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Archive for October, 2011

Maryknoll on Father Bourgeois: Some agree, some do not10.26.11

I mentioned the other day that Maryknoll’s Father Roy Bourgeois has been in the news again of late—taking his call for the ordination of women right to the Vatican.

I also wrote that he has a lot of support at Ossining-based Maryknoll, the generally liberal Catholic foreign missions society.

Turns out that Maryknoll has released a statement about that support (and its limits). So here it is:

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The Maryknoll Society continues to receive correspondence and calls in support of Father Bourgeois. Maryknoll also receives many letters and calls from Catholics who do not agree with his views or his actions.

From the beginning, Maryknoll determined that this matter required a thoughtful approach. Since this matter is between Father Bourgeois and his Church and not between Father Bourgeois and Maryknoll, the Maryknoll Society decided it was necessary to have Father Bourgeois engage in communication with his Church to discuss the issues that separate them.

Maryknoll has repeatedly attempted to bridge the channels of communications. Father Bourgeois, unfortunately, always has elected not to pursue the opportunities provided to him by Maryknoll.

Currently, as this matter is reviewed, Father Bourgeois remains a member of the Maryknoll Society. Some within the Society agree with his view, while many others do not. Many also are not pleased with the manner in which he has conducted himself, indicating that this matter is between him and his Church and not with Maryknoll.

Whatever the final outcome between Father Bourgeois and the Church, Maryknoll will continue to provide for him spiritually and financially, should he be in need and request such support.

Maryknoll wishes that more Catholics would understand that it is Maryknoll that has tried to open the doors of dialogue for Father Bourgeois over these three years and that it is Maryknoll that will continue to befriend him as part of its extended family no matter his decision or the decision of the Church.

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On a side note, Maryknoll’s year-long centennial celebrations will culminate on Sunday (Oct. 30) with a Centennial Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 2 p.m.

The principal celebrant will be Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington.

The Mass can be viewed live at www.livestream.com/maryknoll.

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Female ordination, Maryknoll, Vaticanwith No Comments →

Another catch-up on the news…10.21.11

I’ve been too busy to blog of late. I’ll try to write more, but it’s all about finding the time.

Catching up on a few things:

1. Father Roy Bourgeois, the Maryknoll priest who faces dismissal from the order because of his support for women’s ordination, is not going quietly. He led a march to the Vatican a few days back to press his cause and was briefly detained by police. Bourgeois either has been excommunicated or soon will be because of his public stand, depending on which report you read.

Bourgeois’ ongoing, very pubic struggle with the church is surely causing anguish for many at Ossining-based Maryknoll, where many love Bourgeois but can’t support him openly.

2. The Metropolitan New York Synod of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) is starting a “strategic planning process” for its future.

They’re asking congregants to fill out on-line surveys by the end of the year that ask for the main strength of one’s congregation, the most significant issue facing one’s congregation and one’s “dream” or vision for their congregation.

It’s hard for me to see how such a survey will produce any new information or surprises. You can pretty much predict what the most common responses will be.

3. As Mitt Romney holds on as one of the top contenders for the GOP nomination, we are hearing more and more about his Mormon faith and what it means to non-Mormon Republicans (just as we did four years ago).

If you don’t really get, I strongly suggest that you read a recent explainer by Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one of the country’s best religion writers. She offers a terrific primer on Mormon belief that offers just enough theology. Give it a try.

4. Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Kingdom since 1991 and one of the world’s most prominent rabbis and Jewish thinkers, will speak next Saturday night, Oct. 29, at 8 at Young Israel of Scarsdale.

You can see a sampling of numerous writings and speeches and “thoughts of the day” on his website.

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Uncategorizedwith 1 Comment →

Does Occupy Wall Street have religious dimensions?10.14.11

As the Occupy Wall Street movement morphs from a fad to a story with legs to a…what exactly is it?…religious voices are weighing in on where God stands.

Tom Beaudoin, a Fordham theologian, writes for the blog of the Jesuit magazine America about taking part in the protests.  He wonders if Catholics could apply the same “model” to their church (a notion the church is not likely to appreciate).

He writes: “Imagine a group of Catholics whose deep care for the future of their church is matched by their sense of responsibility to name, protest and change what is intolerable about that church today: in the form of nonviolent physical occupation of spaces, in the form—necessarily imperfect and unruly—of democratic organization, in the form of continued open-ended articulations of visions of a different Catholic Church, without prematurely forcing the movement to take on a specific agenda. And yes, in the form of consciousness-raising and of direct action. This would be the Catholic version of the Arab Spring, to combat the long Catholic Winter.”

Scholar Joseph Knippenberg has been tracking reactions to Occupy Wall Street for a blog with First Things, a “conservative” journal on religion. He writes: “I have no doubt that God is with the folks near Wall Street, but I doubt they’ve recognized Him yet.”

“Liberal evangelical” Jim Wallis is, as you might expect, right there with the occupiers. He writes: “The new movement called Occupy Wall Street now has spread across the country, from the very seats of our political and financial power and our largest cities, to suburbs and small towns. In some communities small groups of a few dozen have formed and in some cities thousands have gathered.

“In each instance, no matter the size, people’s frustrations, hurt and feelings of being betrayed by our nation’s politicians and economic leaders are clear and they want to be heard.”

The Jewish Week wrote about 1,500 people attending a Yom Kippur service within yards of the Occupy Wall Street protest in Lower Manhattan: “Participants in the service, organized by supporters of the protest, included many of those involved in the demonstration, local Jewish residents who had come simply for the service itself, and non-Jewish onlookers.”

