Friday, 31 August 2018

Australian Roman Catholic leaders refuse to violate confidentiality of confession to report child abuse

As reported by Agence France-Presse, August 31, 2018 (links inserted by London Daily Telegraph):

Australian Catholic leaders vowed on Friday that the church's "shameful" history of child abuse and cover-ups will never be repeated, but rejected a national inquiry's call to report such assaults disclosed in confession.

The church was formally responding to a five-year royal commission into institutional child abuse, ordered by the government after a decade of pressure to investigate widespread allegations across the country.

"Many bishops failed to listen, failed to believe, and failed to act," said Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge.

"Those failures allowed some abusers to offend again and again, with tragic and sometimes fatal consequences. The bishops and leaders of religious orders pledge today: Never again."

The commission was contacted by more than 15,000 survivors who detailed harrowing claims of abuse involving churches, orphanages, sporting clubs, youth groups and schools, often dating back decades.

Among the inquiry's recommendations was that priests break the traditional confidentiality of confession if they are told of abuse, but the church said such a requirement impinged on religions liberties and was "non-negotiable".

"This isn't because we regard ourselves as being above the law or because we don't think the safety of children is supremely important - we do," said Coleridge.

"But we don't accept... safeguarding and the seal (of confession) as mutually exclusive. Nor do we believe that abolishing the seal will make children any safer."

In its response the church argued that a perpetrator or victim might be less likely to raise abuse in confession if confidence in the sacramental seal was undermined.

"So an opportunity would be lost to encourage a perpetrator to self-report to civil authorities or victims to seek safety," it said.

The inquiry also called for celibacy among priests to be voluntary, and Australian Catholics agreed to seek expert theological and canonical advice in consultation with the Holy See on the issue.

The royal commission, which heard horrific stories during often emotionally exhausting public and private hearings, delivered its final report in December.

It found that Australian institutions "seriously failed" children in their care with tens of thousands sexually assaulted.

During the hearings, it was told that seven percent of Catholic priests in Australia were accused of abuse between 1950 and 2010, but the allegations were never investigated, with children ignored and even punished when they came forward.

Coleridge acknowledged the church's "colossal failures" in Australia, like elsewhere in the world, had left it damaged.

"We know that only actions, not words, can rebuild trust. And until trust is rebuilt, all the apologies in the world will miss the mark," he said.

"There will be no cover-ups, there will be no transferring of people accused of abuse, there will be no placing of the reputation of the church above the safety of children.

"We will respond swiftly to accusations against church personnel. We will improve our governance structures, we will be more transparent, and we will listen."

Sister Monica Cavanagh, president of Catholic Religious Australia, said the church accepted 98 percent of the recommendations, calling the inquiry "an important and necessary period for the Australian community".

"The process is already under way to reform the church's practices to ensure that safeguarding is integral in all that we do as part of our ministry and outreach in the community," she said.

"Making the church a safer place for our children and vulnerable persons is at the heart of our commitment to mission."
I can't resist mentioning that it was 425 years ago today--August 31, 1593--that Pierre Barrière was executed by breaking on the wheel and dismemberment, four days after attempting to assassinate King Henri IV of France (justice was swift and sure in those days). Mr. Barrière was denounced by a Dominican priest to whom he had confessed the crime; obviously the priest didn't consider the confessional sacred and confidential in that case.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

LDS President wants to discard the word "Mormon"

As reported by Peggy Fletcher Stack and Scott D. Pierce of the Salt Lake Tribune, August 16, 2018 (updated August 23, 2018) (bold, links in original):

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really, truly, absolutely wants to be known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Not the LDS Church. Not the Mormon church.

It made that clear Thursday — even though the last attempt to eradicate those nicknames for the Utah-based faith flopped.

The new push came from God to President Russell M. Nelson, the church said in a news release Thursday.

“The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name he has revealed for his church,” Nelson is quoted as saying, “even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

The faith’s headquarters in Salt Lake City and Latter-day Saints across the globe have much “work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with his will,” the 93-year-old Nelson said in the statement. “In recent weeks, various church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so.”

Thursday’s statement — released on mormonnewsroom.org — referred readers to the “updated Newsroom style guide,” which calls on news organizations to follow these instructions:

• Use the full name — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — on first reference.

• Refer to “the Church,” the “Church of Jesus Christ” or the “restored Church of Jesus Christ” in shortened or subsequent references.

• Avoid using the abbreviation “LDS” or the nickname “Mormon” as substitutes for the church’s name, as in “Mormon Church,” “LDS Church” or “Church of the Latter-day Saints.”

• Refer to members as “members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” or “Latter-day Saints,” not “Mormons.”

The new guidelines also state that “‘Mormonism’ is inaccurate and should not be used,” and that the term “‘the restored gospel of Jesus Christ’ is accurate and preferred.”

The style edict says “Mormon” is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon, the faith’s signature scripture, or when used as an adjective in historical expressions such as “Mormon Trail.”

Still, many believing observers are skeptical that this drive will be any more successful than a similar effort to jettison “Mormon” that launched before the 2002 Winter Olympics. That attempt ended a decade later with a return to the long-standing and, in some quarters, beloved nickname “Mormon.”

Rocky Anderson, who was Salt Lake City’s mayor from 2000 to 2008, diligently followed the dominant church’s request back then — even using “the Church of Jesus Christ” on second reference, which sometimes earned jeers even from faithful Latter-day Saints.

“It was really awkward,” Anderson said Thursday. “I did find it a mouthful.”

What’s in a name?

For authorities such as Nelson, the faith’s name is more than branding.

After its founding in 1830, the church was known variously as The Church of Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ and even The Church of the Latter-day Saints. In 1838, it became The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when church founder Joseph Smith received what was recorded as a revelation from God:

“For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Smith declared in Doctrine and Covenants 115:4.

Blogger Steve Evans, founder of By Common Consent, sees Nelson’s effort as “fighting for the divinely revealed name of the church in the hearts and minds of the members.”

In a 1990 speech (a year after former church President Ezra Taft Benson sang “I Am a Mormon Boy” from the pulpit), Nelson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke of the importance of using the church’s full name.

“He views it as something sacred, which I respect,” Evans said. “But the initiative won’t succeed — if success means getting everyone to stop using the terms ‘Mormon’ or ‘LDS Church.’”

Evans predicts this undertaking will only “confuse outsiders,” he said. “I don’t think it substantively alters external perspectives of the church, but I do think it makes us look a little persnickety.”

The church already has “a popular brand — why not embrace it and use it? … We should be leveraging those names instead, while simultaneously teaching the real name of the church and reinforcing why it is something holy to us.”

LDS blogger Jana Riess, a senior columnist for Religion News Service, also believes the drive may fail.

“It would be extremely unlikely for the majority of journalists to adopt this new style,” she said, “in part because the church has not provided a single-word term that is as descriptive as ‘Mormon’ or ‘LDS.’”

When people plug “the Church of Jesus Christ” into a Google search, Riess said, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “is not going to come up.”

And Latter-day Saints themselves likely will continue to use the only monikers they’ve used their whole lives, she said, but now “might feel guilty about it.”

In academia, “Mormonism” is by far the preferred term, said Patrick Mason, head of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California.

In addition to Claremont, there are three other professorships in “Mormon studies” — at the University of Utah, Utah State University and the University of Virginia.

“I cannot imagine a university approving a professorship in ‘Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint Studies’ or ‘Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ Studies,’” Mason wrote in an email. “‘Mormonism’ and ‘Mormon’ will continue to be dominant in the academy.”

Mason has a personal stake in this. He has just published a book called “What Is Mormonism?” Still, the LDS scholar concedes that Mormonism “has always been a fraught and imprecise term.”

Beyond the main body

Does “Mormon” apply equally to members of the mainstream LDS Church, the Community of Christ, the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and all other religious descendants of Joseph Smith and the early Latter-day Saint movement, Mason asked, “or just to the LDS Church?”

Some people are upset when “Mormonism” is used synonymously with the LDS Church and its members — as if they are the only “Mormons” and all the other groups don’t exist, he said, while members of the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) say “they don’t want to be called ‘Mormons,’ because they associate the term with the Utah-based LDS Church.”

Such confusion may have been part of the reason for this move, said historian Matthew Bowman, author of “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith.”

“This strikes me as a move toward boundary maintenance, in both the manner of its presentation and the fact of it,” Bowman wrote in an email. “Nelson’s language asserts his revelatory authority and implicitly contrasts that authority with the common vernacular of the world. He frames language use here as a matter of discipline and loyalty. The nomenclature he offers stresses the uniqueness of the church.”

Bowman said that, in the end, “this effort seems to me an attempt to emphasize the distinctiveness of the church.”

A global faith

Wilfried Decoo, a Latter-day Saint writer and professor in Belgium, understands his faith’s desire to be seen as “Christian” by urging everyone to use its full name.

