Tag Archives: Catholic

Ecumenical Good Friday service celebrates the Easter mystery

By Tracy Simmons

Tenebrae "herse" (candelabrum)/Wikipedia

On Friday evening, the sanctuary at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral will slowly get darker and darker, symbolizing the crucifixion of Jesus and the suspense of his resurrection.

It’s the second year the church has hosted the Ecumenical Tenebrae Prayer Service, which will be celebrated by five of Spokane’s Christian leaders.

“It darkens as Christ moves further and further away from us,” said the Rev. Jeff Lewis, parochial vicar of the cathedral, adding that only a single candle will remain at the end of the service, signifying the unconquerable light of Christ.

The Tenebrae service is a long-time tradition at Our Lady of Lourdes, but in an effort to be more inclusive Bishop Blase Cupich, of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, changed it last year to be an ecumenical service.

About 150 people attended the 2011 program.

This year the service will be led by the Rev. Sheryl Kinder Pyle, transitional executive presbyter of the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest, Bishop James E. Waggoner, Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, Bishop Martin Wells, of the  Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eastern Washington – Idaho, the Rev. Dale Cockrum, the inland district superintendent of the Pacific Northwest Conference United Methodist Church, and Cupich.

Kinder Pyle will deliver the sermon and the other faith leaders will read the accompanying scriptures and Good Friday texts. The Cathedral singers will lead the congregation in traditional chants and songs.

“One of the ways we can really celebrate our commonalities is through these kinds of things,” Lewis said. “It’s really a very subtle, but very unique and prayerful opportunity to reflect upon the Paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ.”

The service will begin at 7 p.m.

Also on Good Friday, at noon, the cathedral will celebrate the Lord’s Passion with the veneration of the cross.

Wednesday’s Religion News Roundup: Romney does less bad, Springsteen’s Catholicism, Orthodox abuse

By David Gibson
Religion News Service

As the Jewish victims in the French school shooting were being buried in Israel,police in France laid siege to the house of the suspect, a 24-year-old Islamic militant claiming ties to Al Qaeda.

French Jews and Muslims grapple for answers.

Mitt Romney won big in Illinois last night, and did less bad with conservatives and evangelicals than he has before. He did a lot better than the first Mormon to run for president did in Illinois, a state he didn’t leave alive.

So Romney’s good now, right? Please? CBN’sDavid Brody is already warning Mitt that he has to do more to win evangelical hearts and minds or it’ll be a “hold your nose” vote in the fall: “A standard evangelical turnout won’t do the trick for Romney.”

Illinois was considered a “must win” for Rick Santorum to remain viable. So now it’s on to Santorum’s next “must win,” Louisiana – which he could actually win, despite attempting todistance himself from the rather controversial remarks of Pastor Dennis Terry at a Baptist church service Santorum attended.

Read full post here.

Catholics don’t see contraception mandate as threat to religious freedom

By Lauren Markoe
Religion News Service

A vocal contingent of Republican presidential candidates and church leaders are railing against the Obama administration’s “war on religion,” but most Americans can’t seem to find the fight.

A majority (56 percent) of Americans say religious liberty is not threatened in the U.S., according to a new poll released Thursday (March 15) by the Public Religion Research Institute, which conducted the survey in partnership with Religion News Service.

The poll, which asked a wide range of questions, also found significant support for same-sex marriage.

Even though Catholic bishops are leading the charge that the new White House mandate requiring insurance plans to cover birth control for employees is a threat to religious liberty, Catholics reject — by a 57 to 38 percent margin — the idea that religious liberty is under siege.

What’s more, nearly two-thirds of Catholics support the contraception requirements for publicly held corporations (65 percent), compared to 62 percent of all Americans. A strong 60 percent of Catholics say religiously affiliated colleges should have to comply, compared to 54 percent of Americans in general.

Catholics would not have seemed supportive of the Obama policy had they been asked a different question, argued Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“If you were to ask, ‘Should the government force churches to violate their religious beliefs?’, you’d get different results,” she said. “This is an issue of religious freedom, not one of access to contraceptives, which are ubiquitous and relatively inexpensive.”

The mandate, the bishops say, tramples on religious liberties by forcing church-affiliated universities and hospitals to provide a service that Catholic teaching deems sinful.

