Blogging Religiously

From a New York point of view


Archive for March, 2009

U.S. Catholic bishops: Skip ‘Reiki’ practice03.26.09

Last month, I wrote a feature about the Westchester Holistic Network and the wide range of holistic and spiritual practices that people urge for healing.

One of those that kept coming up was Reiki, a Japanese practice for reducing stress that involves the “laying on” of hands to redirect energy within the body.

Well, the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference has ruled that Reiki is unscientific and inappropriate for Catholics. Catholic health-care institutions, they say, should stay away.

A document from the bishops offers this:

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“To use Reiki one would have to accept at least in an implicit way central elements of the worldview that undergirds Reiki theory, elements that belong neither to Christian faith nor to natural science. Without justification either from Christian faith or natural science, however, a Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no-man’s-land that is neither faith nor science.”

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Reiki, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as an Alternative Therapy”with 4 Comments →

Funeral director/poet to speak Tuesday evening at Briarcliff church03.26.09

American’s most prominent funeral director will be the next speaker in the amazing speaker series at St. Theresa’s Church in Briarcliff Manor.

Thomas Lynch, who was the focus of the PBS Frontline film, The Undertaking, will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday (March 31).

Lynch is no ordinary undertaker. He’s a poet, essayist, and professor of creative writing at the University of Michigan.

A church release asks: “What do we mean by a good death, good grieving, good funerals?” Lynch will shed some light on these most difficult questions.

Next up at St. Theresa’s, by the way, is none other than Martin E. Marty, one of America’s most distinguished authorities on religion. Tuesday, May 26. 7:30 p.m. Mark it down.

The church is located at 1394 Pleasantville Road.

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in "The Undertaking", Briarcliff Manor, Frontline, Martin E. Marty, PBS, St. Theresa's Church, Thomas Lynchwith No Comments →

It’s ‘play ball’ during holy hours in Detroit03.25.09

All 30 Major League Baseball teams will play on April 10—Good Friday—but only the Tigers have scheduled their game, their home opener, during “holy hours.”

Some Roman Catholics in Detroit are not happy, the AP is reporting.

“It’s sort of an insult for Catholics,” said Michael Ochab, a 47-year-old Tigers fan.

He’ll miss his first opener in 20 years this year to attend services. “I’m still hoping the Tigers will change the time.”

Christians traditionally observe the period from noon to 3 p.m. as the period during which Jesus hung on the cross. Many churches have extended services during those hours.

Back in 1998, I wrote about the Boston Red Sox pushing back the time of their home opener from 1 to 3 p.m. so the game wouldn’t completely overlap with holiest part of Good Friday.

The Red Sox also delayed opening day festivities until the next day and did not sell beer on Good Friday.

The Yankees and Indians also played daytime openers that day in ‘98. Neither switched the time.

Yankees spokesman Rick Cerrone told me then: “It is not unusual for baseball games to be played on these particular holidays. It is not unusual for baseball games to fall on Good Friday.”

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Good Friday, Holy hours, New York Yankees, Opening daywith No Comments →

Batting first at the New Yankee Stadium…03.25.09

Who is going to be the first “performer” at the New Yankee Stadium (other than the Yanks and their opponents)?

Everybody’s favorite Nice Guy televangelist, Joel Osteen.

He and his wife, Victoria, will hold a “Night of Hope” at the House that Ruth…er…Jeter…built on April 25.

It’s quite a score for Osteen, who packs them in wherever he goes and has done quite well at Madison Square Garden.

Osteen’s appeal is undeniable at this point. He “lifts people up” with a bright, positive, hopeful message that avoids politics, divisiveness and all that nasty stuff. He’ll have Christians of all makes and models at the Stadium, and maybe some non-Christians who like his “self-help’ appeal.

Interesting that he’s coming only a week after the Yankees play their home opener—and after Archbishop Dolan gets installed. Who will get more media coverage, I wonder? Yeah, Dolan. But who will cause more of a stir with the people? We’ll see.

And tickets are actually available and only cost $15—unlike for the Yankees, who have become unaffordable for many folks. But that’s a rant for a different blog.

Osteen writes on his blog:

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God has been so faithful to us in so many ways over the years. Since 2004, we’ve had the opportunity to minister in person to over 700,000 people in over 45 cities around the world. And still, God is opening new doors for us all the time.

