Friday, March 17, 2006

The Feast of Saint Patrick

Writing for the wonderful new blog at First Things, Richard John O'Neuhaus pens the following:
Through the Irish mist of myths of legends, we have a clear enough line on the man (c. 389- c. 461). Born in Britain, the son of a Romano-British official named Calpurnius, Patrick was captured by raiders when he was about sixteen and carried off to pagan Ireland. After six years of herding sheep, he escaped to Gaul, was in due course ordained priest and bishop and sent to Ireland to succeed Paulinus, who had died the year before.

A man of extraordinary faith and energy, he traveled the island from top to bottom, contending against hostile tribal chiefs and Druids. (The latter being a cult into which Rowan Williams was inducted upon becoming Archbishop of Canterbury.) He and the gospel triumphed again and again, often by spectacularly miraculous means. He visited Rome in 442 and 444, and established the primatial see in Armagh.

During his three decades in Ireland, he brought the country into close relationship with the universal Church, enhanced scholarship, encouraged the study of Latin, and laid the foundations of a Catholic Ireland that was for centuries a powerhouse of evangelical zeal reaching out to all the world, and not least of all to the United States. I warmly recommend the reading of his Confessio and the Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. The latter is a lively condemnation of a slaughter perpetrated by raiding Welshmen, who were also Christians. St. Patrick made a strong case against Christians slaughtering Christians, which might seem somewhat obvious, but obviously was not obvious then, and is not now. Witness the world wars of the past century, and the still-simmering hostilities in Northern Ireland.
Peace to you, from your friend at :: O'Whatnext? ::

Monday, March 13, 2006

When Pastors Attack with The IRS

Fascinating. One group of pastors calls on the IRS to investigate two pastors they don't agree with politically. The chosen weapon? The IRS. OpinionJournal's Brendan Miniter has the story:
Earlier this year, 31 Ohio pastors called down the most powerful force they could find against two of their fellow church leaders in Columbus. No, it wasn't God--but close.

In a complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the pastors alleged that the Rev. Russell Johnson and the Rev. Rod Parsley crossed the line into advocacy over the past year by preaching on political topics, initiating a voter registration drive and associating with Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a Republican who is now running for governor.

Both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Parsley are fighting back, arguing that they've done nothing wrong by speaking out on what they see as moral, not just political, issues. If the IRS agrees with their accusers, however, the World Harvest Church and the Fairfield Christian Church could lose their tax-exempt status. It would be unusual for the IRS to mete out this kind of punishment, but as gay marriage, abortion and the war in Iraq increasingly draw religious leaders into politics, such complaints may become more common.
Where you aware that you lose first amendment rights when you enter the pulpit?
Telling pastors what topics they may and may not address from the pulpit would seem to be a violation of the First Amendment, but IRS lawyers say that the churches implicitly accept such limitations in exchange for being tax exempt. Becket Fund spokesman Jared Leland argues that pastors cannot be forced to give up their right to free speech.
I think the first amendment speaks clearly on this situation [emphasis added]:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.