Southern Religion

[Updated] Vatican to investigate Legionaries

Legionaries of Christ

The Vatican has decided to end the foot-dragging of the Legionaries of Christ with its own investigation.

Announced in a letter by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Posted on the order’s Web site, that letter said the pontiff had decided to intervene “so that with truth and transparency, in a climate of fraternal and constructive dialogue, you will overcome the present difficulties.”

The investigation is unusual and results from events preceding and following the February disclosure by Legionaries of Christ officials in Rome that the order’s founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, had fathered a child. Maciel had previously been credibly accused of sexually abusing young seminarians in the order. There are concerns about cult-like behavior, bolstered recently by publication of one of the order’s manuals. And there are concerns about financial irregularities.

The investigation is an apostolic visitation. CNS explains:

Apostolic visitation is a form of internal church investigation ordered by a pope and undertaken by his delegate or delegates. The pope sets the jurisdiction and powers of the visitation, which usually ends with the submission of a report to the Holy See.

As Cath News argued some time ago, Vatican intervention is required because “the current Mexican leadership of the Legionaries is not up to the challenge of dissociating the organisation from the sexual and financial wrongdoings of the founder.”

As we have suggested since February, Maciel’s history of predation and cult leadership style inevitably shaped the order’s culture. An outside investigation was required.


The letter announcing the visitation to the Legionaires of Christ is here, on the order’s web site.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on [Updated] Vatican to investigate Legionaries

Notre Dame/Obama uproar is a right-wing ploy

Uproar over President Obama’s upcoming commencement address at Notre Dame is, Gallup Poll data suggests, a right-wing organizing ploy.

Most Catholics don’t share the views of the angry Catholic bishops and right-wing activists who created and are sustaining this apparent confligration, as Gallup explains:

The argument of those who protest the extension of the invitation to Obama is that Catholics have a distinctly conservative position on these moral issues. That is certainly the case as far as official church doctrine is concerned, but not when it comes to average American Catholics. The new Gallup analysis, based on aggregated data from Gallup’s 2006-2008 Values and Beliefs surveys, indicates that Catholics in the United States today are actually more liberal than the non-Catholic population on a number of moral issues, and on others, Catholics have generally the same attitudes.

Frequency of church attendance is an almost unerring predictor of American political conservatism. Yet even Catholics who regularly attend church are more liberal than non-Catholics who go to church regularly:

Regular churchgoers who are Catholic are significantly more liberal than churchgoing non-Catholics on gambling, sex before marriage, homosexual relations, having a baby out of wedlock, and divorce. Committed Catholics are at least slightly more likely than devout non-Catholics to say that abortion and embryonic stem-cell research — the two key issues highlighted by those protesting Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame — are morally acceptable. Only on the death penalty are committed Catholics more conservative than regular churchgoers who are not Catholic.

moral acceptability by church attendance and affiliation

Lacking sufficient support among those for whom they speak, Bishops who in the name of being prophetic seek to call down fire on Notre Dame’s invitation to Obama, and right wing activists who seek to energize and add to the number of their followers, are both further dividing themselves from the majority of U.S. Catholics.

They can expect to see themselves less well-heeded after this conflict than before. The opposite of their intentions.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Politics, Religion | , | Comments Off on Notre Dame/Obama uproar is a right-wing ploy

‘A Divine Comedy’

From Herman Krieger’sChurches Ad Hoc: A Divine Comedy:”

Churches Ad Hoc: A Divine Comedy

Serioiusly, it’s funny. Worth a visit.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Cultural, WWW | , | Comments Off on ‘A Divine Comedy’

Finland still refusing to extradite Baptist minister accused of genocide

The case of a Rwandan Baptist minister accused of genocide took a disturbing turn today when his defense argued that police tortured witnesses to extract evidence against him.

According to YLE:

The 57-year-old suspect sought political asylum in Finland in 2003. The man was arrested in 2007 on suspicion of planning, leading and implementing massacres. Suspicions were aroused in connection with a background study during the consideration of his asylum application.

Finland stands by its refusal to extradite the individual to Rwanda. He is in custody, however. Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation expects to have its inquiry completed by summer. An extension of tomorrow’s deadline for filing charges has been requested.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Crime, Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off on Finland still refusing to extradite Baptist minister accused of genocide

God saves souls, not planets, warns the archbishop

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams called for a “radical change of heart” to prevent runaway climate change that will otherwise afflict our children and grandchildren and whose early effects already punish the least among us.

Speaking at the Ebor Lecture, he said:

God’s faithfulness stands, assuring us that even in the most appalling disaster love will not let us go – but it will not be a safety net that guarantees a happy ending in this world.

