Hobby Lobby founder says God has blessed business

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (RNS) The founder and chief executive of an arts and crafts store that makes religion central to its mission says sales are up in the midst of a sour economy, and the company remains on pace to open up to 30 new stores this year. David Green, founder of the Okalahoma-based Hobby Lobby chain of stores, attributed the continued growth to faith in God and the company’s commitment to operate according to biblical principles. He also cited a hands-on approach to merchandising — not using scanning systems, for example — and empowering employees to make decisions for themselves as keys to the retailer’s success. “Just because everybody else is doing it doesn’t mean it’s right,” Green told students at Samford University’s Brock School of Business.

German-born nun to head Mother Teresa’s order

CHENNAI, India (RNS) A German-born nun has been elected the new head of the Missionaries of Charity, the missionary order founded by the late Mother Teresa in Calcutta in 1950. Sister Mary Prema, who is a senior nun of the order, succeeds Sister Nirmala Joshi, who was elected Superior General following Mother Teresa’s 1997 death. Prema’s election was announced Tuesday (March 24) at the end of the congregation’s general meeting just outside Calcutta. Church officials said the election was prompted by Sister Nirmala’s request to step down, citing ill-health and a desire to live a contemplative life in the congregation — even after she had been elected to a third term on March 13.

Williams says God won’t rescue world from `stupidity’

LONDON (RNS) Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in one of his sharpest attacks yet on threats to the environment, has warned that God will not save mankind from his own environmental “stupidity.” The spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million-member Anglican Communion said in a lecture at England’s York Minster on Wednesday (March 25) that the world faces “a whole range of doomsday prospects,” ranging from global warming to threats from what he called “bio-terror” weapons. In such end-of-the-world scenarios, Williams said, “the ultimate tragedy is that a material world capable of being a manifestation … of divine love is choked, drowned or starved by its own stupidity.” But “to suggest that God might intervene to protect us from the corporate folly of our practices is as un-Christian and un-biblical as to suggest that he protects us from the results of our individual folly or sin.”

Archbishop apologizes for criticizing U.S. bishops

WASHINGTON — The American archbishop who heads the Vatican’s supreme court has apologized for the “confusion and hurt” caused by his criticism of fellow bishops who do not deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. Archbishop Raymond Burke, formerly of St. Louis, was interviewed earlier this month by an anti-abortion activist in Rome, where he now is Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. During the interview, Burke implicitly criticized Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington and Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Va., for not denying Communion to Catholic politicians who buck the church’s anti-abortion stance. Wuerl and Loverde were singled out because so many politicians live and work in their jurisdictions.

More March madness

Sen. Robert Casey, Democrat of Pa., has backed out of giving the commencement address at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. The college, where former President George W. Bush gave the address (and stirred a lot of his own controversy) two years ago, is headed by Jim Towey, Bush’s former director of the Faith-based Initiative. What, you thought the headline referred to basketball?

(Student) Body and Soul (mother)

The AP has a story on the continuing flap over President Obama giving the commencement address at Notre Dame. There are many people who think this story is overblown. Some bright academician should study how the fires of the culture wars are fanned by the media. Anyway, I thought this was interesting. The AP reports that: Notre Dame’s student newspaper, The Observer, has received 612 letters about Obama’s appearance – 313 from alumni and 299 from current students.

Sitting in the Pew(s)

Kevin mentioned that we would post the transcript from Archbishop Chaput’s meeting with religion reporters at a Pew forum on March 17.Here it is. There are several interesting exchanges, particularly between the archbishop and Catholic columnist E.J. Dionne.

Denominations trim presence on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON — Imagine finally making it to the big game, then having to take half your team off the field. That’s how it feels for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobby that recently laid off more than a dozen staffers, said legislative director Ruth Flower. The cuts come just as the new Obama White House is opening doors that had been firmly shut to progressive people of faith during the Bush administration. “We have a seat at the table now,” Flower said. “We can talk to people in the administration and propose things and actually be listened to.

