Friday, November 09, 2007

Pope Benedict Roundup

The Future's So Bright... He's Gotta Wear Shades?

We all knew that Pope John Paul II was voluminous in his writings and indefatigible in his non-stop travels, even when he was ill and frail. Many people thought his output and his schedule would be hard to match. I have to admit, however, that I'm really impressed by the workload that B16 is able to put in for a man his age. He never stops. If you look him up in the news, there is always this matter or that matter that he is writing about or giving a speech on. He also comes up with some really unique and innovative ideas on whom he chooses to meet with. Hardly a topic exists out there that he doesn't weigh in on. He's certainly gives truth to the old stereotype of the hard-working German. If you like him or if you don't like him, you have to at least give him his props for that.

B16 Meets with the Saudi King

Here is a report about the recent meeting between Pope Benedict and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah. The Pope and the bishops have been concerned for quite some time about the rights of Christians to worship freely in the Saudi Kingdom and other areas of the Middle East, pointing out a need for reciprocity in relations between Muslims and Christians, particularly when it comes to religious freedom. According to the article...
In an interview with Reuters on the eve of the meeting, the bishop in charge of Catholics in Saudi Arabia called on the country to guarantee more freedom and security for minority Christians and allow more priests in to minister to the faithful.

"What I am hoping is that there can be more security and freedom for our people in a very low profile manner," said Bishop Paul Hinder, a Swiss national who is based in Abu Dhabi... "I am not expecting to be able to build a cathedral. But at least (we need) the freedom to worship in security."
As we all remember from last year, there was quite a stir when Benedict gave a speech at Regensburg and quoted Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus as saying,
Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread the sword by the faith he preached.
Apparently, this meeting was cordial, and a group of Islamic scholars recently sent a letter to Benedict, looking for a dialogue, but when the Pope and the Saudi King exchanged gifts, the Saudi King gave Benedict... um... well, he gave him a jewel-encrusted... sword.

B16 Weighs in on the Rights of Labor

I read a column by George Weigel a couple of months ago that really got under my skin. It was called Lord, please don’t hear this prayer. Here is an excerpt:
A while back, I noted with a touch of asperity that the “Prayer of the Faithful” too frequently deteriorates into serial sermonettes, an AmChurch innovation without foundation in the Church’s liturgical tradition. I was particularly scornful of petitions that politicize the liturgy by promoting, as self-evidently desirable objects of the Lord’s attention, various planks in the Democratic platform. The same objection would, of course, apply to petitions drawn from the Republican playbook; but given the ambience from which most mass-produced liturgical “aids” emerge these days, that’s not likely to be a big problem any time soon.

It is, perhaps, an unhappy indicator of this column’s influence that things on the petition front have arguably gotten worse. Moreover, numerous readers have asked me to revisit the issue, so here we go again. Try these two gems, to which I was recently subjected; they were taken from a canned set of petitions for weekday Mass:

“For a transformation of world vision which will put the needs of human beings before capital gain and create policies which manifest Jesus’s love for the poor, let us pray to the Lord...”

“For the leaders of the United Nations, may they effectively design programs to provide aid to the people who experience the greatest suffering, let us pray to the Lord...”

I trust the Lord wasn’t listening.

The first petition cited is soft socialism masquerading as intercessory prayer. It ignores the fact that incorporation into global markets is the key to economic development and the empowerment of the poor, as post-World War II western Europe and Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, post-Cold War east central Europe, and now India demonstrate. In his 1991 encyclical, Centesimus Annus, John Paul II stressed that the moral obligation of the wealthy is to bring the global poor into those “capital-gain” driven networks of productivity and exchange that our petition-writer deplores. So why set “capital gain” over-against “Jesus’s love for the poor,” as if the two were mutually exclusive?
First of all, is this what we've come to? The term "AmChurch" used to be an obnoxious epithet used by the most extreme of radical traditionalists and schismatics. Now we've gotten to the point where it gets used by "reasonable" conservatives?

