WBEZ | Religion http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Indiana Gov. Pence signs religious objections bill http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-gov-pence-signs-religious-objections-bill-111772 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/mikepence.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>INDIANAPOLIS &mdash; Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday signed into law a religious objections bill that some convention organizers and business leaders have opposed amid concern it could allow discrimination against gay people.</p><p>Indiana is the first state to enact such a change this year among about a dozen where such proposals have been introduced. The measure would prohibit state and local laws that &quot;substantially burden&quot; the ability of people &mdash; including businesses and associations &mdash; to follow their religious beliefs.</p><p>Pence, a Republican, backed the bill as it moved through the Legislature and spoke at a Statehouse rally last month that drew hundreds of supporters of the proposal. The governor signed the bill in a private ceremony.</p><p>Pence said in a statement Thursday that the bill ensures &quot;religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law.&quot;</p><p>&quot;The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,&quot; he said.</p><p>In a letter to Pence sent Wednesday, leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) warned that the legislation was causing them to reconsider plans to hold their 6,000-person General Assembly in Indianapolis in 2017. The CEO of a gathering of gamers considered to be the city&#39;s largest annual convention also expressed concern about the bill, which the state Senate passed Tuesday.</p><p>The bill signing comes just more than a week before NCAA men&#39;s Final Four games at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, but the college sports organization hasn&#39;t taken a position on the issue.</p><p>&quot;We are examining the details of this bill, however, the NCAA national office is committed to an inclusive environment where all individuals enjoy equal access to events,&quot; the Indianapolis-based group said in a statement.</p><blockquote><p><strong>WBEZ reporter Mike Puente discusses reaction to the law on the Morning Shift</strong></p></blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="100" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/197816089&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Supporters say discrimination concerns are overblown because the bill is modeled after a federal religious freedom law Congress passed in 1993 and similar laws are on the books in 19 states. However, the current political climate is far different than it was when most of those were approved because the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this year on whether gay marriage bans violate the Constitution.</p><p>Conservative groups say the Indiana measure merely seeks to prevent the government from compelling people to provide such things as catering or photography for same-sex weddings or other activities they find objectionable on religious grounds.</p><p>&quot;I think you will find that, if you do your homework in it, this law is not going to allow you to discriminate against anyone else or anyone&#39;s rights in this country,&quot; GOP Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long said.</p><p>But the Republican mayor of Indianapolis said he believed the proposal would send the &quot;wrong signal&quot; for the city, and its tourism and convention agency raised concerns that it could lead some convention planners to regard Indiana as an unwelcoming place.</p><p>The Indianapolis chamber of commerce and Columbus-based engine maker Cummins Inc. are among business groups which have opposed the bill on the grounds that it could make it more difficult to attract top companies and employees.</p><p>Adrian Swartout, the CEO of the 50,000-person Gen Con gamers&#39; convention, said the legislation could affect the group&#39;s decision to hold the major event in Indianapolis past 2020. He said it would have &quot;a direct negative impact on the state&#39;s economy.&quot;</p><p>Similar bills have been advancing this year in the Arkansas and Georgia legislatures. Last year, Mississippi enacted a religious objection law just weeks after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed a similar effort there amid criticism from major corporations.</p><p>Pence denied that the bill will allow discrimination.</p><p>&quot;This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it,&quot; he said. &quot;For more than 20 years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation&#39;s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-gov-pence-signs-religious-objections-bill-111772 Imam sex abuse charges prompt calls for greater transparency http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/imam-sex-abuse-charges-prompt-calls-greater-transparency-111676 <p><p dir="ltr"><em>Updated March 16, 2015 regarding the role of Abdul Malik Mujahid.