Bishop to Boycott Obama Commencement Speech

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Misunderstandings About Islam


Posted:  Apr 14th 2009 12:01AM

Filed Under: Religion, Featured Stories, UMass

For nearly a decade, Islam has been involved in heated debates throughout the United State. Many of the defining issues of our time have involved religious differences, and yet the Muslim world continues to be largely misrepresented by the media. Some of the most basic rules and beliefs within the faith remain unexplored or unknown.

Here is a look at some common questions and misunderstandings.

Hijab, Muslim women's headscarf, is the most visible indicator of Islam today. Hijab literally translates to modesty and morality. Whether to veil or not depends on the interpretation of modesty among Muslim women. Some argue that Hijab oppresses women and limits their ability to interact in the social realm. Headscarf debates have developed of late in Europe, where many Muslim women claim that Hijab should be an independent and optional choice.

Hate crimes and backlash against Middle Easterners and Muslims after the tragic 9/11 attack and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq have increased both in the US and in Europe. Still, for many the term Muslim means terrorist. The majority of these hate crimes are regularly committed against average Muslim citizens. It is often overlooked that terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda who are interpreting Islam to the most extreme ends are a small minority among Muslim sects and make up a minute population of Muslims around the world.

• So, how many wives is it? It is crucial to state that monogamy among Muslims is the norm. But it is true that Islam does not provide restrictions against polygamy. When looking at the Quran -- the holy book of Muslims -- polygamy is encouraged at times of war, when many women are widowed and the support of orphans could strengthen the sense of society and community. At the same time, Islam only allows polygamy if the man is capable of providing equal opportunity and support for his wives. It is important to note that many Muslim scholars today are arguing for a more modern reinterpretation of Islamic laws.

• Are all Muslim Arabs? No. The largest Muslim nation in the world is Indonesia while Saudi Arabia is the largest Muslim Nation among Arab countries. Also, Christians, Jews, and other religious groups live in the Middle East along with Muslims.

Full Article »

It's Not a Pagan Ritual, I Swear

Sam Guzik

Posted:  Apr 8th 2009 5:33PM

Filed Under: Religion, Washington University

So a large group of Jews gets together early in the morning and they start to pray toward the sun -- no, it's not the start of a really bad joke, it's a description of the rarest event in Jewish practice occurring only once every 28 years.

More specifically, the ritual, known as Birkat Hachama, is a blessing recited in appreciation of the sun, timed to occur when -- based on Talmudic calculations -- the sun is at the place in which it was created.

The observation of the ritual consists of reciting of the blessing "Blessed art thou, Lord our God, Author of Creation" and several scriptural passages. From start to finish, it can be completed in several minutes, but has brought together Jews around the world of varying degrees of observance.

Full Article »


Obama Commencement Coverage Focuses on Protesters

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Mar 26th 2009 2:01AM

Filed Under: Culture, Religion, News, Local, Media, Notre Dame

Kaitlynn Riely, a student at the University of Notre Dame, is delivering the latest news and opinions on the growing Obama Commencement controversy from South Bend. See her coverage on the progression of this media event here, here and here.

I'm starting to feel like I'm living in an abortion debate-themed production of West Side Story.

Ever since Notre Dame announced that President Barack Obama would deliver the May 17 Commencement address, those against hosting Obama because of his pro-choice beliefs and actions have been rumbling, mostly on the Internet and in print, with those who want him to speak here.

I can almost hear the snapping.

The argument is taking place in the opinion pages of Notre Dame's student newspaper, The Observer. The national media has picked up the story. Catholic and pro-life blogs and Web sites are condemning the University for asking a pro-choice politician to speak at Notre Dame and deciding to give him an honorary doctor of laws degree.

But for all the Obama drama, I've only spoken to a few students who are against him speaking here in May. And back in October, Notre Dame's student government conducted a mock election and the results were 52.6 percent for Obama, 41.1 percent for McCain.

The reason it seems, from media coverage, like popular Notre Dame community sentiment is against having Obama speak is because the people opposed to Obama speaking are doing a very good job of organizing and getting their opinion out.

Full Article »


Bishop to Boycott Obama Commencement Speech at Notre Dame

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Mar 25th 2009 12:30AM

Filed Under: Politics, Small Campus, Big Story, Culture, Religion, News, Local, Media, Notre Dame

Bishop John M. D'Arcy, who presides over Indiana's Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, which includes Notre Dame, announced Tuesday he will not be attending Notre Dame's May 17 Commencement, since President Barack Obama will be speaking.

