From the Sublime to the Ridiculous (or at least from the not-so-ridiculous to the ridiculous), here’s what we’ve been covering in the last week over at the faithforward news desk:

Other news categories:

Catholic News

  • You may have heard some Catholic guy or another died this weekend. Or maybe not. Either way, pastordan rounds up some attempts to claim his legacy here.
  • After John Paul’s death, the AP polled American Catholics to see what they were looking for in a new pope:

    Most Americans want the next pope to work for changes in Roman Catholic Church policies to allow priests to marry and women to join the priesthood. And they want more done to combat sexual abuse by priests, an AP-Ipsos poll found.

    A solid majority of Americans, and Catholics in the country, are calling for the changes even while saying they widely admire Pope John Paul II, who supported traditional policies against priest marriage and against allowing women into the priesthood.

    Just over half of Americans, 51 percent, and almost three-fourths of Catholics say John Paul, who died Saturday, will be remembered as one of the greatest popes, according to the poll conducted for The Associated Press by Ipsos-Public Affairs.

    The U.S. Catholic church is struggling with a variety of problems, including a dramatically shrinking U.S. priesthood, disagreement over the proper role for lay leaders, and a conservative-liberal divide over sexuality, women’s ordination and clergy celibacy.

    About two-thirds of those polled, 69 percent, said priests should be allowed to marry and almost that many, 64 percent, said they want women in the priesthood. Six in 10 Catholics supported each of those steps.

    More than four in five Americans – and about the same number of Catholics – said they want to see the next pope do more to address the problem of priests sexually abusing children.

    For better or worse, the Church is not a democracy, so polls only carry as much weight as the new Vatican leadership gives them. But it is interesting to see very solid support for a new direction.

    Update: apparently, 60+% of American Catholics are just a bunch of hippie weasels:

    Many of the more Liberal types hope that the Pope’s successor will change the Church to suit their “modern” morality, so that it will suit them better. That would be a terrible mistake. It was his consistent affirmation of traditional values that made him a great leader, and I believe the next Pope will see the wisdom of following John Paul’s lead. So if you’re hoping to see a Pope George Ringo changing the cross to a peace sign, proclaiming “if it feels good, do it,” wearing tie-dyed robes and introducing the “Buddy Christ” from the movie Dogma… forget it.

  • And there was (some) other Catholic news. For example, this: Catholic Bishops Campaign Against Death Penalty
    Interesting to read this alongside my post on Rick Santorum from a few days back.

    Even without that angle, it’s interesting:

    Pollster John Zogby presented results of a survey taken last November showing that support for capital punishment among Catholics was down to 48 percent, with 47 percent now opposed. In 2001, 68 percent of Catholics support the death penalty while 27 percent were opposed.

    Evidently, Catholic opinion on the subject is changing–and substantially. Does that mean the hierarchy is taking the “seamless cloth” more seriously? Or is the message just sinking in with the laity?

    Religion & Politics

  • What’s Charles Grassley up to? AP:

    WASHINGTON – A former White House official says ‘widespread congressional apathy and a desire for political gamesmanship’ doomed the president’s tax incentives for charitable giving.

    In testimony prepared for a hearing on charities, David Kuo, former deputy director at the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, also criticized Republican efforts to repeal the estate tax because of its potential drain on charitable giving.
    Sen. Charles Grassley (news, bio, voting record), R-Iowa, called Kuo to testify Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee as part of an investigation into abuses at tax-exempt charitable organizations. Grassley has said he wants to pass a bill clamping down on the problems this spring.

    Since when does Grassley care about this stuff? I wonder who that bill’s going to target. And why call a former administration aide who has been publicly critical of the president’s efforts in this arena?

    For that matter, why is Kuo now giving it to Congress? In his published comments late last year, he pinned the blame on both the administration and Congress. So has he changed his focus, or does the other side of his critique not come through in the article?

    The whole thing is a puzzle.

    But here’s what he’s got to say about the estate tax and charitable giving:

    Kuo also said estimates show that a full repeal of the estate tax could cost the charitable sector more than $10 billion each year. The estate tax leads wealthy individuals to contribute to charities because the donations reduce their estate tax liability.

    “That is a lot of money,” he said.

    The Congressional Budget Office last year reported that repealing the estate tax could cause a 6 percent to 12 percent drop in charitable contributions and bequests.

    Could it be more obvious that these folks don’t give a crap about charity? If they did, they wouldn’t seek tax cuts that would kick charitable organizations in the nuts. This is another tax cut for the wealthy, plain and simple.

  • LOL! We could make a whole career out of making fun of Gary Bauer:

    The effort to smear Tom DeLay is no longer a “whisper campaign” in the shadowy corridors of Congress.  The radical Left is now taking its crusade to the airwaves, hoping to tear down Tom DeLay just as it did Newt Gingrich.  A liberal organization, called the Campaign for America’s Future, is about to launch an ad blitz intended to split rank-and-file House Republicans from the leadership.  The theme of one ad is “stand with DeLay or decency.”

