Faith & Values

A news blog about religion and values in Anchorage.

John Paul II beatification announcement expected - 1/13/2011 12:24 pm

Mourning in America - 1/9/2011 9:15 pm

Defender of religious freedom gunned down in Pakistan - 1/5/2011 8:26 am

"God in America" coming to PBS - 9/30/2010 9:40 pm

Rainn Wilson on faith - 9/15/2010 10:55 am

Glenn Beck's Lincoln Memorial rally - 8/31/2010 9:27 am

Anchor Park United Methodist Church reaches out - 8/27/2010 8:18 pm

Greek festival at Holy Transfiguration Church - 8/22/2010 8:56 pm

Feds investigate Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles

The Wall Street Journal and other news sites are reporting that federal authorities are looking into whether the Archdiocese of Los Angeles covered up the sexual abuse of children by priests.
The diocese was hit hard by allegations that it didn't do enough to root out abusive priests. It is the largest diocese in the nation.
The State of California has also been investigating the diocese for several years for its failure to supervise its priests.

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New leader of Russian Orthodox Church

Metropolitan Kirill has been elected Patriarch in the Church's first leadership position since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Kirill has been the acting head since Alexy II died in December.
Similar to the election of Pope Benedict XVI we saw several years ago, Kirill was elected in a secret ballot of priests, monks and lay people in Moscow. He becomes the 16th patriarch and head of a church that finds itself richer and more influential in post-Soviet Russia. He is a popular figure in Russia, according to the Times of London.

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New bishop in Juneau arrives in April

Pope Benedict XVI named Monsignor Edward J. Burns the new bishop of the Diocese of Juneau. Burns will be up here in April to take over.

He is the rector of Saint Paul Seminary of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh diocesan vocations director.

Burns will be ordained at Saint Paul Cathedral, Pittsburgh, on Tuesday, March 3. He will be installed as bishop in Juneau on Thursday, April 2.

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Pope reinstates Holocaust-denying bishop

The New York Times is reporting that Pope Benedict XVI reinstated an excommunicated bishop and three other bishops who were ex-communicated 20 years ago because they made bishops in unsanctioned consecrations by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a staunch opponent of the church's attempts to modernize. Lefebvre was also excommunicated at the time by Pope John Paul II. The Vatican has been trying to mend the schism between Lefebvrists and the Catholic Church for many years.
Benedict has made some concessions to the Society of St. Pius X, which Lefebvre founded, such as allowing the broader celebration of the Latin Mass, which was made optional in the 1960s.

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Catholic-Jewish relations fray

Relations between the Catholic Church and Jews have never been too cozy, but until relatively recently, they had thawed.
But since Benedict XVI's time as Rome's bishop began, tensions have escalated.
In 2007, when German bishops visited the West Bank, Bishop Gregor Hanke of Eichstaett compared the situation of Palestinians with that of Jews pushed into ghettos in Warsaw in occupied Poland during World War II. Then earlier this month, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, likened the Gaza Strip to a concentration camp. The Anti-Defamation League called Martino's line "shocking and disgraceful."

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He said "Jesus"

The Rev. Rick Warren has delivered his invocation at today's inauguration of Barack Obama as president.
As expected, he invoked the name of Jesus Christ, but really in reference to how Jesus has been a part of his life. He did not make any claims that Jesus serves that purpose or should serve that purpose for all Americans.
He also said this: "We are so grateful to live in this land," and went on to describe the historic moment of the nation's first African-American president.

I thought two moments, religiously speaking, were more interesting.

In his address, Obama gave a nod to people of faith and those who profess no faith:

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More on the inauguration

On the last post, I wrote about how V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church said the invocation at yesterday's star-packed concert at the Lincoln Memorial. I looked for the concert itself on television, but since I don't have premium cable, I didn't see it. It was on HBO, apparently. Plus, I was a bit caught up in the Philadelphia Eagles-Arizona Cardinals game.
Anyway, AfterElton.com is reporting that HBO says it didn't broadcast Robinson's prayer because the Obama people wanted it kept as part of the "pre-show."