And though a majority of Americans generally disagree with the bishops on the morality of using contraception, a significant minority (39 percent) does worry about religious freedom.

“The argument made by Catholic bishops and other religious leaders that religious freedom is being threatened is likely to resonate with a minority of the public,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI’s research director. “But not because of the contraception issue.”

When those who perceive a threat were asked how religious liberty was being threatened, only 6 percent mentioned the new contraception mandate specifically — a number Cox found startlingly low given how often the issue has headlined the news in recent weeks.

The most frequent response was that religion is being removed from the public square (23 percent), followed by a concern about general governmental interference in religion (20 percent).

Among those who felt religious liberty is less than secure, unsolicited responses included:

  • “I think we should have prayer in school and display the Ten Commandments and no one should take it down if we chose.”
  • “Working people are not allowed to say Merry Christmas.”
  • “The government is poking their nose into people’s religion and telling them what they should and should not do.”

Pollsters also asked the flip side of the religious liberty question: Is the principle of the separation of church and state threatened in the United States today?

Americans divided on this question, with 45 percent agreeing that it was threatened, and 48 percent saying it was not.

Who is worried about religious liberty in America? White evangelical Protestants, the only major religious group in which a majority (61 percent) believes religious liberty is in trouble, according to the study.

That makes sense to Kenneth P. Minkema of Yale Divinity School.

“Evangelicals historically have tended to see conspiratorial forces at work,” said Minkema, who teaches American religious history. “It comes in part from this sense that there’s a constant struggle between the forces of light and darkness, that something is either an agent of God or the devil. It contributes to a sense of religion being under attack.”

The poll also confirmed upward trends in attitudes toward gay Americans.

Last year, surveys detected for the first time that a majority of Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage. This latest poll again pins that number above 50 percent, as well as support for gay couples adopting children.

Among the findings:

  • Of the 52 percent who favor gay marriage, 22 percent strongly favor and 30 percent favor it.
  • Of the 44 percent who oppose gay marriage, 19 percent oppose it and 25 percent strongly oppose it.
  • Most Americans (54 percent) believe gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, while 40 percent are opposed.

The poll also found that a slight majority of Americans (52 percent) believe birth control should be generally available to teenagers 16 or older without parental approval; 46 percent disagree.

The survey of 1,007 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

There’s more than one atonement theory?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller


During your talk in class last night I was very shocked to hear there were four major atonement theories: Ransom Theory, Perfect Satisfaction Theory, atonement as a manifestation of love which covers a multitude of sins, and atonement as a manifestation of God’s wisdom.

As a Christian growing up I was only aware of one, at least in the church I attended, the perfect satisfaction and sacrifice offered to the Father to repair human offense. I always remember hearing Jesus died on the cross to heal our sins because people sinned against God and Jesus died to save us from all of those sins so our relationship with God would be restored. Why is it that certain religions only teach their own theory of the atonement instead of all of the views so the members of the church can decide on their own which theory they believed?

During many sermons I have heard Hebrews 10, “He has offered one single sacrifice for sins, and then taken his place forever at the right hand of God…through the blood of Jesus we have the right to enter the sanctuary.” I also heard the other verses quoted from your lecture but never as a presentation of a different perspective to the atonement theory. As said in class, the true answer could be a mixture of a multitude of theories, it doesn’t just have to be one. I truly feel in society today we have been misguided and taught we have to believe what everyone else believes and we don’t allow, or give, ourselves enough credit to make a decision on our own. We have to look to someone else to make the decision.

Do you think as the religious barriers grow the teaching of the different theories will be more widespread or do you think the churches will continue to only teach their opinion on which atonement theory is correct and not allow the members of the church to make their own decision?

Thank you, 


Dear Amy,

Dr. Karin Heller

One has to study theology in order to dive into the various atonement theories.

Church leaders very often keep it “simple” for the congregation. They don’t want people to get confused. Leadership can also fear disagreements and disputes that may arise in the congregation. Which one is right, which one is wrong?

Protestants also strongly emphasize the perfect satisfaction theory, because they use it in opposition to what they perceive as a Catholic heresy, i.e. the doctrine of Catholic Mass as a “sacrifice.” This stand led Protestants to falsely believe that at each Catholic Mass Jesus is re-crucified and so to say “sacrificed” every day for our sins. The controversy about the understanding of the Eucharist led Protestants to become kind of prisoners of the perfect satisfaction theory. It was their weapon against Catholic teaching.