</em></p><p dir="ltr">As the criminal trial gets underway for a prominent Islamic scholar charged with sexual assault, some Chicago-area Muslims are calling for an investigation into what community leaders may have known about prior allegations of misconduct.</p><p dir="ltr">Mohammed Abdullah Saleem, 75, has been criminally charged with assaulting a female employee at the Institute for Islamic Education, a religious school he founded in west suburban Elgin, Ill.</p><p dir="ltr">Additionally, Saleem has also been accused in a civil lawsuit of assaulting three other females who were students at the school.</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>Related: <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez-worldview/the-culture-around-silence?in=wbez-worldview/sets/worldview-march-10-2015"><em>Worldview&#39;s</em>&nbsp;conversation on the culture of silence around abuse</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;A lot of people depended upon his advice,&rdquo; Dr. Mohammed Kaiseruddin said of Saleem. Kaiseruddin is chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, the largest coalition of Muslim institutions in Illinois. &ldquo;So right now we are dealing with a dilemma that this person who is teaching the Quran to everybody was violating (the) Quran himself.&rdquo;</p><p>When the allegations first surfaced in early December, a number of people both inside and outside the leadership ranks, called on the Council to act. After much back and forth between members of its House of Representatives, a body made up of leaders of its member organizations and former Council chairmen, it issued a <a href="http://freepdfhosting.com/1394ef2106.pdf">statement</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;My thinking on this thing is that any sexual abuse, criminal abuse like this, cannot be kept secret, cannot be kept covered up,&rdquo; Kaiseruddin said. &ldquo;Justice has to be served.&rdquo;</p><p>But the statement prompted a furor of debate on social media. Critics said it wasn&rsquo;t strong enough in voicing unequivocal support for any victims of sexual violence. Others said it perhaps struck an overly-deferential tone toward Saleem. In the wake of that early statement, many have been heartened to see the Council adopt a firmer tone of support for <a href="http://www.ciogc.org/index.php/communications/articles-and-statements/653-2-17-15-ciogc-chairman-applauds-the-courage-of-sexual-abuse-victims">victims</a> and <a href="http://www.ciogc.org/index.php/communications/articles-and-statements/676-3-3-15-effective-steps-in-dealing-with-sexual-abuse">victims&rsquo; advocates</a>.</p><p>Yet some have accused the Council of sidestepping a potentially embarrassing and painful investigation of what its own leadership, and religious figures in the community, might have known about misconduct in the past.</p><p>&ldquo;The other component is to understand who within the community knew about this, and how we can address their understanding of what to do in these circumstances so we can prevent other victims from having to carry the burden into adulthood,&rdquo; said Humaira Basith, co-founder of the Mohammed Webb Foundation and a member of the CIOGC House of Representatives.</p><p>Basith pointed to the revelation that a member of the Council&#39;s House of Representatives, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, claimed to have heard about allegations against Saleem nearly ten years ago. In statements posted to Facebook and on the Council leadership listserv, Mujahid asserted that two religious leaders had quietly mediated a previous case involving a girl, that led to banning Saleem from offering Friday prayers at the mosque for two years. While Mujahid claimed to have heard this from one of those imams, he declined to identify them publicly.</p><p>&ldquo;And ultimately, that is really how the community came to know that this is a known issue with Abdullah Saleem,&rdquo; said Basith.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="Mohammed Abdullah Saleem, a religious scholar and former Principal of the Islamic Institute of Education in Elgin, is charged with allegedly assaulting a female employee. (AP)" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IIE%20%28insert%29.jpg" style="float: right; height: 444px; width: 300px;" title="Mohammed Abdullah Saleem, a religious scholar and former Principal of the Islamic Institute of Education in Elgin, is charged with allegedly assaulting a female employee. " /></div><p>Mujahid, a former Council chairman, was unavailable for an interview. But in a written e-mail he stated:</p><p>&quot;I have championed the cause of opposing violence against women all my life. Many non-Muslim women have informed me of their ordeal. However, no Muslim victim has ever told me about a sexual crime nor have I been a part of any mediation.&nbsp;I have informed Elgin police about hearsay knowledge of a mediation dealing with Abdullah Salim. I believe, however, that only the victim or her chosen mediator can disclose it to (the) public. Filing a report with police is the best option in my view for any criminal activity rather than mediation.