October 13, 2018

Authored by guest contributor Dr. Kate Kingsbury* – please note this piece is an abbreviated version of a copyrighted article due to appear in The Small Wars Journal in 2019, a journal edited by Dr. Robert Bunker Latin America is the most Catholic region on earth and as such religion, unlike in much of the secularised West continues to play a primordial part for the large majority of its inhabitants. Indeed, religion is a coping strategy for negotiating the many… Read more

September 29, 2018

I began my academic career as a specialist in religion in Brazil and authored the first book in English on the Pentecostal boom in the country that is now home to the largest Pentecostal population on earth. That Brazil is also home to the largest Catholic population on earth, in addition to the second largest overall Christian community, after the U.S., makes the Latin American giant the epicenter of global Christianity. In the following radio interview with NPR’s Interfaith Voices… Read more

September 23, 2018

Authored by guest contributor Dr. Kate Kingsbury* The Bamiléké of Cameroon have long believed that after the corpses of their ancestors have rotted they can be exhumed and the skulls used to communicate with the spirits of the dead, as well as their godhead, to receive spiritual guidance. Locals have named this form of ancestral worship: La Culte des Crânes, or the Skull Cult. The religious rite, which has necromancy at its fulcrum, is of ancient origin and the Bamiléké… Read more

September 16, 2018

Arlene Bynon (AB): Andrew Chesnut is joining us, the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Andrew Chesnut, welcome, thank you for being here. Andrew Chesnut (AC): Thanks for having me back, Arlene. AB: Andrew, what do you make of where we are right now? This is not a new story, but there is a new intensity here. AC: Yeah, the level of the scandal is really just unprecedented. In my three decades of being… Read more

September 6, 2018

Pew Research Center, for which I have served as an academic consultant, has published seven key facts about American Catholics, which I have included here in bold type followed by my own analysis in standard type. The Catholic Church is larger than any other single religious institution in the United States, with over 17,000 parishes that serve a large and diverse population. In spite of its size and influence, the church in recent decades has faced a number of significant… Read more

August 30, 2018

Authored by guest contributor Dr. Kate Kingsbury*   Early Christianity featured exorcism at its fulcrum. Deliverance from the devil was the preserve of holy individuals living and dead, with no particular formalities attached. In the Medieval ages, exorcisms became more indirect, frequently exorcised objects such as salt, oil and water were utilised. Later, the exceptional holiness of saints and their shrines, as miracle workers, began to take precedence over actual exorcisms. As the Middle Ages rolled on exorcism became a… Read more

August 15, 2018

As a specialist in lived religion much of my memento mori research in Europe this summer has left me missing the human element of communion with the divine. Most of the mummies, bejeweled skeleton saints, and piles of human bones in charnel houses are on display more as museum exhibits than as sacred objects meant for veneration and adoration. Today’s Leiberfest (feast of [heavenly] bodies) in the tiny Bavarian town of Roggenburg, however, couldn’t have been a more poignant case… Read more

August 6, 2018

In a major shift on Church teaching, Pope Francis has declared capital punishment unacceptable in all cases. Prior to the pontiff’s recent pronouncement, Church doctrine allowed for the death penalty if it were deemed the only practical way of defending lives. Practically speaking, the Church’s new policy of total opposition to capital punishment is aimed at the United States. Of the 52 nations that still execute convicted criminals the U.S. stands alone as both the only major Western country and… Read more

July 30, 2018

Macabre isn’t usually one of the adjectives used to describe contemporary dance in its myriad expressions. Sensual, erotic, frenetic, and romantic figure among some of the images that come to mind with genres of dance such as salsa, hip hop, techno, among others. But in medieval Europe where death was omnipresent, especially during the Black Plague, even one of the forms of cultural expression most associated with joy and celebration couldn’t escape intrusion by the Grim Reaper. Originating in France… Read more

July 24, 2018

The Virgin of Guadalupe (official title: Our Lady of Guadalupe; in Spanish: Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) is an advocation of the Virgin Mary associated with a venerated image enshrined within the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The Basilica with the image is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. On October 12, 1895, Pope Leo XIII granted the venerated image a canonical coronation and its official title. According to the hagiography, the Virgin appeared… Read more

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