The Roman Catholic Church has taken the offensive in answering misstatements of fact & assumptions about the Christian faith as described in the perennially best-selling book by novelist Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, which perports to tell the true story of Jesus's romantic relationship with Mary Magdalene, their children, & the nearly successful plot by the Roman authorities to turn simple Christianity into the male-dominated Roman Catholic Church.
Today marks the Catholic Church's Feast Day of St. Mary Magdalene and so was chosen as the debut day for the website, Freebies for the 'Da Vinci Code' Enthusiasts, which contains accurate information about the saint, Jesus Christ, & the Church.
The Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation (CASE) in the UK devised the web site because, although the book is fiction, the author claims it is based on fact, and, in the preface, says, "all descriptions of documents & secret rituals are accurate." Consequently, many readers believe what the book purports about Christianity. Clare Ward, speaking for CASE, said, "This site is very much a reaction to the number of inquiries we have received from non-Catholics, and also we were disturbed by the nature of some of these, asking if Jesus had been married & whether St. Magdalene had children."
At the General Conference of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) on Thursday, the Rev. Troy Perry, who in Los Angeles founded the first church of its kind expressly welcoming gays, lesbians, and those of transgender orientation, will retire. He is expected to be succeeded by the Rev. Nancy Wilson, who would take over as Moderator on October 8.
Perry (65) was a married father and minister when he fully embraced his homosexuality and lost it all before he began a new ministry specifically oriented toward addressing the spiritual needs of the homosexual community from an approval perspective. Perry has been working on the transition in leadership for 3 years and is expected to continue to be a strong presesnce in the movement even as he semi-retires to his home in Los Angeles with his partner of 17 years.
The MCC has 43,000 members in 23 countries. Wilson, who lives in Florida with her partner of 27 years, was the youngest ever elected to the MCC Board od Elders (1976) & and has also served as Vice-Moderator for 10 years. She has pastored churches in Massachusetts, Michigan, & California, including the original church in Los Angeles. She is currently the senior pastor of Church of the Trinity MCC in Sarasota, Florida.
Domino's Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan has always put his money where his faith is, often funding Christian & especially Catholic causes through his various charitable outlets, using the vast fortune he amassed since founding Domino's Pizza in 1960 in Ypsilanti, MI. Last year he pledged to foot the majority of the bill for the first new Roman Catholic University to be built in more than 40 years, and to plant the nation's largest Catholic Cathedral on its grounds. Now rising construction costs have forced him to scale back the size of the cathedral to ensure that necessary funds are available to protect the quality of the university, Ave Maria University, in Naples, Florida.
"I'm disappointed, but there have been such dramatic increases in construction costs . . . the church would have cost some $100 million, and it just didn't make sense," explained Monaghan (68). "If we were to spend that kind of money on a church, we wouldn't have had much of a university."
The new plans call for the church to be 2/3 smaller than previously planned, although it will still seat 1,100 worshipers & soar 100 feet into the air with natural light streaming through the soaring ceiling past gothic-style arches.
Although no one in his family is hazarding a public guess as to how his faith might influence his decisions should he join the US Supreme Court, the family of President Bush's nominee, John Roberts, agrees that religious faith was an important part of the family. President Bush has nominated Roberts to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Roberts' appointment is subject to the confirmation of the Senate & he is currently undergoing scrutiny by that body. Generally, Roberts has been endorsed by conservatives, while liberals are at best dubious & at worst completely dismissive.
When asked if the family's Roman Catholic faith had been important in the family, mother Rosemary (76) said, "Yes, it is, yes." Rosemary spoke at a family news conference Thursday at her home.
Other family members, including his father, Jack (77), and sisters Peggy & Barbara, spoke of John's support to the family, experience, advice, & suitability to serve on the country's highest court. Asked to remark on his expected decisions, they declined, Peggy declaring, "This is about John today, not us. Our opinion is not relevant."
Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, who founded the PTL Television Network with her former husband, televangelist Jim Bakker, has announced that she is battling cancer for the 3rd time. She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1995, was apparently in remission for a number of years, then the same colon cancer was found in her lungs in 2004. Treatment sent it into remission again, but it has now reappeared in her lungs.
