Saturday, August 23, 2003

FLASH MOBS are the new trend in webheads' search to prove that they are real. A senseless gathering of people for a silly purpose, they are a current fad with a potential for deadly results. A webhead with a long email list puts out the call--"we're meeting on the terrace of the Shaffer Hotel at the corner of 3rd Ave. and Idiot Street at 11 a.m. tomorrow. You'll be briefed on the details when you get there. Presumably not everyone on the list will show up, but if the webhead is popular, curiosity about who else belongs to the list might prompt a good turnout, especially if the day in question is a non-football Saturday. Probably the terrace can hold the crowd. But what if it can't? Here in Ohio an overloaded balcony recently spilled a number of people to their death when it collapsed. But supposing it will hold them. When they arrive they are told to do something silly but attention gathering, such as performing jumping jacks to the rhythm of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." The event is short-lived, and then the crowd dissipates back into cyberspace. But they connected. They found out that they are all real, and not just words on a computer screen. For a brief spate of time they lived and moved and had their being in the material world. Instant validation. And the stares of onlookers gives the group cohesiveness and momentary notoriety. A reporter with a photographer in tow would be a nice bonus. Sociologists have studied crowd or mob mentality and proven how quickly it can be turned to evil purposes. If you've ever witnessed it, you will never forget it. We are sheep, after all, as Christ pointed out. A webhead with an evil intent can use this silly trend for nefarious purposes. Even given innocent intent, escalation must be accounted for. Merely gathering to do something silly will quickly become passe. What is the next inevitable development of this trend? Naked Flash Mobbing? CarrieTomko@aol.com

O PUBLICO CONFESSES A HOAX What about the ones that don't confess? Or an alternative question, do you believe O Publico is the only paper that has ever tried this? Is M+G+R right in suggesting that the objective is to discredit Fatima? CarrieTomko@aol.com

SIGNING IS MONKEY BUSINESS at Black Pine Animal Park, where the chimp named Coby mastered about 50 words in sign language during the first 5 years of his life, was moved away from the people he signed with and so forgot the signs, and is not being retrained to communicate with humans once again. He is said to be the only chimp in the world who was taught to sign by non-scientists. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Friday, August 22, 2003

ROBINSON FALLOUT IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH is the subject of one of Amy Welborn's blogs today. Someone has posted three links to other pertinent stories in the comments box for anyone who is following this closely. While you're over there scroll down to her blog on "Did they wear funny noses?" about the Unification Church's plan for world peace which requires the Christians to give up the cross as a symbol. CarrieTomko@aol.com

THE MAN FROM CHINA WHO CAN'T FIND A WIFE AT HOME and the Chinese baby girl who is murdered because she isn't a boy can thank the Club of Rome and their false population growth theory for the plight they suffer. CarrieTomko@aol.com

