Vatican says abuse policy goes too far
The Vatican will issue a formal rejection of the American bishops' "zero tolerance" policy on clergy accused of abuse, all the country's major papers report today.

"The Holy See, above all, would like to convey full solidarity with the Bishops of the United States in their firm condemnation of sexual misdeeds against minors and is deeply concerned about the distressing situation that has arisen in recent months in the Church in the United States," says a letter from Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation of Bishops, to Bishop Wilton Gregory, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: "Despite these efforts, the application of the policies adopted at the Plenary Assembly in Dallas can be the source of confusion and ambiguity, because the 'Norms' and 'Charter' contain provisions which in some aspects are difficult to reconcile with the universal law of the Church."

The Vatican therefore has suggested a joint commission to adapt the American bishops' rules to existing church law.

One unnamed Vatican official quoted in The New York Times spoke a bit more plainly. The American bishops, he said, "have passed from a situation in which they hardly wanted to intervene at all into one in which they want to intervene too much. … If zero tolerance means justice, I agree. But more than fulfilling justice, this might be an effort to make the American media happy."

Gregory told the Associated Press he wasn't surprised or disappointed. "We're dealing with basically a sound document that needs modification rather than recasting," he said.

Victims groups are upset, the AP reports.

So far, the only major opinion piece comes from John L. Allen Jr, the National Catholic Reporter's Vatican correspondent. In The Boston Globe, he writes, "It is possible that a 'derogation,' the technical canonical term for a blanket waiver, might be given to allow US bishops to operate outside of canon law for the two year review period established in Dallas. Yet that would delay the problem, not resolve it. Victims of sexual abuse have a right to know the law by which cases will be judged. Otherwise, the 'closure' bishops offer them when a priest is removed from ministry may well be illusory; that priest can appeal to Rome and might be reinstated. Accused priests have the right to know the law by which their case will be judged." Thus, he says, the Vatican still has a lot of questions to answer.

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Billy Graham's Texas mission begins
A packed out stadium? Check. Thousands responding to the altar call as others sing Just As I Am? Check. Articles suggesting this may be "Billy Graham's last crusade"? Check. On that last point, however, note that Graham hasn't announced any plans for future missions.

President Bush Sr. introduced Graham last night, and also talked briefly about how "our president" is doing all he can to "find a peaceful solution to this latest conflict with Iraq."

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Jerry Falwell:

  • Backlash feared over slams at Islam | Tensions between evangelical Christians and Muslims, on a low boil for years, could overheat with the string of recent comments attacking the prophet Muhammad, experts warn, with possible ramifications for President Bush and the war on terrorism (Newhouse/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Falwell's fatal words | Not only was Mr. Falwell's statements foolish and hurtful, but his apology was incredible. But Mr. Falwell is not a bad man. (Tony Blankley, The Washington Times)

  • Falwell's comments seem un-Christian | Christianity, as I know it, represents peace, love, forgiveness, charity, inclusiveness, struggle for the good of mankind as a whole, and hope (G. Jefferson Price III, The Baltimore Sun)

  • Falwell's contempt | Fundamentalist leaders like Jerry Falwell are a threat to democracy not because of their claims of exclusive truth but because they attempt to ignite religious wars (Qamar-ul Huda, The Boston Globe)

  • Rev. Jerry Falwell trips over his own tongue | "To call the holy man of millions a 'terrorist' on national television was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a swift move." (Elizabeth Schuett, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Think before speaking | Jerry Falwell has an obligation to consider the consequences of his words (Editorial, The Orlando Sentinel)

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Politics and law:

Christian author nominated to FDA panel:

  • Lawmakers protest possible women's health appointee | David Hager, an outspoken evangelical who has written books on the power of prayer to cure disease, already serves on two other FDA advisory panels, and is reportedly under consideration to head the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee (Reuters)

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Church and state:

Religious freedom:

Sudan peace talks:

Evangelicals and Israel:

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Crime and violence:

  • Moody Bible student is shot in campus attack | Had pulled over to check a tire at 1:30 a.m (Chicago Tribune)

  • No charges in church's fake assault rifle incident | Church says it was training missionaries (WMGH, Denver)

  • Facing up to the omnipresent evil | Perhaps the massive bomb blast on the Indonesian island of Bali will cause some second thoughts — or perhaps first thoughts — by those who blamed the United States for having provoked the September 11 attacks by its actions and policies in the Middle East (Thomas Sowell, The Washington Times)

  • Terror's not new to Indonesia | In the last three years, growing attacks by Islamic militants have left thousands dead. What is different is that this attack was aimed largely at foreigners. (Paul Marshall, New York Post)

