Kelly Clarkson, Baptist superstar

I wrote last week that I thought Kelly Clarkson, who will be serenading the pope in Yonkers, was Catholic.

tjndc5-5b5dzyz33a8nq4xrezi_layout.jpgI thought I saw her religious affiliation on her website, but I must have seen it on another website. Oh well.

It turns out that Clarkson, who grew up in Texas, is a Baptist. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the local girl attended Crestwood Baptist Church in Burleson, Texas.

My apologies.

Kelly Clarkson, a Baptist, will sing Ave Maria to Benedict XVI, a Catholic, at the youth rally at St. Joseph’s Seminary on April 19. She’ll also perform in a concert before the pope’s appearance.

The first papal morning in NY

biglogo.gifWhen Pope Benedict XVI gets to NY on the morning of April 18, his first stop will be the United Nations.

He’s supposed to get there about 10:45 a.m. Then his schedule will look something like this, according to the U.N.:

* Arrival of H.H. Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican press

* Official meeting with the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

* The Papal address in the UN General Assembly Hall

* Official meeting with the General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim and other senior UN officials

* Serenade by children’s choir

* Stop at flag flown at the bombed UN offices in Baghdad

* Stop at the UN Meditation Room

* Departure of H.H. Pope Benedict XVI.

Then Benedict will get a few hours off before his next stop — a 6 p.m. ecumenical prayer service at St. Joseph’s Church in Manhattan…

Good Friday

As he does every year, Father Benedict Groeschel will lead the mid-day Good Friday service today at Most Holy Trinity Church, 320 E. Post Road, in Mamaroneck.

It’s from noon to 2:30 p.m. today.

His topic: “How can we identity with Christ in his life and his suffering.”

Groeschel is one of the best-known Catholic writers and speakers in the country.

Also today, the 9th annual Westchester One-In Praise Good Friday Worship Service will be held at the Westchester County Center in White Plains at 7:30 p.m.

The event was started by the Rev. W. Darin Moore of Greater Centennial AME Zion Church in Mount Vernon and Bishop Wayne Powell of Strait Gate Church in Mamaroneck.

Bishop Brian Moore of Life Centers Ministries in Charleston, S.C., will be the main preacher. It’s free and open to the public.

Is there a Good Friday/Purim connection?


Today is Maundy Thursday, when Christians commemorate the Last Supper and the institution of communion.

In Western churches, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. The rest of Holy Week, of course, falls into place.

This system was set up by the Council of Nicea in 325 in order to keep Easter near Passover. The Last Supper is believed to have been a Passover seder.

But this year, Passover doesn’t start until April 19.

The Jewish holiday that falls near Easter is Purim, which begins tomorrow, on Good Friday. There’s no historical connection, though…

Will the pope criticize Catholic colleges?

I mentioned last week the speculation that Pope Benedict XVI, while in Washington, will admonish Catholic colleges for not being Catholic enough.

What it means to be a Catholic college or university has been the subject of much musing in the Catholic world for the last 20 years or so.

But two Catholic educators I spoke to this week for my upcoming article about Benedict’s first three years (see it Sunday) dismissed the notion that the pope has it out for Catholic educators.

They emphasized that the pope is a university man himself, a veteran professor and scholar, who understands the give-and-take nature of academia.

tjndc5-5c0b2cyitpu10rmuobdc_layout.jpgStephen J. Sweeny, president of the College of New Rochelle, will be among Catholic college presidents who will attend the pope’s lecture at Catholic University on April 17. He said:

I think he understands the nature of he university and the challenges that come with it. There is a certain faction in the U.S. that would like the pope to be corrective about Catholic universities, but I don’t think it’s well founded. We are expecting the pope to join us as a colleague, as a university person.

I also spoke with the Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, a West Nyack native and New York priest who holds the John and Gertrude Hubbard Chair in Religious Studies at Catholic University. He is regarded as one of the leading experts on Vatican II.

jakphoto.jpgHe also did not expect to hear a critical pope:

I would be surprised if he does that. It’s not impossible, of course. But he himself was a university professor. I think he has a strong sense of what a university ought to be, as a university.

How the pope controls the press

So, Osama bin Laden is blaming the pope for the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in Europe.

tjndc5-5j7xxtwgrg91ksqrj2oq_layout.jpgHe said the cartoons “came in the framework of a new Crusade in which the Pope of the Vatican has played a large, lengthy role.” The image to the left is from the website announcing the “news.”

We all knew that the European media take their marching orders from the pope.

Who’s responsible for all those stories about who really killed Princess Diana? The pope.

All the coverage of European politicians debating gay rights? The pope.

The latest on David Beckham and Posh Spice? The pope.

Last month, Danish newspapers did republish one of the cartoons that first led to international protests and some rioting in 2006.

