Signs of the Times

Archbishop O’Brien Installed in Baltimore

A crowd of about 2,000 people filled the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore Oct. 1 to celebrate the installation of Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien as the 15th archbishop of Baltimore. In a ceremony rich with tradition, Archbishop O’Brien called it “an honor and a privilege” to serve as the spiritual leader of more than 500,000 Catholics in the archdiocese. “Whatever I am, and all that I have I give to you,” he said in a homily that was interrupted several times by applause. “And until that day when he calls me to judgment, I will seek to serve you with the wholehearted love of Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop O’Brien succeeds Cardinal William H. Keeler, who retired after heading the archdiocese for 18 years. Eight cardinals and nearly 70 archbishops and bishops from across the country and around the world attended the ceremony. More than 400 priests and 62 deacons joined the bishops in an opening procession that lasted more than 30 minutes. His homily was filled with gratitude for the past and with promises for the present and future. “The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus sees his divine image in each of us, and that same God is offended when that image is defaced—defaced by degrading poverty, defaced by unjust discrimination, defaced by addiction and by the crime that feeds those addictions, and defaced by the horrific sexual abuse of the young. For the times when the church has failed to do its utmost to curb these evils, we ask God’s forgiveness and yours.


“I pledge today that I shall make every effort to ensure that whatever sins of omission or commission have been committed in the past will have no place in the future. It was passion for justice that led priests of this archdiocese to take leadership roles in the defense of the civil rights of African-Americans in the early 1960s. It was that passion for justice that led Lawrence Cardinal Shehan to face down jeers and catcalls when he testified before the Baltimore City Council in 1966 on behalf of open-housing legislation. And it is precisely that same passion for justice that is at the root of the Catholic church’s combined defense of the right to life, from conception until natural death.

“And I pledge more. No one has to have an abortion. To all those in crisis pregnancies, I pledge our support and our financial help. Come to the Catholic church—let us walk with you through your time of trouble, let us help you affirm life, let us help you find a new life with your child, but let us help you by placing that child in a loving home. But please, I beg you, let us help you affirm life. Abortion need not be an answer.”

Episcopal Bishops Take Decision on Gays

In a decision with implications for Catholic-Anglican relations, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church vowed not to authorize any public blessings of same-sex unions or to elect another openly gay bishop while consultations continue throughout the Anglican Communion on “the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons” and other matters. The pledge came in a document called Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by Our Anglican Communion Partners, approved Sept. 25 at the close of the six-day House of Bishops’ meeting in New Orleans. The Rev. James Massa, executive director of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, welcomed the Episcopal statement from both “a Catholic moral and an ecumenical standpoint” but said it remained unclear “how effective this new instruction will be. What happens when a local bishop authorizes the blessing of same-sex unions in his or her own diocese?” he asked. “Would the national Episcopal body impose sanctions on the local bishop?” v

U.S. Religious Leaders Meet With Ahmadinejad

U.S. religious leaders are “deeply concerned about the prospect of war with Iran,” said a professor from a Catholic college who was part of an interfaith delegation that met with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sept. 26 in New York. The meeting was organized by the Mennonite Central Committee.

But Joseph Fahey, professor of religious studies and peace studies at Man-hattan College in Riverdale, said he left the meeting feeling hopeful because of statements Mr. Ahmadinejad made about the “renunciation of war and the quest for peace.” “This meeting was an attempt to build bridges with Iran despite the generally hostile reception President Ahmadinejad received here in New York City,” Fahey said in a statement issued after the meeting. (Protests had greeted the Iranian president while he was in New York to address the U.N. Security Council Sept. 25.) “We strongly believe that only through formal and informal diplomacy and respect for international law can there be peace between Iran and the U.S.”

Drew Christiansen, S.J., editor in chief of America and one of the respondents to the president during the meeting, said: “It is incumbent on all men and women of goodwill to engage respectfully with their adversaries, and not to vilify, demean or stereotype them. It is wrong to refuse to engage in honest and patient dialogue with those with whom we disagree. Blackballing and cold shoulders should have no place in relationships between states and peoples.”

Catholic Hospitals Will Comply With Flawed Law

Connecticut’s four Catholic hospitals will provide emergency contraception to rape victims without requiring an ovulation test, in compliance with a new state law that takes effect Oct. 1. In a joint statement Sept. 27, the Catholic bishops and leaders of Catholic hospitals in the state said that although they continue to believe that the law is flawed and should be changed, they would revise current protocols at the hospitals that call for both a pregnancy test and an ovulation test before the “morning after” pill, marketed as Plan B, is administered.

“To administer Plan B pills in Catholic hospitals to victims of rape, a pregnancy test to determine that the woman has not conceived is sufficient,” the statement said. “The administration of Plan B pills in this instance cannot be judged to be the commission of an abortion because of such doubt about how Plan B pills and similar drugs work and because of the current impossibility of knowing from the ovulation test whether a new life is present.” Plan B, containing a high dose of birth control pills, usually prevents pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

Vatican Message for End of Ramadan

In a message to the Muslim world, a leading Vatican official denounced terrorism and all violence committed in the name of religion. The message also took aim at religious discrimination, saying the rights of all believers must be protected during the “troubled times we are passing through.” The text, released by the Vatican Sept. 28, marked the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of prayer and fasting that concludes in mid-October. It was written by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who took over as head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue earlier this year. Christians and Muslims, the cardinal said, need to intensify their dialogue so that younger generations “do not become cultural or religious blocs opposed to each other.” Cardinal Tauran began and ended his message by expressing the church’s “warmest greetings” to the Islamic world. But the text touched on a number of sensitive issues, especially those of religious liberty, violence and terrorism.

Jesuit Refugee Service Priest Killed in Sri Lanka

The Rev. Nicholaspillai Pakia Ranjit, 40, was killed in a blast from a claymore mine while he was driving food and supplies to displaced people near Kilinochchi, in an area under the control of Tamil rebels. Father Pakia Ranjit coordinated the work of Jesuit Refugee Service in Sri Lanka’s Mannar District, where control is divided between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam. The priest died Sept. 26; his funeral was scheduled for Sept. 29. One of the priest’s assistants also was injured in the blast. “We call upon the international community and all men and women of good will to condemn this killing and effectively voice their strong condemnation of the ongoing senseless war,” Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar said in a press release.

The bishop praised Father Pakia Ranjit’s deep commitment to the poor and marginalized. “It is a heinous crime to attack and kill such peace-loving and unarmed heroes of our society,” the bishop said. “Enough blood has flowed on this little island nation. This blood cries for peace and not for vengeance.”

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Frank Bergen
11 years ago
The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, meeting in September in New Orleans, did not vow not "to elect another openly gay bishop". Neither the House of Bishops acting corporately nor individual bishops elect bishops in the Episcopal Church. Rather, the bishops acting individually and the diocesan Standing Committees consent (or not) to the election of a bishop by the electors of the diocese in which that bishop is to serve. Consent by a majority of diocesan bishops and Standing Committees is required for the consecration of a bishop. The House of Bishops reconfirmed a resolution of the Church's 2006 General Convention which calls on bishops and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." For your readers who may lack familiarity with the polity of the Episcopal Church I would offer this sentence from the Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners: "Within the Episcopal Church the common discernment of God's call is a lively partnership among laypersons, bishops, priests, and deacons, and therefore necessarily includes the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, and the General Convention." Put simply, the House of Bishops is not the sole decider. And the last words on the subjects of gay and lesbian persons in our Church have yet to be uttered.


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