By rejecting “Mormon” as short for the church, Decoo wrote in a 2011 essay, “we give up the key element of our international brand name, recognizable in all languages.”

In another language, for example, “Latter-day Saints” is translated as: “I am a Holy Being of the Almost Final Period.”

“This policy kind of shows how parochial-American someone at the top thinks without any clue of international semantics,” he said Thursday from his home in Europe. “I don’t think it will have any effect outside of the church, and even inside … It’s just impossible to enforce.”

Gordon B. Hinckley, who became church president in 1995, understood the dilemma.

“‘The Mormon church,’ of course, is a nickname. And nicknames have a way of becoming fixed,” he preached in the October 1990 General Conference. “I suppose that regardless of our efforts, we may never convert the world to general use of the full and correct name of the church. Because of the shortness of the word ‘Mormon’ and the ease with which it is spoken and written, they will continue to call us the Mormons, the Mormon church, and so forth.”

Hinckley recalled a member in England telling him: “While I’m thankful for the privilege of being a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of the church which bears his name, I am not ashamed of the nickname ‘Mormon.’”

When someone asked him about it, the man replied, “‘Mormon’ means ‘more good.’”

Hinckley knew that wasn’t the actual meaning, but adopted the man’s thinking about the tag.

“We may not be able to change the nickname,” the affable leader concluded, “but we can make it shine with added luster.”

After all, Hinckley said, Mormon is the “name of a man who was a great [Book of Mormon] prophet who struggled to save his nation, and also the name of a book which is a mighty testament of eternal truth, a veritable witness of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This blogger finds the Latter-day Saints' desire to drop the word "Mormon" to be rather suspicious, as I remember seeing television commercials for the church in the 1980s where they referred to themselves as the Mormons. I suspect that the move is not only to continue the LDS practice of deceiving people into believing that they're actually Christians, but may also be because the word "Mormon" may have negative connotations, which begs the question as to why "Mormon" may have negative connotations. Could it be because when people hear the word "Mormon" they think of the word "cult?"

This reminds me of when Amway in North America tried using the name Quixtar in the early 2000s. Could that have been because the name Amway brought to mind thoughts of deceptive marketing practices? If I recall correctly, the television commercials for Quixtar mentioned it as being formerly Amway, which tended to negate whatever the purpose of the name change may have been.

I doubt that the Latter-day Saints will be successful in getting the word "Mormon" dropped from common use; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is just too long a name to be used comfortably in conversation or writing, and "Mormon" has been around too long to be discarded. I'm not the only one who's doubtful that Russell Nelson's desire will be realized (and I hardly need say, but will do so anyway, that the "God" who spoke to Dr. Nelson is a false god--a "god" who was once a man and is an extraterrestrial from a planet near a star called Kolob). According to Ms. Stack in the Salt Lake Tribune, August 27, 2018 (links in original):

So if “Mormon,” “Mormonism” and “LDS” are out, what’s in?

Go ahead. You find an appropriate one-word stand-in for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its people and its principles.

It must be clear and universally acceptable. It must tie the Utah-based faith to Christianity and its own history without confusing it with other denominations.

Oh, and it must be short, recognizable and straightforward. You know, like “Mormon.”

Moments after church President Russell M. Nelson announced last week that God told him to reinforce the faith’s full name and eschew its long-standing nicknames, speculation sprang up about alternatives.

We posed the question on social media and got hundreds of responses — some creative, some snarky, some silly, but none satisfying.

The Church Formerly Known as Mormon? May have worked for rock artist Prince, who died in 2016, but it violates church leaders’ request by including the very word they are trying to downplay.

Because “Latter-day Saint” is approved, how about Latter-day Saintism? Nah, too easily confused with more devilish devotions.

Ex-Mo or anti-Mo? Don’t go there.

Latter-day Sainthood (Laddies or Latties, for short)? Too haughty and presumptuous, perhaps.

Ziontology? Clever, yes, but ask Scientologists how that would fly.

TCOJCOLDS (pronounced Taco J. Colds)? An anagram lover’s dream but a marketer’s nightmare.

You see, if there were an obvious solution, it probably would have been trotted out already — and caught on.

A name or emphasis change is hardly an unreasonable request, but it’s especially tough for institutions to implement (think the New Coke).

Back in the 1990s, some folks quietly questioned the decision by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to switch to the Community of Christ, a vague-sounding nomenclature that meant reporters routinely would add (formerly RLDS) to explain the religion’s roots.

The problem for the Salt Lake City-headquartered faith is that “Mormon” is the most commonly used one-word moniker both inside and out of the 16 million-member church. It is familiar, easy and distinctive — and has been part of the lexicon for nearly 200 years.

Latter-day Saint authorities propose using “the Church” or “the Church of Jesus Christ” for shortened references, but the latter has a long association with other Christian faiths and the former is vague and could mean any church anywhere.

Besides, “The Church” traditionally refers to the Roman Catholic Church, which, with its 1.2 billion members, is by far the world’s largest Christian faith.

Lots of groups would lay claim to the “Church of Jesus Christ,” including Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ and the numerous Churches of God in Christ (which often take a parenthesis to know they are Pentecostals).

A Latter-day Saint offshoot even has the website address thechurchofjesuschrist.org.

All this breeds confusion, not the clarity Nelson craves.

Some wonder if reporters or academics could say, on second references, The Church of Jesus Christ (Mormon), tying the two together — as earlier Latter-day Saint media ads did.

Would it be OK to dub the group Jesus Mormons? Nope, there’s that pesky term again.

How about Latter-day Saint Christians? That’s feasible. After all, church officials said “Latter-day Saints” is an acceptable substitute for members.

In fact, before the church’s full, formal name was spelled out in 1838 by founder Joseph Smith, many members called it the “Church of the Latter-day Saints.” But church brass specifically rejected that name for the institution in the style guide that accompanied Nelson’s pronouncement.

Through the decades, the term “Mormon” — the name of an ancient prophet in the faith’s foundational scripture, the Book of Mormon — became dominant and “Latter-day Saints” faded from public recognition.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, the church pushed the public and members to drop “Mormon” in favor of “Latter-day Saints” or “LDS Church” as an attempt to counter the perception that members and their church were not part of the Christian family. It even adopted a new logo that emphasizes Jesus Christ by casting his name in larger letters.

The effort mostly failed. By 2010, the church reversed itself and wholeheartedly re-embraced “Mormon.” It spent millions promoting the “I’m a Mormon” ad blitz and two feature documentaries titled “Meet the Mormons.”

So is “Latter-day Saints” — or just “Saints” — a good replacement for all that? Meet the Saints. I’m a Saint.

Some members feel squeamish about calling themselves “Saints,” fearing that it sounds self-laudatory and self-serving.

Indeed, “Saint” generally is associated with an especially holy Catholic or Orthodox Christian — not to mention a prominent pro football team.

As to the word “Mormonism,” it covers many traditions and beliefs that track their origin to Joseph Smith, including the Community of Christ, ahem, RLDS.

Some have suggested members be called “Brighamites,” a throwback tag given to the main body of Latter-day Saints who followed Brigham Young along the Mormon Trail (the church gives a pass to the trail reference since it’s historic) to the Great Basin.

Clearly, coming up with a worthy replacement for “Mormon” is a tall order. Even the church-owned Deseret News needs time to devise one for its weekly Mormon Times content.

“We are currently evaluating potential names for this section,” Editor Doug Wilks writes, “and will make a change in coming weeks.” (The newspaper has dropped Mormon Times from its website.)

“Mormonism” has been a handy term, says Latter-day Saint scholar Richard Bushman, an emeritus history professor at Columbia University, to describe a bigger religious reality than a single faith group.

“We are a church. We are a gospel. We are a priesthood and an organization,” he says in the latest Salt Lake Tribune “Mormon Land” podcast. “But something larger has been created from that. ... We are a people, almost an ethnicity, and a culture that emanates from the people.”

Nelson’s injunction is no trivial exercise, Bushman says. It is forcing Latter-day Saints to “rethink who we are and what these words amount to.”

Stuart Reid, a former public affairs official who helped with the church’s earlier effort to drop “Mormon,” sees Nelson’s motivation as more expansive than a simple rebranding.

It is the result of “revelation,” Reid says in the same “Mormon Land” episode. The prophet is preparing the faithful “for the Second Coming of Christ.”

Language does evolve so there’s no telling how outsiders or insiders will describe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints come 2050.

The word “Mormonism” could be little more than a vague echo of bygone days — or, if Reid is onto something, maybe the end of the world will already have happened.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Survey finds that nearly half of U.S. Jews don't identify with organized religion

It comes as a surprise to this blogger that the figure isn't higher, but perhaps it's more evidence that people are as likely to lie on religious surveys as they are on sex surveys. As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, August 29, 2018:

NEW YORK — Nearly half of U.S. Jews do not identify with organized religion, a new study by the Pew Research Center finds.