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Obama's inauguration and prayer

The Associated Press is reporting that President-elect Barack Obama has angered just about everybody with his selection of clergy and religious believers who are going to offer prayers or speak at the inauguration Tuesday.
Ingrid Mattson, the first woman president of the Islamic Society of North America. Mattson was in Anchorage last year as part of the "Engaging Muslims" series that APU and UAA helped organize.
On the one hand, Obama is welcoming the Rev. Rick Warren, a very popular evangelical pastor, author of "The Purpose Driven Life" and an opponent of same-sex marriage. On the other hand, he has also asked V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, to pray at Sunday's kickoff for the inauguration at the Lincoln Memorial.

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Founder of First Things is dead at 72

The founder of First Things: the Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life, died last night. Father Richard John Neuhaus was a Lutheran convert to Catholicism who then was ordained a priest.
He found ways to connect evangelical Christians with Catholics as few have.
A note on the Web site explains more.

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Atheists in Europe launch campaign

Sparked by a string of Christian marketing campaigns, atheists in London and Barcelona have taken to buying advertising on buses to advertise their lack of faith. Some 800 buses around Britain will be sporting the message, which says, "There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." The New York Times did a story about this a couple of days ago. Today, the excellent PRI/BBC program "The World" did one about the campaign in Spain.

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Sexual abuse of children in the Fairbanks Diocese

You probably saw this story in Daily News this morning about how claims of abuse against the Catholic Diocese of Fairbankshave doubled since the diocese went the way of the Portland, Ore., Tucson, Ariz., and San Diego dioceses and sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Dec. 2 was the final day for claimants to file the necessary paperwork.
Another sad day for the Catholic Church in an ongoing story that is far from over.
A couple of points I'd like to make: Though I think most of the individual stories about the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church over the past several years have been fair, many news organizations have failed to put this sexual abuse in context. Few stories have explained that this kind of abuse unfortunately happens in all kinds of situations for children, not just in church settings, but in families, schools, sports and elsewhere. And certainly it is not just a Catholic issue. It's a question of power and authority. I'm not denying that priests wield a lot of power over children. But that power dynamic exists in other situations as well. Look at the rape trial that sent Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to prison.

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Enlightened reporting?

Reporters sometimes lose the context of religion in their reporting. As religion scholar Stephen Prothero in "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn't" has pointed out, even well-educated Americans don't know very much about religion. That's true of many reporters who are asked to cover issues tinged with religion.
Take the reporting about about the death of John Travolta's son, Jett. He died last week at age 16 at the family's vacation home in the Bahamas. The family did an autopsy and found that he died of a seizure disorder.
Immediately, some reporters have felt they must ask whether Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston, who are prominent Scientologists, treated their son's disorder.

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Merry Christmas...If you're Orthodox Christian

It's Christmas Day for Russian Orthodox. Yesterday, Jan. 6, was the Feast of the Epiphany. In Russian Orthodox homes, that Christmas Eve.
In my household, it was an occasion for gift-giving. My Peruvian parents celebrated Christmas, of course, on Dec. 25. We wouldn't get nearly the kind of swag our friends and neighbors received, but definitely there were gifts for the four of us. Then on Jan. 6, on Three Kings' Day, my mom especially would make sure she had something special for us. This year, my brother sent my 9-month-old daughter a t-shirt that brought back a lot of memories. It has the Fisher-Price little toys on it. I don't know what those little dolls are called, but my brother and I spent hours playing that as kids. So it was a thoughtful and perfectly timed gift to celebrate the Epiphany. Most years, I try to keep the tree up until Jan. 6 and take it down that day, but lately my trees haven't been lasting quite that long. This year's came down on Jan. 3.

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Seen on Tudor Road

Driving east on Tudor Road toward Lake Otis, you might have noticed a sign that says "Peace is the way," and another that reads, "Believe in nonviolence."
The Quakers put up those signs to call attention to the fact that they hold their meeting at 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Mary's Episcopal Church on the southwest corner of Tudor Road and Lake Otis.
The signs are subtle, but they are indicative of the competitive spirit of U.S. religion that even the Quakers have to market themselves. According to some studies, there are only about 250,000 Quakers nationwide. If you want to find out more about the Quakers, who abide by their nonviolence and truth-telling, go on Sunday.