&quot;</p><p><em>(Editor&#39;s Note:&nbsp;We&#39;ve clarified Mujahid&#39;s role, the fact that he was unavailable for an interview and updated the paragraph above to include his full written statement.)</em></p><p>Basith said she has called on Council leadership to push harder to find out which imams may have known of cases of misconduct by Saleem. &ldquo;Those people need to be better trained in order to handle this so that the community has more transparency when these issues arise,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s really the core of it, is that we have no transparency in order to rectify it for the future.&rdquo;</p><p>So far, other Council leaders have not taken up her call. &ldquo;Briefly, at this time the council does not feel the need to investigate and identify the imams,&rdquo; wrote Kaiseruddin in response to a query from WBEZ.</p><p>&ldquo;My guess is that these are answers they may not want to have,&rdquo; said Basith.</p><p>Still, Kaiseruddin, and many others, said the Council deserves credit for other steps it has taken. The Council is developing guidelines on sound bylaws for its member organizations, in order to avoid another situation where an administrator has unquestioned authority like Saleem did at IIE.</p><p>It&rsquo;s also reviewing sexual abuse policies at Islamic schools throughout the area.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody came to the conclusion they need to upgrade their policies, and they wanted CIOGC to play a role,&rdquo; said Kaiseruddin.</p><p>Eman Aly said the Council&rsquo;s involvement has done a lot of good in cracking open the taboo topic of sexual violence in the Muslim community.</p><p>&ldquo;People are talking about it, and that&rsquo;s what we wanted,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Friends of mine who are parents have been asking, &lsquo;how do we talk to our kids about this?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Aly, a social worker, helped persuade the only victim to file criminal charges against Saleem. She said she believes the Council should investigate whether leaders in Chicago&rsquo;s religious community know about other cases of misconduct &mdash; so that if there are more victims, they get help.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 10 Mar 2015 05:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/imam-sex-abuse-charges-prompt-calls-greater-transparency-111676 DePaul museum show 'Rooted in Soil' looks at role earth plays in life, death http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-29/depaul-museum-show-rooted-soil-looks-role-earth-plays-life-death <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bell_.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 600px;" title="Metropolis 2012 by Vaughn Bell. Acrylic, aluminum, rigging cables, hardware, soil, native plants. (Photo by Spike Mafford)" /></div></div><p>A new exhibition opening Thursday at the DePaul Art Museum takes a unique look at something we take for granted.</p><p>&ldquo;Rooted in Soil&rdquo; examines earth from multiple viewpoints, from the role that intensive agriculture and deforestation play in removing topsoil, to the decaying flowers, trees and even human bodies that all eventually return to the soil.</p><p>&ldquo;The idea came out of a very tumultuous period in my life, where I was having an existential crisis, if you will, and exploring many of these questions about the meaning of life,&rdquo; said Farrah Fatemi, an assistant environmental studies professor at St. Michael&rsquo;s College in Vermont. She curated the show with her mother, Laura Fatemi, who&rsquo;s the museum&rsquo;s interim director.</p><p>Farrah Fatemi said she started meditating and reading a lot about Buddhism.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the things that really resonated with me is this concept of a very fundamental interconnectedness that all beings have to one another and to their environment,&rdquo; she said, adding she and her mother wanted to bring this interconnectedness to the public through art.</p><p>That connection is evident as soon as you walk into the DePaul Art Museum.</p><p>The smell of fresh soil hangs in the air. The first thing you see is a large angular terrarium hanging suspended from the ceiling. If you&rsquo;ve admired terrariums and imagined living in a tiny world of plants under glass, &ldquo;Metropolis&rdquo; by Seattle artist Vaughn Bell gives you a taste of what that would be like. Visitors can stand underneath it, poke their heads through holes cut in the bottom and be surrounded by green plants and the rich smell of soil in the spring, despite the cold weather outside.</p><p>An installation by Chicago artist Claire Pentecost lets visitors step into a room that looks like an old apothecary, but the vials and cylinders are full of dirt. People can lift glass domes containing soil samples and take a whiff.