More than one in five, however, are considered “Sunday stalwarts” (or Saturday): those who “actively practice their faith, but they also are deeply involved in their religious congregations.”

The study published Wednesday defines how people practice their religion. It only includes Jews who define their religion as Judaism, or “Jews by religion.”

Conducted last December, the study of more than 4,700 respondents has a margin of error of 2.3 percent.

Among the seven categories, 45 percent of American Jews are listed in the two for the least religious: “religion resisters,” who believe in a higher power but have negative views of organized religion, or “solidly secular,” those who don’t believe in God and do not self-define as religious. The breakdown is 28 percent as “solidly secular” and 17 percent as “religion resisters.”

On the other end of the spectrum, 21 percent of Jews are “Sunday stalwarts.” Eight percent are “god-and-country believers,” who express their religion through political and social conservatism, and 5 percent are “diversely devout,” who follow the Bible but also believe in things like animism and reincarnation.

The somewhat religious are defined as either “relaxed religious” (14 percent), those who believe in God and pray but don’t engage in many traditional practices, or “spiritually awake” (8 percent), those who hold New Age beliefs and believe in heaven and hell.

Americans as a whole are more or less evenly divided among the seven groups. The largest three groups are “Sunday stalwarts,” “relaxed religious” and “solidly secular” at 17 percent each. The smallest are “god-and-country believers” and “religion resisters” at 12 percent each.

“Jewish Americans are the only religious group with substantial contingents at each end of the typology,” the study says.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Former papal nuncio to the United States calls for Pope Francis's resignation

As reported by Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa, August 26, 2018 (updated August 27, 2018):

The authorities of the Holy See had been aware since 2000 of the existence of accusations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrik, who was promoted at the end of that year Archbishop of Washington and created cardinal by John Paul II the following year: it was known that the prelate invited his seminarians to sleep with him in the beach house. This is what can be read in an 11-page document signed by Carlo Maria Viganò, former secretary of the Governorate and former apostolic nuncio to the United States, who was removed from the Vatican and sent to the diplomatic seat in Washington in 2011.

Viganò’s text is full of dates and circumstances, and is clearly addressed to Pope Francis, whose resignation the former nuncio is asking because, according to him, he would have lifted the existing sanctions against McCarrick after the 2013 conclave. The document gives details of rumors and information which have been already circulating in the past two months in the anti-papal and traditional American and European media galaxy, trying to attribute all responsibility on the shoulders of the current Pontiff.

Viganò affirms that the accusations of 2000, with written testimonies against McCarrick – who had been accused of harassing seminarians and young adult priests - were regularly transmitted by the apostolic nuncios who followed one another in the See of Washington, first Monsignor Gabriel Montalvo and then Monsignor Pietro Sambi. These reports, however, remained unanswered.

Viganò blames the Secretary of State Angelo Sodano - but also the Substitute Leonardo Sandri, now Cardinal Prefect for the Eastern Churches – for having covered up McCarrick. And on John Paul II, who in 2000 approved the nomination to Washington, and the following year the inclusion of the controversial archbishop in the College of Cardinals, Viganò wrote: “Was it Sodano to appoint McCarrick to Washington and to Cardinal, as John Paul II was already very ill? We are not given to know. However, I do not think he was solely responsible for this. McCarrick frequently went to Rome and made friends everywhere, at all levels of the Curia.

A second round of allegations against McCarrick is dated 2006. Viganò himself writes that he had prepared two detailed notes against the cardinal, forwarding them to his superiors - at that moment the Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone (accused of sponsoring too many homosexuals to positions of responsibility in the Curia and in the Church). The outcome of these notes also took a long time to arrive, although Viganò states that in 2009 or 2010 Benedict XVI decided to impose sanctions on the now resigned McCarrick, imposing him not to live in a seminary, not to appear or celebrate in public, not to travel. McCarrick, however, did not take these sanctions, which remained secret, seriously. It is enough to browse the web for a few minutes to realize that even after Pope Ratzinger’s alleged sanctions, the American Cardinal continued to celebrate in public and give lectures.

Finally, the last chapter: in June 2013 Viganò, during a private audience of June 2013, when asked by Francis about McCarrick, replied to the Pope that there was a dossier full of accusations against the cardinal at the Congregation for the Bishops. Viganò does not claim to have transmitted, that day, or subsequently, documents or accusations against McCarrick to the new Pope. But those few words exchanged were sufficient for him to affirm that Francis would not have behaved correctly, but would in some way have helped the elderly cardinal, who would also have become - the former nuncio affirms, in this case without going into detail or reporting any precise facts – a close counselor to the new Pope for American episcopal nominations. It should not be forgotten that McCarrick was no longer in office since 2006, but was a cardinal archbishop emeritus, without posts.

Beyond the details of a text that evidently fits into the personal ecclesial battles of a prelate who has never digested his departure from the Vatican by decision of Benedict XVI, and the instrumental use that is made of it in the battle waged by the anti-Francis fringe and its penetrations into the Church, international politics and the media, there remain some facts to be clarified.

The first concerns the appointment of McCarrick to Washington and above all his subsequent inclusion in the College of Cardinals. In 2000 Pope John Paul II was certainly not at the end of his days (he died five years later), and to make him pass as tired, sick and unable to make decisions seems rather improper. It must be assumed that Cardinal Sodano concealed decisive information from the Pontiff. News that came from the apostolic nuncio to Washington, who also had direct access to the Pope. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re - who according to Viganò, as a new Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops wrote down his opposition to McCarrick’s nomination - was a person close to the Pope and close to the powerful secretary of Pope Wojtyla, Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz. Why did no one tell the Pontiff of the accusations against the candidate for archbishopric of Washington and why no one blocked his subsequent nomination as cardinal?

The second fact concerns the period 2006-2013. Viganò assures us that there are secret sanctions against McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI and attacks McCarrick’s successor in Washington, Donald Wuerl, for pretending he did not know. These sanctions obliged the cardinal harasser of seminarians and and young adult priests to retire from the public to a life of prayer and penance, without appearing or celebrating in public. Why did McCarrick not obey these sanctions and continue to do what he did before as a retired cardinal, celebrating masses and giving lectures? Why did no one ask for respect for the papal orders and why did no one warn the Pope of this grave disobedience? And again, why did Pope Ratzinger choose to keep these sanctions secret – if we assume that every statement made by Viganò is true - without ever making them public?

The third fact. When this year there was news of a concrete denunciation of abuse of a minor by McCarrick - a fact dating back to when he was a priest in New York - Pope Francis forced him to live withdrawn and took away his cardinal status. The very first real and radical sanction against the former archbishop, which has no precedent in the more recent history of the Church. Until 2018, the date of the formal opening of the canonical investigation against McCarrick, the allegations concerned homosexual relations with adults. Then the question remains as to why Monsignor Viganò has not published this information until today if he was so convinced that it was something of the utmost importance for the Church. And why as apostolic nuncio to the United States he did not put them down in writing, inviting the new Pope to take action against McCarrick, to ensure that Benedict’s secret sanctions were finally applied, something that had evidently not happened before.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Nigerian university suspends six students over alleged involvement in cultism

The cult isn't identified, but the suspended students are; as reported by Ajibola Olaniyi in the Lagos Daily Post, August 22, 2018:

The management of Obafemi Awolowo University(OAU) Ile Ife, on Wednesday, announced the suspension of six students of the institution, for alleged involvement in cultism.

According to a release by the Registrar of the university, Mrs Magaret Omosule, which was obtained by DAILY POST, the students were said to have confirmed their membership of a secret cult in the course of police investigation.

The statement reads, “It will be recalled that on Monday, 2nd of July, 2018, an information was received by the University Management that two students of the institution, against their will, were forcefully initiated into cultism outside the University campus.

“Promptly, the security Unit of the University swung into action and, after a thorough preliminary investigation, twelve students of the University were apprehended and handed over to the Osun State Command of the Nigeria Police to assist with further professional investigation.

“After the investigation, therefore, the University, on 20th August, 2018, received a detailed report of the Police findings, where it was confirmed that six students of the University had admitted their membership of proscribed groups, thus breaching their Matriculation Oath, Code of Conduct and other pertinent University regulations.

“Accordingly, and in accordance with the relevant statutes, the following students have been suspended pending the outcome of investigations by the appropriate Students’ Disciplinary Committee. They are :

(1) ONYEKWUSI Praise Chinemerem, Matriculation number ASE / 2014/218

(2). OJO Abiodun Olamide, Matriculation number MCB /2012 /149

(3).UDE John, Matriculation number ASE /2015 /362

(4). OLADOYE Tobi Olakunmi, Matriculation number EGL /2014/ 383

(5) AYEYI Damilola Ayomide, Matriculation number EGL /2016 /075

(6) DAVIS Jesulayomi Olakunle, Matriculation number EGL / 2014 /207.

