Missing Gene Robinson

Bishop Catherine Roskam of the Episcopal Diocese of NY has checked in from the Lambeth Conference with her first blog.

tjndc5-5c1vkuu5zef1kiieijwa_layout.jpgShe writes about visiting Canterbury Cathedral and roaming the grounds: “Having been at Lambeth in 1998 I had been to the Cathedral several times in the past, but still inadvertently gasped when we rounded the wall and saw the Cathedral standing there in all its ancient majesty.”

It’s no surprise that there is a lot of security compared to the last Lambeth, in 1998. It sounds like journalists are being kept in check, as well:

The feel of this Lambeth so far is entirely different from that of 1998. I know that snide comments will surely be made about our meeting in what looks like a circus tent this time, but the real circus was ten years ago. At that time the campus was open and overrun with press and different lobbying groups. It sometimes felt as though we bishops were under siege. This time our part of the campus is fenced off and there is very tight security, which makes for a much more peaceful atmosphere and more focused engagement with the program and each other. Media interviews take place by appointment, usually in a particular building on campus. This is a far cry from having a micropone stuck in front of your face while you are on your way to breakfast!

Bishop Roskam is a very direct and honest person, as anyone who has met her would attest. She’s measured and respectful, but let’s you know where she’s coming from.

So, she writes of missing Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the openly gay man whose consecration as bishop in 2003 has reverberated through the Anglican Communion ever since:

As for what is to come, the Archbishop has been very clear that there is no expectation that all the problems of the Anglican Communion are going to be solved in two weeks. Rather the goal is, led by the Spirit, to grow prayerfully in understanding, relationship and respect for one another. I think we made a good beginning today. But I also think the whole body is diminished by the absence of Gene Robinson, a duly elected and consecrated member of our House of Bishops, our colleague and friend. It seems like a missed opportunity. Nevertheless we will continue to build relationships and help to build bridges of understanding, as both Gene and the Archbishop would like us to do.

Catching up with the historical Stepinac

Ten years ago, as Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains was celebrating its 50th anniversary, Pope John Paul II said that he would beatify the school’s namesake: the late Croatian Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac.

I decided to write a feature about the happy coincidence. But I got caught up in the last paragraph of an AP story about Stepinac, which said that the beatification would anger Serbians, who considered Stepinac a Nazi sympathizer.

I was reading all I could at the time about the crisis in the Balkans, trying to understand the historical animosity among Croatians, Serbs and Bosnians. I decided to do some additional research on Stepinac.

alois_stepinac1.jpgSo, I spoke to several historians at Catholic universities who told me that the historical record on Stepinac was still unclear. They said that Stepinac, the archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 to 1960, had welcomed the fascist, WWII-era UstaÅ¡a regime to Croatia, a predominantly Catholic nation. Stepinac later turned against them, but the jury was still out, I was told, about how much damage was done to the nation’s Serbs, Jews and others before Stepinac saw the light.

I remember being surprised by how little most people knew about Stepinac. He had been imprisoned by the communists after WWII, so his reputation was soley as a fighter of Communism.

I wrote a long article about Stepinac, which never made it into the Journal News’ digital library and seems to be lost forever.

I write about this now because a few months ago, someone sent me an scholarly article about Stepinac published last year in the Review of Croatian History. And I’ve finally gotten around to reading the article, written by Dr. Esther Gitman, a Croatian-born Holocaust survivor who has a doctorate in Jewish history from CUNY and served as a 2006-07 fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C.

In short, Gitman says that Stepinac has gotten a raw deal from critics.

She writes:

Based on archival documents and oral testimonies given by both rescuers and rescued, it is clear that, during World War II, the Archbishop of Zagred, Dr. Alojzije Stepinac, rescued hundreds of Jews. He achieved this through direct action and instructions to clergymen, and, more indirectly through his sermons in which he vigorously condemned the implementation of Racial Laws.

You can read the 25-page article HERE.

gitman.jpgGitman (that’s her) gives numerous examples of Stepinac acting to protect and save Jews. She also quotes numerous letters of protest from Stepinac to the the UstaÅ¡e leader, Ante Pavelić. Among them is this from 1941:

As an Archbishop and representative of the Catholic Church, I am free to call your attention to some events that touch me painfully. I am sure hardly anyone has the courage to point to them, so it is my duty to do so. I hear from many various sides about the inhuman and cruel treatment of non-Aryans…

In a 1943 sermon, Stepinac said:

The first thing that we affirm is that all nations, without exception, are as nothing before God…The second thing that we affirm is that all nations and all races have their origin in God. Only one race really exists and that is the Divine race. Its birth certificate is found in the Book of Genesis. The third thing that we affirm is that all nations and all races, as reflected in the world today, have the right to lead a life worthy of men and to be treated with the dignity with which one treats a man…

At the end of her paper, Gitman writes that she does not wish to take sides in a debate but to offer historical context.

