Catholic-Anglican, Catholic-Jewish updates

A couple of quick updates:

1. I tried to make some sense yesterday of the Vatican’s plans for welcoming disaffected Anglicans. Seveal readers thought it’s a bigger deal than I did — and they may be right.

tjndc5-5b1zfjkl3wh1kt3dbk3i_layoutI got a pithy reaction from Bishop Catherine Roskam, the assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, which I share here:


We appreciate the welcome the pope extended to those in the Anglican communion who are disaffected. We for our part continue to welcome our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, both lay and ordained, conservative and liberal, who wish to belong to a church that treasures diversity of thought.


John Allen has a comprehensive analysis of “What the Vatican’s Welcome of Anglicans means” HERE.

2. I wrote at the start of the week about Archbishop Dolan planning to take part in a program about Catholic-Jewish relations with the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC.

It turns out that Dolan will be focusing quite a bit about Catholic relations with the Jewish community — and not just in New York.

tjndc5-5p0fc6hpy5iqbjxb6h4_thumbnailHe’s been named Moderator of Jewish Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a pretty significant role. He’s replacing Cardinal William H. Keeler, the retired Archbishop of Baltimore, who has been a key international figure in Catholic-Jewish relations.

The appointment is effective Nov. 11 and is good for five years.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the Bishops  Conference, says:


Since the Second Vatican Council, important strides in this relationship have been made through dialogue and collaboration in countering racism, anti-Semitism and other offenses against human dignity. Our Episcopal Conference, through the leadership of your predecessors in New York, and especially through the tireless and generous service of Cardinal William Keeler, has sought to contribute to the work of reconciliation between the Church and the Jewish people after centuries of mutual estrangement. While we look back with gratitude on nearly a half century of progress in these efforts at healing and renewal, we also know that important and pressing challenges lie ahead for us.


George also said that the Jewish community will find Dolan to be “a friend who communicates the joy of his own faith, while at the same time conveying profound respect for the spiritual gifts of the other.”

Dolan will join Keeler on November 11 for the semi-annual USCCB’s consultation with the National Council of Synagogues — with Dolan taking over as co-chair.

A liberal Episcopal bishop on civility

I had a story on LoHud/The Journal News a few days back about whether there is less civility in the public square these days.

My hooks were Kanye West, Rep. Joe Wilson, Serena Williams, the health-care debate.

It was what we call a “talker.” People are talking about it. Reflect the conversation.

One person I called was Bishop Catherine Roskam, the assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. I called her because she is always thoughtful about social trends and because I know that she has been engaged in a sometimes-civil, sometimes-uncivil debate within the Anglican world on gay issues.

tjndc5-5btp4n07l14k44srp1j_layoutRoskam is liberal on theology and politics and a strong supporter of gay rights.

She told me what she thought. But her remarks got cut out of my story, along with some others, because of a lack of space.

So here’s what she said. Liberals will agree. Conservatives won’t.


I think we’re in a much less civil culture than when I was a child. We were taught good manners and taught that freedom of speech meant not shouting each other down.

I think some of it is politics. The politics of the right have actually moved us in a less civil direction through a politics of ridicule and disparagement that we find on talk radio with people such as Rush Limbaugh. They promulgate the idea that if you think in a certain way, you are American, and if you think a different way, you’re un-American — which is probably the most un-American way there is. It’s one-way or the highway. People are reluctant to say this, because people will say “You’re very partisan.” For me, it doesn’t have to do with ideas held by the right, it has to do with the methods.

With the decline of public education, you have a decline in analytic thinking. It has become easier to sway people with emotion rather than rational argument. I don’t think we have the same social expectation of civility that we used to. It’s okay to get heated up while making an argument. But shutting other people down is bullying. Bullying has a kind of currency that it never had before.


I asked Roskam about civility in the Anglican world. She said: “I think the debate in the Anglican Communion was very much shaped by the American political debate. Again, it is the far right in the church that took a page out of the book of the far right in American politics. Their tactics are a kind of ecclesiastical terrorism.”

Talking sexuality without rancor — and then dancing away from Lambeth

catherine-roskam-46_783631a1.jpgIn her final blogs from the Lambeth Conference, Bishop Catherine Roskam of NY writes about the bishops’ discussions on human sexuality and about saying goodbye.

Her thoughts on the “sex talks” seem quite positive:

What can I tell you about all this? That we shared with honesty and without rancor, the latter being a most blessed change from Lambeth 1998. That the atmosphere here has been prayerful and hospitable. That we have shared in depth and thereby deepened relationships. But I cannot tell you that all our differences have been resolved. They have not, and some seem irreconcilable at times. It is a great sadness to learn how much misinformation still circulates about the Episcopal Church and the Church of Canada and how little is known of our efforts to remain in communion, some of which have engendered considerable sacrifice.

Nevertheless, what has been evident all along is the deep desire of everyone here to remain in communion. I hope and pray that with God’s grace, this will get us past our difficulties.