Well, in this rather snarky article in the Economist, Supererogation stops here, we read about Benedict weighing in on the rights of labor and the responsibilities of employers, squarely in the tradition of Leo XIII.
Contracts that do not ensure stable employment, said the pope, are among the “ethical and social emergencies capable of undermining the stability [of society] and seriously compromising its future”. His objection was not that these contracts brought rock-bottom wages and long hours, but that they “did not permit young people to build a family”. Ever since 1891, when Pope Leo XIII published his encyclical “Rerum Novarum”, the Vatican has steered an often wobbly course between the whirlpool of socialism and the rock of capitalism. Benedict's remarks seem an abrupt tack towards the froth and spume. Perhaps aware of the risks, Monsignor Giovanni D'Ercole, a senior Vatican official, insists that the pope was not attacking specific legislation but rather unstable forms of employment that were obstacles to the “true well-being of humanity”.
Nice try with the spin, but the Pope is hardly a laissez-faire neo-con when it comes to unbridled capitalism. In Brazil last May he said:
Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures, and they declared that these, once established, would function by themselves; they declared that not only would they have no need of any prior individual morality, but that they would promote a communal morality. And this ideological promise has been proved false. The facts have clearly demonstrated it. The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction, but also a painful oppression of souls. And we can also see the same thing happening in the West, where the distance between rich and poor is growing constantly, and giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness.
He's not saying what you're saying George. See John Allen's article Benedict's critique of capitalism no surprise, and this recent article on the next expected encyclical, Pope's views on economics expected to please liberals.

There is nothing wrong with that first prayer whatsoever. It isn't "soft socialism" at all. Catholic social teaching doesn't support the Darwinian form of Capitalism that you prefer, George. Taiwan! Why don't you mention China as an example? A country filled with slave labor, organ harvesting, and no religious freedom, throwing our markets into a tailspin with a veiled threat to start dumping some of that devalued cash of ours that they hold in such abundance. With the mantra you proclaim with your pal Fr. Neuhaus, "fidelity, fidelity, fidelity", I have to confess that I don't mind seeing you hoisted on your petard like this every now and then, like when your neo-con buddy Michael Novak went to the Vatican to make a case for going to war in Iraq, and they were having none of it.

As for the United Nations, Benedict has praised the Montreal Protocol, and has accepted an invitation to address the United Nations. We'll see how much he's in agreement with you on that.

B16 Meets Religious Leaders at 21st Annual Peace Meeting Sponsored by Sant'Egidio Community

Of all the lay movements that arose after Vatican II, I admire the Community of Sant'Egidio the most by far.

The Pope was in Naples at the same time the meeting was held, and spoke out about how faith and violence should never be mixed. From this article:
"In a world wounded by conflicts, where violence is justified in God's name, it's important to repeat that religion can never become a vehicle of hatred, it can never be used in God's name to justify violence," Benedict said. "On the contrary, religions can and must offer precious resources to build a peaceful humanity, because they speak about peace in the heart of man."

During the one-day visit, Benedict met with religious leaders including Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah, the second largest Islamic organization in Indonesia, and Ayatollah Sayed Mousavi Bojnourdi, head of an Islamic study center in Iran.

At lunch, however, only one Muslim representative was invited to sit at Benedict's table — Ezzeddine Ibrahim, a cultural adviser to the president of the United Arab Emirates.

Ibrahim was among the 138 Muslim scholars who recently signed a letter to Christian leaders urging Christians and Muslims to build on their common belief in one God to work for peace.

Other religious leaders attending the meeting included one of Israel's chief rabbis, Yona Metzger; Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians; the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams; the head of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Samuel Kobia; and Buddhist, Shinto, Hindu and Zoroastrian representatives.
Is Tony Blair About to Come Into the Catholic Church?

Rumor has it that it could happen within weeks.

Perhaps ten years or so in office gets to be too much for any politician, but I think what happened to Tony Blair is tragic. I think he was a great Prime Minister, maybe even the best of them all. He should be remembered at the very least for what he was able to accomplish in Northern Ireland. I think he's a brilliant man. I would often tune in to C-SPAN just to watch him in Parliament, jumping up to fend off attacks in rapid-fire succession from his Tory interlocutors. Very impressive. It's a shame that he allowed himself to be tied to George Bush and the whole Iraq deal so closely, on the basis of faulty and dishonest intelligence.
Tony Blair is to become a Roman Catholic within weeks...

He has been guided by Fr John Walsh, a former RAF chaplain who celebrated mass at Chequers, and Fr Mark O’Toole, the cardinal's secretary.

His path to Rome will come as no surprise because his wife Cherie and four children are Catholics and the family have worshipped together for years.

Mr Blair, in one of his final acts as prime minister, met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican when he told him of wish to leave the Church of England.

The imminent conversion was disclosed by the respected Catholic newspaper The Tablet, which predicted the service would be held this month.

B16 on Pharmacy Scrip

See here.

Whether people agree or disagree with the particular issues in dispute, many pharmacists agree that they should have the right to follow their consciences in what they dispense...
In a statement, Michael J. DeAngelis, a spokesman for CVS/Pharmacy, which has 115 stores on Long Island and 100 in New York City, said: "Under federal law and some state laws, we must also accommodate a religious conviction that may prevent a pharmacist from dispensing a medication."