“Management hereby uses this medium to assure the University Community and all other stakeholders, most especially the students populace that adequate measures have been put in place to secure lives and property and ensure a peaceful environment for all residents on the University estate.

“As it is the collective responsibility of all stakeholders to protect the University from persons with criminal intentions, members of the University Community are advised to be vigilant at all times and report any suspicious activities which could undermine the peaceful coexistence of members of the University Community”.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Charismaniac Nigerian "prophetess" arrested for child-trafficking

As reported by Victor Azubuike of the Lagos Daily Post, August 24, 2018:

A 34-year-old woman identified as Helen Christopher has been arrested by the Rivers State Police Command for alleged child-trafficking.

Spokesman of the Command, Nnamdi Omoni said the woman was arrested with four missing children in a Church, Mountain of Deliverance Fire Ministries, in Ete-O, Eleme Local government area.

Omoni claimed that the woman, Helen, operates with a group whose operation was smashed by men of the State Criminal Investigation Department.

“Men of the State CID smashed a child-trafficking syndicate run by one Madam Helen Christopher who runs a hilly home in Eleme. She’s 34 year from Akwa-Ibom.

“Our personnel acted on intelligence and trailed the suspect following series of complaints we have received about missing children in parts of Port Harcourt.

“She was arrested with one 20 year old, Joy Olaka-Nworgu who confessed to committing the crime. Four children were rescued from her church,” Omoni said.

However, the Prophetess, Helen denied the allegations saying, “I don’t know Joy before. I only met her when she came with a baby begging me to help her.

“She said I should give her N30,000 and keep the baby till she returns. I had to give her the money and warned that she must return to take the baby and refund my N30,000.

“I even took her to my alter to swear that she will refund my N30,000 and take the baby and she agreed. The only mistake I made was that I didn’t ask her where she got the baby.”

But One of the arrested suspects, twenty year old Joy Olaka-Nworgu told newsmen that she was initiated by Prophetess Helen to steal children.

Also speaking, Christophanus Achogbo who is the father of one of the rescued children said that the suspect took advantage of his maid.

“Since February this year, we have been looking for my son, Daniel only for the Police to call me that he has been found. He was 1 year and 4 month-old in February.

“I didn’t believe that the Police can still find him. I just want to thank the Rivers Police for their efforts.”

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Church of the Wild is pagan nature worship masquerading as Christianity

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. II Timothy 3:5

Women seem to be disproportionately prominent in the worship of false gods, and Church of the Wild is an excellent example; as reported by Hannah Natanson of The Washington Post, August 6, 2018:

The sound of drumming filtered through the trees and called the people from their cars.

Toting folding chairs and slathered in bug spray, they came from the parking lot — some young, some old; some in pairs, some alone; many in Tevas, a few barefoot. Without speaking, they set their chairs in a circle in a leafy clearing in McLean’s Turkey Run Park. They grabbed drums laid out on a patterned blanket, gripped the instruments between their knees and joined in the pounding.

“Your hands know what to do,” intoned professional drum circle facilitator Katy Gaughan. “Just drum! There is no right way and no wrong way.”

On a hot and muggy Sunday, Church of the Wild was about to begin.

The church, which meets once a month in parks across the District, Maryland and Virginia, draws about 50 congregants. Services, presided over by the Rev. Sarah Anders, typically run an hour and a half. Worshipers drum, sing and listen to recitations of poetry in an effort to connect with nature and fulfill the church’s stated goal: honoring “the mutual indwelling of the Divine with the Earth and all of its beings.”

Anders doesn’t preach a sermon — instead, attendees wander through their surroundings in total silence for about half an hour.

“We don’t say the G-o-d word a lot,” Anders said. “The emphasis is on God as a universal force. . . . Our mission is to help people come more into their spirits and their hearts.”

Anders established the church in partnership with Beth Norcross, founding director of the Center for Spirituality in Nature and an adjunct faculty member at the Wesley Theological Seminary in the District. Church of the Wild met for the first time in April.

Anders describes her congregation as a nondenominational Christian church, but says she draws on aspects of “all religions” — for example, services sometimes include readings from Jewish texts.

She and Norcross welcome agnostics. They say they hope the nontraditional atmosphere will allow them to better explore their faith and perhaps discover God.

Anders was ordained in the United Church of Christ, a liberal mainline Protestant denomination, and preached for a time at Rockville United Church in Maryland. She quit that job last year. Church of the Wild doesn’t pay her (or anyone) a salary, so she earns a living by giving guest sermons and leading religious workshops.

Anders said she left Rockville United because she couldn’t bear “tripping over” typical church language one minute longer. “God as a ‘He,’ people as ‘sinners’ — I couldn’t sit and hear it anymore,” Anders said. She also wanted to spend her Sundays outdoors; sitting in a sanctuary felt confining.

On Sunday, all anyone could hear for several minutes was banging. Then Gaughan stepped in to organize her charges, leading the group in a rhythm meant to imitate the beating of a heart.

“Heart — beat — space, heart — beat — space,” Gaugahn instructed them. “Here we are, one heart beating together.”

One woman nodded and removed her shoes, still drumming. Another closed her eyes.

Gaughan led the drummers to a crescendo — “We’re in the woods, you can be loud!” — before quieting them and ceding the circle to Anders.

“Our theme this month is spiritual listening with nature — not to nature, with nature, and with the other beings in nature,” Anders said. “We find that as we honor the divine in the Earth and all its beings, we become more compassionate.”

Sweating together at Turkey Run, congregants listened by practicing deep breathing. They listened by meditating for several minutes, guided into the subconscious by Anders. They listened as someone played a Native American instrument.

They listened even when they stood, grasped hands and repeatedly sang the chorus to the Alicia Keys song “We Are Here.” Anders said Keys’s lyrics — particularly the line, “We are here for all of us” — perfectly expresses the ideology of Church of the Wild. Congregants worship outdoors on behalf of “all of us,” including neighbors human and nonhuman.

It’s an idea that appears to be picking up support across the continent. There’s now a Wild Church Network that connects 15 outdoor churches from Texas to California to Canada. “It’s really a phenomenon,” Norcross said. “We’re one of many.”

In Virginia, Sunday’s sermon kicked off when Anders bid the group to “open your eyes and begin your wandering.” She invited them to “lean up” against vines and trunks — though “not that one,” given its wrapping of poison ivy.

Worshipers rose and dispersed. Some marched purposefully along forest paths; others walked slowly and deliberately toward nothing in particular.

For the next 20 minutes, no one spoke or made a sound beyond the occasional snapping of a twig. One woman took off her sandals and trod barefoot through the grass. A man in a red bandanna stood face-to-face with a tree and locked eyes with its trunk. Another man climbed a nearby picnic table, lay on his back and stared up into the green canopy, unblinking.

A woman in a pink shirt approached a small tree, leaned her forehead against its trunk and closed her eyes. She remained there for several minutes, snapping her chewing gum.

After the service, congregants chatted and snacked on ice pops and crackers doled out from a portable cooler. Milling among the others, 50-year-old Smithsonian employee Kelly Richmond said she has never been into organized religion, but Church of the Wild provides a way to see and appreciate the magic of nature while avoiding all that talk about a male God and the “power of the patriarchy.” Asked whether she believes in God, Richmond said she needs more information.

Kristina Byrne, a freelance writer who lives in Silver Spring and does consider herself religious, said she has come to every Church of the Wild service since its launch in April. Cradling her 2-year-old son Adisa on her hip, Byrne, 34, said that she has been worshiping by walking around the woods long before Church of the Wild began.

“To me, it’s like the woods and God are the same thing,” she said. “So it’s nice to see groups of people doing what I’ve always done.”

Friday, 24 August 2018

DNA reveals origins of 6,500-year-old skeletons found in Galilee

As reported by Judy Siegel-Itzkovich of Breaking Israel News, August 21, 2018 (links in original):

A pioneering international study led by Tel Aviv University (TAU) researchers who conducted DNA tests in skeletons placed 6,500 years in a burial cave in Peki’in reveals their origins.

According to the research, just published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, the population of Peki’in in northern Israel was during the prehistoric Chalcolithic (“Copper Age”) Period – 4,500 to 3,900 BCE – a mixture of a local population with a group that arrived from northern Mesopotamia (today’s Turkey and Iran).

The cave was discovered in 1995, and the bones of some 600 people were uncovered. But the origin of the population was not known until now and it is considered a major archaeological breakthrough.

“These individuals were part of a homogeneous population that can be modeled as deriving 57% of its ancestry from groups related to those of the local Levant Neolithic, 17% from groups related to those of the Iran Chalcolithic, and 26% from groups related to those of the Anatolian Neolithic,” they wrote. “The Peki’in population also appears to have contributed differently to later Bronze Age groups, one of which we show cannot plausibly have descended from the same population as that of the Peki’in cave. These results provide an example of how population movements propelled cultural changes in the deep past.”

