Saturday, April 12, 2003

Returning for a moment to the Naval Postgraduate School's Leadership Summit, I have found an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) website dedicated to the Summit. AI was indeed on the Summit Program. This methodology is getting around. Not only was it used to bring URI to fruition, a branch of it wears a distinctly Catholic stamp. And there is also a nondenominational branch of it as well. I live in the Cleveland (Ohio) Diocese. The Vibrant Parish Life program has been mandated by Bishop Pilla to be used in every parish. My parish is in the midst of it, as are all others that I have any contact with. Rather than retyping it, I'll simply post the contents of a report I did on the program in my parish. EXPERIENCING A "VIBRANT PARISH" Bishop Anthony Pilla wishes every priest and parishioner in the Cleveland (Ohio) Diocese to be a member of a parish with vibrant life. To that end he has instituted a program called Vibrant Parish Life, and mandated that each parish shall implement it, beginning with parish leaders last Spring. The objective of the program is to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each parish with an intention to discover how neighboring parishes can cooperate to meet the needs of laity residing both within and outside of their parish boundaries. "Unity," "collaboration," "participation," "support," "encouragement," "clustering," "energizing," "empowerment," and "discernment" are the catchwords of this program. Bishop Pilla envisions an experience of communion at the parish level; deep respect for leadership, both lay and clerical; and collaborative efforts of ministries and communities in an area permeating parish boundaries. Laying the groundwork for this communion begins with a parish wide "Self-Study Survey" in the form of a 39 item questionnaire distributed to parishioners. The questionnaire permitts each of the items to be graded on two seven-point scales ranging from "not at all important to me" to "very important"; and from "not at all well done" to "very well done." Questions are arranged in six categories of five to nine questions each, including sacraments, faith formation, outreach, evangelizing, administration, and parish facilities. The questionnaire is also available for completion on the Diocesan website at www.vibrantparishlife.org . Once the parish survey is completed, the next step in the process is the Parish Town Hall Meeting where those in attendance are asked to tell their story of life in the parish, especially those moments that were most meaningful, followed by a look at future hopes and dreams for the parish. These ideas are presented in small group discussions. They are summarized for each small group and presented to the entire gathering. The floor is then opened up for discussion. From this survey and these Town Hall Meetings the leadership team will assess the strengths and weaknesses of the parish, looking for ways to involve more parishioners in parish life and for areas of potential cooperation with neighboring parishes. The methodology used in this analysis of parish life within the Diocese is Case Western Reserve University Professor David Cooperrider's Appreciative Inquiry (AI). Dr. Cooperrider is Associate Professor for Organizational Behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case. He has taught at Stanford, Benedictine and Pepperdine Universities, at Katholieke University in Belgium and elsewhere. He has also served as advisor for such organizations as Motorola, GTE, BP Amoco, World Vision, Seatle Group Health, Teledesic, Imagine Chicago, Technoserve, the Mountain Forum and United Way of America. According to author Susan Star Paddock's forthcoming book, The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry in the Catholic Church, AI has been used as the methodology of Catholic Relief Services, spiritual retreats, leadership development of new priests, ecumenical outreach, marital and family ministries and stewardship development. Apart from the Catholic Church it has been used in New Age institutions including the Taos Institute and the Shambhala Institute. Cooperrider is listed as a member of the Planning Board of Spirit in Business, a group of collaborators and advisors, many of whom represent New Age organizations, which is attempting to bring religion to the workplace. However, AI is best known worldwide for its application to the formation of Episcopal Bishop William Swing's United Religions Initiative. Developed in the late 1980s AI is used when an organization requires change. Central to this method is a focus solely on the positive. Cooperrider's concept is to look at what is working within the organization and do more of it. Cooperrider worked closely with and was inspired by Dee Hock, founder of VISA and the Chaordic Commons, an organization focused on a more equitable distribution of power and wealth in a method compatible with the human spirit and biosphere�an organization which works with both chaos and order on a daily basis. Hock and Cooperrider