"Can I have the Bishop's ticket?" my friend posted on the Web site

D'Arcy has clashed with Notre Dame in the past, most significantly when University President Fr. John Jenkins issued a statement in 2006 allowing The Vagina Monologues to be performed on campus. Now it's Obama's pro-choice stances and decisions, rather than vaginas, that have gotten D'Arcy's Irish up.

Notre Dame and the White House announced Friday that Obama would be speaking at Notre Dame's May 17 Commencement ceremony, with Jenkins following up Monday clarifying that asking Obama to speak, and awarding him with an honorary doctor of laws degree, does not signify support of his policies. Most students, from my observations on campus, seem to be supportive of and excited about hearing Obama speak. But a vocal student minority, as well as alumni and unaffiliated pro-life groups, have protested the decision vehemently.

In his statement Tuesday, D'Arcy said Jenkins informed him of Obama's acceptance shortly before the announcement was made. D'Arcy said it was the first time he'd been told about the invitation. This May is the 25th Notre Dame graduation since D'Arcy became bishop, and for the first time, he said, he will not attend.

"After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation," he said. "I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well. I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith 'in season and out of season,' and he teaches not only by his words -- but by his actions."

He added: "My decision is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life."

I understand that D'Arcy has major disagreements with Obama over abortion and stem cell issues. But isn't he giving up a unique opportunity to pull the president aside for a moment and voice his concerns? It may not make a difference in Obama's stances, but when else will D'Arcy have the ear of the president?

I'm unimpressed with D'Arcy's leadership. The pro-life movement's sign-carrying, march-making approach hasn't worked so far, and I doubt the Bishop's boycott will make any difference in abortion policy in the United States. It just distances the Catholic Church from the decision-making process.

Too bad. I wish D'Arcy had been a bit braver and seen the opportunity, rather than ask whether Notre Dame has "chosen prestige over truth."

Full Article »



Debate Over Obama Notre Dame Commencement Address Heats Up

The White House and Notre Dame announced last Friday that President Barack Obama would be the main speaker at the May 17 Commencement ceremony and would be awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree, a decision that has caused controversy among many in the Catholic community.

Though many students and alums of the University are pleased to have the president speak at Commencement, those opposed to the decision have been far more vocal, as students, alumni and people not affiliated with Notre Dame voiced their protestations loudly throughout the Internet and in Notre Dame's student newspaper.

Fr. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, gave an interview to The Observer, the student newspaper, Sunday in which he responded to the criticism and said he did not "foresee" circumstances in which Notre Dame would rescind the invitation to the president. (Full disclosure: I work for The Observer.)

"We have invited the president and he's honored us by accepting," he told The Observer.

There's been an uproar about the decision, judging by letters to the editor, blog posts and petitions, due to Obama's pro-abortion stances. Jenkins defended his choice, saying the invitation to Obama does not signify an endorsement.

"The invitation of President Obama to be our Commencement speaker should in no way be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of life, such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research," Jenkins told The Observer.

The protestations against the choice of Obama have been very loud, especially in the opinion section of The Observer, but it should be noted that in a mock election held by Notre Dame's student government last October, Obama won 52.6 percent of the vote compared to McCain's 41.1 percent.

Not everyone is protesting Obama coming to campus; many are thrilled. A Facebook group titled "We Will Be Honored To Have President Obama at Notre Dame" has 1,389 members. Several Facebook groups, however, have been created to protest Obama as Commencement speaker.

All I wanted was a nice, quiet, peaceful graduation day, a time to celebrate with my family and friends, without posters of aborted fetuses. Such a simple request. But it won't be so.

Already, pro-life activists are making plans to come to South Bend to protest.

Full Article »


Survey Shows More Claiming "No Religion"

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Mar 10th 2009 11:51AM

Filed Under: Culture, Religion, Breaking News, Notre Dame

"One nation under God" might still be accurate, but more of those "under God" are claiming to belong to "no religion" than were twenty years ago.

The American Religious Identification Survey, conducted by Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., reported that 75 percent of Americans call themselves Christians, down from 86 percent in 1990.

I don't think it's time to panic yet that Americans are losing God, or at least the Christian God. If this economic downturn keeps up, I think a lot more Americans will find Him. Or go to church to find Him.

The survey, conducted between February and November of 2008, found that the percentage of Americans claiming no religion jumped to 15 percent from 2001, when it was 14.2 percent. (The percentage of Americans who claimed no religion was 8.2 percent in 1990.)