The tug-of-war over Stepinac’s place in history is not unlike the larger debate concerning Pope Pius XII and what he said and did to oppose the Nazis. Neither debate is likely to be settled soon (to the satisfaction of all), but Gitman’s paper is now part of the record.

Read me, hear me

For what it’s worth, you can now have my posts read to you.

But not by me.

Each post as a “listen now” button right below the headline. Click on it and a computerized voice — pretty smooth and much less nasal than my real voice — will read the post.

You can also click on the odiogo button on the right and subscribe to my audio posts as a podcast.

So there you go.

New hope for those facing eternal damnation

After all these years, the Internet continues to amaze.

A new service allows Christians who expect to be whisked away when the Rapture happens to pre-program emails to friends and loved ones who may be…left behind.

It’s called youvebeenleftbehind.com. The pitch:

“Our purpose is to get one last message to the lost, at a time, when they might just be willing to hear it for the first and last time.”

The service costs $40 for the first year. You get 150mb of storage for 12 emails to your closest friends and relatives, and 100mb for more generic messages to up to 100 people.

The emails will be sent 6 days after the Rapture. (From the site: “This occurs when 3 of our 5 team members scattered around the U.S fail to log in over a 3 day period. Another 3 days are given to fail safe any false triggering of the system.”)

Why is this service necessary. Here’s the answer:

We all have family and friends who have failed to receive the Good News of the Gospel.
The unsaved will be ‘left behind’ on earth to go through the “tribulation period” after the “Rapture”. You remember how, for a short time, after (9/11/01) people were open to spiritual things and answers. (We are still singing “God Bless America” at baseballs’ seventh inning stretch.) Imagine how taken back they will be by the millions of missing Christians and devastation at the rapture. They will know it was true and that they have blown it. There will be a small window of time where they might be reached for the Kingdom of God. We have made it possible for you to send them a letter of love and a plea to receive Christ one last time. You can also send information based on scripture as to what will happen next. Each fulfilled prophecy will cause your letter and plea to be remembered and a decision to be made.
hell-11.jpg “WHY” is one last chance to bring them to Christ and snatch them from the flames!

Thanks to Noreen Herzfeld, a professor of Theology and Computer Science at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., who writes about youvebeenleftbehind.com in a Sightings column for the Martin Marty Center.

Cat T-shirt mystery solved, sort of

I wondered yesterday what this T-shirt from the Onion could mean:


Well, someone referred me to this Onion “column” from 2006. It’s called “Are your cats old enough to learn about Jesus?”

The author, one Marian Byers, urges cat owners to have their cats saved. One snippet:

Remember: If you give a cat a fish, it eats for a day. If you teach a cat to fish, it eats for a lifetime. Perhaps that’s not such a good proverb to use in this case, since fishing is actually instinctual in cats. But Jesus is not. Your kitties need to know early on that there is a fisher of men and cats alike who can save their souls.


‘Dwelling crankily on old wounds’

Whispers in the Loggia’s Rocco Palmo writes today about a difficult start for World Youth Day in Australia, where an auxiliary bishop got snippy with a family that’s suffered mightily as a result of clerical sexual abuse.

The Melbourne family’s two daughters were allegedly raped by a single priest, and one of the daughters committed suicide this year.

bishop-fisherclose-upb.jpgBut Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher (that’s him) — who has been in charge of organizing World Youth Day — described the family’s outspokenness and advocacy as “dwelling crankily on old wounds.”

Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, apologized to the family after Fisher’s comments — without commenting on them.

Palmo writes:

…the comment came at the worst possible moment, easily eclipsing the celebrations in the national press as stories on the bishop’s “blunder” and yet another firestorm of reaction currently lead the coverage on Oz’s top broadcast and print outlets.

A papal apology for clerical sexual abuse is still expected at World Youth Day.

A World Youth Day footnote: Pope Benedict XVI sent a text message to pilgrims on their cells: “Young people God & his people expect much from u, because u have within u the Father’s supreme gift: the Spirit of Jesus – BXVI”

Saudi king calls for religious tolerance (in general)

It’s well known that non-Muslims cannot gather to worship to Saudi Arabia.