A Women's Entertainment Channel television documentary on her struggle & faith, Tammy Faye: Death Defying, is scheduled to premiere on July 25. Speaking of the documentary, Messner said, "I wanted to help people. I felt with cancer & AIDS & these debilitating diseases, we could maybe show the inside and make it a little less frightening."
Messner is said to be in good spirits & confident in her faith. She said in an interview from New York City, "I'm not worried, I'm not afraid. By the third time you have cancer, you begin to think about your mortality." She continued, "I thank God, I'm truly one of the lucky ones. There's always people that are worse off than you are, and that's what I look at to give me strength."
Messner has devoted a significant portion of her time in recent years appearing at gatherings of gay activists and others often shunned by traditional evangelists. Despite the controversy surrounding her appearances from both fellow Christians and those often hostile to televangelism, Messner has insisted that her simple message of "Jesus loves you" is meant for everyone, even those whom others in her profession often publicly castigate.
Bethany Christian Services (BCS), a respected national adoption organization, has clarified its national policy affirming that Catholics will be accepted through the program in the same standing as all other Christians. The clarification came after a local affiliate in Mississippi, Bethany Mississippi, earlier this month rejected an adoption request by a family in Jackson, MS, noting that their Catholic faith conflicted with the organization's Statement of Faith. While fully 16% of BCS's adopting families nationwide last year were Catholic, each affiliate in the 32 states served by BCS are independent subsidiaries, so the national office allows "some discretion on some issues," according to President & CEO Glenn DeMots.
The national clarification is binding on all state offices, but at nearly the same time the Mississippi Board of Directors also voted unanimously on Tuesday to include Catholics in its programs. National President DeMots said Wednesday that the Mississippi organization would probably have voted to include Catholics even without the national directive. DeMots explained, "We are sorry for offending families and all partners of Bethany, and regret any pain & hurt caused by this issue."
BCS was founded in 1944 in Grand Rapids, MI as the dream of 2 Christian women to establish a Christian residence for homeless children. Today the organization has 75 locations in 30 states & 15 foreign countries with nearly 1,000 professionals on staff.
Without specifically naming the medication itself as the culprit, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)has issued a public health advisory concerning mifepristone (trade name Mifeprex), also known as RU-486, the post-conception "abortion pill" (and its partner drug, misoprostol). Four women have died in the US & one in Canada after using the drug to terminate their early pregnancies. They died from blood-related infections after failing to follow completely all recommended treatment with the drug. The FDA has not yet decided if the drug from Danco Laboratories is associated with the deaths because of the quality of the medication itself or because of irregularities in its administration & use.
Danco medical director Richard Hausknecht said "no causal relationship" had been established between the deaths & the use of the drugs, but did indicate that the drug company has updated its safety information labeling.
Danco reported that more than 460,000 women have taken Mifeprex since it was approved by the FDA in September, 2000. The drug works through the administration of mifepristone and then 48 hours later by administration of misoprostol, causing a spontaneous abortion, killing the developing child and expelling the child & other uterine contents. It can be used to terminate pregnancies up to 2 months after conception.
President George Bush has nominated Judge John Roberts (50) to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (who is retiring) on the US Supreme Court. Judge Roberts has been a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for the last 2 years and has a long association with the Republican Party.
The Los Angeles Times says Roberts "was seen as smart and cautious, conservative in his leanings, but not an outspoken ideologue prone to making brash pronouncements. And he was seen as a persuader, someone whose personable approach and intellect could make him a leader on the high court."
While Democrats as a whole have not precipitously announced their rejection of Bush's choice, they have indicated that he will undergo a gruelling interview process before they are willing to vote for or against his confirmation.
