Tuesday’s Religion News Roundup

Pope Benedict XVI sought to “kick-start a debate” when he said condom use may sometimes be justified, Vatican insiders told the AP, and boy did he ever. On Tuesday, the Vatican said using condoms to prevent the greater evil of HIV transmission also applies to women – even if that means averting a potential pregnancy, according to the AP – a significant philosophical shift since just last year for the pontiff. Africans, who are beset by an AIDS crisis, are listening closely. The book-length interview in which B16 first made his condom remarks goes on sale today. Other religious leaders are doing things, too.

Gentile wives brace for first Hanukkah feasts

(RNS) Anne Coyle used to set the holiday table with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, but this year, she’s rolling up her sleeves in an attempt to make latkes and brisket. Cheered on by her husband and a support group for non-Jewish women raising Jewish children, Coyle’s first stab at a traditional Hanukkah meal has a modest goal: don’t burn anything. Or anyone. “My husband did the cooking for Passover, but I wanted to try this one,” said Coyle, who was raised Catholic, from the family’s home in Rhode Island. “I thought doing the Hanukkah meal would be like putting my toe in the water, instead of Passover, which would be like jumping into the pool.”

10 minutes with âÂ?¦ Linda Mobley

(RNS) In this season of giving thanks and counting blessings, Linda Mobley of Vancouver, Wash., says she’s been blessed by breast cancer. Twice. She thought she’d beaten the disease eight years ago. But soon after she’d self-published her book, “Blessed with Cancer,” in July, Mobley was told the cancer had returned, metastasized into her bones. It was stage 4, incurable.

COMMENTARY: Doing more with less

(RNS) We will get out the Christmas music this week, but not our shopping lists nor our credit cards. Like many Americans, we are planning a “lean” gift-giving season. There’s not enough money to do as much as we would like, but even more, no particular desire to give things. We yearn for family time. We will wait eagerly for out-of-town children to come home.

Papal Biggie after all

So now Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi has gone to the mountain and come back with confirmation that the pope not only said what he meant but also meant what Austin Ivereigh said he meant–that the use of condoms for the sake of preventing infection was a step in the right moral direction for women (and transsexuals) as well as male prostitutes:”I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important
problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine,” Lombardi
said. “He told me no. The problem is this … It’s the first step of
taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life
of another with whom you have a relationship.””This is if you’re
a man, a woman, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point.

Pope, in intimate interview, mulls mistakes, health, fashion

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI has dominated global headlines since Saturday (Nov. 20) when the Vatican’s official newspaper leaked excerpts from a new book in which the pope suggested condoms might sometimes be justified in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. But the condom remarks — that a male prostitute, for example, is someone whose use of a condom “can be a first step” in the practice of sexual morality — aren’t the only newsworthy bits in “The Light of the World,” a book-length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, which hits stores on Wednesday (Nov. 24). The new book, based on six hours of interviews in July, is also an extraordinarily intimate portrait of a sitting pope.

Anglican bishop blasts royals as `shallow celebrities’

LONDON (RNS) A Church of England bishop has triggered fury for publicly describing Prince William and his bride-to-be as “shallow celebrities” and the whole royal family as a collection of “philanderers.” Bishop of Willesden (London) Pete Broadbent, a self-described adherent to republicanism, made his controversial remarks on his Facebook page after William and his fiance, Kate Middleton, announced their engagement. William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, is head of the Church of England — the same position William himself will one day hold when he, as expected, ascends to the throne after his father, Prince Charles. The 58-year-old bishop denounced the “nauseating tosh” surrounding the royal engagement, as well as the “national flimflam paid for by our taxes.” Broadbent followed the “shallow celebrities” jibe with a prediction that the 2011 marriage of William and Kate will last only seven years at most.

As uproar fades, Seton Hall students meet to study gay marriage

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (RNS) It is the class that wasn’t supposed to happen. In a basement classroom at Seton Hall University, 24 undergraduates meet twice a week for a course known as “Special Topics in Political Theory: Gay Marriage.” Most of the tension that surrounded the first few weeks of class has disappeared. The security guard who stood outside the door the first week is gone. The death threats against the professor have died down.