  • Angela Shanahan: Church views leaves us open to attack | The Islamic-Western polarity is not just a result of U.S. cultural and foreign policy dominance. It's also a result of our abandonment of values and core institutions such as the family and the church (Angela Shanahan, The Australian)

  • Religious code goes beyond keeping peace | Religious and community leaders are glad that the code to promote peace is a pledge rather than list of do's and don'ts. (The Straits Times)

Child discipline:

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Anglican church:

  • Carey speaks up for successor | Williams under fire from some evangelical groups (The Guardian, London)

  • The archbishop's tale | The informal leader of 80 million Anglicans prepares to visit Toronto (The Globe & Mail, Toronto)

  • Anglican same-sex 'schism' spreads | Several hundred Christians representing 19 denominations and 84 churches in the Lower Mainland gathered at Sevenoaks Alliance Church in Abbotsford to protest the decision to bless same-sex unions in the Anglican diocese (

Sexual ethics:

Church life:

  • Flock strays from U.S. churches | The number of churchgoing Americans who have quit attending has grown to 14 percent of the population in the past decade, up from 7 percent, and millions of them are baby boomers who were part of the "Jesus movement" of the 1970s (The Washington Times)

  • Divine cheat | We recently discovered that the senior pastor at our large parish has never written his own sermons, a requirement of his job. Is this man to be trusted with a congregation? (The New York Times Magazine)

  • Church bells are silenced in fear of EU law | A small group of residents - believed to be newcomers - have protested that the chimes stop them sleeping at night (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Afrikaans church won't apologize for land policy | The biggest Afrikaans church voted on Tuesday not to apologize for historical events that led to unfair land distribution. (The Mail & Guardian)

  • Apology for racial sin was more than words | Presbyterian Church's resolution had effect on at least one Baptist (Simeon Spenser, The Dallas Morning News)
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Missions and ministry:

  • Faith and freedom | Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer continue speaking, this time at Valparaiso University (The Times, Munster, Ind.)

  • 'Hell House' closed this Halloween | Has been feature at Abundant Life Christian Center in Arvada since 1995 (Associated Press)

  • Mugabe stops charities' famine work | The Zimbabwe government has banned Oxfam and Save the Children from distributing urgently needed food aid, UN officials confirmed (The Guardian, London)

  • Jesus film enrages Orthodox Church | A press statement from the Orthodox diocese warned that organizers "want to attract you into a new Christian sect" (Vladivostok News, Russia)

  • MOSES leads the way in Detroit | Churchgoers believe that building a mass transit system could save the Motor City. But how will they get to that promised land? (The Christian Science Monitor)

Money and business:

Science and ethics:

  • Cloning team looks to human embryos | Ian Wilmut, leader of the team which cloned Dolly the sheep, is to plunge into uncharted scientific waters by trying to clone human embryos for research (The Guardian, London)

  • Grand designs | Not only is the United States scientific but it is also deeply religious - certainly more so than any other country of the West. And, as everyone knows, science and religion are enemies (The Washington Post)


  • Call it the year of the upgrade | There are new Bible translations, but for the most part publishers are putting a fresh face on the old Good Book (Publishers Weekly)

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  • Even Bible is censored these days | In Saskatchewan last year, a newspaper was fined for publishing an ad that quoted Bible verses on homosexuality (John Leo, New York Daily News)


  • Exploring the power of Abraham's legacy | Bruce Feiler, the bestselling author of "Walking the Bible," has brought his winning mix of insight, passion, and historical research to focus on one man whom all three monotheistic faiths trace their roots. (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Shared kinship of religions a key to peace? | Bruce Feiler, author of Abraham, thinks so (The Miami Herald)

  • The listening church | For 1,500 years, it has been assumed that to be good and to be Christian were synonymous. That is simply not true now, says the author of God Outside The Box: Why Spiritual People Object To Christianity. (Richard Harries, The Guardian, London)

  • Age of the beast? | How do we rate the growing awareness that "the dry grit of secular humanism and empirical scientific knowledge cannot sustain us," as Lutheran theologian Frederic W. Baue observes? (Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI)

Pop culture:

  • The new faces of Satan | As the devil is ridiculed in popular culture, serial killers—such as Hannibal Lecter— replace him as the embodiment of evil (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Christian entertainment spreading | Faith-based movies, music books moving into cultural mainstream (The News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla.)

  • Yeah, yeah, minister | Sex and death are his themes, the church his sanctuary. Barry Divola meets the Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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