GNOSTICISM SLITHERS INTO CATHOLICISM according to this interview with Alessandro Olivieri Pennesi, Lecturer at the Lateran Pontifical University: Aldo Natale Terrin, investigating Post-modernism, maintains that the Church today lives in the acceptance of the a double adherence: being able to be Catholic (but in what way?) and other at the same moment, presumimg that one can by this time go into other sources at no risk. Not only would double adherence be accepted within the Church at various levels, but it is part of the very proposal the Church makes to contemporary man. It�s a tacit agreement, inside and outside. Aldo Natale Terrin adds that Christianity reduced to religion can in no way protect itself from the New Age, it can�t defend itself because it bears within itself the spirit of an age that deos not intend to stand against a defined religious world (cf. Terrin, New Age. The religiosity of the Post-modern, Bologna 1993, p. 247). There is, furthermore, a serious danger connected to the New Age; the review Jesus (March 2003) claims it should be contestualized within the ambit of the esoterism and occultism. I find myself in agreement, because the New Age is only a label for similar contents, and it�s a phenomenon that simply makes plain how wide the spread of esoterism and occultism now is. Pennesi gives Theosophy its due with this comment: And there is, for that matter, the presence in nuce of a sort of satanism at the very root of the New Age, that is to say in the theosophy, in which devil worship is allowed. Lucifer is alleged not to be evil, but the other face of God. The cultural foundation to which Alice Bailey, the first herald of the new age, referred back was called the Lucis Trust (Lucis being an abbreviation for Lucifer). You have written a lot on Jacob Frank, Frankism� and on purification sought through evil (given that for them evil itself comes from God). The attempt at divinizing man that the New Age propagates, through a transformation that can be brought about by working on oneself, comes with a retrieval of the idea of alchemy. In the Prophecy of Celestine there is the metaphor of the spiritualization of the man who becomes pure energy: a Gnostic attempt to get back to the divine spark. That also comes in another of the sacred texts of the New Age, Course in miracles. It�s a book that came out of academic circles in the United States, the work of Helen Schucman, who is Jewish. She claimed to enter in contact with her deep self, receiving from it the �revelation� of Christ� At least it's good to know that some in Rome are not wearing blinders! * * * * * * * THERE IS A NEW AGE ANTIDOTE This is the tonic sorely needed by the Roman (Latin) Catholics who dabble in new age practices while adhering to the Catholic faith. This is the reason why I believe, as does the Pope, that we are hampered by the loss of the "Eastern lung" of the Body of Christ. These Anathemas are read after the creed: Deacon: This is the faith of the apostles! This is the faith of the fathers! This is the Orthodox faith! This faith has established the universe! Furthermore, we accept and confirm the councils of the holy fathers, and their traditions and writings which are agreeable to divine revelation. And though the enemies of Orthodoxy oppose this providence and the saving revelation of the Lord, yet the Lord has considered the reproaches of His servants, for He mocks those who blaspheme His Glory, and has challenged the enemies of Orthodoxy and put them to flight! As we therefore bless and praise those who have obeyed the divine revelation and have fought for it; so we reject and anathematize those who oppose this truth, if while waiting for their return and repentance, they refuse to turn again to the Lord; and in this we follow the sacred tradition of the ancient Church, holding fast to her traditions. To those who deny the existence of God, and assert that the world is self-existing, and that all things in it occur by chance, and not by the providence of God, Anathema! All: Anathema! (...and after each exclamation.) Deacon: To those who say that God is not spirit, but flesh; or that He is not just, merciful, wise and all-knowing, and utter similar blasphemies, Anathema! To those who dare to say that the Son of God and also the Holy Spirit are not one in essence and of equal honor with the Father, and confess that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not one God, Anathema! To those who foolishly say that the coming of the Son of God into the world in the flesh, and His voluntary passion, death, and resurrection were not necessary for our salvation and the cleansing of sins, Anathema! To those who reject the grace of redemption preached by the Gospel as the only means of our justification before God, Anathema! To those who dare to say that the all-pure Virgin Mary was not virgin before giving birth, during birthgiving, and after her child-birth, Anathema! To those who do not believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles, and by them taught us the true way to eternal salvation, and confirmed this by miracles, and now dwells in the hearts of all true and faithful Christians, and teaches them in all truth, Anathema! To those who reject the immortality of the soul, the end of time, the future judgment, and eternal reward for virtue and condemnation for sin, Anathema! To those who reject all the holy mysteries held by the Church of Christ, Anathema! To those who reject the Councils of the holy fathers and their traditions, which are agreeable to divine revelation and kept piously by the Orthodox Catholic Church, Anathema! To those who mock and profane the holy images and relics which the holy Church receives as revelations of God's work and of those pleasing to Him, to inspire their beholders with piety, and to arouse them to follow these examples; and to those who say that they are idols, Anathema! To those who dare to say and teach that our Lord Jesus Christ did not descend to earth, but only seemed to; or that He did not descend to the earth and become incarnate only once, but many times, and who likewise deny that the true Wisdom of the Father is His only-begotten Son, Anathema! To the followers of the occult, spiritualists, wizards, and all who do not believe in the one God, but honor the demons; or who do not humbly give their lives over to God, but strive to learn the future through sorcery, Anathema! Deacon: But to all who have fought for Orthodoxy, by their words, by their writings, by their teaching, by their sufferings and religious life, as its defenders and allies, the Church of Christ annually commemorates and proclaims: To the holy fathers, great hierarchs and teachers of the Church, Athanasius and Cyril, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Methodius and Cyril, and all the other pastors of the Church, Memory Eternal! All: Memory Eternal! The Anathemas are listed here along with other parts of The Service of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Lex orandi, lex credendi. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Several readers have sent in articles that I've been meaning to blog for a couple of days. Here they are below.