both envision a world where religions will blend into an international syncretistic whole. From the perspective of the parish level, my own parish began this process in November of 2002, one week after our parish Forty Hours devotion. To give you an idea of the size of my parish, we have a head count of approximately 6,000 people and 2,000 families. My church has a seating capacity of 578 and most of the five weekend Masses are at least three-quarters full. The Self-Study Survey was made available in the pews at Mass. Approximately 260 people returned the completed survey. The Town Hall Meeting took place during the last Sunday in February. Two sessions were scheduled, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. Forty-six people were present at the afternoon meeting and twenty-two at the evening meeting, including the pastor, seven committee members and this reporter. Many of these people were familiar faces, the "active" parish members. The sessions both opened with prayer led by a committee member and including the singing of "Gather Us In." An informative history of the parish was presented. Our parish was founded in the early days of the settlement of northeastern Ohio and is one of the oldest in the Diocese. Next we broke into small groups and were directed to concentrate on two ideas: our own brief stories of parish life including what we liked best, and our visions for the future of our parish. We shared these stories and visions with our small group. A summary from each group was then presented to the entire assembly, and the floor was opened for comments. Visions expressed at the afternoon session included the need to involve the youth, the need for a better way to make people feel welcome, more ways to get people involved, and the possibility of adding a commissioning ceremony for active parish members that would take place at Mass. At the evening session, visions included more community outreach, more ecumenical programs, more youth involvement, a procedure of "invitation" extended to specific members to become active, a desire to commence having girl altar servers, the possibility of a school and church alumni association, a parish festival, a parish welcoming committee. In addition, some parishioners at the evening session expressed an interest in having more devotions, and in having bible study and catechesis classes for adults and for children, plus placing a greater emphasis on living the faith by tithing and other stewardship activities. There was heavy emphasis on the social Gospel at both sessions. The response to this program was sparse. Yet plans, procedures, and policies are intended to be set as a result of this process. Do these people speak for the entire parish? Or is it possible that many parishioners were not motivated to involve themselves with yet another busy work project? Did the larger voice of the parish choose to express itself by absence? There is no way to answer that question. The most prominent difficulty our diocese currently faces is a shortage of priests. My parish had three priests fifteen years ago. Today we have one, our pastor, who is struggling with health problems. This shortage promises to worsen as our seminary is nearly empty and many priests are nearing retirement age. Yet no one voiced concern about this looming crisis except this reporter. There was little support for my concern. The parish leaders seem to have concluded we can continue on with one priest or no priest at all. In fact one of the team leaders described a priestless service he had attended which he thought was very spiritually moving. Dispensing of the sacraments was not an agenda item. Instead emphasis was placed on laity involvement. There was little mention of God. I came away dumbfounded that good, moral, well-intentioned people seem to have come to see parish life in terms of the altruistic activities of man, with little or no need to be concerned with the transcendent aspect of faith. All of the visions expressed were worthy ideas. Most of them just weren't particularly religious ideas. In fact the Rotary or Lions Club or the local Lodge, or even the state government might possibly be better positioned to carry out the concerns most often voiced. They were the world's concerns for the poor and less fortunate. They were the requirements of the second commandment to love our neighbor. All good and noble causes. Yet the essential command, to know God, to love Him and to focus on worship of Him, seemed to hold a minor place on the list of vital issues which needed to be addressed. Is that what it means to be Catholic now? Is it all about loving our fellow man and little about knowing and loving our God apart from our fellow man? Has the sacrament of ordination fallen to a new low level in our respect just as confession and confirmation have fallen? Are we slowly rejecting the sacraments which cannot be performed by the laity? How did this change come about? Why did we let it happen? How did we lose our way? How did we lose our God? CarrieTomko@aol.com