The research was led by Dr. Hila May and Prof. Israel Hershkovitz of the anatomy and anthropology department of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Hershkovitz also works at the Dan David Center for Human History in the Faculty of Medicine. The study was carried out in cooperation with Dr. Dina Shalem of the Kinneret Institute of Galilean Archaeology and the Israel Antiquities Authority and Dr. David Reich, a leading geneticist at Harvard University Medical School.

Peki’in, whose name means “the little valley between mountains,” is believed to have been founded in the year 5,000 BCE. Today, it has a population of fewer than 6,000 people, almost all of them Druze. According to tradition, the Jewish community of Peki’in has maintained a presence there since the Second Temple period. The only time when Jews did not reside there was during the 1936 to 1939 Arab Revolt. Most Jews did not return to the village after the violence, and the only Jewish resident is 87-year-old Margalit Zinati, whose family did return to the village.

“The unique burial cave is a natural stalactite cave that was discovered in 1995 when a road was extended in Peki’in in the Upper Galilee,” Shalem noted. Objects such as potsherds of the Chalcolithic period were found in the village, and the burial site was close by, making a 100- dunam (25-acre) settlement a possibility.

The bodies were originally buried in graves, with the bones interred in secondary burials in jars and specially decorated clay ossuaries. These were decorated with sculpted images of human faces, including ears, eyes, beard, and sometimes hands and breasts.

The period’s impressive metal artifacts, which reflect the first known use of the “lost wax” technique for casting of copper, attest to the extraordinary technical skill of the people of this period, they wrote.

The cave, around 17 meters long and 4.5 to 8 meters wide, was sealed by natural processes during or around the end of the Late Chalcolithic period (around 3900 BCE). Archaeological excavations have revealed an extraordinary array of finely crafted objects, including chalices, bowls, and churns, as well as more than 200 ossuaries and domestic jars repurposed as ossuaries (the largest number ever found in a single cave), often decorated with anthropomorphic designs.

During the two decades since the discovery, researchers have wondered whether the population that buried its dead in the cave migrated to another part of the region and brought with it new cultural elements or whether they were a local population that adopted ideas from neighboring cultures through trade relations.

“In the first place, it was clear that only genetic research could answer this question, but the chances were slim,” explained May. “Most of the genetic tests performed on prehistoric populations from the land of Israel failed or, when they succeeded, provided little information.”

Fortunately for the researchers, DNA sequences were preserved, albeit partially, in the bones of 22 individuals in the cave – a larger number than a single site in terms of genetic research of prehistoric populations.

Hershkowitz added that “the genetic material was apparently preserved due to the special climatic conditions prevailing in the cave and the limestone coating of the bones, which were created by the dripping of water through the ceiling of the cave and the fact that they were isolated from the surrounding area.”

Reich of Harvard noted: “The genetic study indicates that this is a homogenous population different from the populations that preceded it in the region. The mixing of the populations led to the penetration of genes that were not found in the local populations, such as the blue eyes and the light skin color.”

May further noted that “no genetic continuity was found between the population of Peki’in and the Chalcolithic population of later populations.” This indicates another demographic change in the region that led to the disappearance of the Chalcolithic culture.
Ossuaries from the Chalcolithic period, excavated at Peki’in cave

Decorated burial jar from the Chalcolithic period excavated at Peki’in cave

Cave in Peki’in where ancient bones were discovered

Click on the link to see the original article Ancient DNA from Chalcolithic Israel reveals the role of population mixture in cultural transformation in Nature Communications, 9:3336, August 20, 2018

Thursday, 23 August 2018

70 years ago: The World Council of Churches is founded

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. II Timothy 3:5

On August 23, 1948, the World Council of Churches officially came into being, the day after the opening of its first assembly in Amsterdam, attended by 450 delegates and 1,000 officials of Protestant and Orthodox churches from 42 countries. The assembly was boycotted by the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches.

The World Council of Churches is the largest organization representing the religion of anti-Christian liberalism in Christian dress. The best comment I've ever seen on the WCC was from Malcolm Muggeridge, who said that the WCC was like a row of drunks holding one another up, lest alone they each fall into the gutter.

See also my post 70 years ago--The International Council of Christian Churches is founded (August 19, 2018).

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Kansas pastor resigns after being charged with child sex crime

As reported by Chance Swaim of the Wichita Eagle, July 14, 2018 (links in original):

A Sedgwick pastor was arrested in Harvey County Friday on suspicion of a child sex crime, according to the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office.

Kevin Berry, the lead pastor at First Christian Church of Sedgwick, was arrested on suspicion of indecent liberties with a child.

Berry began ministering in Sedgwick in 2015, according to the First Christian Church of Sedgwick website. Before that, he worked in Amoret, Missouri, where he ministered for six years, the site says.

The case has been presented to the Harvey County district attorney, who will decide if he will charge Berry, who is being held on $25,000 bond.
As reported by Mr. Swaim and Katherine Burgess of the Wichita Eagle on August 4, 2018 (links in original):

The First Christian Church of Sedgwick took the side of its pastor, who has been charged with a child sex crime, over its children, according to a couple who pulled their children out of the church after they saw how its leaders handled the situation.

One of the parents’ complaints is that the church leadership allowed the pastor to participate in children’s activities after it knew the pastor — Kevin Berry — was being investigated for a child sex crime.

A video posted on the church’s website shows he was allowed to participate in a children’s activity after the church told parents he would not.

Berry, lead minister at First Christian Church of Sedgwick, was arrested July 13 on suspicion of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. That’s more than a year after a police reports says the sex crime could have started and almost 10 months after it was reported to police.

After allegations were made against Berry in September, the church sent an Oct. 8 letter to churchgoers informing them that Berry was being investigated and saying the “church leadership firmly supports our pastor (Kevin Berry).”

The letter said Berry voluntarily chose to no longer participate in children’s activities at the church while he was under investigation.

Summer and Curtis Peters, whose children attended the church’s youth group, said they don’t think Berry actually refrained from participating in children’s activities.

A video posted on the church’s YouTube account two months after the letter was sent shows Berry narrating a children’s Christmas pageant. Near the end of the video, a woman says that Berry and his wife helped write the children’s play and were “such a vital part of all of this.”

The Peterses, who attended Berry’s church until the fall, said their teenage children were regular attendees of the youth group but stopped going after they saw how church leadership handled allegations against Berry.

Reached by phone, Berry referred all questions about the investigation to his attorney, who did not respond to The Eagle’s requests for comment.

David Hewett, an elder at the church, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The church also did not provide the requested full text of a letter it says it sent to churchgoers in October.

Berry was charged with aggravated indecent liberties with a child, a felony.

The police report, which is heavily redacted and includes the original report by the Sedgwick Police Department and a supplemental report by the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office, says the alleged crime happened at the listed address of the First Christian Church, which shares an address with Little Hands Preschool.

The Sedgwick police report lists the offense dates of Aug. 21, 2017, to Sept. 25, 2017, the date the report was made. The Harvey sheriff’s report lists June 1, 2017, to Sept. 23, 2017.

The complaint filed in Harvey County District Court says the alleged crime occurred around mid-September.

The Peters family’s concerns with Berry began in September, when a neighbor told them to check if their own teenage daughter was OK.

The couple then spoke with a youth leader, who is no longer with the church, and several children, asking if anything at church made them feel uncomfortable.

What the children said “raised flags” about inappropriate behavior on the part of the pastor, Curtis Peters said. Later that Sunday evening, as rumors buzzed through the town of fewer than 2,000, church members, elders, children and the pastor gathered to discuss the concerns.

“When the kids saw the pastor in the room, they truly felt uncomfortable,” Summer Peters said. “They were scared to say anything, scared to speak up.”

Elders in the church chastised the concerned parents, including the Peterses, and acted as if the children were lying, Summer Peters said.

It was implied that law enforcement was not needed, Curtis Peters said.

“From that point on, it just didn’t seem like the church really was concerned about the kids as much as they were about the pastor,” Curtis Peters said. “I don’t feel like they really did anything to distance the pastor from the situation.”

Curtis Peters said he reported the sex crimes, which he did not want to describe to The Eagle, to the police.

The church did not put Berry on administrative leave until July, when it did so at Berry’s request, a statement released after his arrest said. A March statement by the church said Berry had begun “personal counseling and will receive further training on leading and appropriate interaction with children and youth.”

Both the July and March letters say that the church leadership supports Berry.
As reported by Mr. Swaim on August 9, 2018:

Kevin Berry — a Sedgwick pastor charged with a child sex crime — has resigned from his position at First Christian Church of Sedgwick, a church official said.

Berry was on voluntary leave after being arrested and charged last month with aggravated indecent liberties with a child. The church publicly supported Berry throughout a 10-month investigation into the allegations and allowed him to be involved in at least one children’s activity after the church told parents he would not.

