"Someone read Vatican documents and all I got was this lousy floor tile"
The National Post reports that Michella Frosch of Vancouver's Gloria Management Inc. has been granted a 15-year license from papal authorities to make reproductions of artifacts found in the Vatican library.

The license—which Frosch fought for seven years to obtain—gives her the sole permission to produce replicas of the collection, tour them in exhibitions, and sell related products. In return, royalties will be paid to maintain the huge library, which is the size of six football fields.

According to The Post, the collection is mostly off-limits to the public. Some materials are on display in Vatican museums, but only 2,000 scholars a year are actually allowed into the library itself. None of the artifacts have ever left Rome. The library dates back formally to the mid-1400s, but many manuscripts were collected by Popes long before that. Library holdings include the original handwritten version of Dante's Inferno, sculptures, and the two earliest maps of the New World.

The exhibition of the replicas is planned for a tour of North America, South America, and Europe, tentatively beginning in Toronto next summer. Frosch has several Vatican library products in mind including chocolates, pens, scarves, and ceramic floor tiles.

Check back in 2005 for Lutheran homosexuality decision
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) put off a fiery issue yesterday by voting to "study" the possibility of blessing same-sex unions and ordaining gay clergy.

The decision followed intense debates at this week's Indianapolis biennial meeting. According to The Washington Post, gay activists in the denomination are expressing frustration with the 899-115 vote to "spend the next four years compiling biblical, theological, scientific and practical materials on homosexuality" instead of a quick approval. Further action will be considered in 2005.

According to the ECLA, "this document shall include study of the Lutheran understanding of the Word of God and biblical, theological, scientific, and practical material on homosexuality."

North Carolina okays Ten Commandments
Last week, North Carolina governor Mike Easley signed a bill allowing North Carolina's public schools to display the Ten Commandments—but for historical perspective, not religious importance.

The law permits the use of the commandments and other religious documents "of historical significance that have formed and influenced the United States legal or governmental system and that exemplify the development of the rule of law."

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Matthew, Mark, Luke and Jed Clampett
This week's New York Times Magazine reported a growing trend in American churches: Using popular television shows to teach God's message. The article noted that shows such as The Andy Griffith Show,The Beverly Hillbillies, and The Brady Bunch are such popular Bible study programs that they sometimes double group attendance week-by-week.

"I think what we're seeing at the turn of the century is the culmination of 50 years of media saturation in our culture," says Stephen Skelton of the Nashville-based Entertainment Ministry, which markets The Beverly Hillbillies Bible study (around $100 gets you four episodes and 10 study guides). "We have young people being born into that environment, then growing up and becoming leaders in the church. It makes sense to them. Jesus used parables to teach lessons. These are just prime-time parables, as I call them."

The article's lead focused on the upcoming release of The Gospel According to the Simpsons: The Spiritual Life of the World's Most Animated Family. Although noting the recent Simpsons cover story in Christian Century, the article missed Christianity Today's own cover piece, "Saint Flanders," written by Mark I. Pinsky, the author of The Gospel According to the Simpsons.

Catholics split on need for nation's largest cathedral
With opening day set for Labor Day, 2002, the $195 million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (see Web cam) will be the largest Roman Catholic Cathedral in America. On over five acres, the grounds will include four gardens, three fountains, an expansive outdoor plaza, and an underground crypt.

According to the Chicago Tribune, this is quite a change from the "historic, earthquake-damaged cathedral on the edge of [Los Angeles'] Skid Row" that the Roman Catholic Church is moving from, and some critics feel the money should have gone to the poor. Protests from the Catholic Worker Movement (the organization founded by Dorothy Day) are a regular scene on the construction site.

The archdiocese does not think the accusations are valid. Its social service arm spends $32 million annually to aid the needy. Cardinal Roger Mahony recently defended the construction project in Catholic Agitator:

Contrary to what protesters say, ours is not an "either-or" situation. We do not face the false dichotomy of tending to the dispossessed or building a cathedral. Rather, our circumstances are "both-and," in which the Catholic community ministers to the materially poor and addresses the spiritual needs of all.

There are various kinds of poverty, of which material poverty is but one. When the hunger for the spiritual and the aesthetic is unsatisfied, we can experience a poverty in our souls. Throughout the Christian era, believers have built churches and cathedrals as expressions of their love of God and as sacred oases where rich and poor can find refuge, beauty and inner peace.
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