Dying TV ancher feels ‘the presence of Christ in the room’

I came across a story on CNN.com about a former TV sports anchor named Nick Charles.

I used to watch him and his partner Fred Hickman when CNN had a sports new network that competed with ESPN (before ESPN began solidifying its modern-day sports monopoly).

Can’t say that I knew anything about Charles. So I was surprised to see a photo of him looking old and weak and…sick.

It turns out that he found out in 2009 that he had incurable bladder cancer. He was given 4 to 20 months to live and is now at 21 months.

I point out the article because Charles talks a lot about mortality, lessons learned, family and a return to faith during the ’90s — thanks to his third wife.

He feels a strong divine presence in his life. He says of Jesus, “One time, he sat right with me on the bed.”

It’s a moving story with a few curveballs, including Charles ongoing friendship with Mike Tyson, who comes across as a real good guy and friend at crunchtime.

There is a section in the story where Charles talks about what his last week of life is likely to be like. Read it.

When church & state meet in court

Came across an interesting new report from the Pew Forum on court cases involving the relationship of church & state.

As they explain it:


These and related lawsuits raise complex constitutional questions that have been troubling American courts for more than a century: Do the First Amendment’s religion clauses – which guarantee religious liberty and prohibit all laws “respecting the establishment of religion” – bestow a unique legal status on religious organizations that puts some of their decisions and actions beyond the reach of civil laws? To put it another way, are legal disputes involving churches and other religious institutions constitutionally different from those involving their secular counterparts, and if so, how?


I like the way the Pew people frame how religious cases are related and may be different in some ways from other cases.

They look at four different cases that illustrate issues/conflicts that often come up: property disputes; employment of clergy; the treatment or discipline of members; and how religious organizations deal with employee misconduct.

As Pew explains:


Although the four types of cases raise different legal issues, court rulings on all these matters have been consistent regarding one important principle: The government must not regulate religious entities in any way that would require a judge or other government official to interpret religious doctrine or rule on theological matters. At times, this “hands-off” principle might require courts to treat religious organizations differently from their secular counterparts.


Pew looks at one case where a Lutheran school dismissed a teacher who missed a lot of time because of treatment for narcolepsy. The school might have a problem because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it claims a “ministerial exception” for the way it handled an employee.

Interesting stuff.

Dolan: Come back to Confession

On this St. Patrick’s Day, Archbishop Dolan has released a pastoral letter about Confession.

The 11-page letter makes a case for the centrality of the Sacrament of Penance in Catholic life. It’s very much written in Dolan’s direct, somewhat informal, passionate style.

He asks that St. Patrick, the patron saint of the Archdiocese of NY, intercede by promoting a return to the Confessional. “To pronounce the sacramental absolution by which our sins are forgiven is one of primary reasons the Church and the priesthood exist,” he writes.

He laments that the words of absolution “are not heard as often as they should be
in the Church in New York.”

He offers a bit of (recent) historical perspective: “Not everything was perfect decades ago when most Catholics routinely went to confession – perhaps too routinely. But whatever problems existed in the 1950s are now a half-century in the past, and subsequent generations have grown up without any knowledge of whatever excesses may have existed. They have indeed grown up without what belongs to them as part of the patrimony as Catholics – the liberating, joyful experience of God’s mercy in the sacrament of penance.”

Dolan addresses the priests of NY: “My brother priests, we should never lose our amazement and our gratitude at this gift. The Spirit called down upon us at our ordination is the same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation. We need that same Holy Spirit, for the work of forgiving sins is a work as astonishing as the creation of the world – a work we can only do because the Lord Jesus explicitly entrusted it to us.”

He also cites the sexual-abuse scandals as having “taught us again” about the realities of sin. About the sins of Catholics, he writes: “We have failed to speak about them, and the now, as we have experienced so painfully, to our shame and embarrassment, we face the “attacks of the world that speak of our sins”. The attacks are real, and so too are our sins! The Christian should not wait for others to
speak of his sin; we should confess it simply, repent sincerely, and be forgiven quickly!”

Dolan spends some time on our “confessional culture,” which details sin and scandal and then watches celebrities offer public confessions and apologies. He writes: “The “confessional culture” around us shouts itself hoarse for it can confess, but there is no absolution. Sin confessed but unredeemed either leads to despair or is trivialized.”

In the end, Dolan suggests that some may find his letter to be too long.

“If so, take it as a sign of my eagerness to use all the persuasive power God has granted me in the service of a renewal of the Sacrament of Penance,” he writes.