We are especially looking forward to being with our friends in New York City on April 25th at Yankee Stadium–just nine days after the New York Yankees home opener at the new ballpark! It will be the first non–baseball event in the stadium, and we are so honored to bring the message of hope and inspiration to the tens of thousands who are expected to be there. We’d love for you to come out and join us if you can. There’s plenty of time to get tickets and make travel arrangements if you need to.

Revelation 3 tells us that when we follow God’s Word and put Him first, He opens doors for us that no man can shut. I just want to encourage you today, if you’re in a situation and you don’t see a way out, remember, God will make a way through. Keep looking for that open door of opportunity. Maybe you’ve done all you can do in the natural, but that’s when you can trust that God is working behind the scenes in the supernatural. He’ll bring you out wiser, stronger, and better off than you were before!

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in "Night of Hope", Joel Osteen, New Yankee Stadiumwith No Comments →

Fighting Irish: War of words over Obama’s invite to Notre Dame03.25.09

Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to speak at its upcoming commencement has unleashed a torrent of reactions.

This will only heat up as the May 17 graduation comes closer.

The Catholic bishop whose diocese includes Notre Dame, Bishop John M. D’Arcy, says he will not attend. He writes, in part:

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President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.

This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation. I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well. I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith “in season and out of season,” and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.

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Others, including David Gibson and Father Tom Reese, have raised what has to be a very important point: Cardinal Egan hosted Obama at the Al Smith Dinner and was quite willing to be photographed chatting and laughing with the then-presidential candidate, who had the same views on abortion that he does today.

What gives?

Reese writes:

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How do I know that Notre Dame is not violating Catholics in Political Life? Because Notre Dame is doing nothing more than what has already been done by Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, who taught canon law and worked as a judge in the Tribunal of the Sacred Roman Rota, a church court based in the Vatican.

If Cardinal Egan can invite Obama to speak at the Al Smith dinner in October of 2008 when he was only a presidential candidate, then there is certainly nothing wrong with Notre Dame having the President speak at a commencement. Other pro-choice speakers at Al Smith dinners included Al Gore and Tony Blair (a Catholic). What is OK for a cardinal archbishop is certainly OK for a university. Or are bishops exempt from “Catholics in Political Life”?

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The gloves have also come off on the question of who gets to decide which public figures can be invited to Catholic colleges.

The Cardinal Newman Society, which insists on orthodoxy at Catholic colleges and regularly slams certain colleges’ choice of speakers, has an online petition going to oppose Obama’s appearance at ND.

Their letter to ND’s president includes this:

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This nation has many thousands of accomplished leaders in the Catholic Church, in business, in law, in education, in politics, in medicine, in social services, and in many other fields who would be far more appropriate choices to receive such an honor from the University of Notre Dame.

Instead Notre Dame has chosen prestige over principles, popularity over morality. Whatever may be President Obama’s admirable qualities, this honor comes on the heels of some of the most anti-life actions of any American president, including expanding federal funding for abortions and inviting taxpayer-funded research on stem cells from human embryos.

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Joe Feuerherd, publisher of the left-leaning National Catholic Reporter, chastises Patrick Reilly, head of the Cardinal Newman Society, as an “academic ayatollah.” He writes:

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Here’s what is really going on. Ayatollah Reilly searches for hot button issues on Catholic campuses—anything that has to do with gays gets them excited, as do performances of “The Vagina Monologues” and, of course, pro-choice speakers (few of whom actually even discuss abortion in their presentations) – that will energize their base of donors and activists. Then they highlight these offenses on the Web and through direct mail to generate revenue.

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in 2009 Commencement, abortion, Al Smith Dinner, Bishop John M. D'Arcy, Cardinal Edward Egan, Cardinal Newman Society, David Gibson, Father Thomas Reese, Notre Dame, President Obamawith No Comments →

A precedent for church taxation?03.24.09

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a conservative evangelical lobbying group in Albany, is mighty concerned about what it calls the “church taxation bill,” a bill before the state Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

The bill would allow fire districts to impose a special levy on non-profit groups.

The bill explains its purpose like this: “Fire protection is a vital service that is provided to all residents and businesses in a community. Taxes are levied in these districts to pay for these services. Not-for-profits benefit from these fire protection services and should pay this special district tax. In some areas, certain tax exempt organizations do provide a contribution to their local firehouse, but with rising property taxes, the burden of this service should be borne by all the property owners in the community.”