MORE ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED SEEDS and the Vatican's surprising approval of them: Alfonso Scanio Pecoraro, head of the Italian Greens and a former Agriculture Minister, said that he was horrified. "The Church is using its authority to support a scam by the US multinationals," he said. GM seeds were sterile and non-reproducible, so that the world's farmers had repeatedly to pay the holders of the seed patents -- American multinationals. "They will be able to turn the world's food taps on or off," he said. CarrieTomko@aol.com

"ERRORS OF CHARISMATICS" by Rev. William G. Most offers good insight into the Pentecostal/charismatic Movement: Some years ago I wrote a long series of columns for National Catholic Register, on the movement. Many letters came in. One woman on the west coast told me she had friends who knew several languages. A group of them went to a charismatic meeting, and were able to understand the tongues. They found some were praising God beautifully - but others were cursing Him. This is why St. Paul in 1 Cor 14 insists that at a meeting of the community no more than two should speak in tongues, and then only if there is someone who has the different gift of interpreting the tongues. The reason is clear: they may be cursing God! The reader who sent in this article has also experienced hearing a charismatic speaking in a language he understood but the charismatic evidentally did not because the charismatic was cursing God. The miraculous gifts were common in Paul's day, but at least by the middle of the next century became scarce in the mainline Church, but common in heretical groups. The present movement started in 1901 among Protestants. By 1925 there were about 38 denominations in the U.S. alone. Some decades later, in 1966. some Catholics, precisely by contact with the Protestants, asked that the Protestants lay hands on them, to receive tongues - for tongues were supposed to be the sign that one had been baptized in the Spirit. There was a time when we wouldnot have borrowed anything from Protestants, but rather would have encouraged Protestants to come back to the Church. Today the charismatic movement is making Protestants believe they are in the leadership role, offering something to Catholics which they would not have otherwise. How can this be from God? CarrieTomko@aol.com

NEOCONS DESCRIBED in an article by Irving Kristol, for U.S. News and World Report was sent in by a reader. I found the following quote particularly interesting. Economic growth as the foundation stone of a republic which permits everyone to prosper, albeit at differing rates, opposed to the turbulence of democracy: Neocons are familiar with intellectual history and aware that it is only in the last two centuries that democracy has become a respectable option among political thinkers. In earlier times, democracy meant an inherently turbulent political regime, with the "have-nots" and the "haves" engaged in a perpetual and utterly destructive class struggle. It was only the prospect of economic growth in which everyone prospered, if not equally or simultaneously, that gave modern democracies their legitimacy and durability. All well and good so long as economic growth is feasible. As our population begins to decline due to our shrinking family size, will this spell an end to Republican government? Is a welfare state inevitable when the generation growing up is smaller than the generation growing old? Neocons do not like the concentration of services in the welfare state and are happy to study alternative ways of delivering these services. But they are impatient with the Hayekian notion that we are on "the road to serfdom." Neocons do not feel that kind of alarm or anxiety about the growth of the state in the past century, seeing it as natural, indeed inevitable. Because they tend to be more interested in history than economics or sociology, they know that the 19th-century idea, so neatly propounded by Herbert Spencer in his "The Man Versus the State," was a historical eccentricity. People have always preferred strong government to weak government, although they certainly have no liking for anything that smacks of overly intrusive government. Neocons feel at home in today's America to a degree that more traditional conservatives do not. Neocons are more willing to allow the state to dominate than are the traditional conservatives? Can we apply the same principles to neocats in the Church, which might have implications for the continuation of the hierarchy in spite of the abuse scandal? Maybe... The upshot is a quite unexpected alliance between neocons, who include a fair proportion of secular intellectuals, and religious traditionalists. They are united on issues concerning the quality of education, the relations of church and state, the regulation of pornography, and the like, all of which they regard as proper candidates for the government's attention. And since the Republican party now has a substantial base among the religious, this gives neocons a certain influence and even power. On the following point neocons sure get my vote: world government is a terrible idea since it can lead to world tyranny. International institutions that point to an ultimate world government should be regarded with the deepest suspicion. CarrieTomko@aol.com