</p><p>&ldquo;I think one of the neat things about this exhibit is that it confronts people in the city who are surrounded by this paved landscape with soil,&rdquo; Farrah Fatemi said. The idea is to connect urban spaces and urban dwellers back to nature.</p><p>Upstairs, the focus turns to the cycle of life, featuring powerful images that are beautiful and uncomfortable.</p><p>A 17th-century &ldquo;vanitas,&rdquo; a form of still life that focuses on death-related themes, by Flemish painter Adriaen van Utrecht shows a skull and a glorious bouquet just past full flower that&rsquo;s starting to rot. Coins and jewelry are scattered nearby, symbolizing, as Laura Fatemi said, &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t take it with you.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;In a way, these were religious paintings,&rdquo; Laura Fatemi said, adding that they made reference to concepts like mortality and repentance.</p><p>Next to the painting, Sam Taylor-Johnson explores a similar theme in still life -- but in video form -- showing a luscious bowl of fruit quickly moving through the stages of decay from ripeness to mold to bugs.</p><p>The photographs of Sally Mann, who documents corpses in various stages of decomposition at the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee, are grotesque and strangely beautiful. Justin Rang explores similar themes in his film &ldquo;Light/Dark Worms.&rdquo; It takes up an entire wall and shows worms writhing around a human hand in the dirt, inviting us to reflect on our own impermanence.</p><p>&ldquo;We depend on this nutrient cycle, and we&rsquo;re part of it,&rdquo; Laura Fatemi said. Much of the work plays with our anxiety over dying and our fear of the unknown. &ldquo;The reality is the earth will take us back.&rdquo;</p><p>For many of us, that&rsquo;s never an easy concept to grasp or even to consider. But perhaps seeing it explored in art will make it a bit less scary.<br />&ldquo;Rooted in Soil&rdquo; runs through April 26 at the DePaul Art Museum.</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes covers religion, arts and culture for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes" target="_blank">@LynetteKalsnes</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 16:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-29/depaul-museum-show-rooted-soil-looks-role-earth-plays-life-death Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah dies http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-01-23/saudi-arabias-king-abdullah-dies-111448 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/King Abdullah.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-03c4e882-17c2-1d25-93e4-be52a7c6de4a">King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has died at the age of 90. </span>His half-brother, Salman, has been confirmed as the new king. We&rsquo;ll take a look at his legacy and his successor with Joseph Kéchichian, a senior writer for <a href="http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/dr-joseph-a-kechichian">Gulf News</a> and the author of several books on Gulf affairs.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/the-death-of-king-abdulla/embed?border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/the-death-of-king-abdulla.js?border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/the-death-of-king-abdulla" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: The Death of King Abdullah" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 09:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-01-23/saudi-arabias-king-abdullah-dies-111448 Vatican signals new tone on US nuns http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/vatican-signals-new-tone-us-nuns-111243 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP475133071654.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An unprecedented Vatican investigation of U.S. women&#39;s religious orders that alarmed Roman Catholic sisters when the inquiry began years ago ended Tuesday with a report signaling a softer approach under Pope Francis.</p><p>The report praised sisters for their selfless work caring for the poor and promised to value their &quot;feminine genius&quot; more, while gently suggesting ways to serve the church faithfully and survive amid a steep drop in their numbers. There was no direct critique of the nuns, nor any demand for them to change &mdash; only requests that they ensure their ministries remain &quot;in harmony with Catholic teaching.&quot;</p><p>&quot;There is an encouraging and realistic tone in this report,&quot; said Sister Sharon Holland, head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the umbrella organization for most U.S. religious orders. &quot;Challenges are understood, but it is not a document of blame, or of simplistic solutions. One can read the text and feel appreciated and trusted to carry on.