Friday, April 11, 2003

A reader sent this article from John Allen, "The Word From Rome" at the National Catholic Reporter website. From the article: I had the pleasure this week of interviewing three bishops from San Francisco � Roman Catholic Archbishop William Levada, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Anthony, and Episcopalian Bishop William Swing. The three men are on an ecumenical pilgrimage across Europe that will take them to Canterbury, Rome and Istanbul, the historical centers of their three branches of Christianity. The three met Pope John Paul II in an April 7 audience. I sat down with them immediately afterwards at the Residenza Paolo VI, just off St. Peter�s Square. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Lee Penn's stories on United Religions Initiative have been published in numerous Catholic and Christian magazines. Some of you may be familiar with his work. Here is a recent one from Christian Challenge which he has given me permission to use: EPISCOPAL BISHOP ACCEPTS "MOONIE" GROUP'S AWARD By Lee Penn The Christian Challenge (Washington, DC) January 21, 2003 Conflict has arisen within the United Religions Initiative (URI) after its founder, California Episcopal Bishop William Swing, accepted an award from an organization started by the founder of the controversial Unification Church, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The group in question, the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO), gave an "Interreligious Cooperation Award" to Swing and the URI at an October 2002 banquet in Washington. (Non-Governmental organizations, or NGOs, are private charities and advocacy groups recognized by the UN.) The Rev. Sanford Garner, a retired Episcopal priest and a founding member of the URI in Washington D.C., accepted the award on behalf of Swing, offering an acceptance speech written by the bishop. Since 1992, WANGO's founder, Rev. Moon, has declared that he and his wife are "the Messiah and True Parents of all humanity." The award has sparked bitter controversy within the URI, despite the fact that this trendy seven-year-old interfaith movement--which some critics believe is aimed at producing a one-world religion--has opened its doors widely to all types of belief systems, including even those of the neo-pagan or New Age genre. Members of the Unification Church, and organizations aligned with it, have been active in the URI since 1997. One URI activist expressed "horror and deep disappointment" over the "Moonie" connection, describing the Unification Church as a cult that engages in "threats, brainwashing techniques, marriages to pre-arranged strangers," and lying to outsiders. URI Executive Director Charles Gibbs said: "I don't believe there as been as much passion and opposition expressed since we were struggling to finalize the Purpose statement in 1999." But Gibbs reiterated the decision of the URI Standing Committee (which he described as "the equivalent of a Board's Executive Committee") to have Garner accept the WANGO award on Swing's behalf. The award reflects a relationship between the URI and the Unification Church which has grown increasingly friendly in recent years. In India in 1997, the URI co-sponsored interfaith events with--among other groups--the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP), which was founded by Rev. Moon. In Mumbai, India, the next year, the URI co-sponsored a "Dialogue on Conversion from Hindu and Christian Perspectives" with the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP), a mainstream interfaith organization--and, yet again with the IRFWP. Gibbs also has said that he knows of URI Cooperation Circles (CCs) which "have valued members who come from the Unification Church." (Cooperation Circles are the equivalent of local or regional URI chapters; there are about 200 CCs worldwide.) Karen Smith, a Unificationist who now works with the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) at the UN, stated that "some individuals who are now significant in IIFWP did attend some of the early meetings" of the URI, and that some IIFWP members are also active in URI Cooperation Circles. The home page of the IIFWP offers links to "Other Peace Organizations"--including the UN, the URI, the Action Coalition for Global Change (a gathering of "progressive" globalist organizations) and the UN-sponsored University for Peace in Costa Rica. The home page of the Religious Youth Service, a youth interfaith service group under the IIFWP, likewise links to the URI and the North American Interfaith Network (a mainstream interfaith organization). WANGO actively supports adoption of the Earth Charter, a radical environmental code now being considered at the UN. Thus, the Moonies' entry into the URI appears to be part of a broader-range effort on their part to shed the conservative, anti-communist image that they have had in the past, and to appeal to the left as well as to the right. --------- Sources available upon request -------- Permission to circulate the foregoing electronically, or to reprint it, is granted, provided that there are no changes in the headings or text. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Charles Gibbs, the Executive Director of United Religions Initiative, offers some words about the war with Iraq at the URI website. He expresses his sorrow for the loss of life, the loss of infrastructure, and the waste of money that could have been used for other purposes. He speaks of weeping for the loss of life, the loss of opportunity for peace, the loss of resources, and the hatred that is being created. Nowhere, though, does he indicate any tears for the Iraqis who were tortured and repressed by Saddam's regime. Perhaps he doesn't think they deserve his tears. In recent days, I've spoken briefly about United Religions Initiative in connection with my concerns about ecumenism obliterating our belief that Catholicism is the one true religion. Returning to URI once again, Rev. Gibbs name came up in a web search. He attended a Leadership Summit at the Center for Executive Education (CEE), Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. This was a seminar conducted mainly for military personnel, as the attendees list indicates. Four students attended, and 13 civilians. Of the four students, two came from Monteray High School, one came from Berkeley, and one from Case Western Reserve University--Ph.D. candidate Elizabeth Stubbs, who is associated with the Weatherhead School of Management. Most of the civilians represented technology companies and management networking system providers. Some of them, too, have ventures with Weatherhead School of Management. Cisco Systems, Inc. and Sprint together helped "unwire" the Weatherhead building on the Case campus. Weatherhead created a program for Roadway Express. The Weatherhead School of Management is the home of David Cooperrider, who created a methodology called "Appreciative Inquiry" to be used whenever an organization is faced with major change. It is this methodology which gets the credit for making United Religions Initiative possible. Charles Gibbs and Sally Mahe have written a book, United Religions Initiative Meets Appreciative Inquiry, describing how it came to be. The website for the Leadership Summit doesn't indicate that Appreciative Inquiry was the subject of the summit. But I do wonder what Rev. Charles Gibbs would have been doing there unless it was a topic to be discussed. Before you say "ho-hum--so what?" take a look at the Cleveland Diocese website. Vibrant Parish Life uses Appreciative Inquiry as its methodology as the website shows and I'll have more to say about it tomorrow. CarrieTomko@aol.com