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

UNUSUAL EVENTS DURING THE BLACKOUT Should we take these seriously? I don't know. But the first one is particularly striking, so I'll post it here: Was there something moving spiritually during last week's blackout? Our viewers relate dramatic accounts that would seem to so indicate. We offer them for your discernment. Writes Grace Pietrosanti, who with Lucy Diana owns Sacred Heart Catholic Goods in Westchester County, New York: "We had a miracle at our store. One of the ladies who works at our store, Joanne Niece, was talking to a customer at the counter when the lights went out. There is a beautiful statue of Our Lady Of Fatima behind the counter that we have had there since we opened our store six years ago. My husband had originally installed track lighting through out the store and over the counter is a strip of track lighting. When the lights went out the one light facing the statue of Our Lady of Fatima and another light facing the counter both stayed on! Joanne and the customer didn't understand it at first, but soon realized that there had been a blackout through out most of the East Coast. "The whole place was in darkness, our shopping center does not have a generator, and the unbelievable thing is that the lights stayed on for about two hours, just the time we close the store! There is no explanation for this; my husband tried to think of everything but there is nothing he can come up with. I believe it is a miracle from Our Lady (Our Lady is showing us that she will be visible during the darkness). I wanted to let you know of this miracle that occurred."Indeed, they were not emergency lights that were on, and the entire rest of the neighborhood was out, as was the nearby City of New York. Moreover, the light shining on the counter was shining on a Bible. Of course it may mean nothing. Then again... It isn't a bad message to heed even if it isn't a real message from Heaven. Devotion to Our Lady of Fatima and to Scripture. And if a real darkness is descending upon us as many believe, what a profound blessing if we could see Our Lady of Fatima shining in the darkness to get us through it. CarrieTomko@aol.com

THE REASON THERE ISN'T MUCH HERE TODAY I haven't gotten around to posting much in here today because my free time has been taken up with the debate on birth control in the Envoy blog--both thinking about the topic and writing the comments. The debate has reached the second page this evening. CarrieTomko@aol.com

