Colorado Springs motives? So far, one is clear: Pro-life pastor/officer died defending life

Colorado Springs motives? So far, one is clear: Pro-life pastor/officer died defending life

Faced with headlines about violence at an abortion facility, the late Cardinal John O'Connor of New York City took to the pulpit and, digging into the writings of the Catholic Catechism, Pope John Paul II and Gandhi, stated the obvious. Do you remember that very candid quote?

"If anyone has an urge to kill someone at an abortion clinic, they should shoot me," said the late Cardinal John O'Connor, preaching to his New York City flock in 1994. "It's madness. It discredits the right-to-life movement. Murder is murder. It's madness. You cannot prevent killing by killing."

The cardinal added, in an online forum:

"Where does this spiral end? How is it limited? Surely, we are all as tired of abortion as we are tired of murder. But we must fight murder without conforming to it or condoning it," wrote the cardinal. ... Let us attend to God's revelation: 'Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good' (Romans 12: 21).

Now, I bring this up as law officials in Colorado Springs begin the process of digging into the history of the man arrested as the gunman in the horrifying standoff at a Planned Parenthood. Apparently, Robert Lewis Dear has a previous criminal record.

And what about motive? Here is a recent update, as posted at The Colorado Springs Gazette:

The Associated Press reports Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers says authorities aren't ready to discuss a possible motive of the gunman who attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic there, but says people can make "inferences from where it took place."
Suthers says investigators have interviewed Dear, but that authorities still want to learn more about him, suggesting that his mental health was part of the investigation.

Now in this case, the tragic reality is that it is much easier to articulate the motives of the local police officer who was one of the first responders and lost his life in the fighting.

The officer's name: The Rev. Garrett Swasey.

Are you seeing that title -- "The Rev." -- in front of his name?

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An Advent miracle? Check the fine details in the baby in a Queens manger story

An Advent miracle? Check the fine details in the baby in a Queens manger story

Why a purple towel?

If you have followed the news online in the past day or so, you have probably seen reports about the newborn baby that was left -- umbilical chord still attached -- in a manger scene inside a church in Queens.

It has been interesting to follow the coverage as it developed, with a strong burst of holiday sentiment from news producers everywhere who have been quick to proclaim, "It's a Christmas miracle!"

Ah, but there are some intriguing fine details in this story that are worth pondering. Let's start with an early Reuters report, as circulated by Religion News Service. This is pretty much the whole story:

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- A newborn with his umbilical cord still attached was found lying in a manger at a New York church, police said on Tuesday.
At Holy Child Jesus Church in the borough of Queens on Monday, the custodian found the crying infant wrapped in towels in the indoor nativity scene he had set up just before his lunch break, a New York police spokesman said.
Father Christopher Ryan Heanue, one of the priests at the church, said he and others placed a clean towel around the baby while waiting for paramedics to show up.
“The beautiful thing is that this woman found in this church -- which is supposed to be a home for those in need -- this home for her child,” Heanue said, referring to the person he assumes left the baby there.

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Lutherans and Catholics: Some major, major overlooked news to pursue

Lutherans and Catholics: Some major, major overlooked news to pursue

Pope Francis continues to confound conservative Catholics. A notable incident Nov. 15 got little attention in the mainstream press as the globe was transfixed by Islamist terrorism. This is an incident worth a second look from reporters.

During a Rome meeting with Lutherans, a wife asked the pontiff when she could receive Catholic communion alongside her Catholic husband. Francis responded:

“... You believe that the Lord is present. And what’s the difference? There are explanations, interpretations, but life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism – ‘one faith, one baptism, one Lord,’ this Paul tells us; and then consequences come later. I would never dare to give permission to do this because it’s not my own competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord, and then go forward. [Pause] And I wouldn’t dare, I don’t dare say anything more.”

Leaving aside the pope’s “competence,” his “go forward” is reasonably interpreted as “go ahead” if your own conscience says "go." Francis has roused similar debate over Communion for  remarried Catholics without the required annulments of first marriages.

Catholicism’s Catechism is explicit that Protestants shouldn’t receive at Mass until the whole tangle of doctrinal disagreements is resolved:

“Ecclesial communities derived from the Reformation and separated from the Catholic Church ‘have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic ministry in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Holy Orders’ [quoting the Second Vatican Council’s 1964 decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio]. It is for this reason that Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities is not possible for the Catholic Church” (#1400).  

The Religion Guy learned about the pope’s words from Rod Dreher’s comments on his blog at theamericanconservative.com.

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USA Today plays it straight: Star running back who is headed to the Catholic priesthood

USA Today plays it straight: Star running back who is headed to the Catholic priesthood

I had a sense of dread -- two of them, come to think of it, if that's possible -- as I started reading this USA Today story about Division III football star Jordan Roberts and his journey into the Catholic priesthood.