A few American publications have also run the cartoons. But Bin Laden didn’t mention who was behind it.

Who controls the American media? Hmmmm…

It’s crunch time for pope watchers

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life is holding a discussion about the big papal visit on April 1 in Washington. It will feature two of the most prominent pope watchers going: George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and John Allen of National Catholic Reporter.

images2.jpegTheir subject: “The pope comes to America: What the visit means for the Catholic Church and the country.”

Luckily, for a preview, you can check my article this Sunday about Benedict’s first three years as pontiff. Both Allen (that’s him) and Weigel will be quoted.

Austin Powers now a self-help ‘guru’

Paramount Pictures has apparently agreed to screen an upcoming comedy, The Love Guru, for Hindu leaders who fear that the Mike Myers vehicle will make light of their faith.

According to the Indo-Asian News Service, the movie, set to come out June 20, is about “an American raised in an Indian ashram who returns home as a saffron-robed, hirsute, self-help guru named Pitka with a knack for solving celebrities’ romantic problems.”

tjndc5-5j3v4i759m0mvdet9ec_layout.jpgThe movie also stars Jessica Alba, Ben Kingsley and pop singer Justin Timberlake.

Rajan Zed, a prominent Hindu leader from Nevada who gave the invocation before the U.S. Senate one day last year, first expressed concern that the movie was lampooning Hinduism.

A statement from Zed included this:

Jessica Rovins, Senior Vice President National Publicity of Paramount Pictures, in a telephonic conversation with Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, said that “The Love Guru” is a comedy and the purpose is to entertain and we are not making this movie to offend anybody.

Rovins said that after consultations with various people involved with the film, including Mike Myers (the star, co-producer and co-writer), Paramount would issue a statement on Zed’s concerns about the film.

A priest’s dissent

I’ve heard quite a few people commenting on a recent blog post by Monsignor Harry Byrne, a retired New York priest.

If you’re not familiar with Monsignor Byrne, he has a long history of speaking his mind. In fact, I once referred to him in an article as “independent minded” and he let me know that he liked the tag.

He’s 87 and now shares his thoughts in a blog called Archangel.

A few days ago, he wrote a post: “What signal does the pope bring to New York?”

Now, not many priests these days criticize their bishop, their pope, the Vatican, their church or anyone else (one notable exception being the oft-quoted Father Richard McBrien of Notre Dame, who is always ready to let it rip).

But Byrne uses the occasion of the forthcoming papal visit to question not just Benedict XVI, but John Paul II. Here’s just one snippet:

This passion for centralized control and its failure to recognize and accept the conscience, the prudence, the spontaneity, and the intelligence of the individual Catholic and of the local churches may well be a factor in the departure of so many Catholics from the faith in which they were born and raised.

There’s plenty more. Plus, some comments in opposition.

A family divide

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the revealing piece about Bishop Paul Moore, the late Episcopal Bishop of New York, that ran in The New Yorker.

paul.jpgMoore was a very prominent religious leader in New York, serving as Episcopal boss from 1972 to 1989. He was best known for his social activism — for helping to transform the Episcopal Church in NY from a church for the affluent to a church for all.

The New Yorker ran an excerpt from a new book by one of Moore’s nine children, Honor Moore. In it, Moore revealed what some probably suspected, that her father was bisexual and had a long-term male lover.

The excerpt, overall, was not salacious. It focused on Bishop Moore’s faith (at least I thought so).

But The New Yorker has since printed this letter from three of Honor Moore’s siblings:

We wish that our sister Honor Moore had grappled, in her memoir of our father, Bishop Paul Moore, with the ethical dilemma of “outing” a man whose public legacy is great, whose private life he chose to keep private, and whose personal agony often estranged him from many of us who loved him (“The Bishop’s Daughter,” March 3rd). Our father succeeded in staying in the closet for several decades; his bisexuality was known within our family for fourteen years before he died, at the age of eighty-three. Some of us dreamed that he would “come out” and finally find peace within himself; we ourselves hoped that if he reconciled his two worlds the emotional wreckage caused by his deception would somehow fall away. Our father chose not to. We may judge him for that; we may wish that our father had revealed his own struggles to help others who are similarly trapped, but that was not his chosen battle. We wonder if a history inclusive of gay men, lesbians, and, yes, bisexuals can only be made and understood by delving into the closely held secrets of those who have come before us, especially those who clung fiercely to the closet. Doesn’t it matter, even when someone is dead, that his most fervently held private life, and the unnecessarily explicit details of his marriage, are exposed against his wishes? We believe that it does matter, and that both of our parents’ good legacies have been damaged.

Susanna McKean Moore and Paul Moore III

Berkeley, Calif.

George Mead Moore

Madrid, Spain