According to the survey's press release, the jump in the percentage from 2001 to 2008, give the estimated growth of the American population from 207 million to 228 million, reflects an additional 4.7 million claiming no religion. The survey reported that Northern New England has surpassed the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont, at 34 percent claiming no religion, leading all other states by nine points.

Full Article »

Catholic Church Offering Indulgences Again

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted:  Feb 11th 2009 8:39AM

Filed Under: Religion, News, Notre Dame

The New York Times published a front page story Tuesday saying that Roman Catholics can once again receive indulgences, or reprieves from punishment in the afterlife.

When I read that, I wondered whether I had picked up The Canterbury Tales by mistake.

But it's true. In exchange for prayers, devotions or pilgrimages, Catholics can have their time in Purgatory, the punishment before entering heaven, reduced or erased instantly.

Indulgences have gotten the Catholic Church in trouble before. Remember the Protestant Reformation, anyone? The selling of indulgences led Martin Luther to start the movement that led to a schism with the Catholic Church.

The Church says now that you cannot buy an indulgence, but charitable contributions, when combined with other acts, can earn you one.

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international newsmoney & finance

Many Are Losing Faith in Bernard Madoff

Adam Kirchner

Posted:  Jan 24th 2009 10:26PM

Filed Under: Religion, International News, Money, Towson University

Since December 11, Bernard Madoff has been possibly the most infamous man on the planet, and even before he faces indictment on February 11, things just keep getting worse. Although he still enjoys the right to due process and the implicit presumption of innocence until he has been proven guilty, he has essentially waived that, both in private and in public.

On December 10, in a discussion regarding the order of a premature payment of annual bonuses to employees with his sons Mark and Andrew, Madoff admitted to them that the investment arm of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC was "all just one big lie." The day afterward, they turned their father over to the FBI.

Before being taken into custody on December 11, Madoff told two FBI agents that "there is no innocent explanation" for his actions.

According to a Securities and Exchange Comission complaint, $50 billion in investments can not be paid because Madoff had been paying investors with, in his own words, "money that wasn't there."

While under house arrest, Madoff mailed $1 million in jewelry as gifts rather than letting them become seized as assets due to victims of his alleged decades of fraud.

Earlier this week, Reuters reported that Rabbi Joshua Hammerman of the Temple Beth El in Stamford, Connecticut sent a letter to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, seeking the excommunication of Madoff from Judaism. A direct quote from the Reuters article: "Hammerman, of Temple Beth El, said that Madoff's alleged crimes are so deep there is no other appropriate response from American Jews than to kick him out of the faith".

The New York Times maintains an updating list of worldwide BMIS investors. The charity founded by Holocaust survivor and 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel has issued a public statement that "substantially all of the Foundation's assets," $15.2 million, were lost to Madoff.

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Playboy Apologizes for Virgin Mary Cover

Megan Baker

Posted:  Dec 15th 2008 8:04PM

Filed Under: Religion, Featured Stories, St. John Fisher College, Odd News

Playboy recently got in a little bit of trouble in Mexico, where the Mexican edition of the magazine came out last Thursday with the model on the cover appearing to imitate the Virgin Mary.

Playboy publisher claimed that this was not the intent, saying "The image is not and never was intended to portray the Virgin of Guadalupe," -- which is the Virgin Mary -- "The intent was to portray a renaissance-like mood on the cover." Looking at the image, it is pretty hard to argue that it was unintentional. To make matters a little more sticky, the magazine was printed just days before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which are both Catholic holidays centering on the Virgin Mary.

"Te Adoramos, Maria" translates to "We love you, Mary" in English, but the model's name is Maria (the phrase can also translate to We Love You, Maria), so it is most likely referring to her and not the Virgin Mary. While that may be the case, the cover was still very offensive to Catholics not only in Mexico, but around the world.

In response to upset Catholics, Playboy recently released a statement saying, "While Playboy Mexico never meant for the cover or images to offend anyone, we recognize that it has created offense, and we as well as Playboy Mexico offer our sincerest apologies."

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Chaplain Labels Homosexuals a Health Hazard

Catherine Cullen

Posted:  Oct 12th 2008 9:49AM

Filed Under: Religion, Brown University

Catherine Cullen is writing for Bright Hall from Galway, Ireland where she is completing a study abroad program and enriching herself in Anglo-European culture.

An English clergyman has called for gay men to be labeled as health hazards in the same manner the government marks cartons of cigarettes. Seriously.