On one level I was afraid that the story would simply be too cute. You know: Future priest runs to glory and all that, like a bad version of "Rudy."

The flip side of that would have been to label on the snark, either about the church itself or the quality of football being played at this level. No, honest. A writer could have pulled that off. This school is so minor league that even a man in a collar can run the ball off tackle.

Instead, this turned into one of the most moving God-and-gridiron pieces I have read in quite a long time. I especially like the fact that the story started in church, rather than on the playing field.

ST. PAUL -- Sundays are sacred at the St. John Vianney Seminary, a plain five-story red-brick building across a grassy quad from the main chapel at the University of St. Thomas. It is the only day Jordan Roberts and 133 brother seminarians studying to be Roman Catholic priests may wear priestly garb for Mass -- black cassocks with the white Roman collar.
Rising at 6 a.m., they begin their day with Holy Hour prayer and morning Mass. They end it with a rosary and lights out at 9:30 p.m. Last Sunday, seminary officials permitted Roberts a brief leave in late afternoon to join another fraternal group -- his St. Thomas football teammates -- to watch the NCAA Division III playoff selection show. Roberts is the Tommies' top rusher and scorer.

There are all kinds of interesting details, starting with the fact that Roberts converted to Catholicism as a young man.

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Daily Beast approaches satire territory when ‘reviewing’ Carson’s congregation

Daily Beast approaches satire territory when ‘reviewing’ Carson’s congregation

Tina Brown, who founded The Daily Beast, will readily admit the news site’s name is an homage to Evelyn Waugh’s novel “Scoop,” in which the newspaper tub-thumping for war was called “The Beast.”

But Brown’s website approached satire not only in its name when it sent a reporter to poke around a congregation with which this writer is intimately familiar, the Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. In its report, Brown’s reporter demonstrated a breathtaking lack of basic knowledge about religion -- certainly about Christianity -- or even what people do when they go to worship services these days. Click here to read that story.

Disclosure: I’ve been a member at Spencerville since 2003, have attended weekly worship there, and still am on the rolls, not having yet transferred my records to a local Adventist congregation in Utah.

Oh, some fellow named Dr. Ben Carson is a member there, along with his family. You might have heard about his connections to the Seventh-day Adventist faith.

It’s not unusual for the press to poke around the church of a presidential candidate’s choice, especially if that church is either little-known or perhaps controversial. In 2008, Trinity United Church of Christ was put under a media microscope not only because Barack Obama was a member there. but also because the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor, had issued many sermons that were, shall we say, a bit caustic about America and its role in the world. Four years later, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a media-led “Mormon Moment” when Mitt Romney, a lifelong member, returned missionary and former bishop, ran for the presidency.

Now it’s Adventism’s turn.

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Religion ghosts in the Silicon Valley suicides? It would have helped to ask that question

Religion ghosts in the Silicon Valley suicides? It would have helped to ask that question

If you have been following mainstream religion-news coverage in recent decades, like quite a few GetReligion readers (and all of our writers), then you know the byline of Hanna Rosin, who once covered the beat for The Washington Post. If you have followed her work since then, both in her books and in The Atlantic, you know that her interest in topics linked to religion, culture and family life remains strong and her skills as a reporter and word stylist are unquestioned.

In recent days, several GetReligion readers have sent me URLs to her new Atlantic cover story on "The Silicon Valley Suicides."

One of the messages perfectly captured the message in the others: "See any ghosts in this one?"

This is a stunning story and it was worth reading to the very end. That said, I found it amazingly haunted and free of the moral and religious depth usually found in Rosin's work.

Ghosts? Totally haunted.

The story opens with the story of the suicide of at popular athlete and super-achieving student named Cameron Lee, the kind of normal young man who went out of his way to join friends for morning donuts and make people feel at home.

You need to read this one long passage to grasp the tone of Rosin's piece:

That morning the school district’s superintendent, Glenn “Max” McGee, called Kim Diorio, the principal of the system’s other public high school, Palo Alto High, to warn her, “This is going to hit everyone really hard.” McGee was new to the district that year, but he’d known the history when he took the job. The 10-year suicide rate for the two high schools is between four and five times the national average. Starting in the spring of 2009 and stretching over nine months, three Gunn students, one incoming freshman, and one recent graduate had put themselves in front of an oncoming Caltrain. Another recent graduate had hung himself. While the intervening years had been quieter, they had not been comforting.

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Spot the religion ghosts in story about homeless man's attack on actress Pauley Perrette?

Spot the religion ghosts in story about homeless man's attack on actress Pauley Perrette?

