Rules Matter in the Vatican Synod

If the process is stacked against you, what can you do? In the case of a high-level Vatican conference involving 300 bishops, delegates and observes, a leaked letter from a few cardinals has caused a firestorm. Some see this as a procedural maneuver–but it could just be a journalistic scoop.

At the Vatican, some conservative cardinals are complaining about a three-week meeting, a synod to discuss challenges to the modern family. In a letter to Pope Francis leaked to the media, 13 of them say new rules for that meeting leave them at a disadvantage and could lead to what they describe as predetermined results on disputed issues. As NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reports, the Vatican has denounced the leak.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: The letter was leaked Monday, a week after the Pope got it. Five of the 13 Cardinals have since denied they signed the letter. And today, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi tried to put the controversy to rest.

FEDERICO LOMBARDI: (Through interpreter) It’s not surprising. Observations and doubts were expressed about the new synod rules. But once they’ve been established, the synod fathers must apply them in the best possible way.

Source: Vatican Denounces Letter Criticizing Pope Francis On Family : NPR

Underlying disagreements already exist among social lines–with African representatives emerging as the “standard-bearers” for “traditional Catholic teaching on family issues.”


The Pope Gets on the Line, and Everyone Is Talking –

Shrewd public diplomacy move by Pope Francis:

Pope Francis already has distinguished himself from his predecessor with a more down-to-earth style. Now he is both unnerving the Vatican and delighting the faithful by picking up the telephone and spontaneously calling people, earning the nickname “the Cold Call Pope.”

This month, he called to comfort a pregnant Italian woman whose married boyfriend had unsuccessfully pressured her to have an abortion. The woman, who is divorced and will be a single mother, wrote to the pope, fearing she had fallen afoul of the church. Not knowing the correct address, she marked the envelope “Holy Father Pope Francis, Vatican City, Rome.” The pope offered to personally baptize the baby when it is born next year, according to an account in La Stampa, a newspaper in Turin.

via The Pope Gets on the Line, and Everyone Is Talking –

New Archbishop of Canterbury Has Strong Negotiation Skills

The newest leader of 77 million Anglicans has an interesting background studying law and history and working as a sort of chief financial officer at a British oil company:

Bishop Welby’s experience in business and conflict resolution represents a marked departure from his predecessor’s background as a theologian and a poet.

This year, as a member of the upper House of Lords, to which Anglican bishops are routinely appointed, Bishop Welby joined a parliamentary panel scrutinizing the behavior of British banks. He is known as an opponent of corporate excess and has been critical of banks.

Speaking at a conference in Zurich, according to a financial Web site, he described banks as “exponents of anarchy” before the financial crisis in 2008 because they pursued “activity without purpose.”

via Justin Welby Appointed Archbishop of Canterbury –

The Anglican Church–known in the United States as the Episcopal Church–has an interesting set of “rules of procedure” or civil law called “canon law” but governance  is entirely independent under member churches.  Doctrine is debated and passed as resolutions at a Lambeth Conference, held each decade.

Pope Benedict XVI, in Lebanon, Makes Plea for Religious Freedom –

The leader of the Catholic Church (and governmental head of the Holy See, an independent state and member state with observer status at the UN) visits Lebanon, a place where he sees “an example of diversity and mutual coexistence for the Middle East and the world”:

Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday implored young Christians not to emigrate from Lebanon, saying they were “meant to be protagonists” as the country moved forward, and urging them to forge closer bonds with Muslim youth.

via Pope Benedict XVI, in Lebanon, Makes Plea for Religious Freedom –

Also interesting is that the Holy Father called sending weapons to Syria “a grave sin.”

9/11: Did the Qur’an really make them do it?

A poignant post from one of the most important current thinkers on religious studies, Philip Jenkins of Penn State.  He argues that 9/11 didn’t do as much to change our thinking–but we should be able to better understand the Qur’an and its followers, rather than resorting to anti-Islamic tropes:

On reflection, the greatest lesson I learned from the 9/11 horror concerned religion, and specifically how we in the West viewed the great world faiths. And the lessons are as much about Us as about Them. After 9/11, many commentators went beyond focusing on the particular ideology of the perpetrators to speak in terms of a broad clash of cultures and civilizations. They focused intensely on Islam, trying to determine just what features of that faith led its adherents to violence and bloodshed. Many writers have presented Islam as a stark contrast to Christianity and Judaism, and portrayed a struggle of darkness against light.

The Qur’an, in this view, is something like a terrorist manifesto: the book oozes violence, with so many verses about battles, swords and blood. Fanaticism seems hard-wired into the faith. Are the core texts of Islam so repulsive that they will prevent Muslim societies ever evolving to civilized and democratic communities? Why can’t they learn to be like us?

via 9/11: Did the Qur’an really make them do it?.

Quaker House at the UN

How much do you know about Quaker activity at the UN?  They hew toward “small circles and quiet processes” and are especially focused on peace building.  Early involvement included the League of Nations with formal representation since the late 1940’s. Camila Campisi, UN representative for the Quaker UN Office explains this and more in a featured  ACUNS podcast:

via Campisi.mp3 – ACUNS.

Edwin Gaustad, Religious Historian, is Dead at 87 –

Coincidental connection between the 22nd annual International Society conference today–focusing on issues of religious liberty and the global Latter-day Saint church–and the passing of Edwin S. Gaustad, author of The Religious History of America: The Heart of the American Story… among other works.

Professor Gaustad’s interest in religious liberty, and evolving notions of the relationship between church and state, led to an abiding fascination with Roger Williams, the theologian who helped found Rhode Island and established the first Baptist church. He wrote about Williams in “Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America” 1991 and in a short biography, “Roger Williams” 2005.“My interest in him relates principally to his historic contributions to religious liberty — a full freedom in matters of the soul,” he told the journal Church and State in 2005. “Williams advocated the scariest political heresy of his day: namely, that a civil institution could survive without the supporting arm of the church. He was alone in this view in all New England, alone in most of the other colonies, and certainly alone in his own homeland of England.”

via Edwin Gaustad, Religious Historian, is Dead at 87 – [pay wall count applies].