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Vatican City

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The head of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, is under investigation as part of a money-laundering inquiry, police sources say. 

Prosecutors also seized 23m euros ($30m; £19m) from the bank’s accounts with another smaller institution. 

The inquiry was launched after two suspicious transactions were reported to tax police in Rome. 

The Vatican said it was “perplexed and astonished”, and expressed full confidence in Mr Tedeschi. 

The Vatican Bank, known officially as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), was created during World War II to administer accounts held by religious orders, cardinals, bishops and priests. 

John Henry Newman, when he preached his first ...

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John Henry Newman has now been declared Blessed, a step up from Venerable. I imagine the next move is towards canonization or sainthood and then after that, there’ll probably be a push to name him Doctor of the Church. John Allen at National Catholic Reporter has a bunch of interesting links.

Evil Advert

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Via CNN:

London, England (CNN) — Britain’s advertising watchdog has censured an Italian ice cream manufacturer over an advertisement depicting a heavily pregnant nun that appeared ahead of a papal visit to the UK.

The ad featuring the strapline “immaculately conceived” over an image of the expectant sister spooning from a tub of Antonio Federici ice cream was “likely to cause widespread offense,” the Advertising Standards Authority ruled.

The ASA said the publishers of Lady magazine, which carried the ad, had received several complaints from readers.

The watchdog rejected the manufacturer’s claims that it was “using gentle humor” to convey the message that “ice cream is our religion.”

“We considered the use of a nun pregnant through immaculate conception was likely to be seen as a distortion and mockery of the beliefs of Roman Catholics,” the ASA ruling said.

Via NBC:

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Sunday raised the possibility of using behind-the-scenes diplomacy to try to spare the life of an Iranian widow sentenced to be stoned for adultery.

In its first public statement on the case, which has attracted worldwide attention, the Vatican also decried stoning as a particularly “brutal” form of capital punishment.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the Catholic church opposes the death penalty in general.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted in 2006 of adultery. In July, Iranian authorities said they would not carry out the stoning sentence for the time being, but the mother of two could still face execution by hanging for adultery and other offenses.

One of the most important lessons of Jesus’ teaching, 2,000 years ago was on the occasion of a possible stoning of a woman for adultery. “He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

Adultery, among most of the major religions is a sin, and one can make a good case for it being detrimental to society. But whatever it’s demerits, it does warrant stoning to death.

Update: Via BBC–the woman is to be whipped

So Wapo has an article on Opus Dei, the type of soft, fluff piece meant to humanize Opus Dei. I think it was largely successful with the exception of this very strange bit:

There is corporal mortification, though not as portrayed in “The Da Vinci Code,” they say. “It’s not a bloody whipping of oneself,” Coverdale said. “It’s more an annoyance.” He wears a leg chain with dull spikes — called a cilice — around his upper thigh for a couple of hours a day while praying. It’s designed to be uncomfortable but not to draw blood. And once or twice a week, during a prayer, he whips himself on his buttocks with a type of rope referred to as “the disciplines.”

“It doesn’t particularly hurt; maybe it stings a bit,” Coverdale said.

Yikes! There is no way to make this come across as normal and everyday-Joe like.

The sermon, “The Philosophical Temper First Enjoined by the Gospel,” was preached July 2, 1826.

{1} FEW charges have been more frequently urged by unbelievers against Revealed Religion, than that it is hostile to the advance of philosophy and science. That it has discouraged the cultivation of literature can never with any plausibility be maintained, since it is evident that the studies connected with the history and interpretation of the Scriptures have, more than any others, led to inquiries into the languages, writings, and events of ancient times. Christianity has always been a learned religion; it came into the world as the offspring of an elder system, to which it was indebted for much which it contained, and which its professors were obliged continually to consult. The Pagan philosopher, on enrolling himself a member of the Christian Church, was invited, nay, required, to betake himself to a line of study almost unknown to the schools of Greece. The Jewish {2} books were even written in a language which he did not understand, and opened to his view an account of manners and customs very different from those with which he was familiar. The writings of the ancients were to be collected, and their opinions examined; and thus those studies which are peculiarly called learned would form the principal employment of one who wished to be the champion of the Christian faith. The philosopher might speculate, but the theologian must submit to learn.