Given the polemical context, Protestants narrowed down their understanding of scripture. No other atonement theory was valid, because the perfect satisfaction theory seemed to them evident in the letter to the Hebrews. They neglected other biblical texts, which allow a different approach to atonement. If Protestants open up to Catholic teachings they would probably discover that Catholics read the biblical texts in a way that allows God to express himself through various understandings of his world, not just one understanding.

The Catholic Church allows its members to integrate all of these understandings in their spiritual life. The Catholic Church never condemned any of these theories.

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

Young seminarians find joy in religious life

By Eli Francovich
The Gonazaga Bulletin

On the “ideal morning,” Louis Cunningham wakes up before 7 a.m. The 19-year-old freshman goes to chapel and prays before he is joined by other young men for morning prayer. Then they eat breakfast together head to Gonzaga.

This willingness to give up something that most 19-year-old freshmen consider holy and mostly untouchable — sleep — is what Cunningham’s life is all about: sacrifice. He says that “small things done out of love” can change the whole world.

Priest collar/Flickr photo by quinn.anya

Cunningham is one of 13 seminarians at Bishop White Seminary. These men live and pray together, while simultaneously attending college. Although there are undeniable similarities between the men of Bishop White — a love for God and a willingness to live that love every day —  they are by no means identical.

“No two stories are the same, especially in the seminary,” Cunningham said.

BWS was founded in 1952 by the Catholic Diocese of Spokane. Named after the second bishop of the Spokane Diocese, it’s a diocesan priest seminary, which means it is where priests who want to work in the community come to study. Despite its close proximity to GU (across the street from College Hall) it’s a separate institution, according to the Rev. Steven Dublinski, rector of Bishop White Seminary.

Dublinski, who has been rector for eight months, said however, that GU and the seminary have a close working relationship. The university gives seminarians a tuition break of around 20 percent. The seminary also buys its electricity from GU and is part of the university’s phone network. Not all seminarians attend GU, but Dublinski said the goal is that eventually they will all graduate with a degree in philosophy from there.

“It’s a little like living in two different worlds,” Justin Leedy, another seminarian, said.

This constant switch is vital to becoming a diocesan priest, he said. It trains them to keep their life focused on God, while interacting in the community on a daily basis.

“It’s hard, because it’s really easy to become two different people — to compartmentalize — and that is something that we’re warned against often,” Leedy said. “The temptation in priesthood is to go between, you know, sitting at home drinking booze, watching TV and then going out and putting on a pious face.”

Dublinski said the main goals of the seminarian life are to engage in ministry that will help seminarians to discern their vocation, to provide service to the community and to build leadership skills. This mix teaches them how to balance their lives, much like a diocesan priest does.

Cunningham is relaxed as he sits, sipping something, which turns out to be hot water (his Lent sacrifice: anything and everything not water). He has short light-brown hair, which is slightly parted. He is 19 years old but seems much older. The hustle and bustle of Starbucks on a Monday night doesn’t disturb his mannered composure, nor deter him from talking candidly about his faith. Cunningham, who is from Renton, emphasizes the importance of appearing normal and being able to relate and function in the broader world. He said the constant back-and-forth movement that seminarian life demands will only help.

“It’s great for discernment because I’m able to actually address the real world,” he said. “At Gonzaga I can address marriage, which is a good thing. I can see happy couples and be like, that’s beautiful.”

Cunningham said he suspected he wanted to be a priest in the eighth grade. This suspicion didn’t keep him from having a normal high school experience though, he said.

“You know, I didn’t go to raves, I didn’t do crazy things, but I was a high school kid,” Cunningham said.

He dated, he said, “the nicest woman I ever met,” but always felt drawn to something different, prompting him to enroll as a seminarian two years ago.

This life of sacrifice might seem strange when viewed from the outside. However, those involved are happy with their chosen lives.

“There is something deeper; there is something more real than the next party,” Cunningham said.

This belief seems to be echoed by those who have stuck with their commitment.

Sister Mary Eucharista of the Sisters of Mary Mother and the Church is full of joy. A graduate philosophy student at GU, she has been a nun for 30 years. Although the decision to become a nun was difficult, she said, she hasn’t regretted it.

