An open spat between Bridgeport diocese and Voice of the Faithful

There was a brief but interesting exchange recently between the Catholic “Diocese of Bridgeport”: and the still fledgling lay group Voice of the Faithful.

An editorial in the Feb. 10 issue of the Fairfield County Catholic, published by the diocese, said this:

“The old saying goes, “You can’t believe everything you read in the newspaper.” Is this accurate?

“In the case of Fairfield County Catholic, it is not. Everything you read in this newspaper is true. At least we hope so. This is our intention, as we fulfill our mission: to evangelize the Catholic faithful – and the wider world – by explaining the teachings of the Church and sharing the acts of grace and mercy throughout Fairfield County. We have no reason to bend the truth or “tart-up” the presentation, for our bottom line is not to sell newspapers and turn a profit. We can focus on the Truth, speaking to all Catholics as a Family of Faith on our shared journey towards the ultimate destination – salvation. Readers may disagree with what we publish, and spirited discussion may ensue – which is healthy. The Truth often hurts, a byproduct of our sinful nature.”

The editorial went on to say:

“Editors strive for accuracy and, for the most part, do a fair and balanced job of covering the Church, although the presentation is often garish and sensational. A good rule of thumb for Catholics is to read carefully, with a big grain of salt. Reporters often have little or no background knowledge, and it can show. If it’s a news story, check the diocesan website for background:

“The huge exception is the “Op-Ed” page, where letters to the editor, the editorial, and articles are published. We have Op-Ed pages – you’re looking at two of them now. We share opinions, and offer educational responses, if required.

“The secular press operates by different rules. Submissions are usually not checked for accuracy, so untruths can be presented as fact. Such is the case when a crisis occurs, as in Greenwich. It can seem that anything goes, from wild claims that the diocese is stealing parish money (which prompted our page 1 article) or is mistreating the elderly in nursing homes, to outright name-calling and slurs that border on slander. The Op-Ed pages are also the favorite haunt of dissident groups like Voice of the Faithful, who jump on any contrarian bandwagon to gain publicity. They offer nothing constructive or even accurate, only vitriol.”

Voice of the Faithful did not take kind to the diocese’s characterization. They placed an ad in several Connecticut newspapers that asked several “questions”: of Bishop William Lori and his newspaper, among them:

“Does FCC publish a story such as ‘How is the Diocese funded?’ (FCC, Feb.10, 2007) only when pressured by reports of financial mismanagement in parishes in Darien and Greenwich?

“Does FCC believe that the bishop’s years’ long effort, at untold expense, to block the publication of documents the Diocese filed in Connecticut Superior Court relating to priestly sexual abuse and episcopal cover-up can be reconciled with his dedication to the ‘truth’?

“Does FCC believe that the healthy, spirited discussion it claims to favor justifies the repeated refusal of Bishop Lori to engage in dialogue with VOTF? Does he fear the ‘truth’ spoken by these faithful Catholics?”

And so on and so forth. It doesn’t sound like the diocese and Voice of the Faithful will be chatting any time soon.

Targeting Congressman Hall

The Poughkeepsie Journal is “reporting”: today that a group of local Catholics — I don’t know how many — plan to demonstrate Saturday in front of the city’s Catholic Center.

Their demand? That Cardinal Egan publicly declare that newly elected “Congressman John Hall”: be refused Holy Communion in all churches within the Archdiocese of New York because he supports legalized abortion.

Hall, of course, is the “singer/songwriter/founder”: of the soft-rock band Orleans who defeated Sue Kelly in November.

Based on Egan’s past friendliness toward other pro-choice politicians (Giuliani, Pataki, Hillary), it’s hard to imagine him going after Hall. That is, unless Egan, a classically trained pianist, decides that he can’t take Hall’s music.

For those who need to be Rapture Ready

If you fear that you will be “left behind” when the Rapture occurs, this “website”: is for you. is a pretty funny survival guide for those who will be left on earth “during seven years of tribulation and the reign of the Anti-Christ.” (Christians, according to certain evangelical interpretations of the Book of Revelation, will be lifted away by Jesus.)

The website includes frequently asked questions like this one:

Q. The Mark of the Beast sounds unsightly. Will ordinary makeup conceal this if it is as unattractive as some believe?

A. Bear in mind that 1) opinions differ as to exactly what the mark of the Beast will be; and 2) you will not be able to business without displaying it. You may have a choice as to whether your mark is on your forhead or your right hand (Rev. 14 9-10), and it may turn out to be relatively attractive — perhaps just a small Microsoft Windows logo or Nike swoosh. At any rate, you won’t want to end up embarrassed and having to wipe off heavy make-up when you need some last minute gas or a half rack of Bud Lite, so it would be preferable to use temporary coverage like a hat or scarf.

They even have T-shirts that say “Jesus is coming soon for the saints…Your odds of being among them are not so good.”

Thanks to whoever sent me the link for this…

Blood libel

A unknown book published only in Italy is causing something of an international furor.

That’s because the book is about the old “blood libel” charge against the Jewish people, one of the granddaddies of all anti-Semitic charges.

And the book was written by a reputable Israeli scholar named Ariel Toaff, the son of a former chief rabbi of Rome.

Few people have seen or read the book, but according to a “report”: in the Jewish Week, the book leaves open the possibility that a small number of Jewish zealots in Italy between the 11th and 14 centuries may have killed Christians and consumed their blood to avenge Christian persecution of Jews.