In place of prominent bold-print stick-on labels, Reverend Doctor Peter Mullen suggests tattoos. He debuted the plan on his blog, writing "Let us make it obligatory for homosexuals to have their backsides tattooed with the slogan SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH and their chins with FELLATIO KILLS."

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Are There Angels Among Us?

Megan Baker

Posted:  Sep 19th 2008 11:41AM

Filed Under: Religion, St. John Fisher College

According to a new poll by the Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion, a majority Americans not only believe in guardian angels, but feel that they have been protected by one at some point in their life. The study surveyed 1700 respondents, and of these, 55% answered affirmatively to the statement, "I was protected from harm by a guardian angel."

According to an article in Time, what is interesting about this study is that the "experiences" transcended religious boundaries.

On one hand, you have Catholicism and other "analytical" religions that are "suspicious of any modern-day irruption of the supernatural into religious life," while on the other, you have Pentecostalism where "supernatural events" (i.e. speaking in tongues) are commonplace. The study found that while there are these differences, both sides felt about the same in regards to the idea of guardian angels.

If you are one of those people who has experienced what can be categorized as a religious experience or an encounter with a guardian angel, feel free to share your story.

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Scientology: Banished in France?

Megan Baker

Posted:  Sep 18th 2008 3:57PM

Filed Under: Religion, St. John Fisher College, News

The Church of Scientology in France is being charged with "organized fraud" which, if convicted of these charges, means that Scientology will be banned in France.

Scientology, which literally means "the study of truth" was founded by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard in 1953. Scientologists believe that man is an immortal being that "can solve his own problems, accomplish his goals and gain lasting happiness, but also achieve new, higher states of awareness and ability."

Scientology has been a recognized religion in the U.S. since 1993. It has attracted a large following including celebrities like Tom Cruise and the late Isaac Hayes, who left his job as the voice of Chef on the Comedy Central cartoon South Park after the writers made fun of the religion.

While it is accepted in America, Scientology has been scrutinized in other countries such as Germany, Spain and most recently, France. According to ABC News, "France has refused to acknowledge Scientology as a religion, and Miviludes, the French government agency in charge of protecting its citizens from sectarian manipulations, has warned French citizens against participating."

Guess Tom and Katie won't be vacationing there anytime soon...

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Muslim Student Site Edited by University Admin

Joshua Sharp

Posted:  Sep 8th 2008 9:05PM

Filed Under: Religion, USC, News, Local

From the Daily Trojan, student newspaper at the University of Southern California: "Provost C. L. Max Nikias has approved the deletion of part of a Muslim student group website that hosted religious documents urging Muslims to kill Jewish people. The material was removed from a collection of scriptures known as hadiths, historical sayings of the Prophet Muhammad not included in the Quran."

So apparently, my university hosts a massive online collection of hadiths. Who knew? Stowed away in this endless collection of reading material, in Book 041, Numbers 6981-6985, were various iterations of: "You will fight against the Jews and you will kill them until even a stone would say: Come here, Muslim, there is a Jew (hiding himself behind me); kill him."

Full text after the jump.

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Would a Muslim Wear This?

Matt Negrin

Posted:  Jul 24th 2008 1:57PM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, Religion, Breaking News, Boston University

International superstar Barack Obama was in Israel this week, trying to prove he is not a Muslim.

Well, that's not exactly why he was there. Mostly it was a "fact-finding" mission to meet with leaders of the Middle East and boost his foreign-policy credentials. But it certainly didn't hurt to throw on a Jewish yarmulke and visit the Western Wall at a time when a disgustingly large number of Americans thinks he practices Islam.

Obama is a Christian (or so he says!). He is fighting a swarm of smears flying around the Internet that claim he was sworn into the Senate on the Koran (false) and that he doesn't put his hand on his heart when swearing allegiance to the American flag (also false).

So Obama met this week with Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, and vowed that Jerusalem should forever be the Jewish nation's capital and that the country should also be able to defend itself.

Yeah, that sounds like something a Muslim would say, right?

Full Article »


Playing by New Rules with Religious Voters

Sam Guzik

Posted:  Jul 2nd 2008 9:01PM

Filed Under: US Elections, Politics, Religion, Washington University

Add religion to the growing list of reasons why the 2008 presidential election is shaping up to be different from those that preceded it.

It used to be that the religious right was the only bloc of religious voters seriously in play - and then, it was only really a question of whether they would mobilize to vote for the Republican candidate or not.

This year, however, religious voters of all faiths are being courted from every direction as candidates look to build new coalitions and capitalize on new strengths. From the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC to evangelical churches around the country, both candidates are making the rounds to gain support.

Full Article »

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