Words Not to Use Lightly When You Are Pope

May 9, 2007

One of those words has to be “excommunication.”

Pope Benedict XVI touched down in the world’s biggest Roman Catholic country yesterday hoping to help reverse a 20-year exodus to Brazil’s reborn evangelical churches, but immediately created controversy when he appeared to suggest that legislators who support laws allowing abortions should be excommunicated.

During a press conference on his flight to Sao Paulo, the Pope for the first time dealt in depth with a topic that has come up in many countries, including the United States, Mexico, and Italy.

He was asked whether he supported Mexican church leaders threatening to excommunicate leftist parliamentarians who last month voted to legalise abortion in Mexico City.

“Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by canon (church) law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ,” he said.

The Vatican’s chief spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, later tried to downplay the comments, saying the Pope was not himself ordering excommunications.

The denial of communication to politicians who support abortion rights is, of course, a familiar issue in the United States, with the John Kerry situation in 2004. Will this issue affect Rudy Giuliani this time around?

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Romney Won’t Be Getting Sharpton’s Vote

May 9, 2007

What on earth is Al Sharpton thinking saying this?

“As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don’t worry about that,” said Mr. Sharpton. “That’s a temporary situation.”

Some critics called on Mr. Sharpton to apologize, but the civil rights activist refused to back down today in a telephone interview, asserting that he was not implying that Mormons did not believe in God.

The comments came at a debate with Christopher Hitchens Monday night in New York. Audio is here. Shapton once again has shown himsef to be an idiot, and he’s proven that it made little sense to have him serve as the arbiter of civil public discourse during the whole Don Imus imbroglio.

Personally I think this will be good for the Romney campaign. Assuming that everyone who will categorically vote against Romney on the basis of his religion knows about it already or will find out eventually anyway, this incident makes it look like Romney is in a fight with Al Sharpton, which should sit well with the votes he’s going for. It’s not exactly like Sharpton and his supporters (if any) would be backing the Romney campaign.

Additionally, if there are stories in the media about Romney being unfairly targeted for attacks and insults on the basis of his religion, he ends up looking more sympathetic and getting to preach about tolerance. That all might guilt trip some people who were otherwise shaky on him to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Don’t you think Giuliani or McCain would love to be attacked by Sharpton too?


Bill Donohue Wants More Catholics on the Court

April 26, 2007

That darling of the liberal blogosphere Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, is at it again, criticizing those who dare wonder about the all-Catholic five-justice majority in last week’s Supreme Court decision on partial birth abortion (the four dissenting justices were all non-Catholics). Here’s Donohue’s view on religion’s role in the legal system.

The pushback from conservative Catholics was immediate, even pre-emptive. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, declared, “We need more, not fewer, Catholics on the Supreme Court.”

I still subscribe to the quaint idea that judges should uphold the laws and the Constitution, rather than the tenets of any particular religious faith.


The Meaning of “Ismail Ax”

April 18, 2007

These words reportedly were written on the arm of Cho Seung-Hui when he was found dead, and the blogs are full of speculation about their meaning. One popular theory links this to a story in the Koran but others caution against being so quick to leap to a terrorism connection.

Here’s the Koran bit, as written up by the Chicago Tribune.

In Islam, Ibrahim is the father of the prophets and, upset that people in his hometown still worshiped idols and not Allah, he smashed all but one statue in a local temple with an ax. Ibrahim’s son is Ismail, who also became a prophet. Ibrahim is Arabic for Abraham, who plays a significant role in Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

This seems to fit in substantively with other things we know about Cho. He wrote a note found in his dorm room about how he hated rich kids and debauchery, things akin to the idolatry that Ibrahim lashed out at. The letter also discussed religion:

A law enforcement official says the letter written by 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui was a typed, eight-page rant against rich kids and religion. …

The official said Cho indicated in his letter that the end was near and that there was a deed to be done. He also expressed disappointment in his own religion, and made several references to Christianity.

Violent clashes between the young and old also figure prominently in Cho’s two plays.

The plays, though, are very poorly written and indicate this guy was pretty bonkers, rather than intelligent. Maybe the words are just the random scribbling of a madman and everyone is over-analyzing this. It’s natural to want to find out that this had some meaning and that Cho didn’t just go out and kill tons of people without a coherent idea in his head of why he was acting as he did.