141250_4e5d1263-4c1b-4683-a777-4662a2ac9cee_prodIf you’re a Cardinal working at the Vatican, you may want to leave your Porsche at home – the boss is checking the parking lot and isn’t keen on seeing luxury cars.

Inspection – The Pope declared war on the Vatican’s luxury cars.  First, he attacked wastefulness, underscoring that “it bothers me when I see a priest or a sister with a brand new car”.  Then, a few days later, he put into practice what he had stated during a meeting with seminarians: on Wednesday he made an inspection of the Vatican parking lot.  It isn’t the first time – already in the past days Pope Francis, on his way to lunch with a cardinal friend, visited the place where some cardinals usually park their cars.

I agree with Fr. John Zuhlsdorf that having a “luxury” car isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s a matter of prudence and stewardship:

Look.  We need to make distinctions about a “good” car and a “luxury” car.  We need to consider the prudent use of money as well.   Is it a better use of money to buy a car that is old and used, newer and used, new?  It depends on the car and how it is used, its safety features and record, its fuel efficiency and repair record.  It depends on the price of the car and the price of the money (financing).  If the same money will buy a new good car or a used car, are you obliged to buy the used car?  Does fuel efficiency figure in?  Is this only about cars that look “sporty”?  Is this about leather seats?  Is this about what other people in the area drive? Priests often put a lot of miles on a car.  It seems to me that priests are better off in a good car.  Therefore, the flock is better off if the priest has a good car.

If it bothers him to see a priest with a fancy car, wait till Pope Francis notices the Mercedes-Benz with the vehicle registration plate that reads “SCV 1” (short for short for “Status Civitatis Vaticanae”). It’s armor-plated, bullet-proof, capable of speeds up to 160 mph, and comes with a price tag of $530,000. And the Vatican garage has six of them stationed around the world!


President Barack Obama, during a recent trip to Northern Ireland, decried the segregation of denominational churches and schools:chalkboard

Issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it.

If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear and resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.


According to Breitbart, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday was caught making claims about “Bible Folks” that weren’t exactly accurate:

Pelosi told the assembled media:

‘The fact is that many Republicans in our country support comprehensive immigration reform.The badges, law enforcement community; the business community; the Bible folks — many of them are Republican, they have been very enthusiastic over time and [are] getting impatient about Congress taking action.”

Mark Tooley, an evangelical Christian and President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, quickly contested Pelosi’s claim that “the Bible folks” support the Senate’s version of immigration reform.

“Since the Bible doesn’t specifically address the details of U.S. immigration policy,” he told Breitbart News, “‘Bible people’ have diverse views on this political issue. Liberals who are anxious to claim the Bible backs their political views even when the Bible is vague typically are not interested in what the Bible actually says on specific issues it does address strongly.”

Kelly Monroe Kuhlberg, co-author and editor of Finding God at Harvard and organizer of Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration, which describes itself as “an ad-hoc movement of citizens,” responded directly to the Minority Leader and her comments. “Representative Pelosi,” she said, ” while we continue to reach out to the poor in many countries, the majority of evangelicals surveyed oppose the ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill, for biblical reasons. The whole counsel of Scripture calls for both justice to citizens as well as kindness to guests. We don’t see balanced wisdom and justice to Americans in this bill.”

You can read “Evangelical Groups Contradict Pelosi on Bible, Immigration” here.

Is the morality of an act solely based on the intentions of the person acting?  Moviegoers may get some insight into this question when Ender’s Game is released in theaters Nov. 1.

Orson Scott Card’s classic Ender’s Game book series began in 1985 with its most well known first installment, winning the Nebula and Hugo Awards for best science fiction novel.  The book tells the story of an alien invasion, where the world’s population prepares for an imminent second attack by training as many specialized soldiers as possible.  Most of these special soldiers are children, honing their skills on an orbiting space station in zero gravity simulations called “Battle School.”  Ender is a potentially gifted future commander, selectively bred by the International Fleet, the organization combating the alien force.  The book follows Ender’s journey through the beginning of Battle School.

In an interesting essay on Ender as a killer from the International Review of Science Fiction, John Kessel concludes that Ender is far too innocent for someone who commits murder and violent acts in the book (warning: this essay contains many spoilers if you have not read the book).  John makes some good points, illustrating the expertise of Card in encouraging the reader to root for the “innocent killer.”  The book’s story is even more potent when you add the fact that Ender is abused during most of his life, partly because he is a third child when couples are only allowed to have two.  Does the reader root for the “murdering savior,” or is Card content in saying that committing immoral deeds in ignorance is acceptable?  These questions and more are addressed in the rest of the Ender series.