Sunday, The Eagle reported that a video on the church’s website showed Berry participating in a children’s activity during that time.

Monday, the church took down its website, where the video had been, and its Facebook page, which had two posts stating the church leadership’s support for Berry.

John Hubert, a church leader at First Christian Church, said he is “under strict instructions from the church’s lawyer . . . not to discuss with any newspaper or any media our situation.” But he said he was willing to confirm Berry has resigned.

“We had a meeting Sunday and have hired an interim minister who specializes in rescuing churches like ours who have some division as a result of indecision or decisions that didn’t meet with approval of everybody,” Hubert said.

“We’ve taken the biblical approach rather than the secular-humanist worldview of how to solve problems — and it hasn’t resulted in the most positive results. But it’s resulted in the results that we can biblically live with, so things are moving forward now.

“I’m happy with the results, and I’m going to keep following the instructions that we’re getting from our new interim minister and we look forward to a brighter future,” Hubert said.

Hubert would not comment on the website or Facebook page.

Berry has directed all questions to his attorney, who has not returned phone calls from The Eagle.

Berry, lead minister at First Christian Church of Sedgwick, was arrested July 13. That’s more than a year after a police report says the sex crime could have started almost 10 months after it was reported to police.

The complaint filed in Harvey County District Court says the alleged crime occurred around mid-September.

The church did not put Berry on administrative leave until July, when it did so at Berry’s request, a statement released after his arrest said.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Longtime pastor at Vineyard church in Winnipeg resigns after being charged with sex crimes

As reported by CBC News, August 21, 2018 (link inserted by blogger):

A Winnipeg church says one of its pastors has been arrested by California police and charged with allegedly trying to set up a meeting to have sex with a minor.

Arrest records of the Arroyo Grande Police Department say Nathan George Rieger, 53, was arrested on Aug. 10. He was charged with arranging to meet with a minor for a sexual act and meeting with a minor for a sexual act.

The Arroyo Grande Police Department first began investigating Rieger on Aug. 8.

"There's a whole network of people that are looking to have sex with minors and we have a detective bureau that is designated to have conversations with these people that are seeking to have sex with minors," said Cmdr. Shawn Cosgrove with the Arroyo Grande Police Department.

Officers created an avatar of a 15-year-old girl, which they used to communicate with Rieger, Cosgrove said.

Rieger has worked as a pastor for the Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church on Main Street. The church released a statement Tuesday saying Rieger, who worked there for 19 years, had resigned his position. His departure and criminal charges were announced at a church service on Sunday.

The Winnipeg church, which is part of a worldwide group of 2,500 evangelical churches, regularly ministers to vulnerable people in the core area. The church community "was not prepared for this news which was given to the congregation last Sunday morning," the statement says.

"The church is transcending the challenges of this development and is optimistic that the impact we have on the goodness of our community will continue. Our commitment to the social and spiritual well-being of our parish and surrounding community will continue to thrive."

Joyce Rees is pastor of a Vineyard church in Calgary and part of the church's national team.

She said she'd been in contact with some members of Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church.

"There's denial, there's shock, there's anger. Just a whole bunch of responses," she said.

"Everyone takes bad news in differently. It's going to take time, and they're going to need care to get through this, and feelings of disappointment and deep grief."

At this point, she said she's not aware of any other allegations against Rieger.

The church's statement said Rieger has posted bail. He has a court date set for Aug. 23.





Monday, 20 August 2018

More middle-aged women are opting for Church of England priesthood

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.
And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
I Corinthians 14:34-35

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression...
...This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife,...
I Timothy 2:12, 3:1-2a

It's not the Holy Spirit, but an antichrist spirit of feminism that's calling women into offices that God forbids. As reported by Olivia Rudgard in the London Daily Telegraph, August 19, 2018 (links in original):

Rising numbers of women are entering the priesthood as a second career, Church of England figures show.

Women are being encouraged to join after movements such as #MeToo boosted their confidence and prompted male clergy to offer them more support, church leaders suggested.

Following in the footsteps of the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who joined the Church after a successful career in nursing, the number of women aged 40 to 54 being accepted for ordination has grown by 32 per cent in two years.

Catherine Nancekievill, the church's head of discipleship and vocation, said that "changing attitudes are definitely a factor".

"Men actually championing women's ministry and getting behind it really seems to have shifted over the last ten years, and congregations becoming more accepting as well," she said.

Women who had come of age when female priests were first allowed in 1994 were pursuing vocations only more after 20 or more years in their first career, she added.

"They may well have got into careers and families, and that calling might have been there but they might not have actually taken these steps forward, because once you get into your 30s and 40s you just get very busy with lots of things that are happening.

"Now those women are into their 50s and their later 40s and that calling is still there.

"Maybe they've had a bit of a career, their children have left or are in their teens, and that calling has come back to them.

"Now there are so many more women in ordained ministry, it's much more visible, they can see those people around and about, that actually becomes something that is possible for them."

Many commentators have also cited the importance of Church role models, including Dame Mullally, who was chief nursing officer until 2004, and other female bishops such as Libby Lane, Rachel Treweek and recently-appointed Bishop of Bristol Vivienne Faull.

The growth of "celebrity vicars", such as the Reverend Richard Coles, who appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, and the Reverend Kate Bottley, who came to prominence on Gogglebox, has also been suggested as influencing rising interest in the priesthood.

The figures also showed that the number of people aged under 32 recommended to train for ordination this year has risen by nearly a third compared to two years ago.

Almost three in 10 of those entering training for the priesthood this year are expected to be under the age of 32.

Women make up 54 per cent of this year's candidates, the highest ever proportion.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

70 years ago--The International Council of Christian Churches is founded

On August 19, 1948, the International Council of Christian Churches, an organization of fundamentalist Protestant churches formed a week earlier to counter the forthcoming World Council of Churches, ended its founding assembly at English Reformed Church in Amsterdam after electing as its president Rev. Carl McIntire, pastor of Bible Presbyterian Church in Collingswood, New Jersey since 1933. The founding assembly was attended by 150 delegates from 39 denominations and 29 nations.

Relatively few Christians in the West are aware of the ICCC, but for many years it has had considerably more member denominations than the WCC. An example of an individual associated with the ICCC is Bishop Isaac Mokoena, chairman of the Reformed Independent Churches Association in South Africa in the 1980s and '90s. At a time when Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu was recognized by the world as the leader of black South Africans, Bishop Mokoena was leading an organization representing 4.5 million black South African church members. It will probably surprise most readers to find that that figure was 10 times the number represented by Archbishop Tutu. While Bishop Mokoena was relatively unknown outside his own country, he wasn't unknown to U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who had him as a guest at the White House.

The ICCC has a great history (see their website) of standing for the true Christian faith and opposing apostasy, with Dr. McIntire serving as its president until his death in 2002 at the age of 95. This blogger has lost track of the ICCC in recent years; it still seems to exist, but their website hasn't been updated since 2012.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Coptic Orthodox monk in Egypt confesses to the murder of the bishop

Some of the old mystics were really mistakes. They tried to be more saintly by living in caves. Living in a hole never made anybody holier. Vance Havner, Pepper 'n' Salt, 1966

More evidence that monasticism doesn't produce godliness, as reported by Gianni Valente in La Stampa, August 11, 2018 (updated August 12, 2018) (bold in original):

The Coptic bishop Epiphanius, abbot of the monastery of Saint Macarius, was killed by one of his monks. He smashed his head with an iron rod, in the early hours of Sunday 29 July, while Anba Epiphanius, after leaving his cell, was on his way to church to start the Sunday liturgy with the morning prayer.

The killer’s name is Wael Saad Tawadros and the Egyptian media report that, under the pressures of the investigators, he confessed his crime, and also revealed where to find the murder weapon, which he had carefully hidden in the monastery’s warehouse.

The murky affair is causing dejection and dismay throughout the Coptic Orthodox community. In the meantime, Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II reiterates that the Church “must not hide anything” and invites everyone not to get upset in this trial, trusting that “faith does not need protectors” because the Lord guards it.

A murder and two suicide attempts

Facts have occurred around the tragic end of the bishop-abbot, and objectively disturbing details continue to emerge: internal struggles, human miseries, complicity, ecclesiastics who profane the sanctity of monastic life and do not hesitate to attempt suicide when they see the suspicions and pressures of the investigators coming their way with regard to the murder in the monastery.

Wael Saad Tawadros, 34, had been ordained monk of the monastery of Saint Macarius in 2010, with the name of Isaiah al Makary, but last August 5, in the tense spiritual atmosphere after the murder of Anba Epiphanius, Wael was expelled from the monastery and defrocked, with a decree approved by the Patriarch Tawadros that justified this provision by referring to acts “incompatible with the monastic conduct”.

