Priest = heterosexual husband

Sure, there have been good homosexual priests, Rev. Kevin J. Sweeney, director of vocations for the Diocese of
Brooklyn, allows in today’s NYT. But that’s not how the church rolls today.”A priest can only give his life to the church in the sense that a man
gives his life to a female spouse. A homosexual man cannot have the same
relationship. It’s not about condemning anybody. It’s about our world

Muslims break ground on major Islamic center in Toronto

TORONTO (RNS) The Aga Khan, leader of the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims, on Friday (May 28) joined Prime Minister Stephen Harper to break ground on a planned $300-million Islamic center that will include the first museum of Islamic art and culture in North America. More than a decade in planning and design, the complex will be home to the 100,000-square-foot Aga Khan Museum, designed by acclaimed Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki. Nearby, the larger Ismaili Centre Toronto will contain meeting and multi-purpose rooms, a prayer room, youth lounge and library. Linking the two buildings in north Toronto will be a network of ponds, fountains, gardens and pathways. According to the Aga Khan Foundation, the museum will house and exhibit “some of the most important works of Islamic art in the world.”

Anglican head proposes reduced role for Episcopalians

(RNS) Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Friday (May 28) proposed a reduced role for the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion because the church has consecrated gay bishops. Williams, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, said Episcopalians’ support for gay and lesbian bishops is out of step with other Anglicans. “Our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division,” Williams said in a letter to bishops, clergy and lay believers, “and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation.” On May 15, the Episcopal Church consecrated an openly lesbian priest, Mary Douglas Glasspool, as an assistant bishop in Los Angeles, despite warnings from Williams and other Anglican leaders. The first gay openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, was consecrated in 2003.

Thirty-seven Catholic missionaries were killed in 2009

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Thirty-seven Catholic priests and missionaries were killed in 2009, the highest number in 10 years and nearly twice as many as in 2008. The statistics, which appear in a report by the Vatican’s Fides agency, include not only missionaries to non-Catholic countries, but “pastoral workers who despite serious risk remained at their post to care for the people entrusted to them.” The largest share of those killed were found in the Americas. Eighteen priests, two seminarians, one nun and two lay people died violently in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, the United States, Guatemala and Honduras. Six priests were killed in Brazil alone, prompting the country’s bishops to issue a statement denouncing the violence.

Priests’ mistresses petition for end to celibacy

(RNS) Some 40 Italian women who claim to have had relationships with Roman Catholic priests have sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI seeking an end to priestly celibacy. The letter, posted on the website of the Times of London newspaper on Friday (May 28), says celibacy “has nothing to do either with the Scripture in general … or with Jesus, who never spoke about it.” The women are accustomed to living in anonymity, the letter said, but their voices “can no longer continue to be ignored.” A priest is a “painfully lonely being” who needs to fully experience love without “suffering the consequences of obligatory celibacy.”

Friday’s roundup

Here’s how it’s looking out there as we slide into the long holiday weekend … There’s a lot of talk here in D.C. about Thursday’s House and Senate committee vote to repeal the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy about gays in the military. Conservatives, led by the Family Research Council, obviously don’t like it. President Obama’s Twitter feed says this: “I have long advocated for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, & am pleased that the House & the Senate have taken steps to do just that.” Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams wants to sideline the U.S. Episcopal Church from much of the internal life of the Anglican Communion (but does not propose banishing the U.S. church into utter darkness) for its decision to ordain a lesbian bishop in Los Angeles.

Amish offer business tips for CEOs

(RNS) Some of the most successful entrepreneurs in America have never been to high school, don’t use electricity, and would sooner love their competitors than sue them. For generations, the Amish have tended farms tucked away in rural communities like Lancaster, Pa., motivated by a faith that urged them to be in the world, but not of it. But as housing subdivisions and strip malls suck up farmland, many Amish have traded their plows for profits — with remarkable success. There are nearly 9,000 Amish-run small businesses in North America, according to Donald Kraybill, a professor at Elizabethtown College in Lancaster and a noted expert on the Amish and other Anabaptists. And whereas 50 percent of small businesses fail within the first five years, only 10 percent of Amish-run enterprises have gone belly up.

The Rights of Military Chaplains

Yesterday a bunch of pastors, priests, and rabbis led by the Family Research Council held a press conference in the Capitol at which they begged the Lord to soften the hearts of lawmakers. Didn’t happen.  Both the House of Representatives and the Senate
Armed Services Committee voted to permit the repeal of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell. The burden of the group’s complaint was that permitting gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military would undermine the religious liberties of military chaplains–who as members of the officer corps would have to accept, well, the right of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. The answer to that is: too bad. Clergy serving in the military do not have the same religious
rights as they do in civilian life.

