In any political debate burdened by strong ethical differences, the first casualty is usually language itself. So it is with the ethical issues surrounding stem-cell research--specifically the question of whether days-old human embryos should be destroyed on the promise they offer of therapeutic answers to Parkinson's and other degenerative diseases.
The papacy is the last of Europe's Renaissance courts, a system that makes courtiers of the cardinals and straight talk a rare experience. And so, when Pope John Paul II summoned his cardinals to Rome last week for a three-day consistory, many of them spoke in obsequious sentences--often quoting the pope's own words--rather than giving him what he asked for: their own thoughts on issues affecting the future of the church.
It is Sunday morning in Agbor, a remote village in southwest Nigeria, where chickens peck at rutted roads and bicycles outnumber cars. All morning long women in brightly colored dresses, wide-eyed children holding hands, men in white Sunday shirts and dark pants stream toward the churches.
One man, Jesus warned, cannot serve two masters. Yet Jerusalem is sacred stone and soil to Jew and Christian and Muslim alike. A place on the map like any other city, Jerusalem exists more vividly, more powerfully, more dangerously within the longitude and latitude of the religious imagination.
Does God answer prayers? Do miracles--extraordinary events that are the result of special acts of God--really happen? Last week Christians and Jews around the globe celebrated the miracle stories central to each faith: the resurrection of Jesus at Easter and the deliverance of the Israelites at Passover.
In a small yellow temple off a rutted mountain road in northern India, a simple image of the Buddha gazes north, over the Himalayas, toward Tibet. It is dawn and across the courtyard of what was once a British colonial cantonment, the Dalai Lama is meditating on his eventual death and passage to rebirth.
I WAS INTRODUCED TO DEATH EARLY IN LIFE. IN THE Roman Catholic grade schools of my youth, funerals were part of the informal curriculum. When a classmate's parent died, we all assembled for the funeral mass, passing by the (usually) open casket and sharing--as best we could--the sorrow of the grieving family.
WITH A LONG sigh from the vast Asian Subcontinent, Mother India last week bade goodbye to Mother Teresa, her most celebrated adopted daughter. As the world watched live on television, the body of the woman revered as the ""saint of the gutters'' was borne through the sultry morning streets of Calcutta on the same military gun carriage that had once transported Mahatma Gandhi and India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to their funerals.
THE WANTS OF OUR UNIVERSITIES Increase with the development of the country,'' Andrew Carnegie wrote in ""The Gospel of Wealth.'' Indeed they do. In Carnegie's day, a man of wealth could build a whole new university for less than what some schools are now seeking in capital campaigns.
POPES HAVE A MOTTO: ROMA LOCUTA, causa finita--"Rome has spoken, the case is closed." Three years ago Joha Paul II issued an apostolic letter in which he declared flatly that "the Catholic Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faith." Rome had spoken, but the case wasn't closed.