An email alert from NYCF asks its supporters to aggressively fight the bill: “Let your legislators know that you are opposed to A772 because it will place a tax burden on churches. Please ask them to have their name removed from the bill. Church taxation is not a precedent that Christians are willing to accept.”

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Bill 00772, Church taxation, Fire district taxes, New York state Assembly, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, Not-for-profits, Tax burdenwith No Comments →

United Methodist ministers talk, share, debate, and laugh03.24.09

Just got back from a meeting of United Methodist ministers from across Westchester.

The group meets regularly to talk about the week’s Scripture readings, get ideas for sermons, share things that have come up in their congregations, and basically support each other in any ways they can.

Today they had nine people. Sometimes they get more, sometimes less.

I’ll be writing about the group for Saturday’s FaithBeat column.

These are people who are often expected by their congregations to “have all the answers.” They’re the clergy, the spiritual leaders, of congregations. But they don’t have all the answers.

That’s why they come together to discuss passages from Scripture that they have already read and thought about countless times. They question each other, sometimes debate a point, and often come away with new perspectives. Several ministers told me that they often come to the meetings with the seed of a sermon in their heads, but leave with entirely different thoughts and plans.

It’s Bible study for the teachers of Bible study.

It was a humble group. They and their congregations have been battered by the economy, like everyone else. They’re trying to teach the Gospel while helping to guide people through tumultuous times in their lives.

It’s not always easy being the boss. Fortunately, these folks seem to enjoy each other’s company.

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Bible study, Clergy meetings, New York Annual Conference, Scripture readings, United Methodist Churchwith No Comments →

Pioneering female Episcopal priest tabbed by Obama03.23.09

President Obama has chosen Judge Emily C. Hewitt, a member of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims since 1998, as chief judge of the court.

On July 29, 1974, Hewitt became one of the first 11 women ordained to the Episcopal priesthood.

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Judge Emily C. Hewitt, President Obama, U.S. Court of Federal Claimswith No Comments →

Churches have to make mortgages, too03.23.09

Are churches facing foreclosures?

What does it mean when they do?

Religion News Service’s Daniel Burke looks at what’s happening out there. His article includes this:

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“There is definitely a trend,” said Dan Mikes, a banker who has specialized in church loans for 18 years at Bank of the West in Walnut Creek, Calif. “Historically, there were no (church) foreclosures.”

Bankers considered churches a pretty safe bet, said Mikes. Passing the plate provides a steady source of income, church budgets are flexible and religious folks pay banks back.

“I compare it to a racehorse and a plough horse,” said Kelly Archer, president of the Church Loans & Investment Trust in Amarillo, Texas. “Church loans have always been the plough horse. They never got the headlines, never were the big kid on the block.”

That all changed in the late 1990s, bankers say, around the same time subprime mortgages and McMansions became hot. Churches competed to keep up with Pastor Jones across the street.

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Church foreclosures, Religion News Servicewith No Comments →

Brother Liguori all business03.23.09

Who is the Westchester County Business Leader of the Year?

Brother James A. Liguori, president of Iona College.

He was chosen by a committee from the Westchester County Association and The Journal News/LoHud, as colleague Jay Loomis writes: “The award is in recognition of his 14-year stewardship of Iona.”

The profile focuses largely on Liguori’s efforts to steer Iona through the recession. Like every college, Iona is looking at a shrinking endowment and fewer contributions.

“People are very anxious,” Liguroi said. “They are very concerned about tomorrow. So even if they have it (money), they want to hold onto it to see what tomorrow brings. It is a confidence issue. The lack of confidence is why we see the stock market continue to decline. As long as that is the case, people are not going to spend money, they are not going to buy cars. And obviously that mindset will affect colleges.”

Liguori is serving his fourth and final term as president. He’ll retire in June 2011.

He is a local boy.

Liguori is, of course, a member of the Christian Brothers, which founded Iona in 1940. Liguori was born in the Bronx and raised in New Rochelle. He attended Iona Prep and got his bachelor’s from Iona in 1965.

He’s been an academic administrator for nearly 40 years.

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Brother James A. Liguori, Christian Brothers, Iona College, Jay Loomis, The Journal News, Westchester County Association, Westchester County Business Leader of the Yearwith 1 Comment →

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