A price too high

Gillian Flaccus of the AP has an incredibly moving account of what happens to (some) clergy abuse victims when they receive six-figure settlements from the Catholic Church. Flaccus builds her story around David Guerrero, who received $4 million as part of an abuse settlement. He’s now high on crystal meth, has spent through most or all of the settlement and his relationship with his family couldn’t be worse. Says his father, Robert: “I’m going to suffer when I go home tonight and when I go to sleep, I’m going to think about David and I suffer every time I think about him. That’s just the way life is today.”

Monday’s religion round-up

Conservative Lutherans voted Saturday to take 12 months to decide whether to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but one large church in Arizona is already out the door. Some victims of clergy sexual abuse are finding that settlement money is less a blessing than a bane, and a former Catholic priest in Vermont accused of molesting altar boys is apologizing. Boston Catholics are comemorating Pope John Paul II’s visit 30 years ago. A “frail-looking” Oral Roberts installed his eponymous university’s third president, and the woman charged in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart is “remembering her sins” in letters to her mother. The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh may merge with another in northwestern Penn.

Cleveland Catholics ask Vatican to oversee their bishop

CLEVELAND (RNS) Catholics protesting Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon’s plan to close 50 churches are asking the Vatican to oversee Lennon’s actions. Separately, at least three Cleveland churches received letters from the Vatican this week (Sept. 20-26), saying their appeals of Lennon’s orders to close are being reviewed. Some parishioners from the three churches are members of the protest group Endangered Catholics, which is seeking the oversight of Lennon. The request for oversight is in accordance with church law but is rarely exercised, said Catholic activist Peter Borre of Boston, who will file the complaint in Rome on behalf of the Cleveland group.

Religious leaders press for binding pact on climate change

NEW YORK (RNS) Representatives from various faith traditions, gathered this week in conjunction with United Nations meetings on climate change, urged political leaders to adopt “strong, binding targets” for the reduction of greenhouse gases. The Sept. 21 statement by religious leaders called upon industrialized nations “to act responsibly in mitigation efforts, by making the largest cuts in carbon emissions… (and) showing leadership in their ethical behavior.” However, they also said all people are responsible for turning “the human-earth community into a global culture of ecological responsibility.”

Pope to visit Portugal and maybe England in 2010

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Portugal next May to visit the world-famous shrine to the Virgin Mary at Fatima, the Vatican confirmed on Thursday (Sept. 24), amid semi-official reports of a papal trip to England later in the year. The pope will preside over observances at Fatima on May 13, marking the 92nd anniversary of the date in 1917 when three shepherd children reportedly saw, and heard prophecies from, the Virgin Mary, the first of six reported apparitions there over the following six months. The Shrine of Fatima, built on the site of the visions, is one of Catholicism’s most visited sanctuaries, drawing up to 5 million pilgrims every year. Pope John Paul II credited the Madonna of Fatima with saving his life after he was shot in St.

Court dismisses $5 million judgment against anti-gay protestors

(RNS) Members of Westboro Baptist Church, the anti-gay church that protests military funerals, won a court victory Thursday (Sept. 24) when a federal appeals court overturned a $5 million judgment against them. The father of a Marine who was killed in Iraq in 2006 sued Westboro pastor Fred Phelps and members of his Topeka, Kan., church after they protested his son’s funeral with signs that said “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “God hates America.” Judge Robert B. King of the 4th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., writing in the majority opinion, said the signs were “utterly distasteful” but addressed “matters of public concern.” Rejecting the privacy arguments of Albert Snyder of York, Pa., King upheld the church’s free speech rights.

Study: One in 5 Americans may be secular by 2030

(UNDATED) The number of American adults who do not identify with a particular religion is growing and may comprise more than 20 percent of the population in two decades, according to a new study. Conducted by researchers at Trinity College, the study, entitled “American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population,” showed that people who profess no religion, or “Nones,” are similar to the general public in marital status, education, racial and ethnic makeup and income. According to the study, it is possible that one in five Americans will put themselves in the “None” category by 2030. “We are here. We are like everybody else.