&quot;</p><p>The laudatory language contrasted sharply with the atmosphere in which the review started under Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Franc Rode, who in 2008 initiated the nationwide study when he led the Vatican office that oversees religious orders, said there was concern about &quot;a certain secular mentality that has spread in these religious families and, perhaps, also a certain &#39;feminist&#39; spirit.&quot;</p><p>Rode left the post while the review was still under way, and his successors had said they wanted a friendlier relationship with the sisters.</p><p>Still, many nuns remained concerned about the outcome of the investigation under Francis&#39; still-young pontificate. Some nuns had taken legal steps during the inquiry to shield the financial assets of their religious orders in case of a Vatican takeover.</p><p>The report expressed hope that sisters would take &quot;this present moment as an opportunity to transform uncertainty and hesitancy into collaborative trust&quot; with the church hierarchy. Many sisters have complained that their work often went unrecognized by priests and requested improved dialogue with bishops to clarify their role in the church and give them greater voice in decisions, according to the report.</p><p>Before the news conference releasing the report in Rome, leaders for the sisters and the nun who oversaw the review, Mother Mary Clare Millea, attended the pope&#39;s daily Mass in the Vatican hotel where he lives and spoke with him briefly, where he offered his blessing.</p><p>Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, based in Maryland, said in a statement the document signaled &quot;a hope for future dialogue and communion among and between women religious and church leaders.&quot;</p><p>&quot;The report is clearly focused on cooperation. It&#39;s clearly focused on dialogue, which I think is not necessarily what people expected back in 2008 when this issue came up,&quot; said Jana Bennett, a specialist in Catholic theology and ethics at the University of Dayton, Ohio.</p><p>Still, American nuns are dealing with the fallout from a separate investigation from a different Vatican office. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 2012 ordered an overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of U.S. sisters. The doctrine office said the organization strayed from church teaching and promoted &quot;radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.&quot; Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain was appointed to oversee the Leadership Conference, potentially through 2017.</p><p>Holland said she was &quot;working hard and working well&quot; with Sartain and other Vatican-appointed delegates, and the process might end sooner than originally expected.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re moving toward resolution of that,&quot; she said.</p><p>Both investigations prompted an outpouring of support from many rank-and-file American Catholics who viewed the inquiries as a crackdown by the all-male Vatican hierarchy against the underpaid, underappreciated women who do the lion&#39;s share of work running Catholic hospitals, schools and services for the poor.</p><p>Theological conservatives have long complained that after the modernizing reforms of the 1960s Second Vatican Council, women&#39;s religious orders in the U.S. became secular and political while abandoning traditional prayer life and faith.</p><p>The nuns insisted prayer and Christ were central to their work.</p><p>Along with praise, the report offered a sobering assessment of the difficult state of American religious orders. The current number of 50,000 U.S. sisters represents a fraction of the 125,000 in the mid-1960s, although that was an atypical spike in U.S. church history.</p><p>Financial resources to care for sisters are dwindling as they age, and the orders have struggled to attract new members. The report asked the sisters to make sure their training programs reflect church teaching and their members pray and focus on Christ.</p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 16:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/vatican-signals-new-tone-us-nuns-111243 Cupich becomes Chicago archbishop, decries abuse http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cupich-becomes-chicago-archbishop-decries-abuse-111123 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP604006552951.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Blase Cupich became the Archbishop of Chicago on Tuesday after his predecessor handed him a bishop&#39;s staff and relinquished the chair that symbolizes the leadership of the nation&#39;s third-largest diocese.</p><p dir="ltr">During a Mass at Holy Name Cathedral, the transfer of power was completed as Cardinal Francis George, who is battling cancer, stepped aside to retire. He&rsquo;s been the spiritual leader of more than 2 million Catholics in Lake and Cook Counties since 1997.</p><p dir="ltr">The installation of Cupich &mdash; who was bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, Wash., when he was selected by Pope Francis to succeed George &mdash; marks the first time in the history of the Chicago archdiocese that a new archbishop assumes leadership while his predecessor is still alive.