…when you write without deliberately expressing moral teachings, the morals that show up are the ones you actually live by. The beliefs that you don’t even think to question, that you don’t even notice– those will show up. And that tells much more truth about what you believe than your deliberate moral machinations.

–Orson Scott Card

archmorningThe other day I had to bring my wife to the airport for an early-bird flight. Thus, I chose to work for a few hours at a nearby McDonald’s before going into the office.

Now, I know that what I’m about to say is out of fashion these days, particularly if “fast food” has anything to do with it, but permit me to share one small sliver of what a glorious thing business can be.

There I was, at 5:00 a.m., and behold, a quiet, clean, and air-conditioned environment waved its big golden arches at me, offering me free Wi-Fi, little disturbance, and, of course, an array of greasy goodies. All I had to do was buy a coffee (which was delicious, by the way) and they were happy to have me around. The calories abounded, but there were no schemes and no tricks. Just one guy getting some basic needs met — if I may dare to call them “needs” — superbly, cheaply, and without hassle.

Did I mention there were free re-fills on the coffee?

For all of our decrying of the various temptations of a quick-and-easy consumer economy and the isolating effects of a Drive-Thru Culture — plenty of it well warranted — there’s something good and true and beautiful about not having to sweat the basic necessities of life.

Peace and prosperity are under-appreciated.

GrumpyMonkAs a brief follow-up to the story about the Samuel Adams beer company’s decision to redact “by their Creator” from a reference to the Declaration of Independence in a recent ad campaign, it’s worth examining again the company’s justification for that decision. According to a spokeswoman, “We adhere to an advertising code, established by the Beer Institute.” The code in question includes the provision, “Beer advertising and marketing materials should not employ religion or religious themes.”

As some comments have noted, the reference to the Creator in the Declaration could be reasonably understood generically, and need not amount to the level of “employing religion.” But as another comment noted in response to the piece at LifeSiteNews, the Boston Beer Company’s retreat to the Advertising and Marketing Code is even more craven given the company’s history of violating that code.

For instance, between 2000-2002, the Boston Beer Company sponsored a morning radio stunt titled “Sex for Sam,” which was “an annual contest where the goal was to have sex in notable public places in New York City.” Point 5b of the Beer Institute’s code says that beer advertising “may contain romantic or flirtatious interactions but should not portray sexually explicit activity as a result of consuming beer.” Point 6 prohibits “graphic nudity,” while point 2 says that beer should be marketed “in a responsible manner,” including proscription of “illegal activity of any kind.”

Consider the case of “Sex for Sam 3,” in which “comedian Paul Mecurio encouraged Brian Florence and Loretta Harper, a Virginia couple visiting Manhattan, to have simulated sex in a vestibule at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on August 15, 2002.” The result of this stunt was an arrest for public lewdness.

Sam Adams also has also produced a seasonal craft beer called “Grumpy Monk,” which acknowledges that “the long held brewing traditions of Belgian monks aren’t meant to be broken.” So much for not employing “religion or religious themes.”

The Beer Institute code has been around since at least 1999, and provisions then were substantially similar (here’s a PDF from an appendix to a FTC report on self-regulation in the alcohol industry).

Between “Sex for Sam” campaign and the secularizing of the Declaration of Independence more recently, there’s a larger pattern of behavior emerging that illustrates the Boston Beer Company’s hypocrisy.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, July 12, 2013

Christians Targeted for Retribution in Egypt
Ben Hubbard, New York Times

The military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi has unleashed a new wave of violence by extremist Muslims against Christians whom they blame for having supported the calls to overthrow Mr. Morsi, Egypt’s first Islamist elected leader, according to rights activists.

Marshall McLuhan’s Four Innovation Fundamentals
Daniel Honan, Big Think

DeGraff says McLuhan’s underlying ideas on innovation are a powerful blueprint for innovation in the digital age.

Vatican-Anglican alliance on poverty
The Tablet

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is in talks with Pope Francis about a new initiative that would link the Anglican Communion with the Vatican in the fight against poverty.

Faith and Work: What Needs to Be Read and What Needs to be Written
Greg Forster, The Gospel Coalition

More Christians today are learning how to integrate faith with work, and they want to know where to look for more insight.