The collapse of resistance in Baghdad as the Arabs view it, from Gulf News online edition... Lest we get too full of ourselves, we should remember that we will be no more welcome than Saddam if we attempt to install our own will on these people. The opening lines from the story: Quote: This is a heart-breaking moment for any Arab seeing Marines roaming the streets of Baghdad, the capital of Caliph Al Rashid. The city presented to the world sciences, literature, art and philosophical thought during the reign of the glorious Abbasid empire. As much as an Arab is pleased to see his Iraqi brothers free from the yoke of dictatorship which humiliated and tortured them for more than 20 years, his heart breaks from depression and pain seeing this sad end to Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, collapsing under the chains of Marines' tanks. The Arabs' forefathers were also sad one day when hooves of Mongol and Tartar horses wrecked the minaret of science, desecrated its libraries and shed the blood of Baghdad's children. Should we laugh or cry today? Cry on seeing an Arab capital sway and fall without resistance live on air. At the same time, we are unable to do anything - even sadness has become difficult for us to feel. Meanwhile not all Iraqis are glad to have us. Linda S. Heard's description of the war drips with venom for the U.S. And there are other stories by other columnists linked at the bottom which are equally angry and equally disdainful of the U.S. We have fenses to mend, and some of them may never be mended even though we try. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Over the years since V2 traditional Catholics have lamented the renovation of their churches and cathedrals which too often has left them barren of Catholic imagery. I sympathize with that frustration. My childhood parish was renovated, and being back in that church for my mother's funeral was a very disturbing experience. In contrast to our stark remodeling, Orthodox churches are said to be gloriously filled with artwork which draws our minds to heavenly things. The outside of them captivates me, but nearly every time I've attempted to enter one, the doors have been locked. I understand. They use a lot of gold in their decoration. Vandalism would be terribly expensive. Happily there seems to be a compromise thanks to the internet. Today I discovered the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in San Francisco. It really is awesome. Take a look. CarrieTomko@aol.com