Toaff has asked his publisher to stop distributing the book so he can edit the parts in question. “He told Haaretz Monday that he never intended to say that European Jews killed Christians to use their blood, and that he will soon publish an article in an academic journal stressing that such blood libels were false,” the Jewish Week says.

This is nasty, nasty stuff because of how the blood libel charge has been used for centuries to foment hatred of and violence against Jews. It’s tough to even write about.

Several members of the Israeli Knesset are saying that Toaff should be charged with a crime. And the whole episode is so distasteful that the Rabbinical Council of America (which represents over 1,000 Orthodox rabbis across the country and elsewhere) issued this “statement”: today:

March 1st 2007

The accusation that Jews practice a ritual in which they murder a Christian child in order to utilize his blood has led to untold suffering inflicted on innocent Jews from the twelfth century into modern times. During the last several generations, all civilized people came to realize that this is a hostile fantasy with no basis in reality. Notwithstanding this consensus, virulent anti-Semites, from the Nazis in Der Sturmer to a disturbing number of contemporary Arab enemies of Israel, have maliciously continued to affirm its validity.

Now, a book by the Israeli professor Ariel Toaff has provided aid and comfort to such anti-Semites by implying that a small group of late medieval Jewish extremists might have actually engaged in such behavior. Toaff has withdrawn the book and insisted that he never meant to say this, but his work has been widely understood to suggest such a possibility. Readers of news reports naturally wonder whether he has really discovered evidence that should lead to a reassessment.

It is extremely important that everyone understand that he has uncovered nothing—absolutely nothing—that calls the utter falsity of the blood libel into question. His argument rests essentially on the following: Some medieval Europeans—Jews and Christians– believed that blood had curative powers; a few of them traded in medicines containing blood; Jews had reason to be hostile to Christians who persecuted them, and they sometimes expressed this hostility in their religious texts; Jews interrogated under torture confessed to ritual murder; some of these Jews supplied accurate texts of the Passover haggadah to their interrogators, though the texts themselves lend no support whatever to the accusation in question.

It is an insult to the intelligence to affirm that these considerations generate even a minuscule degree of support for the proposition that Jews murdered Christians for their blood. Internal Jewish texts contain not a scintilla of evidence for such a practice. They flatly forbid murder, and the legal principles they embody render unthinkable the practice of blood rituals of the sort that the torturers report. Jews, Christian scholars, even the vast majority of Jewish converts to Christianity through the ages affirmed that such charges are entirely, outrageously false. Indeed, Adriano Prosperi, a distinguished non-Jewish Italian historian, described Toaff’s book as a “carnivalesque joke in the worst taste.â€? Jew-haters have no interest in truth and will both embrace and inflate reports purportedly confirming their fabrications. It comes as no surprise that their websites have gleefully disseminated the imagined findings of Toaff’s book. But people of good will should not be confused. The blood libel has always been a lie—and it remains a lie.

Is there a Jewish ritual to cleanse an impure house?

Today’s Journal News/LoHud features the bizarre “story”: of a woman who has been accused of working as a dominatrix at her Bedford Hills home — a house that is owned by a nearby Hasidic yeshiva, K’hal Adas Kasho.

A rabbi there said that the house would have to be sterilized.

“We don’t know anything because we don’t want to go close to that place,” he said.

Sterilized? Colleagues wondered this morning whether the rabbi was talking about a good, old-fashion scrubbing or some kind of religious ritual.

I couldn’t reach anyone at the yeshiva, so I called Rabbi Avi Shafran, the longtime spokesman for Agudath Israel, a group that represents many Hasidic and other Orthodox factions.

Shafran has gotten a lot of strange calls from reporters over the years. He chuckled at my question. The rabbi must have been talking about a good deep cleaning, he said.

“We don’t have exorcisms,” he said.

What is the Episcopal Church waiting for?

Why should the Episcopal Church even worry about its place in the Anglican Communion?

This is the question that religion scholar Jack Miles asks today in a “column”: in the NYT.

Miles, a former Jesuit who won a Pulitzer for God: A Biography in 1996, says that the Episcopal Church left the Church of England quite a long time ago. He writes:

“British colonial history did not end in 1776, of course. As the British Empire grew, the Church of England went wherever the crown went, evolving in the process into a religious multinational, called the Anglican Communion, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury exercised a global spiritual jurisdiction. Structurally, however, the Episcopal Church, though long since reconciled with Britain, remained uneasy under this arrangement.

Why? Because the deepest rationale for the creation of the Church of England had been that church governance through separate national churches better reflected the practice of the early church than did papal governance. During its first centuries, Christianity had governed itself as separate but equal dioceses or administrative units, each coinciding with a great capital city, each headed by a bishop; the pope, at that time, was merely the bishop of Rome.

Thus, the same logic that dictated the initial creation of the Church of England dictated that, once the United States had become a separate nation, it ought not to belong any longer to the Church of England nor to the Anglican Communion as a colonial extension.”

The question a lot of Episcopalians seem to be asking these days is whether they should wait to get kicked out of the Anglican Communion — or just bolt now and wait to be asked back some day.

Miles thinks the answer is clear.

My list of links

I should point out that if you scroll down a bit and glance to the right, you’ll now find a pretty long list of links I put together some time ago.

You have links to the websites of every major national denomination.

And you have what has to be the most comprehensive list anywhere of links to the local and regional offices of every major denomination.

I also put together a list of well-done religion blogs I look at from time to time. And there are links to some really good sites that provide all kinds of religion data and sources for research.

If you know of others that should be added to any of these lists, let me know.