RNS Daily Digest

Print More

c. 2003 Religion News Service

NCC Blasts Bush on Afghanistan, Iraq

(RNS) The National Council of Churches blasted President Bush for leaving the aftermath of the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars “underplanned and underfunded.”

In a statement issued Thursday (Dec. 12), the ecumenical body of 36 mainline Protestant and Orthodox churches also criticized the Bush administration for its decision to award reconstruction contracts only to countries that supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“While the U.S. planned and executed the war in Afghanistan with precision, it left the aftermath of the war underplanned and underfunded,” the NCC statement said.

Two U.S. attacks on Dec. 5 and 6 in Ghazni and Kabul left 14 children dead. The U.S. military apologized for the deaths, but defended the action as a hunt for militants.

The NCC said the decision to deny lucrative rebuilding contracts to countries such as France, Germany and Russia who opposed the war is counter-productive.

“At a time when the United States should be intentionally and vigorously seeking a multi-lateral approach to rebuilding Iraq, it instead compromises the success of reconstruction by repeating the unilateral policies that have created worldwide ill will toward our country,” the statement said.

NCC leaders, however, found “some hope” in the “Geneva Accord,” a nongovernmental framework for settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that demands major concessions by both sides. The Bush administration has called the accord promising.

“The Geneva Accord offers a glimmer of hope at a time when the darkness of despair seems to be overcoming the entire Middle East,” the NCC said.

_ Kevin Eckstrom

Corporate Consultant Calls for `Turnaround’ for Catholic Church

(RNS) A corporate consultant says the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal is caused, in part, by a rapidly aging work force, an inability to recruit new talent and declining sources of traditional revenue.

So says Frederick W. Gluck, a former managing director of McKinsey & Co. and former vice chairman of the Bechtel Group. His solution for the church’s ills is a dramatic “turnaround,” involving major changes.

“Unless some dramatic action to energize a change program for the U.S. church that fully incorporates the laity is undertaken, I believe the decline that is already well under way will only accelerate,” Gluck said.

Gluck’s analysis was reprinted in the Dec. 1 issue of America magazine after he presented it privately to Catholic leaders at a meeting last summer.

Gluck said the church’s problems are not related only to the sex abuse crisis, but also involve “insufficient talent and inadequate processes for managing it,” rising costs and a rapidly aging workforce.

“The church is no longer the first choice of the best and the brightest,” he said, referring to low numbers of young priests.

The church’s customers, or parishioners, find “personnel policies overly restrictive” and “no longer feel committed to the product line.” In addition, Gluck said there is little or no central leadership to manage the U.S. franchise of an organization headquartered at the Vatican.

“The U.S. church is a subsidiary of a large enterprise located in a foreign country where management has been historically committed to resisting change and maintaining the status quo,” he said.

Gluck’s recommendations include changes in management, new personnel policies, increasing the role of the laity in decision-making and financial transparency and disclosure “in each and every parish and diocese.”

_ Kevin Eckstrom

Interdenominational Theological Center on Probation

(RNS) The Interdenominational Theological Center has been put on probation by its accrediting agency for employing two professors who had not completed their doctoral degrees.

The Atlanta consortium of six African-American theological schools learned Monday (Dec. 8) of its status from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The Rev. Michael A. Battle, ITC’s new president as of Sept. 3, told Religion News Service the decision came as a surprise to school officials. They had the impression after a September visit from an association committee that they were going to receive a favorable report.

“Our fiscal integrity and fiscal compliance was exceptional,” he said. “Our institutional effectiveness was exceptional. … The single thing that affected us was the fact that we had two faculty members in ABD (all but dissertation) status and a policy that allowed us to hire people in ABD status.”

Battle said the two faculty members _ one full time and one part time _ were informed Tuesday that they would no longer be on the teaching staff as of Dec. 31. He also called for the immediate deletion from the faculty handbook of any references to a policy permitting the hiring of persons who have ABD status.

Battle said the association’s decision marks the first time that ITC, which was founded in 1958, has been on probation. A probationary period usually lasts for a year and an institution can lose its accreditation if it does not take corrective action.

“We remain an accredited institution and will do everything that we need to do as an institution to protect our accreditation,” he said.

Battle said he hoped ITC’s quick response to the association’s concerns might lead to an expedited hearing on the probation issue.

James Rogers, executive director of the association’s Commission on Colleges, could not be reached immediately for comment.