All day I've been reading reports of the welcome our troops have received in Baghdad. Tonight I checked two Mid-East news sources and found the positive stories there as well. These quotes come from Middle East Online. Quote: "It feels good, we've finally hit the end of the road. Today there were only a few shots at us from snipers but nothing major," said Hanson, 21, of Alexandria, Minnesota."We haven't seen any enemies in Baghdad and we heard that a lot of them (Iraqi soldiers) have surrendered."All the way into Baghdad, we were getting thumbs-up from the Iraqis, 'Thank you' and even 'Kill Saddam' in some cases," he said, politely turning down the small cup of bittersweet coffee.Baghdad, Laderdorf said, looked "beautiful.""I can assure you that we destroyed no more than what our mission required. All of the Iraqis were glad to see us coming in." Turning to Gulf News online I found the following: Quote: GCC states held emergency talks on the war in Iraq late Monday with a pledge to support their neighbour's unity and expressed regret for President Saddam Hussain's failure to heed a UAE initiative to step down and avert the conflict. Quote: Sheikh Hamad said the GCC expresses solidarity with Kuwait following Iraqi missiles attacks on its ports and other facilities. He said any threat to Kuwait's security and stability is a "threat to all GCC countries." "The GCC expresses its solidarity with Kuwait and support for all measures it has taken to ensure its security and protect its territory and safety�the security and stability of our countries and the need to protect their common interests require us to take collective measures to achieve those interests and goals," he said. Kuwait's deputy premier and foreign minister Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah blamed Saddam for the war and paid tributes to President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan for his proposals to Saddam to heed a U.S. ultimatum and leave Baghdad to avert the confrontation. Quote: The GCC states condemned a barrage of Iraqi missile attacks on Kuwait during the first 12 days of the war and stressed their full support for measures taken by the country to protect its security. Iraq fired some 19 projectiles at Kuwait, with only one landing in the heart of the capital, slightly injuring two people and causing limited damage to the country's largest and most popular shopping mall. Quote: "We are looking with full confidence towards a bright future for Iraq, a free Iraq which respects its neighbours and all Arab, Islamic and international norms and at the same time complies with relevant UN resolutions and actively contribute to serving the causes of our Arab nation and achieving security and stability in the region." Tonight it still seems to be reasonable to rejoice that the war in Iraq has ended and that the Iraqi people really are grateful for liberation. So far there is no indication that other Arab countries are ready to start a religious war. Now if we can just assist Iraq to form a new government get humanitarian help to the people of Baghdad and other cities, keep the peace between the various religious factions, and then once the country is on its feet, get out, our efforts there will have been successful. Put another way, we still have a long way to go, but it's also good to take the time to savor what has been accomplished. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Amy Welborn talks today in her blog about the "idiots out there who have been pontificating for months that Pope John Paul II is an foolish, unrealistic appeaser who turns a blind eye to human suffering." Well, I'm one of the idiots, but I don't take her comment personally. There are two ways of looking at the situation in Iraq. Amy refers to Michael's blog where he links a story on the looting in Baghdad. What I think both of them miss is the victory celebration. We've been debating how we would know the war is over. The Iraqi people have just given us the answer. They no longer fear Saddam. They have put their fear far enough behind them to be able to loot the government offices. I read that to mean they don't think he will come back. This description of the looting has some significant comments near the end: "We're seeing a lot of jubilation and people who have long been oppressed for years and years, having choices," he told reporters in Qatar. "I think that we'll see some of this in other areas that have been liberated. This is a lot of pent-up energy." State-run Baghdad radio was still on the air, broadcasting patriotic songs and excerpts from Saddam's speeches. But in some neighborhoods of the capital � particularly Saddam City, a poor, predominantly Shiite Muslim area long considered an opposition hotbed � residents felt assured the Iraqi president's reign was over. On one street, a white-haired man held up a poster of Saddam and beat it with his shoe. A younger man spat on the portrait, and several others launched kicks at the face of the Iraqi president. "Come see, this is freedom. This is the criminal, this is the infidel," he said. "This is the destiny of every traitor. He killed millions of us." The scenes of jubilation came after one of the quietest nights in Baghdad since the war began. The relatively light clashes raised hopes that the worst of the fighting was over and that Baghdad had fallen to the Americans. "The capital city is now one of those areas that has been added to the list of where the regime does not have control," said Brooks. He said the situation has reached a "tipping point" where the population now realizes "this regime is coming to an end and will not return to the way it was in the past." Sure the chaos must be quelled. But to think that order can come immediately on the heels of war is unrealistic. The passage must first be marked, and this is happening in Baghdad now. This is what the Pope has seemingly been indifferent to. I try to imagine someone I love caught in an Iraqi jail, tortured as often as three times a day. I don't believe there is any difference between this description of torture and what happened in The Nazi camps. But on a brighter note, this story from the Washington Times about the Islamic holy places being preserved by our military is encouraging me to believe that a religious war can hopefully be prevented. America has a lot of work ahead in Iraq. Peace must be reinstated. Two warring factions of Islam must somehow be reconciled to peace. Government of the Iraqis must be turned over to them. The battle for stability in the region is not yet won. We still have enormous potential to blow it over there. But for this moment in time, there is hope. And on another warring front there is also hope. The Pope is planning to issue an encyclical on Holy Thursday which will be dedicated to the Eucharist. A passage from a story at the AD2000 website: "Later, in a weekly audience, he said, "It is necessary to purify worship of deformations, of careless forms of expression, of ill-prepared music and texts, which are not very suited to the grandeur of the act being celebrated." These problems have been particularly acute in the English-speaking world, despite the intrinsic beauty of the Mass as it is intended to be celebrated. In some places, the liturgy has suffered from an explosion of experimentation and spontaneity, becoming man-centred rather than God-centred. The resultant alienation has contributed to the emptying of churches, with some people abandoning the practice of the faith altogether, while others have turned to pre-Vatican II ritual." All in all, this was a good morning to read the news! CarrieTomko@aol.com