And in her final post, Roskam writes about all the Anglican bishops heading outside to boogie after the final Eucharist:

After the service we exited in the pouring rain for an outdoor picnic. As one Canterburyite said to us as she held her umbrella over our heads, “Welcome to an English barbecue!” After getting our food we hurried out of the rain into the auditorium where an exceptionally good band played music in the style of New Orleans. We were all very circumspect for a short while, but the music got to us, and before you knew it, bishops and spouses and our young stewards and monks and nuns were on the dance floor energetically responding to the beat in a variety of steps and styles, some I am sure never seen before! Different provinces danced with each other. Young and old danced together. The spirit of the room was pure joy. It was the kind of scene I would never have expected to see at a Lambeth Conference. But with God everything is possible. I am sorry that not all the bishops were there to share in this experience. But it is an image that gives one hope.

And now Roskam returns to her Dobbs Ferry office, from where she oversees Region 2 of the Episcopal Diocese of New York — Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties.

New York Episcopal bishop denies supposed comments about domestic violence

New York’s Bishop Catherine Roskam, it seems, has started an international stir!

I’ve been writing in recent days about Roskam — the assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York — blogging from the Lambeth Conference (the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops in England).

I’ve noted that she is a consistently honest and liberal voice who is an unabashed supporter of the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in church life.

Yesterday’s headline in the the UK’s Telegraph was this:

Woman bishop claims church leaders from developing countries beat their wives

catherine-roskam-46_783631a.jpgBeneath the headline was this photo of Roskam. Yowza!

The article opened like this:

The Rt Rev Catherine Roskam, Suffragan Bishop of New York, said domestic violence is deemed acceptable in some parts of the world and that “even the most devout Christians” are guilty of it.

She said some of the 670 Anglican bishops gathered in Canterbury for the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference probably beat their wives, and added that it is difficult to discuss it with them because they do not believe it is wrong.

Her comments have been condemned as outrageous and untrue, and a further example of the condescending attitude of western Anglicans to those in developing countries.

The Telegraph included these reactions:

Archbishop John Chew, the Primate of South-East Asia, said: “I don’t think it’s fair for her to say that. Bishops respect their wives – how could any bishop condone domestic violence?

“I don’t think we see things like that in the church, what she said is far removed from the real picture.”

Bishop Paul Yugusuk from Sudan said: “I don’t think it’s true – the church speaks out against this.

“In the wider community these things still exist but we don’t do that as bishops or pastors.

“She is being unfair – she’s talking from a general view without any evidence.”

In her latest blog post (sent to me via email, but not on her blogpage as of this writing), Roskam writes that she was horrified when she saw the newspaper story. She says the newspaper quoted “selectively” from an interview she had given at a press briefing.

Roskam writes:

And no, I did not say that clergy in the Third World beat their wives! In fact I said nothing about violence in the developing world per se. All my comments were made in the context of the pervasive nature of vioence against women all around the world. The only area I singled out was our own context, siting the recent spate of murders in the New York area of women, and sometimes their children also, by husbands or boyfriends. But of course, those comments were not quoted.

Roskam writes that she asked to address the matter during an afternoon session yesterday.

“I stated unequivocally that I never said — nor would I say — that clergy in the third world beat their wives,” she writes. “I told them of the context of what was quoted and told them of what had been omitted. I apologized for anything I might have said that led to misunderstanding toward my brother bishops or jeopardized already difficult ongoing conversations at this conference.”

She writes that her fellow bishops expressed mostly support after her comments.

Roskam concludes her blog post with this:

I have to say it is very disheartening after all these years of building relationships around the globe to think of these lies going out over the internet to people who don’t know me and who will believe what was said. At the same time, I also need to reiterate that violence against women remains a problem the world over, and all of us within the church and in the larger society must do all we can to prevent it.

Can eradicating poverty be a ‘distraction’ for Christian leaders?

Bishop Catherine Roskam has never tried to hide her belief that gays and lesbians should have full religious rights in the Episcopal Church (and society at large).

inpage_bishops_roskam2.jpgAs I noted last week, the assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of NY has been writing in her blog from the Lambeth Conference about her deep disappointment that Bishop V. Gene Robinson — the openly gay bishop from New Hampshire — has been excluded from the worldwide gathering of Anglican bishops.

But sexuality, she writes in her latest post from England, is not the be-all, end-all of Christian concerns.

Apparently, the bishops were taking part in an Indaba (a Zulu work for community discussion) session on the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals for eradicating extreme poverty.

She writes:

While we are on the subject of a suffering world, I confess to you that I almost lost my temper in our Indaba session this morning when one bishop said he thought that our focus on the MDG’s was a distraction from the issue of human sexuality. I responded, trying to remain as civil as possible, that no matter what we might choose to discuss, the world’s suffering is not a distraction for a gathering of bishops from around a Communion riddled by poverty, violence and catastrophe.

