An Easter miracle?

A few items:

1. What do you call it when an active member of a large Pentecostal church in New City collapses during an Easter service, loses his pulse and heartbeat and is revived at the emergency room of Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern?

As my colleague Jane Lerner reports, some are calling it an Easter miracle, a resurrection.

2. I wondered a couple of weeks ago whether new talk of immigration reform in Washington would inspire religious leaders in New York and elsewhere to join the debate. There have been stirrings (not to mention that big march in D.C.).

An interfaith group called the The Faith and Public Policy Roundtable is holding a forum on immigration on Wednesday, April 21, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Ceremonial Hall at the Society for Ethical Culture in Manhattan.

tjndc5-5k7d0c6swlz10mutxarb_layoutThe panelists will be: Rabbi Michael Paley, Scholar in Residence and Director of the Jewish Resource Center at UJA-Federation of New York; Bishop Robert Rimbo of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (that’s him); and Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.

3. When Cardinals O’Connor and Egan were nearing the end of their tenures, there was much talk about whether New York could see an Hispanic archbishop. But we keep getting Irishmen.

LA, though, is a different matter. The nation’s largest archdiocese may already be mostly Hispanic (New York is probably close, but no one really knows).

ab_gomez_100So it’s no surprise that B16 has chosen a Latino bishop, Jose Gomez, the archbishop of San Antonio, as next in line for LA. Cardinal Roger Mahony will reach retirement age, 75, next February.

I went to a gathering of religion writers a few years ago in San Antonio (yes, we toured the Alamo, which was surprisingly — at least to me — small). We had a brief meeting with Gomez, who was warm and funny, the kind of guy you like right away. He won the group over without much effort.

He’s also a member of Opus Dei, which is kind of interesting. And he’s only 58 (2 years younger than Tim Dolan), so he could be an important national figure for quite some time.

Religious reactions to health-care vote coming forth

Health care reform is on its way and religious voices are issuing praise and condemnation.

c_ml_photoAn email blast from Rabbi Michael Lerner and the Network of Spiritual Progressives is barely satisfied with a “partial victory” — they preferred “medicare-for-all” or a single-payer government-run system.

“The greatest critique we have of how the Democrats achieved this victory was that they failed to articulate that principle of caring as the center of their legislative campaign, and hence failed to win over the majority to support the reform, a failure that may yet lead to significant losses at the polls in November,” Lerner writes.

Morna Murray, President of the liberal Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, says “There is nothing more fundamental to our core Catholic principles than caring for the sick and most vulnerable. These votes today reflect that principle in action.”

On the other side, groups that believe that the reform bill will lead to the public funding of abortions were predictably dismayed.

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life is already working on how to counter the legislation:

*****

Yesterday I was privileged to deliver a homily at a prayer service held in the Capitol for members of Congress. I spoke about the fact that authority and power mean service, and that the people whom the legislators serve are not their people, but God’s people. We govern ourselves; our voices matter. Thank God that when legislators take public policy the wrong way, there are ways to remedy that. Let’s get started.

*****

day-gardner-color-scan-4-07.thumbnailDay Gardner, President of the National Black Pro-Life Union, writes: “Polls have consistently shown that America does not want this Healthcare monster for many reasons, yet, it is being shoved down our throats anyway…It’s obvious that Democrats don’t care what MOST of America wants.”

And on and on we go.

And as the health care debate moves into its next phase, the coming immigration reform debate moves closer to center stage.

Tens of thousands marched in D.C. yesterday to call for immigration reform — including some sort of amnesty for immigrants already here illegally. Religious groups were among the key organizers.

The Rev. Derrick Harkins, Senior Pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, probably spoke for many when he said: “As we gather on this beautiful and monumental expanse we are grateful that we reflect the very fabric of our nation. At this moment in history, as we look out upon our immigrant brothers and sisters, we are thankful that our nation’s call to be a beacon of hope comes with the continued call to justice and compassion.”

Those who are opposed to amnesty and in favor of tougher border security will soon have their say, you have to think.

ADD: The strongest language I’ve seen on the health care vote comes from Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who calls this day “tragic.”

“This healthcare legislation will lead to the overwhelming majority of Americans living shorter lives, and experiencing more pain and suffering before they die,” Land writes.

Yowza. Shorter Lives for most. More pain. More suffering.

Land doesn’t stop there, comparing the effect of last night’s vote to that of…Pearl Harbor:

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“Liberals across America are rejoicing today over their ‘historic’ victory. My message to them is, ‘Enjoy it while you can.’ This was a Pyrrhic victory of epic proportions. The Japanese pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor won a ‘historic’ victory as well. Their celebrations were cut short six months later when most of them were killed at the Battle of Midway. As Admiral Yamamoto said at the time ‘I am fearful . . . that we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.’

Will religious leaders speak out on immigration?

President Obama’s intention to press forward with immigration reform is certain to present serious challenges for religious leaders.

Most major religious denominations — especially those with a presence in New York — are all in favor of reform, including some form of amnesty for illegal immigrants already here. But they find themselves at odds with many citizens, including many in their pews, who have little patience with illegals.

Especially at a time of high unemployment, selling immigration reform could make the health-care reform mess look easy.

So here’s the question: How willing will religious leaders be to try to sell a controversial policy shift that many people do not want?

Just about every major mainline Protestant denomination favors immigration reform. Most major Jewish groups (including the Reform and Conservative movements) favor reform. And mostly importantly, the Roman Catholic Church, the largest and most influential religious community in many regions with high numbers of immigrants, is all-out, hog-wild in favor of reform.

Still, as I’ve written before, the Catholic Church is extremely active and vocal in Washington. But the message on immigration is rarely shared by bishops to their dioceses. And the word hardly makes it to the parish level.

An official with the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference told me last year that this disconnect was a real problem.

Will this change if the immigration debate becomes nasty, as it promises to do? How many priests and ministers and rabbis will want to promote reform from their pulpits if people might grumble or hiss or leave?

Over the past few years, religious leaders in New York met to talk about crafting a pro-immigrant statement they could release jointly. But it never came to pass. Which tells you something.

When I interviewed Archbishop Dolan soon after he came to New York, he told me that he wanted to take the lead on immigration in New York. The Catholic Church should be leading pro-immigrant rallies New York, he said, not smaller Pentecostal churches.

We’ll see.

Here in LoHudland, nothing riles people up like immigration issues. The idea of amnesty for illegal immigrants makes people go nuts. Will Dolan and other religious leaders — Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran bishops, Reform and Conservative rabbis — speak up?

We shall see.

The Latino Pastoral Action Center in the Bronx is hosting a pro-reform rally for clergy on Monday. The announced speakers are all Hispanic, so far.

MFA-logo-blueADD: I didn’t mention that a large rally for immigration reform will be held in Washington on Wednesday, March 21. Organizers say that tens of thousands will attend.

The rally is being organized and supported by dozens of religious groups.

Interestingly, the slogan for the “March for America” is “Change takes courage and faith.”