Provocative priest/scholar to speak in Briarcliff on Monday evening

I remember being on a plane to somewhere during the early 2000s and reading “The Changing Face of the Priesthood” by Father Donald Cozzens.

I had heard it was an unusually provocative book — raising the forbidden issue of the large numbers of gay priests.

But it was also a beautifully written and passionate book about the priesthood. A major statement. Not subversive, but committed.

On Monday (May 5) at 7:30 p.m., Cozzens will speak at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Briarcliff Manor. It’s free and open to the public and bound to be interesting (I hope I can get a babysitter…).

donald_cozzens.jpgCozzens has become a significant figure in the Catholic world, known for making statements that make people uncomfortable. His most recent book, “Freeing Celibacy,” argues that celibacy must be optional for priests since it is a gift from the Holy Spirit (and not all priests have the gift).

Flipping through “The Changing Face of the Priesthood” today, I came across the section about clerical sexual abuse. The book was written in 2000, two years before, well, you know…

He wrote:

What happens to the immature priest who is drawn to the priesthood for the very reasons that put people at risk for compensatory acting out with individuals who are not of their age — fear of intimacy and resistance to healthy risk taking? We need to ask if the clerical system itself may be setting the table for misconduct with minors. In other words, do we have a system that spiritually and emotionally immature individuals find inviting? The answer may be a resounding no, but our unwillingness to look beyond and beneath the behaviors involved in clergy abuse appears indefensible.

Revving up the archbishop talk

Certain to fan the flames of Cardinal Egan retirement talk is a new piece about possible successors by the AP’s Jim Fitzgerald, a fine reporter and writer.

He talked to religion journalist David Gibson, Georgetown’s Chester Gillis, Seton Hall’s Monsignor Raymond Kupke and probably others.

Fitzgerald raises most of the main names that have been tossed around for a while: Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee; Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan; Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta; Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford; New York Auxiliary Bishops Dennis Sullivan and Gerald Walsh; and Archbishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn.

Dolan’s been the favorite for the last year or so (although one insider I talked to suspects he’ll wind up in Chicago). In recent months, the two names I’ve heard most are Wilton Gregory and Cardinal William Levada, the former San Francisco archbishop and Cardinal Ratzinger’s successor as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

tjndc5-5jth9qb2rrsb3×364k8_layout.jpgGrowing numbers seem to believe that Gregory — who is African American — will be rewarded for his fine leadership during the sex-abuse crisis in 2002, when he was president of the U.S. Bishops Conference. Gregory (that’s him) certainly has the PR savvy to handle New York.

Levada, apparently, has not been a good fit in the Roman Curia. But would Benedict XVI send New York an archbishop whose star is not believed to be rising?

Mansell’s been on the list forever and most observers no longer believe him to be a serious candidate. A lot people seem to believe that Nieves could get the job eventually — but not yet. Many people adore Walsh but think he’s a longshot at best.

And two other names that have been floated for some time (across the Hudson River) are Archbishop John Myers of Newark and Bishop Arthur Serratellli from Paterson.

But, as Fitzgerald noted, “observers acknowledge they’re guessing.” Everyone is guessing.

After Bishop Egan’s name leaked before he was officially introduced in 2000 (I believe I was the first to report it without qualifiers), you have to believe that secrecy will be paramount this time around…

Now that’s a haircut

Eight South Korean children had their heads shaved today before they entered a Buddhist temple to experience a monk’s life for one month. The occasion was to celebrate Buddha’s birthday on May 12.

Here’s one of the one-month monks (from the AP’s Lee Jin-man) having his final hairs wiped off:


Jeremiah Wright: media superstar

Have the media overdone it on the Obama/Wright relationship?

A liberal group called Media Matters, which claims to correct “conservative misinformation” in the media, is saying that the NYTimes and Washington Post have published 12 times as many articles about Obama/Wright compared to televangelist John Hagee’s endorsement of John McCain.

“It is time for major media outlets to take a long look in the mirror and ask themselves if they’ve been covering the candidates for president with equally critical eyes,” said Karl Frisch, a spokesman for Media Matters. “If they are honest, they’ll admit they have not, just as this study show.”

tjndc5-5jsavor2ghl1eyb1ajha_layout1.jpgOf course, Wright was Obama’s pastor for 20 years, someone Obama has spoken of as family. McCain simply sought Hagee’s endorsement, apparently knowing little about him other than his influence with GOP voters.

For the past two days, I’ve been speaking to African-American ministers about the whole Jeremiah Wright affair. Boy, do they have conflicting emotions. They hate seeing Obama pay for Wright’s words and feel that Wright’s media coverage has gone way overboard. But they understand that Wright has been asking for more attention and that Obama has to get past this politically.

I’ll be writing about it within a few days…

Today is the National Day of Prayer (but for whom?)

Today is the National Day of Prayer, when Americans are encouraged to pray for the nation.

The whole thing was started in 1952 as a result of a joint resolution of Congress. It was signed into law by President Truman.

ndptfbiographies181.jpgA private task force was set up to promote the National Day of Prayer. In recent years, it’s been run primarily by conservative evangelical Christians (Shirley Dobson (that’s her), wife of Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, heads the task force). The task force’s website describes its mission like this:

The National Day of Prayer Task Force’s mission is to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family.

A Q&A on the website asks if the National Day of Prayer is exclusively a Christian event. The answer:

No. This government-proclaimed day is offered to all Americans, regardless of religion, to celebrate their faith through prayer. However, the efforts of the NDP Task Force are executed specifically in accordance with its Judeo-Christian beliefs.

In recent weeks, a Jewish group called Jews on First, which claims to “defend the First Amendment against the Religious Right,” has argued that the National Day of Prayer has been “hijacked” by the Religious Right. The group has been organizing alternative National Day of Prayer observances (and has the support of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of LA).

Jews on First says:

Almost all of the governors whom we have been lobbying have issued National Day of Prayer proclamations to the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a group linked to Focus on the Family. The proclamations were issued even though we informed the governors that the Task Force practices religious discrimination.

Now the Council on American-Islamic Relations has joined in, calling for a more inclusive National Day of Prayer.

According to a CAIR release:

Even though prayer day events are sponsored by a private organization, observances receive unofficial government approval through a proclamation by President Bush and ceremonies held at the White House and in Congress.

So…have a happy National Day of Prayer.