Father Dunne will do time

Many people have asked me what became of Father Patrick Dunne, charged with stealing a few hundred thousand bucks from his former parish — Our Lady of Sorrows in White Plains.

Now we know.

bildeAfter many months of delays, Dunne pleaded guilty today to the top count against him, second-degree grand larceny, a felony. Our courts reporter, Rebecca Baker, reports that Dunne will serve five years’ probation with some time in jail.

He’ll find out Jan. 12 how much jail time he’ll get.

As part of the plea deal, Dunne must pay restitution of up to $432,000 to the Archdiocese of New York. Where will he get that kind of money? His lawyer isn’t saying.

Dunne apparently had a bad gambling problem and has received treatment.

Will we see Dunne in a parish again? Maybe. Monsignor John Woolsey, who was accused of stealing nearly $1 million from a NYC parish and spent a year in jail after pleading guilty to misappropriating $50,000, is now a priest on staff at Holy Family Church in New Rochelle.

Woolsey has no authority over church funds.

Chief Islamic judge of Jerusalem in Scarsdale tomorrow

If you’re interested in Islam, Jewish-Muslim relations or interfaith relations in general, Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale has a pretty interesting program tomorrow (Oct. 21) at 7 p.m.

Muhammad Zibdi, the Chief Islamic Judge of the Muslim Sharia Court in Jerusalem, will speak. This guy is based Where the Action Is, but travels around the world speaking about interfaith understanding.

Also on the program is Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel.

It’s free and open to the public.

Archbishop Dolan, JTS’s Eisen to talk Catholic-Jewish stuff

Archbishop Dolan will share the stage with a prominent Jewish leader next month to speak about an always interesting subject (and one that’s surprisingly sensitive at the moment): the state of Catholic-Jewish relations.

He’ll discuss the subject with Arnold Eisen, chancellor of the (Conservative) Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC, on Nov. 5. The occasion will be the seventeenth annual Nostra Aetate Dialogue at Fordham U.

tjndc5-5qxce77ojdg11ntdqa9f_layoutThe event will take place at the McNally Amphitheatre at Fordham University Law School, 140 West 62nd Street.

Edward Bristow, professor of History at Fordham University, will moderate.

Catholic-Jewish relations have generally been bright in recent years, improving by the decade since Vatican II. But there has been some…strain…the past few years.

Mel Gibson’s movie made a lot of people uncomfortable a while back.

Then Pope B16 urged wider use of the Latin Mass, raising concerns about a once-a-year Good Friday prayer urging conversion of the Jews.

Early this year, B16 lifted the excommunication of a traditionalist bishop who happened to be a Holocaust-denier.

tjndc5-5bqpzs3t3fts6xgf2g9_layoutAnd most recently, Jewish leaders have been peeved about a legalistic statement from the Catholic bishops of the U.S. that said that even though the Catholic Church recognizes the covenant between God and the Jewish people, Catholics must affirm their belief that Jesus Christ “fulfills God’s revelation begun with Abraham.”

The statement includes:

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With St. Paul, we acknowledge that God does not regret, repent of, or change his mind about the “gifts and the call” that he has given to the Jewish people (Rom 11:29). At the same time, we also believe that the fulfillment of the covenants, indeed, of all God’s promises to Israel, is found only in Jesus Christ. By God’s grace, the right to hear this Good News belongs to every generation.

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When one considers the near-miraculous improvements in Catholic-Jewish relations over the past 40 years — and we’re talking about a deep and meaningful relationship — one could make the case that the events of recent years are minor and somewhat inevitable, given the real differences between the religions.

Still, it will be quite interesting to see how Dolan and Eisen, two personable and articulate men, frame these issues and concerns.

Eisen (that’s him, below), who came to JTS in 2007, has expressed a great interest in interreligious work. This is a good opportunity for him to make a significant contribution on issues of interest to many people.

Archbishops of New York are remembered, in part, by how well they get along with New York’s large and influential Jewish community. Cardinal O’Connor, of course, was the Archbishop of Catholic-Jewish Relations, beloved by New York’s Jewish community.

Cardinal Egan got along well with the JC, but he was more reticent (as he was with all things).

Dolan got rave reviews from Milwaukee’s Jewish community, and got off to a good start here, as well.

You have to figure that when he gets to Fordham, he’ll be well-versed on the issues and concerns out there and ready to soothe them.

Calling for a ‘fast’ against anti-immigrant media

A group of liberal/moderate religious leaders is asking people to “fast” from violent media — in particular “anti-immigrant” media voices — from Oct. 19 to 26.

The “Media Violence Fast” is starting its third annual campaign against overall violence in the media.

But this year they’re asking people to consider the impact of “anti-immigrant hate speech.”

A statement from the group includes this: “The coalition is expressing particular concern about the frequency and tone of anti-immigrant remarks made by several TV and radio commentators, such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage and Lou Dobbs.”

The Fearsome Foursome of Conservative Talking Heads should get a big laugh at the whole thing.