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Father Michael Hull presented an address March 28 for a videoconference organized by the Congregation for Clergy on "The Primacy of Peter." The text, adapted by ZENIT, on "Why the Pope Pushes for Christian Unity" is presented at the Zenit website. Since I've been reading about and thinking about United Religions in recent days, the following brief passages especially caught my attention. Quote: John Paul II's encyclical letter "Ut Unum Sint" (May 25, 1995) articulates a refined notion of the primacy of Peter in terms of the Pope's role as the servant of Christian unity.... The reciprocal relationship of prayer and community instills a greater sense of unity and evokes in us an awareness that what unites us is much greater than what divides us. In such wise, prayer and community lead naturally to dialogue. "When undertaking dialogue, each side must presuppose in the other a desire for reconciliation, for unity in truth. For this to happen, any display of mutual opposition must disappear. Only thus will dialogue help to overcome division and lead us to closer unity". That statement is made in reference to interdenominational Christian unity, but I would suggest that it has become the guiding concept of all ecumenism, Christian and non-Christian. I would also suggest that applying it to non-Christian ecumenism is causing the Catholic faith to be seen as just another religion in a sea of equal religions. This theme was at the heart of the Assisi prayer events, and seems to have the Pope's encouragement, judging by Assisi. This is also the theme of the entire 861 pages of Albert Pike's Morals and Dogma. So are Catholics to embrace this ecumenical Masonic concept? Masonry takes it one step further and eliminates any specific reference to God. The Grand Architect of the Universe is a deistic concept. Meanwhile the concerted effort is applied to an earth-based utopian dream. United Religions, Gaia worship, fits this concept like a fine leather glove fits the hand it was made for. What it will not accommodate is religion-specific attributes of a transcendent God. Specific descriptions of God have no place in a Masonic hall, and they have no place in Gaia worship. The Catechism of the Council of Trent, offers a much different perspective. A passage on pages 378-379 describes God as a jealous God, saying: Quote: Man is sometimes tempted to think that God takes no interest in human affairs, and does not even care whether we observe or neglect His law. This error is the source of the great disorders of life. But when we believe that God is a jealous God, the thought easily keeps us within the limits of our duty. The jealousy attributed to God does not, however, imply disturbance of mind; it is that divine love and charity by which God will suffer no human creature to be unfaithful to Him with impunity, and which destroys all those who are disloyal to Him. The jealousy of God, therefore, is the most tranquil and impartial justice, which repudiates as an adulteress the soul corrupted by erroneous opinions and criminal passions. This jealousy of God, since it shows His boundless and incomprehensible goodness towards us, we find most sweet and pleasant. Among men there is no love more ardent, no greater or more intimate tie, than that of those who are united by marriage. Hence when God frequently compares Himself to a spouse or husband and calls Himself a jealous God, He shows the excess of His love towards us. Based on this passage, Gaia worship...earth-based spirituality...amounts to a form of adultery--a betrayal of Jesus Christ. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Monday, April 07, 2003