Hearings open on Muslim ‘radicalization’

With all the interest in today’s “Muslim radicalization” hearing, here is the latest AP story:


Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional panel investigating homegrown terrorism in America displayed sharp divisions Thursday over how to frame the discussion, reflecting a country still struggling with how best to combat terrorism nearly a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Homegrown terrorism is on the rise in the United States, and al-Qaida has built a strategy around inspiring young American Muslims to become one-man terrorist cells. That strategy has at times been successful, and the U.S. government has wrestled with finding a consistent plan to combat it.

Rep. Peter King, the New York Republican who called the hearing, says the American Muslim community is not doing enough to speak out against terrorism and is reluctant to help police. The Obama administration worries that broad statements about an entire religion only play into al-Qaida’s narrative that the U.S. is at war with Islam.

After a week of protests leading up to the hearing, King dismissed what he called unwarranted “rage and hysteria” and said Congress has a duty to press forward.

“Homegrown radicalization is part of al-Qaida’s strategy to continue attacking the United States,” King said as he opened the hearings.

The top Democrat on the committee, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said he believes the hearings could be used to inspire terrorists.

“I cannot help but wonder how propaganda about this hearing’s focus on the American Muslim Community will be used by those who seek to inspire a new generation of suicide bombers,” Thompson said.

Despite years government focus on terrorism, there is no one predictable path toward violence. Homegrown terrorists have been high school dropouts and college graduates as well, people from poor and wealthy families alike. Some studied overseas. Others were inspired over the Internet.

That has complicated government efforts to understand and head off the radicalization process. And it reduced some of Thursday’s debate to a series of anecdotes: of Islamic terrorists on the one hand, and Islamic firefighters on the other.

King told The Associated Press that he had larger security details for the past few months because of an overseas threat relayed in December. Since then, round-the-clock security has been provided by the New York Police Department and the Nassau County, N.Y., police.

On Thursday, at King’s request, the Capitol Police secured the congressional hearing room and surrounding areas, as well as his office.

Rarely does a congressional hearing attract as much advance controversy. Critics have likened them to the McCarthy-era hearings investigating communism.

The witnesses included family members of young men who were inspired by others to go into terrorism, with deadly consequences. They told Congress that the young men were brainwashed by radical elements in the Muslim community.

Melvin Bledsoe, whose son, Carlos, is charged with killing an Army private at a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., testified about his son’s conversion to Islam and his isolation from his family.

“Carlos was captured by people best described as hunters,” Bledsoe said. “He was manipulated and lied to.”

Elsewhere at the Capitol, National Intelligence Director James Clapper was scheduled to address the threat of homegrown terrorism. In his prepared remarks, Clapper said 2010 saw more plots involving homegrown Sunni extremists — those ideologically aligned with al-Qaida — than in the previous year.

“Key to this trend has been the development of a U.S.-specific narrative that motivates individuals to violence,” Clapper said.

The End of America

So I was listening to CBS radio, like I do most mornings, to check the weather (more snow) and the headlines.

I heard some sort of ad warning of…the END OF AMERICA.

I figured that some religious group was behind the high-priced, drive-time ad. Who warns of the end of things as much as religious groups?

So I wrote down the web address it asked listeners to check out — endofamerica11.com — and checked it out.

I was wrong. Again.

No religious themes or messages. Just an investment firm warning that America’s debt will soon cause the economy to collapse, leading to riots in the street and “shantytowns coming to your neighborhood.”

I actually read much of the long explanation and a lot of it was pretty darn scary.

At the end, though, you get a pitch to subscribe to certain investment materials, which will include a secret asset that everyone should own when the economy collapses and America ends.

This Tweeter follows no one

I just came across the Dalai Lama’s Twitter page.

Maybe it’s common knowledge that he has one, but I hadn’t seen it.

It’s really something — compact nuggets of Buddhist, but universal-sounding, wisdom.

4 minutes ago, we got this: “Genuine love should first be directed at oneself – if we do not love ourselves, how can we love others?”


On Monday: “We need a genuine sense of responsibility and a sincere concern for the welfare of others.”

Saturday: “Because our own human existence is so dependent on the help of others our need for love lies at the very foundation of our existence.”

Friday: “An affectionate disposition not only makes the mind more peaceful and calm, but it affects our body in a positive way too.”

I assume he writes them himself.

Does he dictate them to someone? Or tap them out on his own smartphone?

Who knows?

How many followers does he have? 1,278,372 at the moment. Not quite Ashton Kutcher numbers (6 million-plus), but not bad.

How many Tweeters does the Dalai Lama follow? Zero.