Listen to the lecture with questions and answers, here [.mp3]. Or read the entire lecture here.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | environment, Health, Religion | , , | Comments Off on God saves souls, not planets, warns the archbishop

Who is burned now by the fire a bishop summons?

Margaret O’Brien Steinfels of dotCommonweal suggests a bishop other than D’Arcy say amid the Notre Dame/Obama uproar:

Brothers, once when bishops leveled penalties, the effect was to isolate the miscreant from society. Now the effect seems to be to isolate us. Before we take that as a sign of how close to perdition everyone else is, perhaps we should think about our own inadequacies in dealing with the world around us.

Read here entire piece here. Then consider the reflections of victims of clerical sexual abuse on the past silence of “bishops from Phoenix to Rome” on those issues.

Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today writes

“It’s galling, really galling, that they are so eager to speak out now on things they have no influence at all, when they kept silent when they could have done some real good,” says David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). . . . They are grandstanding to score points with with the Catholic right wing, just as Mahony and O’Malley were grandstanding to the left with their gratuitous denunciation of Bishop Williamson.

Does the contrast between past quiet and current political involvement begin to explain their collective loss of authority?

March 28, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Religion | , , , | 1 Comment

FBC Jax Watchdog warning about involvement with a Charlotte, N.C., Christian television network

Watchdog is unhappy that First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., broadcasts on the Inspiration Network.

Watch the WCNC investigative video to decide whether you agree with Watchdog that affiliation with this group is lamentable. Chances are good that you will be troubled by at least part of what you learn.

Watchdog notes that FBC pastor Mac Brunson asked for a special offering last Easter to raise $180,000 to purchase Inspiration Network air time.

Then, illustrating why his blog has received such a Byzantine reaction from the leadership of FBC Jax, says:

I, for one, could not donate money to any organization that gives money or is associated with these “Televangelist Gunslingers”, as this report calls them. I can’t believe any bible-believing church would need to affiliate with the likes of these folks to spread the gospel.

Why, indeed? Not the kind of question the powerful always field well.

March 28, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Religion | , , , , , , | Comments Off on FBC Jax Watchdog warning about involvement with a Charlotte, N.C., Christian television network

Who is transgressing your church firewall?

How effective are your church firewall and security policies against those who wish to break in and perhaps steal?

March 28, 2009 Posted by | Crime, Law, Uncategorized, WWW | , | Comments Off on Who is transgressing your church firewall?

Palin prayer on the campaign trail

Sarah Palin said this week that the campaign trail was short of acceptable prayer partners, and former staff members feel cut. You can see why:

“So I’m looking around for somebody to pray with, I just need maybe a little help, maybe a little extra,” she said. “And the McCain campaign, love ’em, you know, they’re a lot of people around me, but nobody I could find that I wanted to hold hands with and pray.” As the crowd laughed, Palin grinned and said she meant no disrespect to the McCain campaign. She said she ultimately prayed with her daughter Piper.

Sen. John McCain didn’t clarify things when in answer to a question at the Heritage Foundation this week he said:

Over 50 million people voted for me and Sarah Palin—mostly for Sarah Palin.


March 28, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion, Uncategorized | , , | Comments Off on Palin prayer on the campaign trail

Faith-based condom distribution

The United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ have joined together in support of distribution of condoms and comprehensive sexual education by houses of worship and faith-based education institutions.


Their initiative contradicts recommendations which follow from Pope Benedict XVI’s plane-board statement during his visit to Africa that “You can’t resolve [AIDS] with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, the UCC’s executive for health and wholeness advocacy, urges a more scientific and compassionate approach to the prevention of HIV. “The availability of condoms as part of a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention sends the right message and more importantly, it saves lives.”

Shuenemeyer said, “The message is rooted in the belief that loving carefully is a moral responsibility. The practice of safer sex behavior is a matter of life and death. People of faith make condoms available because we have chosen life so that we and our children may live.”

The United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network (UCAN) speaks directly to a key issue in the raging international debate over condoms and sex education, and is on sound behavioral ground, when it says:

There is no evidence that making condoms available promotes sexual activity. In fact, condoms, when distributed with educational materials and integrated into a broader, more comprehensive prevention package, have been shown to delay sexual debut among those who are not sexually active. Among sexually active youth, HIV prevention education programs have resulted in a reduced number of partners and increased condom use.

UCAN says making them available does provide “opportunities to open conversations that can save lives. In this context, condoms become educational tools.”

They are in good faith striving to follow the best available science.

March 28, 2009 Posted by | Health, Politics, Religion | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment