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Notebook Religion

A choice and an echo

Cardinals enter the Sistine Chapel to start the conclave (Associated Press/Photo by L’Osservatore Romano)

Associated Press/Photo by Bruce Smith
Fox 5 San Diego/Tribune Broadcasting Company


A choice and an echo

Tight security, much advice accompany papal selection

The conclave of Catholic cardinals chose Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as the new pope, replacing the retired Benedict XVI. The cardinals selected Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I, in the heavily secured confines of the Sistine Chapel, famous for Michelangelo’s biblical frescoes. Pope John Paul II, who in 1996 decreed that papal conclaves should transpire in the chapel, said the majestic artwork was “conducive to an awareness of the presence of God, in whose sight each person will one day be judged.” Workers jammed cellphone signals and swept the chapel to detect any electronic video or recording devices. Catholic News Service even reported that cardinals would not be allowed to use nearby Vatican restrooms; instead, they apparently used portable chemical toilets inside the chapel itself.

Commentators offered no shortage of advice on the pick, with one Vatican observer joking that given all the controversies the church faces, the best choice might be “Pope Rambo I.” Some American evangelicals weighed in, as well, with Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School saying in First Things that the next pope “should be Catholic.” The comment was not entirely tongue-in-cheek, as George argued that the new pope would best serve the interest of global Christian unity by maintaining strong convictions, not by introducing liberal accommodations. 

Bishop battle

South Carolina has become an epicenter of legal struggles between The Episcopal Church and its breakaway dioceses and congregations. After most of the Diocese of South Carolina broke away over concerns related to gay marriage and the ordination of homosexuals as priests and bishops, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori installed Rev. Charles vonRosenberg as provisional bishop. He represents those Episcopal churches in eastern South Carolina remaining within the national denomination. Now vonRosenberg has filed suit against Bishop Mark Lawrence, the leader of the breakaway parishes, requesting that vonRosenberg alone be declared the legitimate bishop.

This is the second suit related to the seceding diocese, which won a temporary injunction in January giving it the exclusive right to use the name “Diocese of South Carolina.” VonRosenberg, however, is trying to prevent Lawrence from using that name, contending that by using it Lawrence “falsely suggests” that he “acts in accordance with the values of The Episcopal Church.” The national denomination is also requesting an “accounting of Bishop Lawrence’s profits obtained in connection with his false and misleading usage of the diocese’s marks.” —T.K.

Morality tests

A former employee of San Diego Christian College has enlisted celebrity attorney Gloria Allred to sue the school for unlawfully firing her. College administrators dismissed Teri James in fall 2012 when the unmarried financial aid specialist became pregnant. San Diego Christian College, founded in 1970 by Tim LaHaye and Henry Morris, requires employees to sign a community covenant in which they promise to avoid “sexually immoral behavior including premarital sex, adultery, pornography and homosexuality.”

James’ case is the latest in a series of lawsuits by former employees of Christian schools, who have challenged those schools’ right to terminate employees on moral grounds. Kathleen Quinlan, a Catholic schoolteacher, sued the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in late 2012 for dismissing her when she became pregnant out of wedlock. Quinlan argues that the landmark 2012 Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court decision, which shields churches and religious schools from discrimination lawsuits, does not apply to her case because she is not a minister or religious leader. She also contends that the school discriminated against her, because administrators only enforce the premarital sex policy against women, since men do not become pregnant. —T.K.

For more on the new pope, see "Southern strategy" in this issue.