CHICAGO — The morning we drove to O’Hare International Airport to meet Vasco after his 30-plus-hour flight from Malawi, my husband and I turned on the car stereo and hit play on the CD in the six-disc changer. What came up was Paul Simon’s album, “Graceland.” “These are the days of miracle and wonder, This is the long-distance call, The way the camera follows us in slow-mo The way we look to us all.” Those are the words from “The Boy in the Bubble,” the first track on Simon’s 1986 album, which has long been one of my favorites. It seemed appropriate — prophetic, even — traveling music for the short trip to the airport that ended a 20-month effort to bring Vasco, the 10-year-old AIDS orphan we had met in Malawi, to Chicago for life-saving heart surgery.
Barring some unlikely unforeseen revelation, the Sotomayor nomination will go through as smoothly as these things can these days. Like Roberts and Alito on the other team, she’s been a Supreme Court possibility for a long time, has known it, and has proceeded with the caution that such wannabes must. Nowhere is identity politics more firmly engrained in the American system than on the Supreme Court. Beginning with Louis Brandeis and the “Jewish seat,” through Thurgood Marshall and Sandra Day O’Connor, both parties have long recognized that the principle of equal justice for all implies a visibily inclusive court. Respecting religion, as with Roberts and Alito, Sotomayor’s Catholicism will figure in only a minor way.
About the only thing we’ve been able to discern about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s faith is that she’s Catholic and attended a Catholic high school. The White House says she attends Catholic Church for “important events, including family celebrations,” which doesn’t sound like she’s a daily-Mass-kind-of-Catholic. If confirmed, Sotomayor would be the sixth Catholic on the nine-member Supreme Court, an all-time high. But here’s the question: does any of this even matter? Michael Paulson up at The Boston Globe scans the blogosphere and tries to make sense of it all.
PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) A Coquille Indian Tribe law allowing same-sex marriage took effect this week, and two women married Sunday (May 24) on the tribe’s reservation in Coos Bay, Ore. Kitzen Branting, 26, and her partner, Jeni Branting, 28, who now live in Edmonds, Wash., became the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Oregon, though their marriage will be recognized only by the tribe. Kitzen Branting is a member of the Coquille tribe. Neither Washington nor Oregon has legalized same-sex marriage, but as a federally recognized sovereign nation, the tribe is not bound by the Oregon Constitution.
I updated my Facebook status last night to say that I “can’t watch Jon & Kate’s marriage fall apart any longer. It’s too depressing.” I had actually stopped watching TLC’s “Jon & Kate Plus 8” several months ago because of all the sickening giveaways that the family was getting — it wasn’t enough for them to go to a Phillies’ game; they had to get invited to the owner’s box. They couldn’t just renew their wedding vows; they had to get a free trip to Hawaii and all sorts of freebies. But I digress.
LONDON (RNS) The Church of Scotland has approved a two-year moratorium on all issues related to openly gay clergy, but only after approving a gay man to serve as pastor of Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen. The church’s General Assembly approved the appointment of the Rev. Stuart Rennie, a divorced father whose ex-wife has been supportive of his appointment, on Saturday (May 23). On Monday, however, delegates approved a two-year moratorium on same-sex questions. The moratorium proposed to give breathing room to a nine-member commission that is to scheduled to study the issue and report back in 2011. Rennie was elected minister of Queen’s Cross last June with the support of 86 percent of the congregation, which knew of his orientation and that he lived with a male partner.
(RNS) Publishing powerhouse Christianity Today International, citing hard times in its industry, is shutting down four publications and laying off 31 workers. According to a plan announced Friday (May 22), two magazines will fold: Today’s Christian Woman and the Campus Life College Guide, which targets Christian undergrads. CTI will also cease to publish Glimpses, a worship bulletin insert with stories from Christian history, and Church Office Today, a bi-monthly newsletter read by church administrators. The moves, which reduce CTI staff numbers by 22 percent to 108 employees, mark the latest attempt to cut costs at Carol Stream, Ill.-based CTI. In January, the organization shuttered two other magazines — Marriage Partnership and Ignite Your Faith — and sold a third, Today’s Christian.