Hunger group hopes for progress in 2011 on global malnutrition

WASHINGTON (RNS) Significant progress on global malnutrition can be made in 2011, the ecumenical anti-hunger group Bread for the World said Monday (Nov. 22) in its new annual report on hunger. The U.S. government’s “Feed the Future” initiative has the potential to reduce hunger by addressing long-term economic development and focusing on small farmers, said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute. The report calls for emphasizing nutrition, especially for young children and pregnant women, and fostering rapid response to hunger emergencies. It also urges a rewrite of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act to emphasize poverty reduction as a key aspect of U.S. foreign policy.

How, or if, you give thanks speaks volumes

(RNS) Whether it’s a mere “Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub,” or a more solemn supplication, millions of Americans will bow their heads this Thursday in gratitude for the bounty of food before them. Even a murmured “Thanks be to God,” before carving the Thanksgiving turkey speaks volumes about the person praying, especially if it’s a daily habit, according to scholars. In fact, not only is saying grace one of the best indicators of how religious a person is, but it also has strong connections to partisan politics, according to scholars Robert Putnam and David Campbell. Grace, of course, is the prayer said before meals, either in thanks to a deity who generously provides the food, to the workers who prepared it, or even to the animals about to be gobbled up. Like many other rituals, Christians probably picked up saying grace from Judaism, according to scholars; nearly every culture has some form of mealtime prayer.

Do religious people make easy targets for scams?

(RNS) Convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff bilked billions of dollars out of thousands of fellow Jews, including charities like the Elie Wiesel Foundation and Steven Spielberg Wunderkinder Foundation. Other major frauds exposed by federal investigators in recent years have targeted Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, black churches and other denominations, from $190 million lost in a three-year scam promoted by a Christian radio host in Minnesota to an estimated $1.4 billion conned from thousands of Utah Mormons. Now three Pakistani immigrants — two believed to have fled the U.S. — are accused of swindling $30 million from hundreds of Chicago-area Muslims with an investment plan they promised complied with Islamic law. Is it simply too easy for con artists to prey on people of faith? “We’ve seen where it’s an outsider who has come into the fold, and we’ve seen some where it’s a person who has been a member of the community for decades,” said Lori Schock, director of investment education and advocacy for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Monday’s Religion News Roundup

Pope Benedict XVI sent shock waves through the media by saying in a soon-to-be published book that condoms are morally licit in extremely limited circumstances. The Vatican quickly added that B16 said nothing “revolutionary” in his book-length interview with a German journalist and that pontiff expressed his personal opinion, not church doctrine. Still, some Catholics are taking the remarks as a sign that the Roman Catholic Church is softening its stance on condom use. On his way to Africa a year ago, you may remember, B16 blamed condoms for exacerbating the continent’s AIDS crisis. In the book, titled “Light of the World,” which will be released this week, B16 also reveals some of his personal life (watching the boobtube) and regrets (not checking out a Holocaust-denying bishop before welcoming him back to the church).

Pope on condoms: no biggie?

That is the question. In the usual manner, there’s that tendency for those who like the way a papal statement sounds to make too much of it, and those who don’t, to make too little. And in the case of Benedict’s remarks on the use of condoms to prevent AIDS (“a first step in the movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexually”), GetReligion’s Mollie (Hemingway) has some fun with the former and NCR’s Michael Sean Winters, with the latter,Ah, but what’s the truth of the matter? No doubt, as Winters says, the papal remark shows a readiness–not always evident in Ratzinger/Benedict–to paint a moral issue in shades of gray. And yet, in articulating a position in line with the viewpoint of mainstream Catholic theologians, the pope does seem to be opening the door to a more liberal approach to contraceptive practice.Here’s the key paragraph in Austin Ivereigh’s backgrounder on the subject over at In All Things:The point argued by moral theologians was always this.