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Issue Date:  January 25, 2008


Bishop’s spending questioned

BELLEVILLE, Ill. -- The diocesan finance and presbyteral councils here have confronted Belleville Bishop Edward Braxton about questionable spending, local media are reporting. The finance council has asked the Vatican to investigate the situation, according to a report posted to the Web site of the Belleville News-Democrat Jan. 13.

Braxton has been accused of spending $8,000 on new vestments and paying for them with money earmarked for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, a Vatican institution that supports work in mission territories. Local churches collect money for the society.

Braxton also purchased a $10,000 wood conference table and chairs for a meeting room at the chancery using money from A Future Full of Hope, a foundation established by his predecessor to fund special ministry programs for children and adults. Citing minutes from a November teleconference of the foundation board, the News-Democrat reported that members “expressed in writing their objections to this expenditure by Bishop Braxton.”

Obama’s church slammed

CHICAGO -- Since Sen. Barack Obama won the Iowa Democratic caucuses Jan. 3, his church in Chicago, Trinity United Church of Christ, has been the subject of scathing, but false e-mails widely circulated through the Internet, according to the denomination’s national general minister and president.

Efforts to portray the church as racist and anti-American are “absurd, mean-spirited and politically motivated,” said the Rev. John Thomas.

One e-mail circulating suggests that Trinity does not accept non-black members, a claim the church says is demonstrably false. The denomination’s chief state minister, the Rev. Jan Fisler Hoffman and her husband -- both white -- are members of Trinity, according to a statement the church released to buttress its assertion that “Trinity [does] not exclude anyone from membership or attendance based on ethnicity.”

Trinity and its pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, have been criticized by conservatives who disparage their commitment to Africa and to black empowerment. The church’s motto is “Unashamedly Black, Unapologetically Christian.”

Evangelicals say polling skewed

WASHINGTON -- Influential evangelical leaders have called on pollsters to ask Democrats -- and not just Republicans -- if they are evangelicals when future primaries occur.

Pollsters “have pigeonholed evangelicals, reinforcing the false stereotype that we are beholden to one political party,” wrote nine leaders, including Sojourners founder Jim Wallis and Christianity Today editor David Neff. “No party can own any faith,” they wrote.

Their Jan. 10 letter was sent to polling and political directors of media outlets that are represented by the National Election Pool, which supplies poll data to ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC and The Associated Press.

An official from the National Election Pool was not immediately available for comment.

Writing as individuals rather than representatives of their organizations, they said, “By omitting the question of evangelical/born-again identification from the Democratic polls, you prevented the public from seeing the full picture of how the bipartisan courtship of evangelical voters [has] affected” voting this season.

-- CNS/Reuters/Mohsin Raza

Violence follows slaying
A supporter of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto lights a candle during a memorial service in Bhutto’s honor at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lahore, Pakistan, Jan. 6. Since Bhutto was assassinated during a political rally Dec. 27, Pakistan has been shaken by violent street demonstrations and bombings, which have led Christian leaders to issue statements of concern over the increasing insecurity. The Pakistani Catholic bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace condemned the attacks Jan. 11 and urged the authorities to change their tactics to restore order and security. “The country should return to democracy as soon as possible and the government should review its internal and foreign policy to make protection of human rights its priority,” the statement read. The church and civil society groups have condemned the involvement of the army and the intelligence agency in politics.


Pope’s university visit canceled

VATICAN CITY -- Following a letter of protest signed by 67 professors and demonstrations by students, Pope Benedict XVI canceled a planned visit to Rome’s Sapienza University. He was to speak at the opening of the academic year Jan. 17.

Jan. 14, students began a planned four days of protests against the papal lecture. Fifty occupied the rector’s office Jan. 15, the day the Vatican announced the pope’s visit would be canceled.

Andrea Frova, a professor of physics, told the Italian newspaper Il Giornale that he and his colleagues were “offended … that a pope hostile to science” was invited to give a major lecture at a formal university event. Frova cited Benedict’s latest encyclical Spe Salvi (“On Christian Hope”) as setting science and faith in opposition.

In Spe Salvi, Benedict wrote that the hope science offers humankind can be “deceptive.” He wrote that science “can also destroy” humankind “unless it is steered by forces that lie outside it.”

Vatican debates Harry Potter

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano dedicated a full page in its Jan. 14-15 issue to the debate about the novels by J.K. Rowling. The Italian translation of the last novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released in early January.

Paolo Gulisano, a physician and the author of a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, said that the Harry Potter books counter the individualism of the modern age by making a hero of a boy “guided by moral values such as the choice of good, giving, sacrifice, friendship and love.” The stories, he said, teach young people “without moralizing.”

But Edoardo Rialti, a professor of English literature at the University of Florence, said the books “communicate a vision of the world and of the human person that is full of profound errors and dangerous suggestions.”

He said the books teach that “evil is good” and that violence, lying, trickery and manipulation can be positive if used to obtain something good.

National Catholic Reporter uses the following news services: AsiaNews, Catholic News Service, Latinamerica Press, New America Media, Religion News Service, and UCA News.

National Catholic Reporter, January 25, 2008

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