</p><p dir="ltr">It also represents the pope&#39;s first major American appointment. By replacing a leading conservative cardinal with the more moderate Cupich, Vatican watchers say the decision shows the pope wants more focus on mercy and compassion instead of divisive social issues.</p><p dir="ltr">The cathedral was packed with more than 90 bishops, a half dozen cardinals and hundreds of guests, including Cupich&rsquo;s large extended family and friends from every stage of his career as a priest.</p><p dir="ltr">During his homily Tuesday, Cupich, 65, spoke forcefully on the sexual abuse scandal that has plagued the church, including Chicago&#39;s archdiocese. In one of his last official acts, George released files on three dozen priests who had been accused of sexual abuse in the last 60 years and whose alleged crimes were in many cases concealed by the archdiocese.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Working together to protect children, to bring healing to victim survivors and to rebuild the trust that has been shattered in our communities by our failures is our sacred duty, and so is holding each other accountable, for that is what we pledge to do,&rdquo; Cupich said.</p><p dir="ltr">As he comes to an archdiocese that has shrunk in recent years and been forced to close schools amid declining enrollment, Cupich also spoke of the &quot;formidable task&quot; of passing on the faith to the next generation in a skeptical world. He said the church needs to work to become relevant to young people, who require authenticity in words and deeds.</p><p dir="ltr">Cupich repeatedly called on everyone, including church leaders, to act with mercy, and to be daring in their faith.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Pope Francis tells us that the temptation is to think and say, &lsquo;I&rsquo;m religious enough, I&rsquo;m Catholic enough.&rsquo; Or for the church leaders to resist needed reform by claiming, &lsquo;We haven&rsquo;t done that before&rsquo; or &lsquo;You can&rsquo;t say that&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Cupich voiced his support for Pope Francis&#39; call for leaders in the church to be pastoral in nature. He also emphasized mercy and and reiterated a call to reach out to people rather than lecture them, and to openly communicate with those with whom the church might disagree.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;Jesus invites us, not only to take the risk of leaving our comfort zone, but also to deal with the tension involved in change, not dismissively but in a creative way,&quot; he said. &quot;Pope Francis is giving voice to this invitation in our day ... to leave behind the comfort of going the familiar way.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">There&rsquo;s been some confusion and discord among bishops following the Synod on Family, and several conservative bishops have been openly critical of the pope&rsquo;s leadership.</p><p dir="ltr">Cupich firmly aligned himself with Pope Francis in his closing remarks: &ldquo;He can count on the Archdiocese of Chicago to be fully behind him and with him.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Several spectators had high hopes, saying they had &ldquo;new hope&rdquo; and calling him a &ldquo;breath of fresh air.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;He&rsquo;s very devoted to the youth and to poor people,&rdquo; said long-time friend Jim Kineen. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s particularly keen on immigration since his family immigrated from Croatia. He&rsquo;s a very down-to-earth common fellow, and he&rsquo;s got a great attitude. If you notice, he smiles all the time.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Terry Berner, who lives on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side, said he hopes Cupich reaches out to gays, women and victims of priest sex abuse.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I hope that he&rsquo;ll open up dialogues with some people that have been kind of turned off lately. I hope he opens a lot of channels, I hope there&rsquo;s a lot of &nbsp;back and forth between not only the Catholics but other denominations &nbsp;and religions in the city because we certainly need it,&rdquo; Berner said.</p><p dir="ltr">The new archbishop has asked for patience as he adjusts to his new role, and emphasized he hopes to keep a sense of normalcy. Cupich tried to dampen down expectations a bit with humor. He joked that he had a &ldquo;bit of a panic attack&rdquo; when he realized his first homily as archbishop followed the gospel about Jesus walking on water.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This new responsibility is going to be demanding, but seriously folks, I don&rsquo;t do walking on water,&rdquo; Cupich said to laughter from the crowd. &ldquo;I can barely swim. So I hope this image in today&rsquo;s gospel is not reflective of anyone&rsquo;s expectations.