The day before, Wael had attempted suicide by ingesting insecticide. But in those days Father Boulos Halim, spokesman of the Coptic Orthodox Church, declared that the expulsion measures ordered against the former monk were not to be related to the investigation of the death of Anba Epiphanius: they were the culmination of a canonical disciplinary process begun as early as the beginning of 2018 – said Father Halim –, and whose first punitive disposition imposed against Wael – the expulsion for three years from the monastery, and the transfer to another structure – was not implemented after some of his confreres signed a petition in his defence.

On Monday, another monk from Saint Macarius, Faltaous al-Makary, attempted suicide, cutting his veins and jumping from a four-storey building of the monastery. He is now in serious condition in a hospital in Cairo. According to the reports of the Egyptian media, including Wataninet, it seems that the security cameras of the monastery have recorded scenes of tension and quarrels between some monks and the abbot-bishop Epiphanius, in the hours before his killing.

Many indications suggest that the tragic end of Anba Epiphanius is the result of personal resentments cultivated in the days marked by the rhythms of monastic life, in the shadow of religious zeal. But the story is becoming an upheaval for the Coptic Church, and above all, for its monasticism. With speculations that involve divisions and latent contrasts within the entire Coptic ecclesial structure and its hierarchy.

Contrasting passions have been raging in the monastery of Saint Macarius for decades. In the late sixties, Matta el Meskin arrived at the monastery. He was a prominent figure in the rebirth of Coptic monasticism and of all the Coptic spirituality in the second half of the last century. A strong and charismatic personality, who experienced a significant clash with Patriarch Shenouda III, the other great protagonist of the Coptic awakening of the last decades. Among the reasons for the clash, there were character incompatibilities, theological contrasts and even a different approach to relations with politics: the monk criticised the politicisation of the Church and the excessive activism of hierarchies in opposing established powers.

In the confrontation between Shenouda and the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat – who forced the Coptic Pope to exile himself in the monastery for years – Matta justified the choices of the latter, arguing that the Church was betraying her nature, conceiving herself as a political party, in which “the mind replaced inspiration, and planning replaced prayer”. At the culmination of the confrontation, Shenouda went as far as to prohibit the spread of the works of Matta el Meskin in the Coptic parishes.

Things have changed with his successor, the current Pope Tawadros, who put an end to the damnatio memoriae (“condemnation of memory”) against Matta el Meskin and offered support for the rebirth of the monastery of Saint Macarius, where the monks who had studied with him – including the late Anba Epiphanius – guarded his memory. But in the Coptic hierarchy, most of the active bishops were ordained by Patriarch Shenouda, therefore they shared a feeling of opposition or at least mistrust towards Matta el Meskin’s teaching. Now, the serious episode of bloodshed occurred in the monastery of Matta is also used as a pretext for operations of ecclesiastical politics, perhaps aimed to create new obstacles and problems for the ministry of Pope Tawadros, pastorally cautious and open-minded, but also opposed by a part of the Coptic establishment.

The murder of Anba Epiphanius has been perceived as a serious and alarming signal by the pastoral concern of Patriarch Tawadros and his collaborators. On Friday, August 3, the committee for the monasteries of the Orthodox Coptic Holy Synod established 12 rules – ratified by the Patriarch – by which all those who live the monastic condition in the Coptic Orthodox Church should abide. These measures aim to guard monastic life as a condition of seclusion from the world, marked by moments of prayer, work and silence.

Among other things, the Coptic monks and nuns were asked to take leave from social media and shut down their personal accounts and any blogs they managed, considered by the Patriarch as instruments used to “waste time”, to spread confused ideas and foster personal polemics. The intention of the current Orthodox Coptic leadership is obviously to react to the processes of mondanisation underway within the ecclesial structure. But this desire does not rely primarily on disciplinary measures or rhetorical statements on a “zero-tolerance”.

In his last, traditional Wednesday sermons, Pope Tawadros used other words to try to comfort and confirm into faith the people of Coptic believers: he exhorted everyone not to give in to agitation; he remembered that evil has always existed and that even Judas committed suicide when he betrayed his Master; he repeated that the monks are men, with their fragility, and that many of them have fallen in the course of history because Satan has always besieged monastic life with particular fury; he expressed its confidence that the monastic communities will dwell in the Egyptian deserts “until the end of the world”. He reiterated that the Church has nothing to hide because the treasures that she has as gifts and that keep her alive cannot be dispelled by weaknesses, mistakes, sins and crimes of individuals. Above all, Tawadros invited everyone to recognise that Christian faith is a gift guarded by the Lord, and for this “it does not need other guardians”.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Hundreds of youngsters spend a night venerating the Shroud of Turin

More evidence that Roman Catholicism is a religion of idolatry and superstition, as reported by Maria Teresa Martinengo in La Stampa, August 8, 2018 (bold in original):

“The enthusiasm has increased more and more and eventually two thousand five hundred young people will parade and stand in prayer in front of the Shroud”. From Saint Michael’s Abbey, yesterday, August 8th, Father Luca Ramello, director of the diocesan Youth Pastoral, took stock of the final race for tomorrow, August 10th, when the youth pilgrimage will end before the Cloth which, according to tradition, wrapped the body of Christ. The Shroud will be exhibited in the Cathedral for only a few hours and only for them, as a sign of Love that saves and gives hope.

The day before

Today will be a day full of emotions and opportunities for reflection for at least 950 youngsters – scouts, groups, associations, individuals from all the dioceses of Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta – who will join tomorrow with all the others arriving from different paths in their respective territories. In the night, after the veneration of the Shroud, they will leave for Rome where on Saturday and Sunday they will meet Pope Francis in preparation for the Synod of Bishops – dedicated to young people – to be held in the fall.

From the early afternoon, after a journey that started from Monginevro to Turin – “93 kilometres on foot”, stressed yesterday Don Luca, who joined it from the start – the youngsters will meet at the Reggia di Venaria, where at 5 pm the Archbishop Monsignor Cesare Nosiglia will greet them and at 7 pm he will preside at Mass with the bishops of the two regions.

After the Mass, a large community dinner with music will involve all the participants in the Courtyard of the Carriages and, following, an artistic-spiritual journey, a very fascinating theatrical representation in the Reggia will evoke the hour of the Passion of Christ. The youngsters will go to sleep, sportily, to the Sports Hall, made available by the City. Tomorrow morning, the scheduled stop is Valdocco, the shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians, then the youngsters will split into groups to visit some places of Turinese spirituality. At 6 pm the solemn Mass with all 2500 people of the pilgrimage “Love leaves its sign”, celebrated by the bishops. Finally, the will leave towards the Royal square, the meeting place.

In the Cathedral

We still do not know all the details of this extraordinary and “exclusive” exposition. There is confidentiality on the part of the Curia, also for security reasons. What is certain is that the relic, which will remain in the chapel below the royal tribune of the Cathedral, where it is preserved, will be visible in the high-tech conservation case (in traditional exhibitions it is transferred to another one built specifically for its ostension). People will start to parade at sunset, which is essential for having the ideal lighting conditions to be able to identify all the signs on the Shroud, starting from the mysterious and tenuous the body mark.

The meeting

At 8:30 pm, in front of the relic, the authorities will parade and, shortly after, the long procession of the youngsters will begin, divided into groups of two hundred. As they enter, they will be greeted by a quote from the Gospel projected on the facade of the Cathedral. The pilgrimage will last some hours, and as the groups come out, they will continue their material and spiritual journey to Rome.
See also my posts: Brain of Roman Catholic "Saint" John Bosco stolen from Italian basilica (June 15, 2017)

Bones alleged to be those of Peter found in 1,000-year-old church in Rome (September 12, 2017)

U.S. cross-country exhibition of Padre Pio's relics shows that Roman Catholicism is still a religion of idolatry and superstition (May 31, 2018)

Yet another "weeping" statue of Mary appears, this time in New Mexico (June 14, 2018)

Roman Catholic "saint's" bone, found in the garbage, is returned to the Church (July 28, 2018)

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow to meet his counterpart in Constantinople at the end of August

The ecumenical movement continues, as reported by Gianni Valente of La Stampa, August 7, 2018 (bold in original):

The Patriarch of Moscow Kirill is preparing to visit his brother Bartholomew in Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, primus inter pares among the leaders of the Orthodox Churches. The meeting is scheduled for next August 31, on the eve of the “extended” Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which meets once every three years and is also attended by the Churches of the Orthodox Diaspora that fall under the direct jurisdiction of the “Mother Church” of Constantinople.

The meeting at the end of August – anticipated by a Greek religious information website – could mark a turning point with regard to the “Ukrainian issue” which has long been stressing the relations between the Orthodox Churches, called to take a position in the canonical-ecclesiological dispute between Moscow and Constantinople on the future of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.

In that country, political and ecclesial groups have been insistently asking that the Patriarchate of Constantinople give its canonical endorsement for the recognition of a national Orthodox Church, completely independent of the Moscow Patriarchate. While the leading exponents of Russian Orthodoxy – like Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk – predict that “blood will flow” if the creation of an independent Orthodox Church, strongly supported by the current political leadership of Kiev, will actually take place (with a consequent rift that would take away from the Church of Moscow jurisdiction over the dioceses and parishes currently belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church linked with a status of autonomy to the Moscow Patriarchate).