    Why is the radical Left so determined to demonize Tom DeLay?  Because he is one of the most effective advocates for traditional values on Capitol Hill. The liberals know it and they don’t deny that is the reason they are gunning for him now.

    Today’s Washington Post reports that Democratic officials in Congress are trying to turn DeLay’s efforts to save Terri Schiavo against him, noting
    that “his high profile in the congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, has given them an opening to use him as more of a foil.  They said that until now, he was so little known to the public — despite his enormous power at the Capitol — that attacks on him were not effective.”

    If by “traditional values” you mean the cynical, self-aggrandazing of a family’s pain to stave off the PR fallout from multiple ethics (and criminal) investigations, then yes, Mr. Bauer. Yes, you are correct.

  • Dignan at has some interesting things to say about the party of Pat Robertson:

    Much has been written about the fractured state of relations between the more socially conservative members of the Republican party and the more fiscally conservative or libertarians members since the fall election.(Pejman Yousefzadeh wrote this article on Tech Central Station, Harry Brown responded here, and Glenn Reynolds wrote here) As a conservative evangelical Christian (not part of the ‘Religious Right’ however) and as a strong believer in the power of the free market (see some of my capitalist rants here and here), I straddle the two sides of this discussion.

    He promises part II. I’ll have to make sure to get back there to read it.

    Update [2005-4-6 15:27:27 by pastordan]:: Seems some folks in Idaho agree. Freaking Mountain Libertarians, spoiling all the Christianists’ fun…

  • Lucky B–! Jeb gets off easy:

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It seemed like Jeb Bush was in a no-win situation by taking up the cause of trying to keep Terri Schiavo alive.

    He was going against polls that showed two out of three people thought government shouldn’t get involved. Then when courts stopped him from stepping in, some of his conservative Christian base criticized him for not doing more.  

    But many people agree the Schiavo case was not a political issue for Bush and that the governor will not be hurt by it – especially since he doesn’t have plans to run for office again any time soon.  “I can’t see it having any impact on Jeb Bush and his political future,” said Darryl Paulson, a University of South Florida political science professor.  “He’s not going to be running again in ’06 and he says he’s not running for the presidency and every one of his advisers is taking him at his word.”

  • 2 1/2 Cheers For The Home Team! CLEARWATER, Fla. —

    The Clearwater judge hearing the legal fight over Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube has dropped out of his church after the pastor inquired about his continued membership.

    Calvary Baptist Church says Circuit Judge George Greer had not regularly attended services for years.

    The pastor wrote a two-page letter this month asking why Greer hadn’t transferred his membership elsewhere after criticizing the church.

    Greer had complained that his church didn’t come to his defense after the Florida Southern Baptist Convention editorialized against his rulings in the case of the brain-damaged woman.

    Clearwater’s Faith United Church of Christ has invited Greer to join.

    Wichita, Kansas:

    A Christian vote on the proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions is not necessarily a yes vote, a group of Wichita clergy who oppose the amendment said Wednesday.

    “It’s Christian to vote no on this because it lifts up justice, and justice is a Christian value,” said the Rev. Ken Stephens of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ.

    He was among about a dozen clergy who attended a news conference at Fairmount United Church of Christ in Wichita to announce their opposition to the amendment. He is one of 26 area clergy who have signed a statement urging people to vote no.

    But then there’s this piece on faith and the NJ Governor’s race, which highlights the affiliations of all the candidates except the front-runner’s. John Corzine has been a member of a UCC congregation in Northern Jersey for quite some time.


    The Democrats’ presumptive candidate, U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine, has pumped millions of dollars into the historically vote-rich black churches in urban New Jersey as well as Catholic and Jewish charities. Working black congregations in Hudson and Essex Counties helped boost a forceful turnout for him during the 2000 Democratic Senate primary, in which he hammered former Gov. Jim Florio, who was better known, by 58 percent to 42 percent.

    Corzine supports a variety of religious institutions, spokeswoman Ivette Mendez said, and will campaign at them because he “believes deeply that religion plays a vital role in society.”

    WTDO? Did they not ask him, or did he decline to answer?

    And where does this leave Sponge Bob?

    Church News

  • Bad news from the National Council of Churches, at least for former mainline denominations:

    Churches that declined in membership in 2004 are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,984,925 members, down 1.05 percent; the Presbyterian Church (USA), 3,241,309 members, down 4.87 percent; The Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), 2,488,936 members, down .95 percent); American Baptist Churches in the USA, 1,433,075 members, down 3.45 percent; and the United Church of Christ, 1,296,652 members, down 2.58 percent.