Ecumenism progresses in Buddhist-Catholic dialogue according to the NCCB website. The contacts are listed at the bottom. Among them is Heng Sure, a member of the Global Council of the United Religions. CarrieTomko@aol.com

United Religions was in the Catholic news recently. (See Friday, April 4, below.) Ecumenical dialogue is ongoing within the Church. These ideas present themselves as a means to peace. According to ecumenists, once we have all shared our religions with each other, we will no longer go to war over our faith. This "New Paradigm" is presenting itself in many ways all over our landscape. Archbishop Javier Lozano Barrag�n, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, analyzed and criticized the fundamental characteristics of the "New Paradigm" in an article in the Jan. 11 Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano. He warns that this is a plan to supplant Christian values with a "universal ethic" in the new context of globalization. But can worshipping GAIA have any hope of solving our religious differences when GAIA is silent on the essentials of absolute truth? Archbishop Barragan's article explores some of the difficulties we will set ourselves up for. The "biggie" though, is the conflict which the New Paradigm presents to Christianity. New Paradigm vs. Christianity Archbishop Lozano Barrag�n explained that some of the values presented by the New Paradigm can be shared: concern for the environment, human rights, respect for minorities, democracy, social justice, health and education for all. However, the New Paradigm manifests itself "as a new spirituality that supplants all religions, because the latter have been unable to preserve the ecosystem." In a word, this is "a new secular religion, a religion without God, or if you prefer, a new God that is the earth itself with the name GAIA," he said. "The series of values that sustain the New Paradigm are values subordinated to this divinity that becomes the supreme ecological value, which they call sustainable development. The highest ethical end, within this sustainable development, is well-being," he wrote. "Clearly, we are faced with the total denial of Christianity and the fundamental fact of Christianity, the Incarnation of the Word, the redeeming death of Christ and his glorious resurrection. If this historical fact is accepted, the assumption of the New Paradigm fails completely," the archbishop warned. "This does not mean that the genuine values proclaimed by the New Paradigm also fail, values that are not foreign to Christian thought, but find their raison d'�tre in the latter," he added. The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers said that the New Paradigm runs into its greatest problem "when it perceives that everything must be based on consensus, a consensus that does not stem from objective truths, but from subjective opinions." "An authentic universal ethic, which really hopes to be global, must be an ethic founded on the objectivity of man himself ... whose end is God himself and, in the final instance, the historical fact of the Incarnation of God," the archbishop concluded. I would define this "New Paradigm" a little more bluntly. When we reject God and God's laws," when we replace that objective truth with "subjective opinions," we are left with nothing more than the Law of the Jungle. That is, afterall, what Nature proposes to us. Those who are fittest live. They survive at the expense of those who are weak. This is played out again and again in the animal kingdom. It is played out in the plant kingdom when weeds choke out flowers. Such a law of nature in the human kingdom will mean that the most ruthless among us will be the survivors. When this anarchy is at its peak, the next phase may very well be a dictator who will propose that we exchange freedom for order, and we will become a subjugated people. CarrieTomko@aol.com