Of particular interest to Christians is Roberts' expected actions regarding abortion, should he be confirmed to the nation's highest court. In the past he has commented that Roe. v. Wade was bad interpretation of Constitutional rights that should be rectified. On the other hand, as he was queried prior to his approval to the federal court, he affirmed that he understood the Constitutional authority of Roe v. Wade as decided by the Supreme Court and had no problem in following its dictates in his duties as a federal judge. While some observers see his two statements as contradictory or even duplicitous, supporters explain that the former statement was a statement of his personal belief while the latter was a plain observation of legal fact. Neither statement, in isolation or compared to each other, seems sufficient to accurately predict how he would rule on abortion related issues before the Supreme Court.
Abortion rights groups have uniformly rejected Bush's nomination. NARAL Pro-Choice America characterizes Roberts as "anti-choice" and announced, "We are extremely disappointed that President Bush has chosen such a divisive nominee for the highest court in the nation, rather than a consensus nominee who would protect individual liberty and uphold Roe vs. Wade."
Pro-Life groups seem optimistic about Roberts' conservative commitment to interpreting & applying law rather than writing it. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said, "President Bush has chosen an exceptionally well-qualified and impartial nominee for the Supreme Court. Judge Roberts is widely respected for his fair judgment, intellect and integrity, all things qualifying him to serve as the next Supreme Court justice. I believe that Judge Roberts will strictly interpret the Constitution and not legislate from the bench."
It was a foregone conclusion, but Canada's Senate yesterday overwhelmingly approved legislation passed by the lower chamber of Parliament last week legalizing same sex marriage nationwide. The upper chamber consists of Senators who are appointed and is dominated by the ruling Liberal party. The Senate vote was 47 - 21 to pass the law, which may take effect as early as today.
Previously courts throughout the country had ruled that denying marriage rights to same sex couples was contrary to Canada's Constitution; and 8 of the 10 provinces had already recognized the unions.
The legislation specifically exempts religious officials from obligation to marry same sex couples, although it ensures that same sex civil marriage is legitimate. Not so clear is whether public officials involved in issuing civil licenses or performing civil unions would be required to do so for same sex couples even if their own religious views are against it.
Same sex marriages in Canada of non-Canadian citizens may not be recognized in their own countries.
Atheist & legal gadfly Michael Newdow is again in court petitioning to have the Pledge of Allegiance removed from the public schools. Newdow has filed suit against 4 Sacramento, California school districts where children he is representing as an attorney attend and recite the pledge. U. S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton has ruled that Newdow can pursue the suit arguing that reciting the pledge in public schools is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, but he threw out the bulk of Newdow's case, which argued that the term "under God" should be strciken from the pledge or the pledge itself deemed unconstitutional.
Newdow's first suit was dismissed by the US Supreme Court last year. The dismissal was based on the decision that Newdow had no standing to bring the suit on behalf of his daughter because he did not have custody of her. The US Supreme Court did not rule on whether the pledge or simply the phrase "under God" was constitutional.
In the current case, 8 co-plaintiffs have joined, all of whom are children or custodial parents who have filed on behalf of their children, Newdow said. He has said that he is withholding the names of the plaintiffs "for fear of physical harm." "We're a despised minority," Newdow said before the court.
While Karlton strictly limited the scope of the suit, he did express his opinion that Newdow 's suit may have some validity. He declared, "What I'm doing is cutting out a whole lot of your case and making it narrow." But he went on, "There is nothing whatsoever that requires acknowledging God to love this country."
Terence Cassidy, an attorney for one of the school districts sued, asked for Karlton to dismiss the case altogether, arguing that it was not about promoting religion but instead was promoting patriotism, and that the religious reference was a historical acknowledgement & incidental to the substance of the pledge.
Newdow's suit is filed against the school disticts, the State of California, & the US Congress. It asks for the entire pledge to be considered unconstitutional.
At the time that the US Supreme Court dismissed his appeal, 3 justices indicated that they would have upheld the pledge's constitutionality if the appeal had proceeded, & 1 justice removed himself from the case after he had made public comments that appeared to reveal his view ahead of the arguments that the pledge was constitutional.
In 2002, Answers In Action supported a debate between Newdow & Christian apologist Cliffe Knechtle. A critical analysis of that debate is available on the Answers In Action web site.
The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26