Top Vatican official rededicates Mass. menorah

BRAINTREE, Mass. — The Vatican’s top liaison to Jews helped rededicate a menorah in memory of Holocaust victims Wednesday amid fallout from the Holy See’s botched decision to lift the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop. Cardinal Walter Kasper joined Holocaust survivors and local Roman Catholic leaders at the ceremony for the Yom Hashoah Menorah at the Boston Archdiocese’s Braintree offices.

Vatican official criticizes US bishops on abortion

Archbishop Raymond Burke, the former St. Louis prelate who now leads the Vatican supreme court, said President Barack Obama “could be an agent of death” if his support for abortion rights becomes a model for leaders in other countries.

Needy gather at Clinton church

On the third Friday of every month, volunteers begin unloading huge sacks of produce, juice and snacks from a food bank truck at a Clinton church, offering supplies to mothers, the elderly and those who’ve fallen on hard times.

Condom uproar latest message problem for pope

Pope Benedict XVI has gone on YouTube and his speeches appear in Chinese on the Vatican Web site, but judging from the uproar over a Holocaust-denying bishop and his pronouncement that condoms deepen the AIDS crisis, he’s clearly struggling with his message.

Crystal Cathedral: Poser tweets as Schuller

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. — Televangelist Robert H. Schuller has reached millions worldwide with his weekly “Hour of Power” TV broadcasts, but when it comes to the Internet, he had a high-tech headache: an online impostor

For Catholic ball fans, an uneasy choice on Good Friday

(UNDATED) In a profound conflict of sacred and secular traditions, thousands of Christians who are urged to solemnly commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday (April 10) afternoon are being tempted by an alternative spring ritual: the cry of “Play ball.” Four Major League Baseball teams — the Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers — have scheduled games during the midday time window that’s considered by many the most solemn period of the Christian calendar. Religious leaders say they don’t expect Americans to return to an age of shuttered shops and businesses on Good Friday, but they question whether baseball teams could not have been more respectful of religious sensitivities. In Detroit, where about a third of the region’s population is Catholic, the Tigers’ decision to schedule a baseball game at 1:05 p.m. on Good Friday is “insult upon injury,” said the Rev. Ed Vilkauskas, pastor of Old St. Mary Church in the city.

COMMENTARY: Let my people go

(UNDATED) My favorite holiday is the eight-day festival of Passover that begins this year on April 8 at sundown with one of the world’s oldest continuous religious rituals: the annual Seder meal. The celebratory Seder features holiday prayers and songs, the recounting the ancient Hebrews’ exodus from Egyptian servitude, and of course special foods like matzo (unleavened bread), wine and pungent horseradish signifying slavery’s bitterness. The Seder links every generation with the inspiring saga of how a ragtag band of slaves gained freedom and ultimately entered the Promised Land. Passover is always the same because it describes events that took place about 3,250 years ago. That part never changes.

The Vermonter

Vermont Republican governor Jim Douglas’s decision to veto the state legislature’s impending bill permitting gay marriage has been taken by the bill’s supporters, including the Burlington Free Press, as some kind of violation of legislative due process, a bombshell defacing the gentle lawmaking landscape of the Green Mountain State. Sure, it’s a departure for Douglas to announce an intent to veto prior to a bill’s passage, but so what? The notable thing about his announcement, in the world of national anti-gay marriage discourse, is its lack of “the end of civilization as we know it” rhetoric, its appeal for civility: For those on either side of the vote to sternly judge the other’s
morality and conscience is the only true intolerance in this debate and
is a disservice to all Vermonters. I have Republican friends who will
vote for this bill and Democratic friends who will vote against — and
regardless of their vote, they will still be my friends and have my
respect when this issue is resolved…I respect the passionate opinions of individuals on both sides of this
debate and hope that when the Legislature makes their decision,
whatever the outcome may be, we can move our state forward, toward a
bright future for our children and grandchildren.Call me a sap, but I think that’s pretty nice.

Rushdoonyite Democrat

So Southern California moneybags Howard Ahmanson, the Christian Reconstructionist supporter of the Discovery Institute and Proposition 8, has withdrawn the hem of his garment from the Republican Party and joined the Democrats. “The Democratic Party in California,” he writes, “is now so big and diverse
and all-inclusive that it has ABSOLUTELY NO PRINCIPLES WHATSOEVER.” Dismissing the GOP because of its single-minded opposition to taxes, insisting that he has changed none of his opinions, Ahmanson is, like Diogenes, in search of a few like-minded Democrats to support. This strikes me as an exercise in Orange County idiosyncrasy, signifying very little beyond the continuing implosion of California Republicanism.

They like us. They really really like us.

Full disclosure: as a journalist, I have no official opinions on any number of issues. But the anti-democratic banana republic style of governance imposed on the citizens of Washington DC aint one of them. As you non-Washingtons are (hopefully) aware, those of us who live in the nation’s capital don’t have a full vote in Congress. Yes, we have a non-voting delegate, but the term “non-voting” tells you everything you need to know. We have no senators.

Presbyterian court rules against lesbian minister

(RNS) A San Francisco woman’s quest to overturn a ban on non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy in the Presbyterian Church (USA) was denied on a technicality by a regional church court. Lisa Larges, 45, declared a conscientious objection to denominational standards that require celibacy for gay and lesbian clergy. On Wednesday (March 25) the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific ruled that the San Francisco Presbytery erred when it voted to certify Larges as ready to be examined for ministry, with a “departure” or conscientious objection. The denomination’s highest court and General Assembly, its lawmaking body, have issued contradictory decisions about whether such objections are allowed. The synod court ruled that the presbytery was premature in considering Larges’ objection, saying it should be considered later, during the examination, when clergy candidates’ theology and suitability for ministry are tested.

Four types of meditation

CLEVELAND — There are many different kinds of meditation, and all elicit what Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard University, has named the relaxation response. The relaxation response is in opposition to the body’s stress or fight-or-flight response, and may help improve health conditions that are aggravated by stress, like heart disease, depression, insomnia, hot flashes and others. Transcendental Meditation The trademarked name of a meditation technique taught by instructors in a standardized seven-step procedure at centers across the country. Made popular when the Beatles took up the practice in the 1960s, its leader, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, had a goal of setting up one teaching center for every million people in this country. The technique focuses on the importance of repeating a mantra, given to a student by a trained teacher, in order to help clear the mind for meditation.

More paper cuts

First the Rocky Mountain News, then the Seattle P-I, and now this … United Church News, the official dead-tree news organ of the United Church of Christ, will fold later this year. The last edition is supposed to roll off the presses sometime around September. “This was a difficult decision for board members, because it was rooted in significant financial angst,” said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, the UCC’s communications director and a former editor of United Church News. “But it also paves the way for the development of an expanded online news portal and, most likely, a new and different print publication for the United Church of Christ.”

U.N. urged to reject bar on defamation of religion

GENEVA (Reuters) – Some 200 secular, religious and media groups from around the world on Wednesday urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to reject a call from Islamic countries for a global fight against “defamation of religion.”

PhD program explores Christian spirituality

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – A new doctorate program at a conservative Baptist seminary will explore the life lessons of the Bible at a time when self-help spirituality is being popularized by celebrities like Oprah.