So it might seem odd that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has called a gathering of religious leaders to embrace reconciliation among the faiths.

But he has.

2e4639920bdc4d6cafb7aaae53bf7dc5.jpgThe gathering opened today in Madrid, Spain, with King Abdullah (that’s him) saying: “My brothers, we must tell the world that differences don’t need to lead to disputes. The tragedies we have experienced throughout history were not the fault of religion but because of the extremism that has been adopted by some followers of all the religions, and of all political systems.”

Among those participating is Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee, a well-known figure in the Jewish community.

Here’s the full story from the AP’s Paul Haven:

Associated Press Writer

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia exhorted followers of the world’s leading faiths to turn away from extremism and embrace a spirit of reconciliation, saying at the start of an interfaith conference Wednesday that history’s great conflicts were not caused by religion itself but by its misinterpretation.

“My brothers, we must tell the world that differences don’t need to lead to disputes,” Abdullah said, speaking through a Spanish interpreter. “The tragedies we have experienced throughout history were not the fault of religion but because of the extremism that has been adopted by some followers of all the religions, and of all political systems.”

Abdullah’s comments came at the start of a Saudi-sponsored gathering that aims to bring Muslims, Christians and Jews closer together at a time when the world often puts the three faiths at odds.

Spanish King Juan Carlos also addressed the gathering at a ceremonial palace on the outskirts of Madrid, saying he hoped the conference would be successful.

“We have always been interested in strengthening peace, dialogue and cooperation on the international stage,” he said.

The Saudis have billed the gathering — which also includes Buddhist and Hindu participants, as well as practitioners of several Eastern religions — as a strictly religious affair. There’s to be no mention of hot-button issues such as the war in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iranian nuclear ambitions or rising oil prices. Continue reading

With gas and food prices soaring, Catholic Charities is bringing relief to Ulster County

Catholic Charities of New York is expanding its presence in Ulster County, where the rising costs of gas and food are leaving people hurting.

monsignor_sullivan.gif“Due to the lack of public transportation, and the great distances involved in traveling in the Hudson Valley, the area has been particularly hard hit by the rising cost of gas,” Monsignor Kevin Sullivan (pictured), executive director of Catholic Charities, said. “The addition of services in the area will help support those experiencing economic and emotional hardship.”

Catholic Charities will begin providing services at St Mary-St. Andrew parish in Ellenville and St. Mary of the Snow parish in Saugerties. Church leaders make things sound pretty dire.

“Ellenville has been in a terrible economic situation for some time,” said Father John Lynch, pastor at St. Mary/St Andrew. “People are getting desperate. We are experiencing a brain drain and talent drain, following the closing of our local factory in the past year. People are leaving to put bread on the table and some have even gone to Mexico to get employment.”

Mary Ellen Ros, Catholic Charities’ director for the Hudson Valley, put it like this:

Coping with increased costs, families in all the counties are coming to Catholic Charities with energy bills that are double what they’ve been in the past. They simply can’t afford to pay these bills and keep food on the table.

Major Muslim/Christian conference set at Yale: ‘Loving God and Neighbor’

I’ve blogged a few times in the past about a letter signed by 138 Muslim scholars calling for a new era of understanding between Muslims and Christians.

The letter — called A Common Word Between Us and You (no, it doesn’t sing) — provoked some very positive responses from Christian leaders. The Vatican invited several of the Muslim signees for a visit and ongoing dialogue. The Archbishop of Canterbury and others reacted with great enthusiasm.

In addition, a group of scholars at Yale University wrote a thoughtful and affirmative response. An ensuing dialogue led to what will be a major gathering of Muslim and Christian leaders at Yale later this month.

The theme of the conference: “Loving God and Neighbor in Word and Deed: Implications for Christians and Muslims.” It will bring together about 60 Muslim scholars (mostly from the Midde East), about 60 Christians and several Jewish observers.

txtbanner2.gifAccording to a statement: “…we have set as our goal the exploration of ways in which the common commitments can help rectify distorted perspectives Muslims and Christians have of each other and repair relations between the Middle East and the West. If Muslims and Christians, who together comprise more than half the world’s population, can acknowledge mutual commitment to loving God and loving neighbor the boost to a dynamic and peaceful interdependence in our globalized world would be immense.”

Could make for some lively discussions.

Over the next year or so, similar gatherings will be held at Cambridge University, the Vatican, Georgetown University and in Jordan.