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Holding on to faith

The New York Times has a tender story about parishioners in Boston keeping vigil for four years in one church that the Archdiocese of Boston is trying to sell. Four years of keeping someone in the church at all times so that diocese officials don't come in and remove them and sell the building and the property to fill the gap in its finances, made worse by the scandal over clergy abusing children.
What some of these Boston parishioners have found is that while their faith and sense of community has grown, their regard for the church hierarchy has not.

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Dominican rite mass

The Archdiocese of Anchorage is now offering the ancient Dominican rite mass. This mass will be celebrated at noon the first Saturday of the month at Holy Family Cathedral. I missed this past Saturday's mass. But I plan to be there in February.
The Catholic Church has almost two dozen different rites, such as Roman, Coptic and Byzantine. These different rites incorporate different traditions into the Mass.
The Dominican rite is celebrated in Latin, the traditional sacred liturgical language of the Catholic Church. The priest also faces the altar, rather than the congregation. Communicants receive communion kneeling in this form of the Mass as well.

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If you're wanting to make and stick with new year's resolutions

Try to keep a few things in mind as you dream up how you'll be a new and improved person in 2009.
First off, I write down my resolutions. I didn't do this in 2008, and I regret. It helps to formulate what you want to accomplish on paper.
Next, I thry to keep my resolutions realistic and positive. I don't say, "Lose weight." Well, for one thing, that's not an area I need to work on. But I would focus on eating better and exercising more regularly. I already eat well and exercise a lot. Still, I do want to eat more heathily, particularly when I go for a snack.
For me, one thing I need to work on is staying in a good mood, not letting petty things make me feel sour. So I might phrase it this way: "Be mindful of petty annoyances." Then I'd set out some tasks to work on, including letting friends or my husband "cheer" me up.

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Festivals of lights

Jews started celebrating Hanukkah last night, which commemorates the Jewish people's victory over oppressors who wanted them to assimilate. The hero of the story, Judah Maccabee, hid for four years. When the Jews reclaimed their temple, they lit the flame with a bit of oil they thought would last just one night. The oil lasted eight nights.
The Jewish faith is hardly the only one that marks the darker days on the calendar in some sort of way.
When my mom was still teaching, she organized a project for her students to mark the winter solstice. Some Europeans did this by lighting candles and using evergreens as symbols of life continuing even in the dead of winter. A student of my mom's, a Hindu, chimed in to say, "We have our own festival of lights, too."

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At the intersection of Muhammad Ali Boulevard and Thomas Merton Square

I just got back from Louisville, Ky., where I spent a couple of days for work. Since I had never been there, I took the two hours before the meeting I was attended ended and I had to get to the airport to visit the Muhammad Ali Center.
I jogged up to the center from the hotel a few blocks away, and I couldn't help but notice that I had come to the intersection of Muhammad Ali Boulevard and Thomas Merton Square.
Most human beings older than 35 know who Muhammad Ali is. Born Cassius M. Clay V in segregated Louisville, he started boxing at age 12. A few weeks later, he appeared on a local TV show and won a bout. His professional boxing debut started soon after he won gold at the Rome Olympics in 1960. He joined the Nation of Islam in the early 1960s, and was given the name Muhammad Ali by the Nation of Islam's founder, Elijah Muhammad. He was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title when he refused to be drafted to serve in the Vietnam War, and became a voice for a new kind of assertiveness hitherto rarely expressed by young black men. During his years as a boxing champion, and especially afterward, Ali has devoted himself to peace, justice and philanthropy.

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Mourning the dead in India

Yesterday was a day for celebrating our lives and the many blessings we have. But for many families in India, it is a time of mourning their dead.
In yet another senseless attack on innocent people, about 150 people are reported dead in the violence in Mumbai, formerly Bombay.
The New York Times has a story about a young couple from Brooklyn who moved to Mumbai a couple of years ago and were killed at Nariman House, a Jewish outreach center in Mumbai.
Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, leave a son, Moshe, who turns 2 tomorrow.

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