I have never heard a bishop from the developing world call the MDG’s a distraction. For those of us in the developed world, suffering seems to us an aberration from a life intended to be free of it. Hence, we often ask “Why me?” when we experience the inevitable sufferings attached to being human. We are reluctant to recognize that for the vast majority of human beings on this planet, suffering is a way of life. And for some, extreme suffering is a daily occurrence. (If you would like some figures on this, I encourage you to google

It is as Gordon Brown said yesterday, people of faith can make a difference. The Anglican Communion does make a difference. Let us not spend time worrying about who is the wheat and who is the tare, but simply grow together in God’s garden, trusting in the abundance of God’s grace to get us through.

‘…to destroy the Episcopal Church’

Bishop Catherine Roskam, in her blog from the Lambeth Conference, continues to focus on the role of Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay New Hampshire bishop who is at Lambeth but not participating in Lambeth.

inpage_bishops_roskam1.jpgOn Tuesday, Roskam — the Dobbs Ferry-based suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York — sounded pretty down, lamenting that parts of the Anglican Communion seem out to “destroy the Episcopal Church:”

I was feeling pretty positive about our work so far, when I learned this evening that the Province of the Sudan has called for Gene Robinson’s resignation and has made various other demands. We New York bishops were particularly surprised by this, as the Archbishop of the Sudan, Daniel Den Bul, was at our Priests’ Conference in May, and as recently as that gave Bishop Sisk full assurances that he wished to remain in relationship with the Episcopal Church.

I will say more about this tomorrow, when I have more information. It seems that parts of the Anglican Communion still have in mind to destroy the Episcopal Church. I am greatly saddened that this latest salvo comes from an area of the Communion where there is such great suffering. Surely the bishops of the Sudan have better things to do with their time and energy than to feed the division.

I think those same destructive forces have been quite alarmed that the format of this Lambeth Conference has been producing such positive results. So let us do as the angels of scripture have told us, as has Jesus himself. “Do not be afraid.” Be faithful in following the One who is the Way and the Truth and the Life. The rest is in God’s hands.

Yesterday, Roskam wrote about the Episcopal dioceses of New England honoring Robinson:

This evening Province I of the Episcopal Church gave the first of two receptions and presentations for Bishop Gene Robinson to meet bishops and spouses from around the Communion who might wish to get to know him. It was well attended and I believe went a long way in fostering understanding and charity towards one another.

An ‘inclusiveness of spirit’ at Lambeth?

inpage_bishops_roskam.jpgIn Bishop Catherine Roskam’s latest blog from the Lambeth Conference, the suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of NY writes about the “beauty and grandeur” of Sunday’s service at Canterbury Cathedral.

She also writes, yet again, of missing Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay New Hampshire bishop whose consecration has upset much of the Anglican world:

Duleep De Chickera,the bishop of Colomba in Sri Lanka and the chair of the planning team preached the sermon. He shocked the gathered community with his forthrightness when he said as part of his exhortation to be an inclusive church, “There is space equally for anyone regardless of color, ability, gender or sexual orientation.” The air was electric. ( If you would like to hear the sermon, just google Bishop De Chickera’s name and you will find it easily both in taped and text form.) Bishop De Chickera ministers in a very challenging and insecure part of this Communion. His courage and inclusiveness of spirit was particularly appreciated by those of us who found it hard to sing the concluding hymn “All Are Welcome” when one of our number does not appear to be.

Robinson is not at Lambeth, but is in England, as Roskam notes:

After the service I did some interviews with the BBC and the AP, went for a quick bite with my husband Phil, Bishop Sisk and Archdeacon Kendall and then headed for St. Stephen’s Meadow for an outdoor eucharist sponsored by Inclusive Church (UK) and Integrity (US) and attended by about 200 people, including Bishop Gene Robinson and about 20 of the bishops from the morning service.

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.

And blogging from Lambeth…

The Lambeth Conference — the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops from around the world — begins tomorrow at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England.

tjndc5-5btp5urumd0p76epk5q_layout.jpgAmong the hundreds taking part will be the leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of New York: Bishop Mark Sisk, Suffragan Bishop Catherine Roskam (that’s her, center), and Bishop Vicar E. Don Taylor.

Roskam, who heads what’s known as Region 2 of the diocese (Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties) will be writing a blog from Lambeth HERE.

I’ll be very interested to see Roskam’s take on the proceedings. Homosexuality is, of course, the divisive issue in the Anglican world — some bishops are boycotting Lambeth because of the Episcopal Church’s consecration of an openly gay bishop — and Roskam is a very open and articulate advocate for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in church life.

In addition, eight American bishops are doing a Lambeth blog. In today’s first post, Sean Rowe, bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, writes:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has articulated his desire that ‘we become more confident in our Anglican identity by deepening our awareness of how we are responsible to and for each other; and second that we grow in energy and enthusiasm for our task of leading the work of mission in our Church.’  By the grace of God this is already happening.  This is already happening conversation by conversation as I meet my brother and sister bishops and explore our common ministry.  No doubt, there are challenges to be met, but then there are always the opportunities that come with those challenges.