Today is “money and religion” day for some reason. The news is full of stories about religious people and the way they spend, and, in some cases, allegedly steal. But we begin with a death for all to mourn . . .
Beloved Jesuit priest of Homs assassinated
A lone gunman shot to death the Rev. Frans van der Lugt Monday in the Syrian monastery where he had lived for decades and offered refuge to Muslims and Christian families alike as the country spiraled into chaos. The Dutch priest was protected by rebels. But it is not clear who killed him, and his death comes at a time of intense rebel debate over whether to accept a government amnesty offer. The priest was in his 70s.
How much is a bishop worth?
In light of some pretty heavy spending lately by several archbishops (Wilton Gregory’s $2.2 million Atlanta mansion and John Myers $500,000 home extension in Newark), the National Catholic Reporter went digging for the stats on bishops’ salaries and found quite modest sums. But the perks can be impressive, NCR also discovered, and quoted Charles Zech, director of the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics at Villanova University:
They live in a mansion rent-free. Meals and other things associated with the position are often not charged to them. They get a chauffeur driver wherever they go. A lot of what you and I would recognize as compensation really doesn’t show up as such . . .
Pope approves reform plan for Vatican bank
Though some feared Pope Francis might go so far as to close the troubled Vatican bank, which has long been plagued by allegations of mismanagement and mafia influence, Francis Monday endorsed a plan to set the bank on a new course toward transparency and compliance with international guidelines.
Prosecution: pastor knew art was forged
The pastor of the Mosaic Miami Church knowingly sold, as if authentic, examples of paintings in the style of famed British artist Damien Hirst, prosecutors argued Monday in the trial of Kevin Sutherland. AP reported that jury deliberations continue in the case, in which Sutherland’s lawyers argue that he doesn’t know enough about art to tell a real Hirst from a fake.
Big party budgets among Jewish American charities
A study in The Forward details some lavish fetes thrown by Jewish non-profits, and the budgets that make them possible. The high-spender? The UJA-New York with its $5.6 million fundraising budget, and the Anti-Defamation League, with its nearly $5 million fundraising budget.
Where are the black folks in ‘Noah’?
Nowhere, writes Bob Smietana. If you see the movie, you will not see people of color. And that’s a shame, say a number of clergy of color and others. Anthea Butler, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said the casting decisions send a troubling message:
It’s a world where only white people get saved.
Where are the mosques in Athens?
Nowhere. There hasn’t been an official mosque in Athens since the Ottomans left. But plans to build a mosque with state money in overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian Greece have made the mayor’s race in the Greek capital especially contentious. One candidate is insisting that the question should be put to a referendum. Greece is one of the few Europeans nations without a mosque in its capital.
Jesus People, the movie
USA Today reports on the newly-released documentary “No Place to Call Home” which explores the Jesus People movement of the 1970s. Jesus People still exists, and is battling several lawsuits from adults who grew up among them and allege that they were abused as children.
Philippines supreme court: family planning law legal
Over strong opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, the Philippines Supreme Court ruled legal a law that allows the government to distribute contraception in mostly poor parts of the country. A few sections of the law were ruled unconstitutional, including one that punished health workers who did not provide contraception because of their moral objections.
Worth your time
Terry Gross interviews Bart Ehrman on his new book, “How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.”
Katrina Trinko in USA Today argues that bullies got Brendan Eich fired from Mozilla for his support for Prop 8.
Sarah Jones explains why Western atheists shouldn’t shine the spotlight themselves in the wake of Saudi Arabia’s “atheism=terrorism” decree.
And we would like to introduce our new Vatican correspondent, Josephine McKenna. Just five days on the job and she gets an audience with Pope Francis. Welcome, Josephine.
– Lauren Markoe
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