HOW SHOULD WE FIX A BROKEN CHURCH? Not everyone would agree that the Church is broken. I think most of us, though, realize that the institution is not working especially well right now. Internal squabbles are tearing away at my faith, and I doubt I'm alone. Amy Welborn proposes in her blog that one way we can fix the Church...stop all the squabbles...is: ...to love and serve the Lord and each other. That's it. When it comes to leadership in Church, I am not impressed with those who claim to be listening to this or that interest group. I'm looking for leadership that is listening to Christ. Amy's intentions are pristine, but I disagree with the method she suggests. Our present struggle concerns our definition of the very nature of Christ. Is He focused exclusively on "love" or did He establish a Church to govern us? Does He always say "yes" in love, or does he sometimes say "no" in faith and hope? Quotations from Elaine Pagels book The Gnostic Gospels, Vintage Books, 1989, go directly to the heart of the "Gospel of love" as we know it in contemporary America. She writes: ...when we investigate how the doctrine of God actually functions in gnostic and orthodox writings, we can see how this religious question also involves social and political issues. Specifically, by the latter part of the second century, when the orthodox insisted upon "one God," they simultaneously validated the system of governance in which the church is ruled by "one bishop." Gnostic modification of monotheism was taken--and perhaps intended--as an attack upon that system. For when gnostic and orthodox Christians discussed the nature of God, they were at the same time debating the issue of spiritual authority. p. 33-34 If we are left to "pick and choose" which bishops to obey, we become a sort of Christian which has already been condemned. Our institution will disintegrate. We must obey the authority God has given us. That is why the public sinfulness of our authorities is such a crisis. That is why the "smoke of Satan" Paul VI spoke of is destroying us from within. If we turn to "love" as a blanket remedy for that public sinfulness and crisis within, we will be following in the steps of Gnostics who have done so before us. Pagels writes: The Tripartite Tractate, written by a follower of Valentinus, contrasts those who are gnostics...with those who are uninitiates.... The Father's children [gnostics] he says, join together as equals, enjoying mutual love, spontaneously helping one another. But the...ordinary Christians--"wanted to command one another, outrivalling one another in their empty ambition"; they are inflated with "lust for power," "each one imagining that he is superior to the others." p. 40 In short, Gnostic Christians believed that love was sufficient for those who were "enlightened." That there was no need for an institutional Church. They subscribed to the theory that each believer was enlightened by the Spirit and could discern the truth via this enlightenment. Some in the Church are making similar claims today. If we listen to those voices speaking constantly of love and service to our fellow man, and follow the path of gnosticism, we will experience the fate of the early Gnostics. Our survival as a Church depends upon our willingness to follow our leaders. Pagels writes: Only by suppressing gnosticism did orthodox leaders establish that system of organization which united all believers into a single institutional structure. They allowed no other distinction between first- and second-class members than that between the clergy and the laity, nor did they tolerate any who claimed exemption from doctrinal conformity, from ritual participation, and from obedience to the discipline that priests and bishops administered. Gnostic churches, which rejected that system for more subjective forms of religious affiliation, survived as churches, for only a few hundred years. p. 118 Pagels says that the first time this dinction between laity and clergy was made came in a letter from Clement (c. 90-100), Bishop of Rome, to the Corinthian Church in response to an attempt by the Corinthians to divest their leaders of power: This letter marks a dramatic moment in the history of Christianity. For the first time, we find here an argument for dividing the Christian community between "the clergy" and "the laity." p.34 Further on p. 121 she writes: When Irenaeus denounced the heretics as "gnostics," he referred less to any specific doctrinal agreement among them (indeed, he often castigated them for the variety of their beliefs) than to the fact that they all resisted accepting the authority of the clergy, the creed, and the New Testament canon. Today we have Pentecostals in our midst who have in common this "enlightenment." They are enthusiastic Christians who spread love and service to their fellow men in spades. John Paul II consistently tells them that they must remain subject to the magisterium. We cannot hope to escape from our difficult situation by abandoning the sinful leadership and turning to love, while claiming to follow Christ. In order to "look to Christ" as Amy recommends, we must be able to look to the institutional Church which Christ established to be His presence on earth. And that, in a nutshell, is why we are currently in crisis. Our leadership is divided. They are not all espousing the same Gospel. Only holy leadership from our bishops committed to follow the leadership of the Pope, will get us out of this crisis. Only a purge from the top will make it possible for us to recover. And why the man at the top is not purging the Church of Her heretical leaders is THE mystery of our contemporary culture. God is, indeed, a God of love. But He is also a God of justice. And He is a God to fear. We must balance His love with His justice in order serve Him as He requires. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. CarrieTomko@aol.com

IT'S AN OLD ADAGE THAT the ones who do the most talking do the least acting. Especially when the subject is sex. Enter Germaine Greer and her lust for little boys which is the subject of her latest book. Isn't this stuff illegal? CarrieTomko@aol.com

