Beech Grove Baptist Church in Fordyce. The issue also raises questions about the relation of the appropriateness of guns to church doctrine.

Study: Terror fight must include battle of ideas

WASHINGTON (AP) – A task force of Middle East experts is urging the Obama administration to work within Muslim communities in the United States to counter extremism and prevent Islamic militant groups from gathering new recruits.

Imams unable to grasp needs of Western Muslims: report

Imams are out of touch with the needs of Western Muslims, and divorced from the struggles their congregants face in secular society, according to a new report from a leading Canadian scholar.

Catholic movement rocked by news of founder’s scandal

NEW ORLEANS — Hundreds of Louisiana families affiliated with a conservative lay spiritual movement within the Catholic Church have been rocked by revelations that the movement’s revered priest-founder for decades led a secret life — and has a daughter. An estimated 200 families in New Orleans and Baton Rouge belong to Regnum Christi, said Jim Fair, a Chicago spokesman for the group and an affiliated order of priests, the Legion of Christ. Fair estimated there are about 9,500 Regnum Christi families in the United States. “You know the Kubler-Ross stages of grief — anger, denial, depression and so forth? We’ve got all those bases covered all at once,” Fair said.

COMMENTARY: Purim will fall amid grim backdrop of anti-Semitism

(UNDATED) As a child growing up in post-World War II America, the Jewish holiday of Purim was always filled with costume parties, satirical skits, carnivals, tasty sweets, and gaiety. The highlight of the holiday, to be celebrated March 10 this year, is the public reading of the Megillah (the scroll containing the biblical book of Esther) in synagogues. The Megillah’s 10 chapters, the basis of the holiday, comprise a wonderfully compact short story. Purim tells how Haman, the wicked prime minister of ancient Persia (today’s Iran) was consumed with hatred and cast lots, or dice — purim in Hebrew — to determine the date for the mass murder of the Jewish community, perhaps the first recorded attempt at genocide. The deadly plan was thwarted at the last moment by Persian court intrigue involving the personal intervention of Esther, the Jewish queen, and Mordecai, her politically adept uncle.