Court says Berlin schools not obligated to meet religious needs

BERLIN (RNS) With schools unable to meet the special religious needs of every devout student, educational institutions cannot be expected to provide special facilities for any of them, a Berlin court ruled Thursday (May 27). The decision by the administrative appeals court reverses a lower court decision last September that ordered a Berlin high school to allow a Muslim student time for regular prayers during the school day. “The state has to treat various religions and world views equally and can only guarantee the peaceful coexistence of different or even opposing religious and world perspectives when the state, itself, stays neutral on questions of belief,” the court said. Setting aside facilities for Muslim prayers could quickly require the state to meet similar demands from other faiths, overloading its capacities and, in the case of a school, interfering with its ability to provide an education. “The variety of religions and beliefs represented at the school, in light of limited personnel and physical resources, could disrupt its organization while not putting an end to any conflicts,” the court said.

Majority find homosexuality `morally acceptable’ for first time

WASHINGTON (RNS) A slight majority of Americans view gay or lesbian relations as morally acceptable, a first since Gallup pollsters started asking about the issue in 2001. In a recent survey of 16 different behaviors or social practices, pollsters found that 52 percent of Americans accept gay or lesbian relations, a steady increase since a form of the question was introduced nine years ago. The percentage of Americans who find it “morally wrong” dipped to its lowest point: 43 percent. Sixty percent of Democrats and independents accept of gay or lesbian relations, compared to 35 percent of Republicans. Americans were tied, at 46 percent, regarding the morality of doctor-assisted suicide _ a stark contrast to the 77 percent of Americans who believe suicide is morally wrong.

House rejects amendment on chaplains’ prayers

WASHINGTON (RNS) The House on Thursday (May 27) rejected a proposed amendment that would have allowed military chaplains to close public events with faith-specific prayers. The amendment, offered by Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to the Military Construction Authorization Act, was deemed not relevant to the bill, Bachmann’s office said. The amendment would have specified that “a chaplain shall have the prerogative to close the prayer according to the dictates of the chaplain’s own conscience.” Bachmann’s proposed amendment comes after church-state separationists have tussled with military chaplains over the appropriateness of praying “in Jesus’ name.” Secularists say it’s insulting to nonbelievers; Christian clergy say they know no other way to pray. The dispute has most recently played out in Virginia, where Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell repealed a ban on Virginia State Police chaplains praying in Jesus’ name. Former military chaplain Rabbi Israel Drazin said the chaplains’ role is different than a civilian clergy like a rabbi or priest.

1921 slaying of Catholic priest gets renewed interest

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (RNS) The 1921 murder of the Rev. James E. Coyle on the front porch of his rectory was no ordinary slaying. Involved were the anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan, a future Supreme Court justice and a preacher’s daughter who secretly married a Puerto Rican. In her book “Rising Road: A True Tale of Love, Race and Religion in America,” Ohio State University law professor Sharon Davies digs deep into the Coyle’s murder — and the dark chapter of anti-Catholicism in American history. “There are so many things about this story that are really compelling,” said Davies, who stumbled across the case while doing research for a law journal article.

Thursday’s roundup

The Obama administration will unveil a new national security strategy that downplays the idea that the U.S. is at war with Islam, dropping phrases like “Islamic extremism” and “global war on terror.” Speaking of war, faith groups are lining up on both sides of the debate as Congress prepares to repeal Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. The religious divisions should not be surprising, according to a new Gallup Poll, which found “gay and lesbian relations” to be among the most divisive moral issues — 52 percent say gay relations are “morally acceptable,” according to the poll; 43 percent say they aren’t. Tea Party fav Michele Bachman, R-Minn., has proposed an amendment to a defense appropriation bill that would allow military chaplains to close public prayers however they want. Read: in Jesus’ name.

COMMENTARY: It’s all about the branding

(RNS) The advertising wizards of Madison Avenue gets paid millions to make sure we buy their products and feel good about doing it. That’s why everyone knows that Wheaties is the “Breakfast of Champions” and “With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good.” America’s faith communities generally don’t have the budgets for glitzy ad campaigns, but if they were to hire PR gurus to help them navigate these difficult times, I imagine the recommendations would look something like this: Roman Catholics You have a time-tested tradition and brand name that has survived for 2,000 years with a large number of clients (sorry, “faithful”). But you need to bridge the growing alienation between the consumers (err, “followers”) and the Vatican and its local franchises (sorry, again): the dioceses and parishes. Focus groups frequently mentioned concerns about the clergy sexual abuse scandal, but the overwhelming majority of members want to stay with you.