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Notre Dame Fire: Crews Assess the Damage and an Investigation Begins

posted on April 16, 2019

The Washington Post’s Chico Harlan, Michael Birnbaum, and James McAuley report on the aftermath of Tuesday’s fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which according to officials probably started accidentally. They write, “The church’s trademark steeple, part of the Parisian skyline since the mid-1800s, had been swallowed in the flames.” They add that, according to Culture Minister Franck Riester, “firefighters had been able to save the church’s two most hallowed relics: the crown of thorns said to have been worn by Jesus and a tunic of Saint Louis, a 13th-century French king.”

Read at The Washington Post

Activists Are Invoking Religious Freedom to Save Migrants’ Lives

posted on April 16, 2019

For The Nation, Stephanie Russell-Kraft writes that a group of activists who provide water, food, and search-and-rescue missions to migrants on the Mexico–U.S. border is using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to defend themselves in court. Zaachila Orozco, a member of the organization No More Deaths, says that her deeply held religious beliefs drive her to help migrants. Russell-Kraft writes, “RFRA stipulates that the government can’t substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if that burden comes from a general law that has nothing to do with religion.”

Read at The Nation

Officials Say Evidence Points to Church Fire Suspect

posted on April 16, 2019

The Associated Press’s Melinda Deslatte reports, “The white man charged in the burnings of three Louisiana black churches faces a mountain of evidence tying him to the crimes, documenting the fires on his cellphone and an interest in arson on Facebook, the state fire marshal said Monday at a hearing that offered new insight into how officials tracked their suspect.” Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a sheriff’s deputy who was arrested on Wednesday, faces both arson and hate crime charges for allegedly using a gas can and oil rags to set fire to the churches.

Read at The Associated Press

How the LDS Church’s Now-Rescinded Policy Affected These LGBTQ Believers

posted on April 15, 2019

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Peggy Fletcher Stack profiles LGBTQ members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are struggling to come to terms with their faith, despite the church’s move to eliminate the label of “apostate” put on same-sex couples. Fletcher Stack writes, “They felt rejected by God, prompting personal agony, soul-searching and disappointment, even depression, not just among LGBTQ members but also among their families, their friends and their allies.”

Read at The Salt Lake Tribune

Retired Pope Benedict Reemerges to Step Into the Roiling Clergy Sex Abuse Debate

posted on April 15, 2019

For The Los Angeles Times, Tom Kington reports that on Thursday retired Pope Benedict XVI released an essay blaming the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic church on the sexual revolution in the 1960s and an erosion of morality. Kington writes, “The essay was seen by many as undermining Pope Francis because it constitutes a major statement on the crisis despite Benedict’s vow to remain in the shadows.” Benedict writes in the essay, “Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God.”

Read at The Los Angeles Times

Short of Electricity, Food and Water, Venezuelans Return to Religion

posted on April 15, 2019

For The Washington Post, Arelis R. Hernández and Mariana Zuñiga report that Venezuelans are turning to faith to find comfort and answers in the midst of political and humanitarian crises, triggered by the stalemate between President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Hernández and Zuñiga write, “Leaders across Venezuela’s faith traditions — Catholic, evangelical Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Buddhists — say they’ve seen crowds at services jump in recent months.” Pentecostal pastor Carlos Vielma, who leads a congregation in Caracas, said, “We are all living the same thing. We can’t avoid it, but we are encouraging, empowering and comforting them in the process.”

Read at The Washington Post

In Attacking Ilhan Omar, Trump Revives His Familiar Refrain Against Muslims

posted on April 15, 2019

The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman reports that President Trump is reviving his anti-Muslim talking points, which were part of his first campaign, in his criticism of Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress. On Friday evening, Trump tweeted a video that shifted between depictions of Omar speaking and the burning World Trade Center towers. Omar said, “Since the president’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life — many directly referencing or replying to the president’s video.”

Read at The New York Times

Pete Buttigieg, Gay and Christian, Challenges Religious Right on Their Own Turf

posted on April 11, 2019

The New York Times’s Jeremy W. Peters reports, “As a religious gay man who believes his party has ceded discussion of religion and spirituality to Republicans, Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic candidate for president, is talking about God and sexuality in an unconventional way: He is using the language of faith to confront the Christian right on territory they have long claimed as their own.” The South Bend, Indiana, mayor is an Episcopalian who has been criticized by religious conservatives for questioning the morality of Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian who opposes gay rights yet fails to address President Trump’s personal conduct. Jonathan Merritt, an evangelical author and speaker, said, “Mayor Pete could not have hoped to capture conservative Christian voters or moderate Christian voters at any point in modern American history — until now.”

Read at The New York Times

What Do the Church’s Victims Deserve?

posted on April 9, 2019

For The New Yorker, Paul Elie writes about the Catholic Church’s efforts to find justice for victims of its sexual abuse crises. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, hired arbitration experts Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros in 2016 to create an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (I.R.C.P.), which has distributed $215 million to victims. Elie, a Catholic himself, adds, “Critics of Catholicism from Martin Luther onward have faulted the Church for dealing with matters of sin and repentance through mechanical means: the system of indulgences, the confessional booth. Is the Church today essentially outsourcing a reckoning with its past?”

Read at The New Yorker

Pastoring a Purple Church: “I Absolutely Bite My Tongue Sometimes”

posted on April 9, 2019

NPR’s Tom Gjelten writes about the difficulties in pastoring a church with congregants of disparate political views. Christopher Edmonston, the senior pastor at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, N.C., said, “Many of the people who have come to church here in the last 25 years are from other parts of the country, and they bring their ideas, their politics, their viewpoints, with them. So we almost have to be purple if we’re going to continue to be open and welcome to any person that wants to come.” Gjelten adds, “The promotion of discourse over discord may strengthen civic culture in an era of political polarization, but for Edmonston, the mission is more a reflection of Presbyterian theology than it is a commitment to democratic process.”

Read at NPR