This is a story of casualties I have not heard before. Even the name of the city involved is unfamiliar. Thurs. Apr. 3 2003 10:41 PM ET� Red Cross horrified by number of dead civilians OTTAWA � Red Cross doctors who visited southern Iraq this week saw "incredible" levels of civilian casualties including a truckload of dismembered women and children, a spokesman said Thursday from Baghdad. Roland Huguenin, one of six International Red Cross workers in the Iraqi capital, said doctors were horrified by the casualties they found in the hospital in Hilla, about 160 kilometres south of Baghdad. "There has been an incredible number of casualties with very, very serious wounds in the region of Hilla," Huguenin said in a interview by satellite telephone. "We saw that a truck was delivering dozens of totally dismembered dead bodies of women and children. It was an awful sight. It was really very difficult to believe this was happening." Huguenin said the dead and injured in Hilla came from the village of Nasiriyah, where there has been heavy fighting between American troops and Iraqi soldiers, and appeared to be the result of "bombs, projectiles." "At this stage we cannot comment on the nature of what happened exactly at that place . . . but it was definitely a different pattern from what we had seen in Basra or Baghdad. "There will be investigations I am sure." CarrieTomko@aol.com

Sunday, April 06, 2003

This story from the Christian Science Monitor was the most balanced report about the situation in Baghdad that I have found on the web this evening. The third part of the story which talks about looting in Baghdad is information that didn't appear anywhere else. CarrieTomko@aol.com

War with North Korea? Yes, according to the Guardian. North Korea and the US 'on a slide towards conflict' Tracy McVeigh Sunday April 6, 2003 The Observer War in North Korea is now almost inevitable because of the country's diplomatic stalemate with America, a senior UN official claims. Ahead of this week's crucial talks between members of the UN Security Council, Maurice Strong, special adviser to the Secretary General Kofi Annan, was gloomy on the chances of a peaceful settlement. 'I think war is unnecessary, it's unthinkable and unfortunately it's entirely possible,' he said. Strong, who has just returned from a private mission for Annan in North Korea and is due to report to UN officials in New York tomorrow, said he felt both North Korea and America seemed to think they had time on their side but were both on a slide towards war. On Wednesday the UN security council will hear America's demand for sanctions against North Korea, which it accuses of planning to develop nuclear weapons. The Communist state has already said it would regard any such move as an 'act of war' and yesterday further warned that it would ignore any UN resolutions on the issue. It believes its dispute is solely with the US and wants direct talks with Washington - something the American government has refused to even consider.

The same conflicting stories about the aiport are being reported at Gulf News from Dubai in the Arab Emirates. According to the article: Iraq's information minister yesterday said Baghdad was firmly under Iraqi control and denied U.S. reports that troops had reached the centre of the capital. Mohammed Saeed Al Sahaf also said Iraqi forces had recaptured Baghdad's international airport, seized by U.S. troops on Friday. The U.S. military dismissed his claim as "groundless". Asked about U.S. reports that troops were in the heart of the capital, Sahaf told a news conference: "You can go and visit those places. Nothing there, nothing there at all. There are Iraqi checkpoints. Everything is okay." The Iraqi military said "hundreds" of U.S. troops were killed at Baghdad international airport yesterday in a battle which Iraq said it had won. "The enemy was forced to retreat suffering hundreds of casualties and Saddam Internati-onal Airport has been changed to a graveyard for the invaders," the Iraqi military said in a statement. Reuters correspondent Khaled Yacoub Oweis said he toured central and southern Baghdad on Saturday but saw no U.S. troops. "I went to the southern outskirts, south east, south west, the presidential palaces, the main security buildings," Oweis said after driving around the city. "I saw no American troops." CarrieTomko@aol.com

A report from Dawn, the Pakistani paper online, describing the situation in Baghdad and at the Baghdad airport. The news from Baghdad certainly contradicts the news in the local paper. Somebody sure isn't telling the truth. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Interesting blog. written from the heart of Baghdad, apparently. It gives a running description of the war from ground zero. Be sure to read his "Rant" on March 16 for an insiders look at the coming war and what it will mean to Iraqis. Eve, if you happen to read this, he has your blog linked in his. CarrieTomko@aol.com

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