    The data is gathered by the churches in 2003 and reported to the yearbook in 2004.

    The data is somewhat old, blah blah blah


    A reported surge in membership of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) has placed the communion on the list of the largest American churches. The Syosset, N.Y., based church grew 11.11 percent to 1-million members, according to the yearbook.

    Other churches in the top 25 that continued to grow in 2004 are the Assemblies of God, 2,729,562 members and a growth rate of 1.57 percent; the Episcopal Church, 2,320,221 members and a growth rate of .57 percent; the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 1,432,795 members and a growth rate of .14 percent; and Jehovah’s Witnesses, 1,041,030 members and a growth rate of 1.82 percent.

    The only real surprise here is the Episcopalians’ growth. Southern evangelical congregations? Or a sudden re-appraisal of brie and chardonnay? (The Greeks, whatever. I’ll be interested to see if this growth is a result of immigration or conversion.)

    Here’s the list of the top 25 denominations:

    1. The Catholic Church – 67,259,768
    2. Southern Baptist Convention – 16,439,603
    3. The United Methodist Church – 8,251,175
    4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – 5,503,192
    5. The Church of God in Christ – 5,449, 875
    6. National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. – 5,000,000
    7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – 4,984,925
    8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. – 3,500,000
    9. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – 3,241,309
    10. Assemblies of God – 2,729,562
    11. African Methodist Episcopal Church – 2,500,000
    12. National Missionary Baptist Convention of America – 2,500,000
    13. Progressive National Baptist Convention – 2,500,000
    14. The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) – 2,488,936
    15. Episcopal Church – 2,320,221
    16. Churches of Christ – 1,500,000
    17. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America – 1,500,000
    18. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. – 1,500,000
    19. American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. – 1,433,075
    20. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church – 1,432,795
    21. United Church of Christ – 1,296,652
    22. Baptist Bible Fellowship International – 1,200,000
    23. Christian Churches and Churches of Christ – 1,071,616
    24. Jehovah’s Witnesses – 1,041,030
    25. The Orthodox Church in America – 1,000,000
  • Cheerier news from Church Central:

    DALLAS — The Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) advised its church to commit to ‘interim Eucharistic sharing’ with the United Methodist Church, in a meeting here, March 3-7. According to an ELCA news release, it is a step that may lead to a full-communion agreement between the two churches sometime in the future.

    The ELCA has full-communion agreements with five churches. They are the Episcopal Church, Moravian Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America and United Church of Christ.

    Wow. In theory, an ordained minister like myself could move from the UCC to the Lutherans to the Episcopalians, and perhaps eventually to the United Methodists. Christ’s dream “that you may all be as one” seems to be moving right along.

    This ‘n’ That

  • Dateline TORONTO:

    Reuters–Sabrina the flying squirrel has been allowed permanent residency in Canada after a government order to deport her — which made headlines around the world last year — was reversed this week.

    ‘I think justice got done,’ Clayton Ruby, a high-profile Toronto lawyer who led a campaign to change Canada’s policy on importing squirrels and other banned rodents, said on Friday.”

    Nice to know, somehow.

  • News aggregators are fun! From a Yahoo! news e-mail with the keyword “UCC”:

    Albany, NY (PRWEB) April 4, 2005 — When Sinus Buster hot pepper nasal spray made its” commercial debut in 2004, sales were small but interest was big. Within a just three months, this innovative product received a rush of media coverage including a feature in the Wall Street Journal and national coverage on NBC News.

    Now barely a year after it”s official commercial launch, Sinus Buster Hot Pepper Nasal Spray has become perhaps the most talked about headache and sinus remedy ever. Billed as the “World”s first hot pepper nasal spray,” Sinus Buster has quickly become the recommended natural alternative to dangerous prescription headache medicines and popular over the counter sinus products.

    Nah, you’ll just have to read it yourself to see how the “UCC” fits in.

  • KUTV: Strip Club Wins Legal Victory in Fight With Mormon Church:

    A judge has ruled against the Mormon church in a lawsuit it brought against Salt Lake City after officials granted a downtown strip club a license.

    Judge Denise Lindberg’s ruling Wednesday was a victory for the Dead Goat Saloon, which received its sexually oriented business license from the city before the city joined forces with the church in the lawsuit.

    In her 29-page ruling, Lindberg noted how strange it was for lawyers representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the city attorney to sit at the same table during oral arguments since the church was suing the city.

    She also said the city has done little to defend its decisions to grant the so-called SOB license, which the city now argues should be revoked.

    The Dead Goat is apparently also known as the Crazy Goat. Sounds like a quality institution.

    No word on what you have to do to get a SOB license in Salt Lake City.

  • More Headlines We Couldn’t Resist: Charlotte church apologizes for stance on Catholics

    We knew it was bad that she was smoking and breaking up with her boyfriends, but we never thought it would come to this…

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