Cheryl A. Leanza, a media attorney who serves as policy director with the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communications, says: “Hate speech in the media is a growing problem that must be examined before it can be solved. The possible correlation between hate speech and violence crime gives us great pause. Immigrant, minority, and religious populations are often targets of hate speech before they are subsequently the target of physical hate crimes.”

About media violence in general, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, says: “Violence may be satisfying at some primitive level, but it almost always causes more violence and seldom leads to solutions. Media writers and producers would do well to remember that some of history’s most dramatic confrontations with power have been non-violent, including Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement against imperialism or Martin Luther King’s encounters with bigoted laws and people.”

Got that Limbaugh? How ’bout you Beck?

Anyway, the campaign is being run by the So We Might See Coalition, a new interfaith group that includes the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Islamic Society of North America, United Methodist Communications, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and several other faith groups.

Local pastor heading for Sultinate of Oman to head interfaith center

Last year, I talked to the Rev. Doug Leonard, pastor of the Reformed Church of Cortlandtown, about a trip he was about to take to the Beijing Olympics.

He was going with Rabbi Arthur Schneier of New York City, a leading voice on religious freedom issues, to see how China was addressing the myriad religious needs of the Olympic athletes.

Leonard told me that the trip was a great opportunity for him because — beside the obvious reasons — he had a tremendous and growing interesting in interfaith relations.

tjndc5-5b4o3jlkb0j12nm1enb6_layoutHe was quite proud of the fact that  his denomination, the Reformed Church in America, is a descendant of the Dutch Reformed Church, which has a long history of promoting interfaith tolerance.

A few months after the Olympics, Leonard was leaving for the Sultinate of Oman to take part in a conference with Muslims.

Now he’s going back — to stay (at least for a while).

Sunday will be Leonard’s last day at the Reformed Church of Cortlandtown. The next day he leaves for Oman to become director of the Al Amana Centre, an interfaith center in Muscat that was started by the Reformed Church in America

I understand that he will be back briefly late next month. He’ll be honored by the Peekskill Area Pastors Association, of which he is immediate a past president.

I hope to get a chance to talk with him about his unusual new job.

Al Smith Dinner: 64th is tomorrow

It will be hard to top last year’s Al Smith Dinner, when Barack Obama and John McCain made jokes at their own and each other’s expense (and some funny ones).

It seemed that all eyes were on the Waldorf-Astoria.

I was fortunate to be there. One lingering memory: Watching Renee Fleming warm up — singing effortlessly and stopping on a dime to complain about the sound.

USA-POLITICS/It was a special night, although Cardinal Egan took some heat through the following weeks for hanging with the Democratic candidate (who supports abortion rights).

The 64th annual dinner — which raises money for charitable causes in NY — will be held tomorrow night. And the keynote speaker will be Admiral Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I don’t suppose there will be as much joking as usual, although you have to figure that Archbishop Dolan will have some good one-liners for his first shot in the Al Smith Dinner limelight.

The way things are going in Afghanistan and Pakistan — and remember Iraq? — Mullen should have plenty to talk about.

And the cause remains a good one.

Lobbying for Jesus

I’ve written a few times in the past about the work of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a conservative, evangelical lobbying group in Albany.

I just noticed a new motto on an email alert from the group: “Influencing Legislation and Legislators for the Lord Jesus Christ.”

That cuts to the chase, no?

Among other things, the email includes this: “On Tuesday, October 13, A State Senate Select Committee on Budget and Tax Reform will meet in Albany.  The purpose of the meeting is to evaluate the need for and costs of New York State property tax exemptions.  Christians should be paying attention to what sounds like a very droll subject, because it could have great impact on ministries across the State of New York.”

tomandbarbNYCF probably feels that it’s swimming against the tide these days. One of the group’s lobbyists, the Rev. Tom Stiles (that’s him with his wife, Barb), writes on the website that “America is becoming a socialist state.”

He writes:

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Socialism does not work because it provides no real incentive to work hard or produce, because no matter how hard you work, you get no extra pay or reward. People stop exerting themselves and become dependent on the State. Government replaces God.

The Federal government under President Barack Obama has taken over the banking, finance, and auto industries, and is now looking at the environment and health care. Both the President and Congress continue to push our country further in debt in an attempt to buy our way out of the recession.

It won’t work – America needs to come back to God and Biblical principles. But the evidence suggests that we are moving in the opposite direction. American Christians should heed the words spoken to Israel by the prophet Jeremiah, “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, [and] hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

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NYCF has banquets coming up across New York State, in Painted Post, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Oneonta, Binghamton and Long Island.

But none in NYC or the Lower Hudson Valley.

Yankee hot dogs for those who can’t afford a ticket

Ever wonder what the Yankees — or any sports team — does with their left over concession-stand food?

Since I’m spending a few weeks contributing features for our Yankees coverage, I wanted to mention a really nice story from the United Methodist News Service about a church in the Bronx that is helping the Yankees distribute all those uneaten hot dogs to Bronx people who need it.

Woodycrest United Methodist Church was built in 1913, a decade before the old Yankee Stadium, and seats only about 180 worshippers. But now the church is part of the Yankees’ team.