Muslims pray for âÂ?Â?soul of America’ at Capitol

WASHINGTON — Swapping prayer rugs for massive plastic rain tarps, an estimated 3,500 Muslims gathered at the foot of the U.S. Capitol on Friday (Sept. 25) to pray for “the soul of America” in a grassroots demonstration of religious and national pride. The rally, organized by the Dar-Ul-Islam mosque in Elizabeth, N.J., was billed as regular Friday “jummah” prayers, but it quickly became a chance for rank-and-file Muslims to publicly witness to their faith and claim their place as American citizens. “Islam and Muslims will never ever give to America anything except the best,” said Hamad Chebli, the imam, or spiritual leader, of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey in South Brunswick, N.J. “Islam and America will never ever bring anything from their homelands, from their countries, except the best.” Participants were told that the “Islam on Capitol Hill” rally would not be a political event, and were advised to leave their protest signs at home.

Friday’s religion round-up

Thousands of Muslims are gathering at the Capitol for a prayer vigil. A federal appeals court dismissed a $5 million verdict against the anti-gay protestors from Wesboro Baptist Church, anti-abortion black church leaders say they back Obamacare, and the Illinois Supreme Court said a Jewish dentist had the right to disinherit gentile grandchildren. Less than two weeks after a top official in the United Methodist Church resigned, his bishop announced she is investigating charges that he “violated the sacred trust of ordination.” Cleveland Catholics upset about plans to close 50 churches in northeast Ohio went to the Vatican to plead their case, 11 lepers will go to Rome next month to watch the Vatican canonize the patron saint of leprosy, and Bob Dylan will donote proceeds from his forthcoming Christmas album to the World Food Program. The Motor City is looking for a patron saint.

Pro-Life, Pro-Obamacare

It’s significant that anti-abortion African-American religious leaders are now supporting the Democratic health care reform legislation, taking the president at his word that it is abortion-neutral. This helps separate the pro-life sheep (those just worried about abortion) from the pro-life goats (for whom abortion concerns mask thoroughgoing opposition).

Spiritual Politics, Anglo-Saxon style

For what it’s worth, here’s my guess: The fabulous Anglo-Saxon hoard discovered by that unemployed metal detectorist in Staffordshire was booty taken by King Penda of Mercia in his victory over the saintly King Oswald of Northumbria at the battle of Maserfield in 641 or 642. The hoard includes some Judeo-Christian bric-a-brac, as reported by John Burns in today’s New York Times:The three Christian crosses in the find had been bent into folds, as
had a strip of gold with a biblical inscription in Latin of a kind
likely to have been favored by an ancient warrior: “Rise up, O Lord,
and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from
thy face.”The inscription is taken from the Vulgate, either Psalm 67 or Numbers 10:35. (How’d that work out for you, Oswald?)Penda was a pagan who could have cared less about the spiritual value of that stuff–folding it up for its metallic value. He’d just kicked some serious Christian butt, dismembering his adversary in the process. One tough dude.

COMMENTARY: Life after Nazism

(UNDATED) Albert Einstein (Time magazine’s “Person of the 20th Century”), Sigmund Freud (the founder of psychoanalysis) Henry Kissinger (the former secretary of state), Billy Wilder (the film director/screen writer), Kurt Weill (the composer of “The Three Penny Opera”) and Hannah Arendt (the political philosopher) … What story do these six people share? They were all Jews from Germany or Austria who escaped to the U.S. or England following Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 — despite restrictive anti-immigration policies that limited the number of Jews who could find safety from Hitler’s death march. Some individuals, including these half-dozen prominent Jews, eluded the Nazis and escaped the fate that befell 6 million fellow Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. Of those six, only Kissinger, now 86, is still alive.

Orthodox patriarch to advocate for Mississippi River

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians, will convene dozens of experts here next month to discuss environmental challenges facing people in the Mississippi River Valley. Bartholomew, known in some quarters as the “green patriarch” for his environmental activism, has convened seven prior environmental gatherings around the world since 1995. Although based in Istanbul, Bartholomew has sponsored meetings to focus attention on environmental challenges to the Arctic, the Amazon River, the Adriatic, Baltic, Black and Aegean seas and the Danube River. In recent years, leaders of many faiths have come to recognize a faith-based duty to care for the earth, said the Rev. Sally Bingham, who heads an environmental ministry in California and is helping to plan the New Orleans meeting. “Religious leaders are used to saying our responsibility is saving souls.