Trial opens in infant’s faith-healing death

OREGON CITY, Ore. — Prosecution and defense attorneys differed sharply Monday (June 29) on what led to the death of 15-month-old Ava Worthington. Ava, malnourished and in obvious distress, “died a needless death” because her parents, Raylene and Carl Worthington, failed to provide adequate medical care, said Greg Horner, chief deputy district attorney. Yet John Neidig, the attorney representing Raylene Worthington, described Ava as alert, playful and having a good appetite in the days and hours before her death on March 2, 2008. “This child had a cold, and it didn’t appear to be anything of great concern,” Neidig said.

Would you like fries with that?

The place that first brought you Frostys and square burgers will now be home to a local Catholic charity. The original Wendy’s restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, has been sold to the Catholic Foundation, reports Meredith Heagney at The Columbus Dispatch. Founder Dave Thomas opened the landmark location in 1969; Thomas died in 2002 and the company shuttered the money-losing spot in 2007. The Catholic Foundation manages $86 million in assets, which it uses to fund parishes, schools and ministries in the Diocese of Columbus. Wendy’s spokeman Denny Lynch told the newspaper that Dave Thomas “started the restaurant because he wanted to serve customers, he wanted to serve the community.”

Remembering Michael

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a friend of Michael Jackson, takes a warts-and-all look at the late popstar in this Beliefnet piece. Moneyquote: “He threw away his life. He had lived recklessly and orphaned his children. He had medicated away the afflictions of the soul as if they were ailments of the body until his body could no longer tolerate the abuse. He had squandered all of G-d’s blessings.

White House: Church choice still pending

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs weighed in Monday on the Time magazine report about President Obama’s church attending plans. No, said Gibbs, it’s not correct that Obama has chosen the chapel at the Camp David presidential retreat and won’t look for a church in Washington. But it is true that the president doesn’t like to disrupt a regular worship service, which, would no longer be regular if he attended. Here’s the Q and A on it: Q: Is the Time Magazine report correct that the President has told his staff that he intends to not search for a church in Washington, but he will worship at Camp David instead? Gibbs: No.

Church-state divide looms for Episcopalians on gay marriage

(UNDATED) Episcopal bishops from the six states that have legalized gay marriage are requesting permission to adapt their church’s venerable prayer book for use at same-sex weddings. The proposal presents a new challenge to the Episcopal Church as it seeks to balance respect for gay rights with fellow Anglicans’ widespread condemnation of homosexuality. The request from bishops in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont will be debated at the Episcopal Church’s upcoming (July 8-17) General Convention in Anaheim, Calif. Even though the Episcopal Church has taken a liberal stand on gay issues, including installing an openly gay bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, its rules and liturgy continue to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The bishops’ proposed resolution asks for permission to offer a “generous and flexible response” to same-sex couples seeking to be wed in the six states that have legalized gay marriage.

COMMENTARY: Free to disagree

(UNDATED) When I skated past Michael Jackson’s sudden death while millions of other Americans were caught up in a wave of grief and remembrance, I realized that America’s birthday on July 4 had taken on yet another layer of complexity. Now, in addition to the multitude of other divisions, we are split between those who considered Jackson a great performer and those who found him a minor curiosity. There are other divisions: Those who still have jobs and those whose jobs vanished. Those trying to sell houses and those staying put. Those who worry about the Southern Baptists’ decline and those who gloat over yesterday’s gloaters.

Madoff, frozen

Throwing the book at Bernard Madoff, Judge Denny Chin pronounced his crimes as “extraordinarily evil.” Indeed, one of his victims noted that Dante defined fraud as the worst of all sins, reserving the lowest circle of Hell for those who betray those with whom they share particular bonds of love and trust. That certainly works for Madoff. His victims included many who trusted him as a member of their religious community, a fellow Jew who was, they believed, in business to look out for his people. But more than the individuals, he defrauded the community’s institutional core–Hadassah, Yeshiva University, the American Jewish Congress, and many other educational and philanthropic entities.

White House denies report that Obama won’t pick D.C. church

WASHINGTON (RNS) The White House on Monday (June 29) denied a report that President Obama has decided to make the Camp David presidential retreat hischurch home. “The President and First Family continue to look for a church home,” a White House spokesman said Monday. “They have enjoyed worshipping at Camp David and several other congregations over the months, and will choose a church at the time that is best for their family.” Time magazine reported Monday that White House aides had said Obama opted for Camp David’s Evergreen Chapel, a nondenominational church, so that he could worship more privately. “A number of factors drove the decision — financial, political, personal — but chief among them was the desire to worship without being on display,” the magazine reported on its Web site.

Eastern Orthodox leader to visit U.S. this fall

(RNS) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s 300-million Orthodox Christians, will travel to the U.S. in October and lead a symposium on the environment in Memphis, Tenn., the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America announced on Friday (June 26). Bartholomew, often called the “Green Patriarch” for his environmental advocacy, will also visit New York, Atlanta and Washington. He will arrive Oct. 17 in Memphis to headline a weeklong symposium titled “The Great Mississippi River: Restoring Balance.” Bartholomew will visit New York on Oct.

Pope says relics are those of St. Paul

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Catholic Church’s Year of St. Paul ended with a flourish on Sunday (June 28), as Pope Benedict XVI announced that scientists had authenticated the first-century saint’s earthly remains under a church in Rome. Carbon testing of bone fragments in a sarcophagus beneath the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, along with the presence of incense grains and purple linen laminated with pure gold, “seems to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition according to which these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul,” Benedict said. “All this fills our soul with profound emotion,” he added.

Unitarians, UCC elect minorities as presidents

(RNS) The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the United Church of Christ (UCC) both made history this week by selecting minority presidents at their annual meetings. The Boston-based UUA elected its first Latino president, the Rev. Peter Morales; the Cleveland-based UCC nominated its first African-American president, the Rev. Geoffrey Black, as its next general minister and president. “I believe this says that Unitarian Universalists are eager to open our doors wider and to welcome the changes that becoming more diverse will bring to us,” said UUA spokeswoman Janet Hayes by phone from the General Assembly in Salt Lake City. Both leaders will be the second minorities to helm their faith traditions. The Rev. William Sinkford, an African-American, preceded Morales in the UUA’s top post.

New York’s new archbishop, back in Rome, looks to future

VATICAN CITY — In a ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday (June 29), Pope Benedict XVI placed a thin strip of white lamb’s wool around the necks of 34 recently appointed archbishops from around the world, including five from the United States. The band of wool, known as a “pallium,” symbolizes the responsibilities that come with overseeing some of the Catholic Church’s largest flocks. The pallium ceremony is also a reminder of the challenges and opportunities that await the men back in their newly assigned archdioceses. Yet for Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, the trip to Rome was not only an occasion for looking ahead, but also a homecoming of sorts.

LAPD’s first Islamic chaplain

The Los Angeles Police Department will soon be spiritually guided by its first Islamic chaplain. Sheik Qazi Asad will spend eight hours a month infusing culture and faith into the SoCal officers and community members. But, turns out not everyone was too happy about the Pakistani-born chaplain: “Some Muslim religious and civic leaders who belong to an LAPD Muslim advisory panel grumbled privately about not being consulted about Asad’s selection, although they did not take issue with him. LAPD officials said that Asad applied for the post on his own, and that the department generally does not run chaplain appointments by outside advisory groups. Even those Muslim leaders who voiced some disappointment with the process, however, said they believed that Asad’s appointment would help nurture an emerging relationship with the Police Department.”