“It broke my heart,” she said, “because I had a lot of plans.”

Eucharista, who taught literature at St. Michael’s Catholic School in Spokane, now lives at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center. The retreat center is located south of Spokane, surrounded by fields and woods, and is a peaceful place. Her day, like the seminarians’, starts early.

Although it’s a stressful schedule, she loves every moment of it, she said.

“I’m so excited getting my education,” she said. “I don’t care about the stress.”

Although overall she said she thinks that GU does a good job of transmitting its Catholic-Jesuit roots, she does think the message needs to be more evenly distributed.

“I’m pretty unique,” she said. “I’m shouting Jesus Christ all over me.”

But for students who want to deepen their faith, she encourages them to get “spiritual direction” from someone in Campus Ministries, or even talk to her.

“I think kids are seeking but don’t always have answers,” she said.

Jeffrey Ball, 24, has a similar view. A public affairs graduate from Seattle University, he is working at Gonzaga Preparatory School and living in the Jesuit housing on campus. Unlike the Bishop White seminarians, Ball is a Jesuit novice. This means, among other things, that he takes a vow of poverty in addition to vows of chastity and obedience.

“To me this life really makes sense,” he said. “There is a certain depth … it is very grounding.”

The enrollment at Bishop White is a decrease from last year, Dublinski said. However, it’s not a significant drop and overall seminary enrollment is steady. In the last 30 years, he said, there have been at most 20 to 21 seminarians. According to an 2011 report by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, seminary enrollment has actually increased nationwide by 4 percent. All told there are 3,608 post-baccalaureate U.S. seminarians in 2011. Three-quarters of those enrolled were studying for the diocesan priesthood.

Eli Francovich is a sophomore at Gonzaga University. After graduating from high school he traveled extensively in India and Europe. These trips opened his eyes to vastly different types of people and cultures and infused within him a deep respect and enjoyment of diversity. He was managing editor of the award-winning North Idaho Community College student newspaper, The Sentinel, and currently writes for the Gonzaga Bulletin, where this story first appeared.

Fat Tuesday; “Catholic” Glenn Beck; Southern Baptists’ name

By David Gibson
Religion News Service

Lent started a couple days early for the ESPN editor who wrote a headline about Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin that recalled an ethnic slur against Chinese.

Anthony Federico, 28, was fired on Sunday for the gaffe, which he said had no racist intent. “ESPN did what they had to do,” said Federico who, like Lin, is a devout Christian.

“My faith is my life,” Federico told The Daily News. “I’d love to tell Jeremy what happened and explain that this was an honest mistake.”

Speaking of J-Lin, his pastor tells the WaPo what he’s really like. It’s all good, don’t worry.

New York archbishop Timothy Dolan, who was the “rock star” of the Vatican consistory that created 22 new cardinals, may need a bit of self-denial: he fell off the diet wagon while in Rome, and now can’t take off the new gold ring Pope Benedict XVI gave him on Saturday.

Read full post here.

Help! My boyfriend is Catholic!

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Hi Karin,

I’ve been raised a Protestant my whole life and have a strong faith. My family members are also very dedicated in their faith. My boyfriend, on the other hand, is Catholic. My dad constantly tells my brothers and I that we should marry someone who has the same beliefs and religion. I tried telling him that Catholics believe the same thing but he disagrees. I guess I don’t understand where the religions disagree so much that he would be so concerned. How should I show him that they are the same? Do you have any advice or information as to things I should talk to him about?

Thank you for your time!


Dear Claire,

I think you’re strong enough to fight this through. If you truly love your boyfriend and if your boyfriend truly loves you, you’ll get through this situation and you’ll love one another even more, because this resistance will show you that you really care for one another.

Dr. Karin Heller

Catholics and Protestants have many things in common like the apostles and the Nicene Creed, the bible and baptism!

However, I do not want to undermine the differences. They can be summed up in three terms: the pope or the view of authority in the church; the Eucharist or the entire sacramental understanding of the church; and Mary, mother of the church. As you see, three times, the word “church” popped up! The misunderstandings turn all around the church, not Christ or the trinity. This spring I’ll teach a seminar entitled “Catholic and Protestant Theologies in Dialogue.” That would be the right class for you at this moment of your life!

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.