Monday, August 18, 2003

BLACKOUT COMPLIMENTS OF AL QAIDA? According to a story linked in the Envoy blog, Al Qaida wants us to know that they did it. But they aren't ready to tell us how, because they plan to use the technique again. Uh-huh. I'll believe it when I see their explanation of method. Not before. CarrieTomko@aol.com

PATRIOT ACT UNDER FIRE Tom Horn has this story linked at RAIDERS. TIMESLEADER.com: WASHINGTON - The Sept. 11 attacks convinced Congress that the federal government needed enhanced legal and investigative powers to pursue terrorists.Yet in the two years since passing the Patriot Act, lawmakers have grown uneasy over Attorney General John Ashcroft's use of the expanded surveillance and detention powers. Not only are they leery of his requests for even greater authority, they are moving to curtail some of the tools they granted in the law.The House voted last month to prohibit the use of federal funds on "sneak and peek" searches that the law says the government can conduct in criminal investigations without the property owner's or resident's knowledge and with warrants delivered afterward."This is the first of a whole group of assaults that we're going to make on the Patriot Act," said Rep. Butch Otter of Idaho, one of the few Republicans who voted against -it two years ago. "It was built in one day, but we're going to have to tear it down piece by piece." Chalk one up for freedom unless Ashcroft has his way. In response to the labeling of the act: The law is officially named the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. It granted the government broad powers for searches, wiretaps, electronic and computer eavesdropping, and wide access to financial and other information held by individuals and businesses. I can only say that a little truth in advertising is warranted here. Apparently freedom loving reactionaries are not the only ones who distrust the Act: Alaska, Vermont and Hawaii, and 142 local governments have passed measures opposing the act. The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights have separately sued in federal court to challenge different parts of the law. Ashcroft isn't giving up, however: Referring to Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., Ashcroft said, "As Edwards explained, 'We simply cannot prevail in the battle against terrorism if the right hand of our government has no idea what the left hand is doing,' Ashcroft told a domestic preparedness conference last month. True. The government needs to communicate with itself. But what has that got to do with some federal snoop having legal access to my underware drawer while I'm at the mall? CarrieTomko@aol.com

OSWALD SOBRINO BLOGS ON NCR'S POSITION on homosexual marriage. The quoted paragraphs are typical of the false and misleading analysis the National Catholic Reporter, or more accurately the National Catholic Distorter, ladles out to its readers. The first contention made is that prior to the middle of the twentieth century matrimony was not viewed as an arena for mutual psychological support. I am sure that will be news to many older couples and also to anyone familiar with Western literature prior to 1950. The literature of chivalry of the West obviously emphasized the psychological, romantic bond with the beloved. That chivalrous notion would significantly influence marriage in the West. Even Cervantes' satirical but quite Catholic Don Quixote makes that idealism quite clear. Cervantes' contemporary, Shakespeare, of course, has given us in the English-speaking world the great treasure of romantic love seeking marriage in Romeo and Juliet set in Roman Catholic Verona, Italy. It is beyond dispute that marriage in the Catholic West has for centuries recognized the aspect of mutual psychological support--after all, that is the essence of any form of friendship. CarrieTomko@aol.com

THEY'RE NOT ALL FRIENDLY GHOSTS From the Kirkdale TV presenter comes this story at The Insider of a filmed possession: "There was one room where I told people with me NOT to go in after my experience and they could soon see why."On entering the room Derek says he felt a spirit trying to take over his body and ended up writhing about on the floor with the spectre, which he instantly knew was called Edmund."The researchers later confirmed it was built by a man called Edmund Cradock in 1709," says Derek."Vic simply couldn't believe it. He was distressed and came to calm me down. On the television you could see him bolting upstairs."Vic says in the programme: "I felt this prickly heat all over me and I was physically pushed up the stairs towards the room. I can't explain it but I felt so furious. It's like it wasn't me. It was somebody else in my body." Prickly heat, huh? Isn't that how the Pentecostals describe the experience of being "Baptised in the Spirit"? CarrieTomko@aol.com

