It’s fitting that journalists couldn’t even agree on where New York Cardinal John O’Connor was standing as he opened another chapter in America’s bitter struggle over abortion.The New York Daily News said he was at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral altar as he read: “Mr. President, you are in a unique position to insure respect for all human rights, including the right to life which is denied to infants who are brutally killed in partial-birth abortion.” But the Associated Press reported… Read more

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein admits that he laughed early and often during the Steve Martin comedy “Leap of Faith.”But afterwards, he was troubled by the 1992 film’s portrait of a barnstorming preacher, faith healer and fraud who fleeces halls full of trusting, simpleminded and ultimately pathetic sheep. Surely such hucksters exist, Eckstein decided. However, as president of the Center for Jewish and Christian Values, the rabbi had worked with enough Christians to know that charlatans are not the norm.And there’s the… Read more

Clergy quickly learn this law: Most worshippers want to sit in familiar pew, open a familiar book and hear the familiar words of a familiar service.Words such as: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Or this: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible: And in one Lord Jesus Christ,… Read more

While making her early rounds, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has let everyone know that she’s concerned about religious persecution.As the State Department released its 1996 human rights reports, she noted that “religious persecution and intolerance” are “plagues that from ancient times have fomented war and deep-seated resentment. In too many countries — from Sudan to Vietnam to Iran — this form of repression persists. In a few, including China, it has increased. Whatever your culture, whatever your creed, the… Read more

The distressed parishioner had a sad, even pathetic, story to tell, one the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy had heard before.The man confessed that he was an adulterer, but that wasn’t the worst part of his predicament. His boss had heard about the affair and fired him, starting a chain reaction that struck his wife and two children.Both the husband and his wife wanted to try save the marriage, said Gaddy, in a case study in his new book, “Adultery &… Read more

As Cardinal Joseph Bernardin entered the Loyola University Cancer Center he found his path blocked by a mass of news crews.The Chicago cardinal faced surgery for pancreatic cancer and this crisis came on the heels of another media storm, when he was accused of sexual abuse. Thus, America’s best-known Catholic prelate paused for yet another impromptu press conference.”One of the first questions asked was, `Cardinal, which did you find more difficult or more traumatic – the false accusation or the… Read more

A long time ago, in a movie multiplex not so far away, a child looked up and asked: “Mom, Dad, is the Force the same thing as God?”Children have been asking that question for 20 years. The simple answer is “yes.” But this raises another question: Which god or God is at the center of the “Star Wars” universe?The trilogy’s creator was well aware that his work invaded turf traditionally reserved for parents, priests and preachers. George Lucas wrote “Star… Read more

As governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton spent many of his Sunday mornings in the choir at Little Rock’s Immanuel Baptist Church.Thus, President Clinton beamed with pride as his choir mates performed the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” after his second inaugural address. The anthem was so familiar that many in this elite congregation may have missed its ironic message.”He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat,” sang the choir, within shouting distance of the U.S. Supreme Court…. Read more

While he often played the role of scientific high priest, the late Carl Sagan didn’t own a set of liturgical vestments.Thus, he wore his academic regalia as he ascended into the pulpit of New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Oct. 3, 1993, the Feast of St. Francis. The rite for the day — the “Missa Gaia (Earth Mass)” — included taped cries of wolves and whales and a procession featuring an elephant, a camel, a vulture, a… Read more

In the beginning there was candidate Jimmy Carter, facing waves of reporters demanding an answer to the urgent question: What exactly is a “born-again Christian?”Most political insiders were shocked to learn that millions of evangelicals, fundamentalists, Pentecostals, charismatics and even some people in historic-church pews fit under this theological umbrella. Most of these folks even planned to vote.There were more plot twists ahead. The born-again crowd wasn’t well organized — yet. Also, many evangelicals didn’t want this particular Southern Baptist… Read more

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