Burked Off

Last June, when Pope Benedict yanked Archbishop Raymond Burke out of St. Louis and put him in charge of  the Vatican’s canon law office, there was some speculation that it was to make him a noncombatant in the wafer wars of the impending general election campaign. As the most consequential of the “no-communion-for-pro-choice-politicians” prelates, Burke had the capacity to create far more commotion than, some supposed, Rome wanted. In the event, some bishops–Scranton, Kansas City–made a Burkean show of it, but for the most part the communion issue was kept where most bishops seem to want it, quietly within the Catholic fold.Now we have a little more insight into what Burke’s episcopal brethren, if not the pope, had reason to be concerned about. In a sequence of events that has the Catholic blogosphere a-twitter,  Burke granted a videotaped interview to pro-life provocateur Randall Terry in which he, among other things, egged on the Catholic faithful to agitate against bishops who fail to stop pro-choice politicians from taking Communion.And so I would encourage the faithful when they are scandalized by the
giving of Holy Communion to persons are publicly and obstinately in
sin, that they go to their pastors, whether it’s their parish priest or
to their bishop, to insist that this scandal stop.

Group rallies outside Vatican embassy for women’s ordination

WASHINGTON (RNS) Despite decades of fighting for women’s ordination in the Roman Catholic Church, a Catholic women’s advocacy group still hopes the Vatican will reverse its opposition to the inclusion of female clergy members. “People have been fired who work at Catholic institutions because they even bring up the issue (of women’s ordination),” said Aisha Taylor, executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference. A small band of protestors organized by Taylor’s group held a small vigil Wednesday (March 25) outside the Vatican embassy here to support the ordination of women as priests, deacons, and bishops. The organization, which began in 1975, is trying to raise awareness around the prohibition against women priests. The Washington vigil was one of 12 held around the world in addition to regular weekly prayer services.

Tajikistan criticised over restrictive religion law

DUSHANBE, March 26 (Reuters) – Tajikistan, a Muslim nation bordering Afghanistan, introduced a new religion law on Thursday which the United States has criticised as highly restrictive.

Catholic bishops say no to Reiki treatment

WASHINGTON (RNS) The U.S. Catholic Bishops said Thursday (March 26) that Catholic chaplains, health care facilities and retreat centers should not promote or support Reiki therapy, a Japanese alternative healing practice. Reiki “finds no support either in the findings of natural science or in Christian belief,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine said in six pages of guidelines. “For a Catholic to believe in Reiki therapy presents insoluble problems,” said the committee, which is chaired by Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops’ conference, said that over the last 18 months a number of bishops have asked the doctrine committee to evaluate the use of Reiki and make a judgment on its suitability for Catholic institutions. About 2 million Americans have used Reiki, according to a 2002 survey by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Survey: Personal invites are most effective for churches

(RNS) An invitation from a family member or friend is the most effective way to get people to attend church, a new survey shows, casting doubt on several time-tested methods used by churches to attract new members. The other approaches — from broadcast commercials to information packets left on doorknobs — are far less effective, LifeWay Research reports. A majority of respondents — 67 percent — said an invitation from a family member was either somewhat or very effective. Likewise, 63 percent said an invitation from a friend or neighbor was effective. In contrast, just 33 percent said an invitation left on a door hanger would be effective, while 31 percent said door-to-door visits from a church or faith community member would be effective.

Obama taps special envoy for trafficking

WASHINGTON (RNS) President Obama announced on Tuesday (March 24) his nomination of Luis C. de Baca as ambassador-at-large to monitor and combat human trafficking. “I’m grateful that this fine public servant has agreed to join my administration, and I am confident that with Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton he will be an indispensable part of our team as we work tirelessly to stand up for human rights and the rule of law,” Obama said in a statement. De Baca served as the Involuntary Servitude and Slavery Coordinator at the Department of Justice during the Clinton administration and helped develop the victim-centered approach used today in combating modern slavery. In 2005, he won the Paul & Sheila Wellstone Award from Freedom Network, an anti-trafficking group. De Baca currently serves as Counsel to the House Judiciary Committee.

A second Delray Beach priest is sentenced to prison for church theft

The Rev. Francis Guinan told a jury he could spend his Delray Beach church’s money however he wanted, on trips to Las Vegas, expensive dinners and golf outings. He insisted it was normal to lie in church bank records, create secret slush funds and walk away from the offertory with wads of cash.