The agenda and the tactics

The news about the imminent meeting between Bartholomew and Kirill was confirmed by both the Patriarchates. But also in the confirmation communiqués the tones are different. From Constantinople / Istanbul, they say that the request for the meeting has come from Moscow, that Patriarch Kirill will be accompanied by a delegation including Metropolitan Hilarion and that the main focus of the talks will be the issue of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine and the request to recognise its autocephaly to the Patriarchy of Constantinople. Metropolitan Elpidoforos of Bursa, bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, also declared that the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate will be called to account for the polemics raised by sectors of the Church of Moscow against leading exponents of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, starting with Bartholomew. The official confirmations of the meeting from Moscow appear much more laconic: the official spokesmen of the patriarch (priest Alexander Volkov) and of the Department of external relations (archpriest Nikolay Balashov) have confirmed that the meeting will take place but added that the agenda of the talks is still being defined.

The different tones of the communiqués seem to confirm the tactics involving media and ecclesiastical politics that have increasingly dominated the intra-Orthodox confrontation on the Ukrainian issue. In recent weeks, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, relying on its prerogatives of “Mother Church” of Orthodoxy, has sent its representatives to visit the leaders of the other Orthodox Churches – including the Russian one – to scrutinise the prevailing orientations within Orthodoxy before the hypothesis of granting autocephaly (full independence) to a national Church in Ukraine. The results of this particular survey were not disclosed but, in the meantime, the Russian media linked with the Moscow Patriarchate gave broad prominence to pronouncements by senior Orthodox hierarchs – such as Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria, or representatives of the Orthodox Church of Georgia – that currently stigmatise the “political pressures” put in place to promote the recognition of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Even the recent celebrations for the 1030th anniversary of the so-called “Baptism of Rus’” – considered as the initial act of conversion to Christianity of the Eastern Slavs – have become an occasion to try to decipher the moods of the different Churches and Orthodox communities regarding the Ukrainian issue. A delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople – led by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France – took part in the celebrations for the Baptism of Rus’ that took place in Kiev at the invitation of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Emmanuel also delivered to Poroshenko a message from the Ecumenical Patriarch, in which Bartholomew writes, among other things, that the See of Constantinople, by virtue of its traditional concern for the unity of Orthodox Christians and for the overcoming of schisms and divisions, “has taken the initiative to restore the unity of Orthodox believers in Ukraine, with the ultimate goal of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church”.

In the same days, in Moscow, the representatives of 10 Orthodox Churches, including Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria and of all Africa, took part in the celebrations for the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’ organised by the Russian Orthodox Church. Media close to the Moscow Patriarchate report that all representatives of the Orthodox Churches expressed their support for the Russian Orthodox Church and for the Ukrainian canonical Orthodox Church linked to Moscow, against the claims of independence sustained by “schismatic Ukrainian” groups.

Exhausting contrasts

In the recent past, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate have already experienced difficult times and cut-offs in bilateral relations for controversies related to issues of jurisdiction over Churches and Orthodox communities present in former Soviet territories. So far, they have always found a way to mend their relations. The unfortunate attempt by the Moscow Patriarchate to boycott the pan-Orthodox Council convened by Patriarch Bartholomew in Crete in 2016 has widened the gap. Now, the Ukrainian issue risks infecting the open wounds in the communion tissue that holds the Orthodox Churches together, especially if the tactics of ecclesiastical politics, the buck-passing and the trials by fire continue to prevail over criteria of genuinely ecclesial and pastoral discernment.

The idea of starting again from the Pan-Orthodox Synod of Crete could be a good opportunity to resume the right path: taking up from there, recomposing the consensus and the ecclesial unity around that event that the Moscow Patriarchate continues not to recognise as a pan-Orthodox assembly that, still with all its limitations, represented a good beginning of confrontation and communion among the Orthodox Churches in the face of urgencies and problems coming their way, in the present and in the time to come.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

British lawyer and evangelist accused of abusing boys at camps in the 1970s dies in South Africa

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:6 (also Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2)

As reported by Steve Bird of the London Daily Telegraph, August 12, 2018 (links in original):

A former QC and Christian evangelist accused of brutally hitting boys in the 1970’s at a Christian holiday camp where the Archbishop of Canterbury once worked has died.

John Smyth is thought to have suffered a heart attack at his home in Cape Town, South Africa, aged 77, on Saturday morning.

His death comes a year after he was forced to repeatedly reject claims he had used summer camps as a way to recruit young men to a cult in which he subjected them sado-masochistic assaults.

He was accused of handing out up to 800 lashes to more than 20 young men over a four year period in the late 70’s.

Hampshire Police launched an enquiry into the allegations last March and had reportedly recently requested he return to the UK for questioning.

The Most Rev Justin Welby was forced to issue an “unreserved and unequivocal” apology on behalf of the Church of England after admitting last year that the Church had failed to report allegations of abuse by John Smyth QC to the police after allegations came to light as far back as 1982.

Smyth's family said in a statement: "At approximately 9am on Sat 11 August, John Smyth died in his home in Cape Town.

"The official cause of death has not yet been made known, but the indicators are that it was a sudden heart attack following a heart procedure earlier in the week. We ask that the family be left alone to grieve his passing."

A spokesman for the Western Cape Police said: “This office can confirm that Kirstenhof police attended to the death of a 77-year-old man this morning in Bergvliet.

“On the scene, EMS personnel was interviewed who reported that the deceased succumbed to death due to natural causes. No police investigation has been instituted.”

A spokeswoman for the CPS was last night unable to confirm claims by some of the victims that it had been planning to apply to extradite Smyth to the UK to face prosecution.

Smyth’s victims expressed anger that his death meant he would never be brought before a court to face charges that he systematically abused them.

It was claimed last year that the barrister had escaped justice after the Iwerne Trust that oversaw the camps failed to report the attacks to police when they first learned of them decades ago.

Last night, Andrew Morse, 57, who was abused by Smyth, told the Telegraph: “We should all remember that John Smyth himself was a child. We can only move forward with forgiveness, I hope people will allow his family to grieve in private.”

Mr Morse had complained he was repeatedly ignored by the Church of England when he reported the abuse he had suffered.

One victim who uses the name Graham, said that he remains angry that the Archbishop of Canterbury did not do more when he learned of the allegatiosn.

“I am incandescent with rage that the opportunity to bring him to justice,” he said. “It was a wasted opportunity to address the most horrendous level of crime that has been known about for many years.

Andrew Graystone, who has worked as victims’ advocate in the case, said: “The victims are terrifically saddened. But, there’s also anger that the police, the church and the Titus Trust [which took over Iwerne Trust in 2000] had taken so long to start to engage with them. So, the opportunity for any justice has been lost.”

Last year, the Archbishop insisted he was “completely unaware” of claims Smyth, his colleague at the summer camp, had been subjecting boys to brutal sado-masochistic beatings.

In a radio interview he insisted that he had “never heard anything at all” about allegations regarding Smyth.

Smyth had chaired the Iwerne Trust, the charity that oversaw the camps, and held summer retreats for public school boys om Dorset in the Seventies. They were described as religion’s Sandhurst, intended to produce the next generation of elite Christians.

The Iwerne Trust is now part of the Titus Trust. A spokesman for the Titus Trust said last year that the “very disturbing allegations... should have been reported to the police when they first became known”.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Alberta Securities Commission schedules hearing into collapse of Lutheran Church in Canada's investment program

Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; Jeremiah 22:13a

As reported by CTV Calgary, August 13, 2018:

Letter creditors received alerting them to possible problems with the Lutheran Church of Canada's investment program

A hearing will take place in May 2019 for a religious institution accused of lying to investors.

The Lutheran Church of Canada in Alberta and B.C. is under investigation.

The Lutheran Church of Canada held a long-running investment program in Alberta and B.C for more than a century but that program collapsed in 2015.

It’s alleged more than $130 million had been invested when the organizations were placed under federal bankruptcy.

Some investors lost their life savings.

The money had been placed in the fund to help build churches, schools, and retirement communities.

It’s alleged the church knew about its financial problems and that this money was not properly accounted for.

The Securities Commission says the Lutheran Church of Canada “failed to pass along crucial information about how the money was spent and the risks involved.”

It also says the church withheld details about persistent loan defaults and other cash-flow problems.

The Securities Commission is not looking for repayment of damages and will not seek monetary administrative penalties against people from those accused of misleading investors.

If the accused have done something wrong, the Commission says it wants to leave as much money as possible for the people affected.

The Commission is doing this in recognition of the millions of dollars lost and don’t want to deplete any remaining assets that might be available for ongoing court proceedings.