The UMNS’ Linda Bloom writes:

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If there was a temptation to join critics who see the new stadium as a temple of excess that displaced local parkland, Woodycrest leaders have chosen instead to be thankful for the team’s outreach to the community.

400_090818_234On select days after home games, the congregation sets up tables outside the church to distribute the abundant leftovers from concession stands, usually right around the dinner hour.

(Church member Kenny) Wood, who assists with the distribution, is glad to see the Yankees giving back to their own neighborhood. “It shows they do care,” he says.

The partnership is facilitated by Rock and Wrap it Up, an organization started in 1990 by Syd Mandelbaum, who asked rock bands to donate leftover prepared food from concerts to local charities. The concept has since spread to 31 sports teams, including eight in the New York metropolitan area.

The pastor has nothing but praise for its organizers and the generosity of the sports teams. “We’ve had many more pickups than were scheduled because we’re so close (to Yankee Stadium),” she adds.

Being able to share this food has helped the church fulfill the commandment of Jesus to “feed my sheep,” a scriptural message that Pickett takes “very seriously,” according to Hailey.

A Yankees fan back in the late 1970s when Reggie Jackson was playing, she considers the food the team donates after home games to be “a blessing.” Up to 80 people have been served at a time. One woman tearfully told Hailey that she hadn’t been sure how she was going to feed her family that day “but you have given me my dinner.”

People who can’t afford tickets to the game still get excited about a hot dog or hamburger in a container bearing the Yankee logo, Hailey reports. “It’s been very, very rewarding. I have to respect the Yankees for that.”

Photo: Reed Galin/United Methodist News Service

1 in 4 people now Muslim

One in 4 people in the world are now Muslim, according to a major new study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

A study of more than 200 countries estimates that there are 1.57 billion Muslims. Most estimates have hovered around 1.3 billion.

The finding that is likely to get the most attention: more than 60% of the global Muslim population is in Asia and about 20% is in the Middle East and North Africa.

The AP’s Eric Gorski frames it well:

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The project, three years in the making, also presents a portrait of the Muslim world that might surprise some. For instance, Germany has more Muslims than Lebanon, China has more Muslims than Syria, Russia has more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined, and Ethiopia has nearly as many Muslims as Afghanistan.
“This whole idea that Muslims are Arabs and Arabs are Muslims is really just obliterated by this report,” said Amaney Jamal, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University who reviewed an advance copy.

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The world’s largest Muslim nation? Indonesia, with 203 million Muslims (or 13%).

The Sunni-Shia breakdown? 87-90% Sunni, 10-13% Shia

And where does Christianity stand? 2.1 to 2.2 billion followers.

Here’s an interesting “trailer” from the Pew people:

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These findings on the world Muslim population lay the foundation for a forthcoming study by the Pew Forum, scheduled to be released in 2010, that will estimate growth rates among Muslim populations worldwide and project Muslim populations into the future. The Pew Forum plans to launch a similar study of global Christianity in 2010 as well. The Pew Forum also plans to conduct in-depth public opinion surveys on the intersection of religion and public life around the world, starting with a 19-country survey of sub-Saharan Africa scheduled to be released later this year. These forthcoming studies are part of a larger effort – the Global Religious Futures Project, jointly funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation – that aims to increase people’s understanding of religion around the world.

Tale of the tape: Yankees vs. Pope

So I was at Yankee Stadium last night for the first playoff game, talking to fans about the high cost of seeing Yankee baseball these days.

Being there was not unlike covering the pope’s visit to NY a couple of years back.

tjndc5-5jnvbyb0psn12s1ibitk_layoutFirst you have to go through security and line up for your press credentials. Granted, security was not nearly as extensive for the Yanks as it was for B16.

Then you have to find some room to work, with armies of media people all around you. The media section at the new Yankee Stadium is much more comfortable and roomy than at the old stadium, but it’s still real crowded. The Japanese reporters alone, who follow Hideki Matsui’s every move, take up a lot of room.

The Yankees have a lot of people who assist the media. They are constantly bringing out stacks of paper — statistics, quotations from the pre-game pressers, background info. It was the same with the pope, but the Yankee people produce more stuff.

I had a bit more freedom to move around during the game than I did during a papal event. And that’s understandable.

Interviewing fans at Yankee Stadium is not all that different from chatting with the faithful at the old Yankee Stadium (where B16 celebrated Mass) or at St. Joseph’s Seminary, where the pope held a massive youth rally.

Yankee fans, like pope fans, were thrilled to be at the big event. But they often have trouble explaining why.

tjndc5-5r7p9zi66kz12gmzgbw9_layoutIt’s obvious to them.

Who wouldn’t want to see the pope? Who wouldn’t want to see the Yanks in the playoffs?

What else? Pope followers wore special T-shirts from their parish, their youth group or the papal event itself. Yankee fans wear T-shirts sporting Derek Jeter’s name and number.

The papal events offered much memorabilia. But no one can compete with the Yanks when it comes to selling stuff.

Other than that, papal events and Yankee games each have some formality, serious moments, opportunities to cheer, and really loud PA systems.

And when they’re over, you have to wade through the crowd. It takes a while.