Battle announced the probationary status of ITC at a news conference Wednesday and went on to speak about a strategic plan for the next decade.

“We will shift our paradigm and offer full-degree completion option by evening programs and weekend programs in addition to the daytime option that is our current predominant option,” he told RNS.

_ Adelle M. Banks

Pope Makes Appeal for Recognition of Christianity in EU Constitution

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Speaking as the European Union met Friday (Dec. 12) to decide the fate of the proposed EU constitution, Pope John Paul II made a last-ditch appeal to Europe’s leaders to recognize the continent’s Christian roots.

“A vision of Europe separated from God can only lead to social fragmentation, moral confusion and political disunity,” the Roman Catholic pontiff warned in his second statement on the constitution in as many days.

The Polish-born John Paul has been arguing for months in favor of inserting an explicit reference in the preamble of the constitution to Europe’s Christian heritage. He has the backing of Italy, current EU president, and other Catholic countries.

Speaking Thursday night at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for students and faculty of Rome’s universities, the pope said “social, political and economic structures are obviously important for European unity, but humanistic and spiritual aspects absolutely must not be ignored.”

“It is essential that Europe protect its legacy of values and recognize that it was Christianity above all that provided the force to promote, conciliate and consolidate it,” he said.

The pope returned to the subject Friday in addresses to the new ambassadors of Estonia and Denmark to the Holy See, who were among a group of envoys presenting their credentials at a Vatican ceremony.

Appealing directly to Ambassador Priit Kolbre of Estonia and Birger Dan Nielsen of Denmark for the support of their countries, where Catholics are a small minority, he called it “imperative” that the constitution recognize “the place of Christianity in the heart of the continent’s life and future.”

The leaders of the 25 current and candidate member countries holding a summit meeting in Brussels must come to a unanimous agreement on the draft of the first EU constitution for it to take effect. The major issue under discussion is the voting system the expanded EU will use.

_ Peggy Polk

Spence Named New Editor of Catholic News Service

(RNS) The director of publications at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., has been named the new editor of Catholic News Service.

Anthony J. Spence, the former editor of the Tennessee Register Catholic newspaper, will take over the global news service on Feb. 1. He succeeds Thomas Lorsung, who is retiring from CNS after nearly 30 years.

Spence was appointed by Monsignor William Fay, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which oversees the editorially independent news service feeding to 170 Catholic newspapers and 70 other clients.

Spence currently oversees the publication of more than a dozen magazines and newsletters at Vanderbilt. From 1989-1998, he was editor of the Tennessee Register and communications director for the Diocese of Nashville. He served as president of the Catholic Press Association from 1994-1996.

_ Kevin Eckstrom

New Tanzanian Anglican Bishop Seeks Funds for Double Duty Cathedral

LONDON (RNS) The first bishop of the newly established Anglican Diocese of Kiteto, covering the Masai Steppes south of Mount Kilimanjaro in eastern Tanzania, is in England seeking $43,500 to build a cathedral for the new diocese.

The cathedral will also serve as an assembly hall for the Kibaya Trade School, which gives 99 percent of local teenagers who have no chance of attending secondary school a practical education in crafts that are immediately useful in the villages where they live.

The new bishop is Canon John Hayden, who since 1994 has served as vicar of St. Mary’s church in Bury St. Edmunds, England, where his cathedral is also undergoing a building project _ in sharp contrast to the African effort.

Bury St. Edmunds recently raised $4.3 million _ a hundred times more than the cost of the Kiteto cathedral _ to complete work left unfinished at the Reformation.

Meanwhile, Kiteto’s Cathedral of St James “will be built by the students and will be used about 12 hours a day,” said Hayden. “As Bury prepares to celebrate the completion of its cathedral after 500 years, it would be a wonderful achievement if, in the same year, we could also dedicate the cathedral of St. James, Kibaya.”

Hayden served as a missionary in Tanzania from 1968 to 1977 and will take up his post in the new diocese in February.

_ Robert Nowell

Quote of the Day: Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik

(RNS) “Extremists are trying to spread the message of hate in the name of God. … Religious leaders can _ and must _ combat, in words and deeds, the poison spread by extremists in the name of religion.”

_ Kjell Magne Bondevik, prime minister of Norway and an ordained Lutheran minister, speaking at a forum sponsored by the World Council of Churches.


Comments are closed.