Today, the JW reports that protesters are building sukkahs—temporary dwellings for the holiday of Sukkot—at OWS protests in nine cities. The first comment from a JW reader says this: “Speaking as a neoconservative, all OCW sukkahs are declared automatically treyf.”

Treyf means non-kosher. Funny.

ADD: The Institute on Religion & Democracy, which promotes traditional or conservative thinking in mainline Protestant denominations, just released a statement on the religious left’s support for Occupy Wall Street.

IRD President Mark Tooley says this:

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“The many college age Wall Street occupiers concerned about college debt and real world responsibilities can be possibly excused for youthful naiveté. But middle-aged church activists, some of whom may be trying to relive their street activism of 40 years ago, should show more discernment and wisdom.

“Covetous battle cries for class resentment and even greater coercive wealth redistribution through an ever expanding Big Government do not resemble traditional Christianity.

“Unlike the Religious Left voices who have hailed and even romanticized the Wall Street Occupation, wise religious leaders should call their flocks to the common good. They would know that in a fallen world, no government or system of laws can seize property or massively redistribute income without creating even greater injustice.

“The Scriptures call for believers to put away childish things. Religious activists who have aligned with the Wall Street Occupation should model mature Christian discernment, not echo angry resentments that dream of a secular utopia.”

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Occupy Wall Street, religionwith 5 Comments →

Keeping up with Archbishop O’Brien10.11.11

A friend made me realize today that I never mentioned a significant story with local ties: the reassignment in late summer of Archbishop Edwin O’Brien from Baltimore to a Vatican post.

As I’ve written many times in the past, O’Brien grew up in Bedford and graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Katonah, which evolved into Kennedy Catholic High School in Somers (that’s him at Kennedy in 2003). He is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York who did two stints as rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers.

O’Brien served as a civilian chaplain at West Point and then an Army chaplain in Vietnam, and later served as secretary to Cardinals Terence Cooke and John O’Connor. In 1996, he became an auxiliary bishop of New York.

For years, he was considered a leading contender to become archbishop of New York. Instead, in 2007, he got the top job in Baltimore, where, it’s safe to say, he was expected to remain for more than a few years.

But at some point in 2012, he will leave for Rome. He has been named the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is an ancient Catholic order that seeks to promote and defend Christianity in the Holy Land.

Whispers in the Loggia’s Rocco Palmo, who broke the story two days before the official announcement, had this to say about O’Brien’s new gig:

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A notably energetic figure—he’s exhorted his priests on the importance of personal fitness—word from Rome emphatically adds that, despite the age of the millennium-old order’s new chief, “this is not a ‘retirement’ appointment.” O’Brien’s enjoyment of travel, efficient management-style and savvy at navigating difficult geopolitical situations (a skill honed during his decade leading the archdiocese for the Military Services) are all expected to be employed to their fullest extent, both for the effectiveness of the order’s work in the Holy Land, and to keep connected with the group’s membership spread across the globe.

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O’Brien will leave Baltimore once his successor is named.

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Uncategorizedwith No Comments →

Steve Jobs the spiritual man10.06.11

I’m somewhat surprised by the overwhelming reaction to the death of Steve Jobs. I knew he was a technological giant. But I guess I didn’t grasp the extent to which he is considered a visionary and something of a national hero.

Among the many reactions I’ve seen today are some interesting ones from religious perspectives.

The first thing I saw was a statement from Steve McConkey, president of an outfit called ChristianInvestigator.com. He wanted to make clear that Jobs was not a Christian, but a Buddhist.

He says: “Steve Jobs was the Einstein of our time with advances in technology that shape everything we do. Because of his Buddhist beliefs, our concern is about this worldview.”

The statement explains the differences between Buddhism and Christianity, but doesn’t really say what it means for Jobs’ legacy.

Then came a statement from Dr. Michael A. Milton, chancellor-elect of Reformed Theological Seminary. He also makes the point that “it is doubtful that we will learn that (Jobs) was a devout Christian.”

But Milton goes on to praise Jobs because his creations have brought “the Word of God to the ends of the earth.”

He writes: “And so the gospel is getting through to the most hostile places on earth as well as to the most hostile ideological places in the secularized Western world. So I thank God for the life of Steve Jobs.” Milton writes that he’ll remember Jobs as “the founder of an empire that linked the world in order to bring Christ to those who have never heard.”

Milton also writes this:

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His commencement speech at Stanford University will likely go down as one of the greatest. It is a testimony to a very spiritual man, not (at least at that time) a Christian man, who saw failures as the turning points in his life, which led to creativity. Our country needs to hear that great American story these days more than ever. Yet behind this brilliant and quite resilient man who changed so much of modern life, and whose destiny is now with His Creator, is really the figure of One who rose again from the dead. Through the creativity of Steve Jobs is a God using all means to reach His own.

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At ReligionDispatches.org, Elizabeth Drescher briefly explores “the religious or spiritual dimensions of our technological affections” and notes a cottage industry of scholarship that tracks the religiosity of Apple users.

She writes: “Jobs made technological devices the extensions of human experience that Marshall McLuhan showed them to be, just as the digital age was dawning. He elevated its status from lowly tool to digital connector, relationship maker, global boundary crosser. Jobs helped to make our world bigger, while drawing us closer.”

She also notes, as many others have today, an essay written back in 1994 by Umberto Eco, an Italian writer, which found that Apple vs. DOS was something of a holy war. Get a load of this:

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The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the ratio studiorum of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory; it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach—if not the kingdom of Heaven—the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: The essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.
DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can achieve salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: Far away from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

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(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in South Westchester Clergy Support Group, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Spirituality, Steve Jobs, Technologywith No Comments →

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