VATICAN CITY (RNS) In a sign the credit crunch is sparing no one, the Vatican is set to raise its staff retirement age by two years to help make ends meet. From January 1, 2010, newly hired lay staff will retire at 67 instead of 65, while newly hired members of religious orders and priests (below the rank of bishop) will retire at 72 instead of 70. “Even the Vatican is feeling the crisis and we need to be careful about spending like everyone these days,” said the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, deputy director of the Vatican press office. “Austerity budgets are required to survive,” he added. There is no change for bishops and cardinals working at the Vatican, who continue to retire at age 75, said Benedettini.
INDIANAPOLIS — We parked on West 16th Street and walked the final half-mile to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the company of some 400,000 people, we found our seats. Race cars sat in rows of three on the track, as quiet as worshippers waiting for permission to sing. The pre-race ceremonies were a moving display of patriotism and respect for armed forces guarding this free land, capped by a state song told, ironically, from the standpoint of someone who has left home and yearns to be “Back Home Again in Indiana.” Then came “the rush.”
WASHINGTON — For the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, Tuesday’s (May 26) announcement of the first Latina nominee to the nation’s highest court was cause for equal parts celebration and caution. “I’m caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place,” said Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. “As a Puerto Rican American, as a Latino, I do commend President Obama for making a very practical strategic, political nomination. … As a Christian leader, which I am first and foremost, I have concerns.”
(UNDATED) The California Supreme Court upheld a statewide ban on gay marriage on Tuesday (May 26) but preserved the estimated 18,000 gay marriages that were performed before voters approved the ban last November. By a 6-to-1 majority, the court said that by approving Proposition 8 last fall, California voters had spoken clearly that marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples. A number of religious groups, including the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, used their money and influence to push for Prop 8, which was backed by 52 percent of California voters. Chief Justice Ronald George, author of the court’s majority decision, said same-sex couples maintain the right to form civil unions, which are “officially recognized, and protected family relationship(s)” with “all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.” Still, those civil unions will differ — in name at least — from the estimated 18,000 still legitimate marriages performed between the court’s decision to legalize gay marriage last May and the passage of Proposition 8.
VATICAN CITY — When Pope Benedict XVI told a crowd in St. Peter’s Square in April that the Virgin Mary “silently followed her son Jesus to Calvary, taking part with great suffering in his sacrifice, thus cooperating in the mystery of redemption and becoming mother of all believers,” most listeners probably heard nothing remarkable in the statement. After all, devotion to Mary is a pervasive element of the Catholic faith, and one of the features that most clearly distinguishes it from Protestantism. Yet for one group of devotees, Benedict’s statement was a milestone — a sign that he had moved one step closer to granting their wish for a new dogma on Mary’s contribution to human salvation. At least 7 million Catholics from more than 170 countries, including hundreds of bishops and cardinals, have reportedly signed petitions urging the pope to proclaim Mary “the Spiritual Mother of All Humanity, the coredemptrix with Jesus the redeemer, mediatrix of all graces with Jesus the one mediator, and advocate with Jesus Christ on behalf of the human race.”
Liberty University, the Lynchburg, Va., school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell and now run by his son, has stripped the local College Democrats’ chapter from its list of official clubs because it “stands against” the school’s moral principles. According to the Washington Times:”It’s a symbolic thing,” said Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. “These are great Christian kids. I sit with them at ball games, they mean well, but they’re not doing what they said they were going to do when they formed.” He said club organizers promised to stand for pro-life, pro-family causes and to work to move the Democratic Party in that direction, but have instead supported pro-choice candidates who work at cross-purposes to the school’s Christian beliefs.” The club is not being disbanded, WT reports, but may not use the school’s name or receive school funding.
In anticipation of the California Supreme Court’s ruling today on Prop 8, the LA Times has a useful Q&A on what it all means. Here’s an e.g.: “What do legal experts expect the court to do? Based on comments the justices made at a hearing earlier this year, most legal experts expect the court to uphold Proposition 8 but continue to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples wed before the November election.”
Daniel Hauser, the Minnesota teen with cancer whose family cited religious reasons for shunning chemotherapy, has returned home after disappearing with his mother. The Brown County Sheriff’s Office announced the development on Monday. The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reports that the 13-year-old will be returning to court as soon as Tuesday to clarify his custodial arrangement. (Photo credit: http://www.startribune.com)