South America

Did Pope Francis really embrace 'unorthodox' practices among charismatic Catholics?

Did Pope Francis really embrace 'unorthodox' practices among charismatic Catholics?

Time for a quick trip into the thick tmatt file of guilt, full of GetReligion topiccs I had hoped to get to several days ago.

During the papal trip to South America, the New York Times veered away from political analysis in one story and hit on one of the most important two-part developments in world religion in the past few decades.

Part one: The rise of Pentecostal Protestantism in the once solidly Catholic culture of South America. Click here for tons of information from the Pew Forum. Part two: The rise of the Catholic charismatics soon after that in the same region, and elsewhere in the Global South.

This led to an interesting, and to me troubling, Times team use of an important doctrinal term. Then, that mistake hinted at a key hole in the story. Let's start at the colorful beginning:

QUITO, Ecuador -- The rock music boomed as the congregants at this simple, white-walled church sang and clapped, raising their arms skyward as they prayed aloud and swayed to the beat. The sermon included jokes and a call-and-response with people in the pews. There was even a faith healing testimonial.
But just when it seemed like a Protestant revival meeting, the blessing of the host began and the parishioners filed to the altar to take communion, as in any other Roman Catholic Mass.
Afterward, many of the worshipers bought T-shirts and scarves with the logo of Pope Francis’ visit to their country this week.
“They’re not so Catholic, are they?” joked the priest who presided over the service, Ismael Nova, referring to the Masses he conducts at San Juan Eudes parish church. “They’re different.”

Not very Catholic? Really now.

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Pope Francis travels to South America to talk climate change (and, maybe, Jesus)

Pope Francis travels to South America to talk climate change (and, maybe, Jesus)

Once again, the pope is travelling. This means that, once again, readers get to observe one of the iron-clad laws that govern religion-news coverage at work.

This chunk of the mainstream journalism Grand Unified Theory states that, no matter what the pope cites as his reasons for visiting a land or region, he is actually there for political reasons. He is there in an attempt to impact the lives of real people through political ideas or actions (as opposed to through sacraments, biblical truth, etc.) Then again, he might be there because of something that is going on in church politics. Reporters are allowed to consider that option.

In this case, Pope Francis is back home in South America where, in a welcoming ceremony at Ecuador’s Quito International airport. he offered the following reasons for this trip:

Pope Francis ... spoke to a delegation which included Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, government authorities, and his fellow bishops. The Pope told the delegation that his reason for coming to Ecuador was to be “a witness of God’s mercy and of faith in Jesus Christ.”

Wait. That isn't the reason for the journey quoted in your main news source?

Oh, right. That quote is from the Catholic News Agency report, which actually used a lede that combined both the sacred and the secular language from the Pope Francis arrival rite.

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Connecting dots between Santo Daime and blurring lines between religions

Connecting dots between Santo Daime and blurring lines between religions

I attended a Bob Dylan concert in Baltimore some years back where I fell into conversation about Mr. Robert Allen Zimmerman and his music with a high-schooler sitting next to me. Suddenly, it hits this kid: "Wow! You're from the '60s!" I smiled. But the kid had it right. I felt like an archeological artifact.

Yes, I lived as a college student and as a working journalist, when I wasn't just hanging out, in New York's East Village and San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury. I covered Jerry Rubin's Yippies and Berkeley's People's Park. And despite the cliche, I remember that period of my life quite clearly. I know what I did.

By which I mean that in addition to a lot of brown rice and mung beans, I consumed a fair quantity of psychedelic drugs, natural and synthetic, in, shall we say, non-clinical settings. I do not recommend that anyone follow my example. But I was fortunate and avoided trouble. Moreover, I experienced altered states of consciousness that provided my first hint that there was more to life than the every-day material world, and that spirituality and religious tradition would be profoundly real and important to me.

Why this confessional now? To grab your reading attention, of course. It's called a lede.

Now that I apparently have it, let's discuss a recent story in The New York Times about an experimental Brazilian prison program that provides select maximum-security convicts with a plant-based psychedelic brew in the hope it will mitigate their anti-social behaviors. In short, it's meant as psycho-spiritual therapy.

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Pope trip: Time to play 'spot the political sound bite'

The pope is abroad. This means, of course, that it is time to look at the papal texts — Vatican site here — and play a mainstream media game that can accurately be called “spot the political sound bite.”

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