Indeed, a few states have passed laws that specifically allow pharmacists or pharmacies to refuse to provide health care due to religious or moral objections, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights think-tank based in New York. The institute says New York does not have laws allowing providers to refuse to provide contraception.

Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and South Dakota have laws that permit pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraceptives, according to the institute, and Florida, Illinois, Maine and Tennessee have broadly worded laws that may apply to pharmacists.

In California, pharmacists must fill all valid prescriptions and can only refuse with employer approval and if the customer can still access the prescription in a timely manner.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich introduced a rule more than two years ago requiring pharmacists to fill all prescriptions.

Pharmacists challenged the rule, and a settlement this month allowed those who object to dispensing emergency birth control to step aside for someone else to fill the prescription.

In Washington state, pharmacists have a federal lawsuit over a regulation requiring them to sell emergency contraception, saying it violates their civil rights by forcing them into choosing between "their livelihoods and their deeply held religious and moral beliefs."


crystal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
crystal said...

have to admit, every now and then, Benedict does something that actually makes me like him. - for instance, did you know his cat wrote a book about him? :-)

I have to disagree about the pharmacy thing, though. I think pharmacies should fill al prescriptions, regardless of the religious beliefs of the pharacist.

Paula said...

I like him very much. :-).

Jeff, thank you very much for the comment and the prayers. I just added a post which explains partially what is going on...the rest I will write later.

Jeff said...

Hi Crystal,

I just thought the reaction of some of the pharmacists was interesting. I guess a lot of that comes down to whether or not a pharmacist operates independently. If he runs his own apocathary, I'd say he can probably turn down whatever business he likes. If he works for someone else, like at a CVS, there a price to pay for that. You work for someone else, you have to do what you're told, or look elsewhere.

Benedict and the cats. :-) I know y'all guys are cat lovers, but when I read in David Gibson's book The Rule of Benedict about how he used to feed and hang with the stray cats in Rome's cemeteries, I have to say it creeped me out a little bit. :-)


Congratulations on the acceptance of your thesis! That's great news. What a relief that must be. Good luck with the defense in December!

Paula said...

Thank you.:-)

My mom does exactly what B16 did with the stray cats. Dad use to joke and say that soon a herd of stray cats is going to follow mom everywhere as soon as she will leave the house. :-)

cowboyangel said...

Interesting collection of pieces on PBJ, I mean, PB16. He seems, thus far, a mixed bag.

But Tony Blair one of the greatest prime ministers of all time? Hmm. . . I don't really see it. Too influenced, I suppose, by his complicity in the Iraq catastrophe. And he's always reminded me too much of Bill Clinton. We'd need to discuss this over a pitcher of Sam Adams.

Jeff said...

Hi William,

A pitcher (or two) of Sam Adams sounds good to me. You're not with me on Blair? Granted, it's not like he has a lot of competition. Who are you going to give me? Ben Disraeli? Earl Grey?

Take a look at the list. Now, you can tell me Winston Churchill was a great wartime leader, yes, but he was so lousy in peacetime that they didn't even wait until the end of the war to get rid of him. In addition, just about every post-colonial-era border dispute in the world today can be traced to the tip of his capricious pen.

Steve Bogner said...

Well that's quite a B16 round-up! He's a complex man, that is sure.

The term 'AmChurch' gets under my skin, too. And the Economist can be 'snarky'? Well, yes I agree; but it's still my favorite non-religious magazine.

Garpu the Fork said...

I've been following the mess about the pharmacists out here, and it's really out of control. One pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for prenatal vitamins, because the prescription came from a clinic that does abortions. Another pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for syringes for a diabetic teen because they thought he was a drug dealer.

I have to wonder why some pharmacists get into their field, if they're so morally conflicted. I find it morally repugnant to point a gun at someone. You don't see me joining the military.

Jeff said...

Hey Bogs,

I'm a bit disappointed by Weigel lately. He seems to be doing that sort of thing more and more. I used to think that kind of stuff was beneath him.

Yes, the Economist is very good. Myself? I like The Atlantic best.

Hi Garpu,

The way that science and technology has exploded, it's small wonder that more and more of us get challenged morally in ways we might not have imagined before. I actually hear that there's a shortage of pharmacists, which is strange, because my employer is forcing us to get more and more of our prescriptions filled over the web instead of the local pharmacy. We'd been dealing with the same guys for years and years. Their block of buildings was recently bought up, and now they have to go work for CVS across the street.

Liam said...

A lot of interesting stuff here, Jeff. My take on the pharmacists is that they are licensed to provide a public service, so they have to dispense what it legal to people who need it. Of course, I live in walking distance to several pharmacies, but that kind of attitude in a small town would be much more troublesome.