ASTROLOGY DEBUNKED Good news for rational, level-headed Virgoans everywhere: just as you might have predicted, scientists have found astrology to be rubbish. Its central claim - that our human characteristics are moulded by the influence of the Sun, Moon and planets at the time of our birth - appears to have been debunked once and for all and beyond doubt by the most thorough scientific study ever made into it. The astrologers are understandably annoyed, as their income is threatened: The findings caused alarm and anger in astrological circles yesterday. Roy Gillett, the president of the Astrological Association of Great Britain, said the study's findings should be treated "with extreme caution" and accused Dr Dean of seeking to "discredit astrology".Frank McGillion, a consultant to the Southampton-based Research Group for the Critical Study of Astrology, said of the newly published work: "It is simplistic and highly selective and does not cover all of the research." He added that he would lodge a complaint with the editors of the journal. And a nice income astrology provides: When the Daily Mail discovered that its expert on the zodiac, Jonathan Cainer, was about to leave the newspaper in 1999, it reportedly offered him a �1 million salary and a �1 million bonus to stay. He still preferred the offer at the Daily Express: no salary but all the money from his telephone lines. Skip the astrologer and waste your money on the chocolatier instead! The rewards are much sweeter. CarrieTomko@aol.com

BLACKOUT This is the story from the pov of the control room. So what caused the turn? CarrieTomko@aol.com

Sunday, August 17, 2003

JERUSALEM--SEAT OF WORLD GOVERNMENT? Israeli opposition leader Shimon Peres, a former Israeli prime minister, is proposing Jerusalem be declared the capital of the world as a way of getting around competing Israeli and Arab claims to the city. According to his spokesman, Yoram Dori, the dovish leader of Israel's opposition Labor Party suggested putting the important religious shrines in Jerusalem under United Nations stewardship. He said the holy sites in Jerusalem's walled Old City could be declared a "world capital." The Maariv daily said Peres raised the idea Monday with visiting Russian officials. The "world capital" idea appeared to be largely symbolic. According to Maariv, Peres proposed that the U.N. secretary-general be declared mayor, in which capacity he would appoint Jewish and Arab deputy mayors to administer the two sides' intertwined neighborhoods. Kofi Annan is the current secretary-general of the U.N. So, would a temple for the new world religion be built in this world capital? Making it possible for the anti-Christ to be seated in the temple of the world? CarrieTomko@aol.com

ARE THE 72 VIRGINS REALLY 72 RAISINS? A language scholar claims that the famed 72 virgins awaiting Islamic martyrs may actually be 72 pieces of fruit. This scholar who wishes to remain anonymous to avoid Islamic persecution, believes the Koran was originally written in Aramaic, which was translated incorrectly into Arabic. The field of study is relatively new and may yield more surprises in the future. CarrieTomko@aol.com

THE STATE OF EUROPEAN CHRISTIANITY is assessed by Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyevof Vienna and Austria, and the picture he paints is not pleasant to look at, since we are not that many brushstrokes behind the European picture. There is now a deep-seated discrepancy between those Christian communities, like the Orthodox Churches, that try to preserve the Holy Tradition deriving from the Ancient Undivided Church and those, like many Protestant communities, that have revised and continue to revise Tradition in conformity with secular standards. This divergence is as evident at the level of church teaching, including doctrine and ecclesiology, as at the level of church practice, including worship and morality. In my opinion, recent liberalization of teaching and practice in many Protestant churches has alienated them from the Orthodox much more than all prior Protestant history. It has also undermined the common Christian witness to the secularized world. Here in Europe Christian voice is not united: we preach different moral standards, our doctrinal standpoints are dissimilar, and our social positions vary a great deal. One wonders whether we can still speak of �Christianity� or whether it would be more accurate to refer to �Christianities�, that it, markedly diverse versions of the Christian faith. CarrieTomko@aol.com

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