So, news consumers, which of the following two news story lines do you find the most poignant?

(1) A Hollywood star is mugged by a mysterious homeless man who threatens to kill her.

(2) A Hollywood star who does regular volunteer work with a homeless ministry -- perhaps linked to her church -- is mugged by a homeless man who threatens to kill her.

Now, the USA Today story about this incident involving Pauley Perrette does hint at the religious ghosts in this event. It also included a photo of the essay the actress posted in social media about the incident. That text contains several faith references. We will come back to that in a moment.

Anyway, here is how the story begins:

NCIS actress Pauley Perrette, who plays the show's Goth crime lab tech Abby Scuito, had a real-life scare Thursday in Los Angeles. A "psychotic homeless man" jumped her on the street outside her home and punched her in the face several times.
"I almost died tonight," she wrote on Twitter. "Tonight was awful, life changing and I'm only grateful to be alive."
Perrette recounted the incident in detail in an essay, which she photographed and attached to her post. In it, she said the man kept telling her his name (William) and that he was going to kill her. "I was alone, terrified and trapped," she said, grateful he hadn't dragged her to a empty garage nearby. "I knew if he got me in there, I was dead."

And here is how it ends:

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It's closing time: Symbolic date invites press analysis of liberal Protestant seminaries

It's closing time: Symbolic date invites press analysis of liberal Protestant seminaries

Attention religion-beat scribes: Nov. 12, 2015, carries high symbolism for “mainline” Protestantism, which for centuries exercised such broad influence over U.S. faith and culture.

On that date Andover Newton Theological School, the oldest U.S. institution for graduate-level clergy training with a 208-year history, announced it is no longer ”financially sustainable” due to falling enrollment and must sell its leafy 23-acre campus outside Boston.

The school, which has “historic” links with the United Church of Christ and American Baptist Churches, plans two more years of operation while it ponders two radical proposals: either relocate and merge within a larger institution (preliminary talks are under way with Yale’s Divinity School) or else switch to ministry apprenticeships with basic coursework but no full-service residential campus.

As explanatory sessions ensue with Andover Newton students on  November 17 and December 3, and with alumni on November 20, it’s a timely moment for newswriters to assess future prospects for America’s Protestant seminaries.

The ever-solid G. Jeffrey MacDonald (himself a U.C.C. minister) reports in Religion News Service that to preserve an $18 million endowment, Andover Newton is paying its bills through a mortgage line of credit. Based on an interview with Daniel Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, MacDonald says  this and seminary trauma elsewhere is “the fallout from decades of declining membership numbers in mainline denominations,” noting that their seminary enrollments have dropped 24 percent since 2005.

At Andover Newton, enrollment totalled 271 students in the last A.T.S. report. Only 40 percent were full-time and only 25 percent lived on campus, compared with the 450 full-time students a generation ago. Enrollment is 63 percent female, and the average student age is 49.

The school requires no creed of the faculty, and instead defines itself doctrinally by “core values” like integrity, innovation, openness, understanding, academic freedom and the sustainability of creation. The school emphasizes “multifaith education” and 10 percent of its students are non-Christians (variously identified as Unitarian Universalist, Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i, Muslim, agnostic or atheist).

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Jerusalem crisis: Jews keep offering secret, generic prayers on holy Temple Mount

Jerusalem crisis: Jews keep offering secret, generic prayers on holy Temple Mount

Let me state my journalistic prejudice right up front.

If I am covering an event, in any faith, that centers on worship then I think it is relevant to quote some of the words being said by the worshipers. More often than not, in my experience, there are references in the worship texts themselves that are linked to the theme or event that has made this particular worship service newsworthy.

Does this make sense? If a worship rite followed a great tragedy, what were the prayers said in mourning? Were scripture readings chosen that offered some kind of commentary on the event? Using quotes from these texts can serve as a way to pull readers into the story.

I would argue that this principle would certainly apply if the worship itself is considered controversial. And what if the prayers are controversial or even -- imagine this -- illegal?

This brings me to a recent USA Today story -- focusing on the most controversial piece of land in the world's most controversial city -- that left me shaking my head. Here is how the story opens:

JERUSALEM -- In a move that could further inflame recent Palestinian violence, Jewish activists are defying Israeli law by secretly praying at a site holy to both Jews and Muslims.
On a recent Sunday at the hilltop complex known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, dozens of religious Jews shoved ahead of a line of tourists. While being closely monitored at the site by security guards, who questioned anyone suspected of engaging in prayer, a number of visitors from a group of about 15 mumbled prayers quietly as they pretended to speak on their cellphones and cupped their hands over their mouths. They recited the prayers from memory, as they had been instructed to leave behind their prayer books before entering.

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