 I think this is an interesting statement for an Oxford man. 19th century Oxford was a school for the Arts. Science was not it strong suit. It would be interesting to know what Newman understood by science (I wonder if he is thinking Bishop Joseph Butler and Bishop Paley of watchmaker analogy fame). There was a lot going on in Great Britain scientifically, including with folks like Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus Darwin.  This early we see Newman’s concern to bridge the gap the between faith and science, which I think he succeeds with his 1870 work As Essay in the Aid of a Grammar of Assent.

In general this sermon raises interesting questions and issues:

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Via ABC, the Vatican Exorcist speaks about his experiences. I have blogged briefly in the past on exorcisms.

So, Chief Exorcist had this to say:

There are differences of opinion about exorcism inside the church, La Repubblica adds. Some are skeptical, some suspicious, other resistant.

“I believe bishops who don’t appoint exorcists are committing a mortal sin,” Amorth says.

by Michael Satlow of Brown University. This is a series of podcasts on the history of the Israelites to the end of the first century C.E. It is very, very, very, well done. One example is the handling of the Ezra-Nehemiah story. It is a complicated story and I have listed to another Ph.D. butcher it. Satlow does his home work and his explanations are very clear.

Okay, this is not intended to be a long post, more like jotting down of quick ideas. Most Catholic parishes are afflicted with the issue of lack of involvement and participation by families/people in general. There is no easy diagnosis but there are a few things that occur to me.

INVITE PEOPLE! Parishioners are simply waiting to be asked.

1. Never let the ushers take up the gifts, the priest should insist that a family or group take them up. This, at a minimal level, makes people feel involved in the liturgy.

2. Make people and families commit. A priest friend provided a piece of paper and pencils on every pew and had everyone write down a commitment of time, talent and funds on a sheet of paper and then bring the paper up to the altar and drop it in a basket.

3. Database management–following on 2. Create a database of Church families using something simple like Microsoft Access. You can create entries for a family including members, with info like birthdays and other important days, talents, etc. The database should let the adminstrator create and develop fields to tag people which means that you can sort by groups. So if you are looking for people possibly interested in HIV/AIDS ministry, you can sort and then invite people.

4. I’m not a liturgy expert (anyone remember the liturgist/terrorist jokes?) but it would seem to me that you can sign up families to get involved in the litirgy. So each family would have a week. In that week, the family would take the lead in cleaning and decorating the Church, and also help with ushering, and the Mass readings. I’m thinking, for the readings, the whole family goes up, even if only one person actually reads. Now, cool your jets if it is not liturgically correct. My expertise is not in liturgy.

5. Leverage the natural interactions that occur between parents and families during religious education. I think that people begin to get to know each other more when their kids join the religious education program. This is tricky, though. Some parishes make parents meet while the kids are in class and some parents don’t like this. I don’t know. I just know there are possibilities here.

6. Encourage lay-run retreats, bible studies, reflections, gatherings, breakfasts, etc. This would follow on #2. There are usually people with advanced theological knowledge in the congregation. The important thing here is that it must be apolitical.

These are just a couple of thoughts that occur to me. As much as the Church is a spiritual body, it is also an organization. This means that that there must be a marketing plan, a way to reach out and create a certain perception to influence. Parishes thus have to use social media to get things going such as blogs, facebook, tweeter, etc. The expertise for this is no doubt in each parish.

So Dec 8 is the Catholic Holy Day of Obligation celebrating the Immaculate Conception. BTW, the Immaculate Conception refers to the immaculate conception of Mary, not Jesus. Jesus’ conception is more linked with the Annunciation which is when the angel appears to Mary, which coincidentally is a theme that makes its way into Christmas, ergo song “O highly favored lady, gloria.”

On the Immaculate Conception, the above link is to Wikipedia which is not a bad entry at all. They point to a scriptural reference point that supports the idea:

“Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee”, “Tota pulchra es, amica mea, et macula non est in te” (Vulgate[12]), from the Song of Solomon (4.7) was also regarded as a scriptural confirmation of the doctrine, and as macula is Latin for “spot” or “stain”, is probably responsible for its name.

One reason I love the verse is a concert I attended years ago on 12-13th century music and the only thing I remember is them singing “tota pulchra es, Maria, et macula non es it te.” Of course, the “amica mea” (my friend) is substituted with “Maria.”