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Cupich set the transition in motion Monday night in a ceremony steeped in tradition and symbolism. He arrived at the cathedral &mdash; which was filled with hundreds of priests, civic officials and leaders from several faiths &mdash; and knocked on the door three times. Those knocks symbolized his request to be admitted into the cathedral and started a three-day installation process.</p><p dir="ltr">In his Monday homily, Cupich vowed to take an active role in the community, pushing for immigration reform and taking part in the battle against gangs and gun violence, among other issues.</p><p dir="ltr">He is finishing up the three-day celebration Wednesday, leading morning and evening prayers for religious sisters and brothers and lay leaders.</p><p><em>WBEZ&rsquo;s Claudia Morell contributed to this story.</em></p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/177673495&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false"></iframe><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/177568268&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false"></iframe></p> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 10:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cupich-becomes-chicago-archbishop-decries-abuse-111123 Meet Bishop Blase Cupich, Chicago's incoming archbishop http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/meet-bishop-blase-cupich-chicagos-incoming-archbishop-110828 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/greeting.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated 5:30 p.m.</em></p><p>Bishop Blase Cupich will be installed as the next archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago on Nov. 18. He&rsquo;s currently the bishop of Spokane, Wash., and previously served as bishop of Rapid City, S.D.</p><p>He began a press conference Saturday by asking the people of Chicago to pray for him, as Pope Francis did right after he became pontiff.</p><p>Cupich&rsquo;s appointment came as something of a surprise to many who have been closely watching the succession process. The bishop comes from a smaller diocese, and hadn&rsquo;t been on most of the short lists. But he&rsquo;s known as a moderate who observers expect will follow the pastoral approach of Pope Francis.</p><blockquote><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/cupich-be-next-chicago-archbishop-110827">Observers, parishioners</a></strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/cupich-be-next-chicago-archbishop-110827"><strong>&nbsp;discuss Cardinal George&#39;s legacy</strong></a></blockquote><p>That viewpoint was evident at his first press conference here, where he was informal and used short parables to get his point across. In Spanish, he said he comes as a pastor, but he also comes here as a brother.</p><p><strong>Bishop Cupich&rsquo;s style of leadership</strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/168607075&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>This is the Pope&rsquo;s first major selection in the U.S., so the appointment has been closely watched as indicative of the direction in which the pontiff may hope to lead the U.S. Roman Catholic church.</p><p>&ldquo;I think the holy father is a pastoral man,&rdquo; Cupich said. &ldquo;...I think that I wouldn&rsquo;t want to in any way overly politicize or put this in a different context. I think he cares a lot about people, and he took his time, and he wanted to provide a pastor. And so I think he sent a pastor, not a message.&rdquo;</p><p>Bishop Cupich said he was humbled and encouraged by the appointment, calling it a &ldquo;blessed opportunity.&rdquo; He said surprise doesn&rsquo;t come close to describing his reaction.</p><p><strong>Bishop Cupich&rsquo;s reaction to his selection:</strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/168607361&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Cardinal George said he was relieved and grateful the Pope had honored his request to retire. Each time that was mentioned at the press conference, he punched his arm in the air in apparent joy. All the previous bishops here had died in office.</p><p>George said he&rsquo;s relieved, too, to leave the Archdiocese with &ldquo;such an able and experienced man.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I described him as well-prepared for his new responsibilities, bringing to them a deep faith, a quick intelligence, personal commitment and varied pastoral experience, and I hope you&rsquo;ve seen that in action in just a very few minutes, and you&rsquo;ll see it in action for many years to come,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><strong>Cardinal George on why he&rsquo;s grateful:</strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/168607598&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The Cardinal is facing his third battle with cancer, and is undergoing experimental treatment. Yet he&rsquo;s largely maintained his bruising schedule.</p><p>George will stay in office for the next two months, while Cupich will continue serving as bishop of Spokane. They plan to stay in touch to plan a smooth transition. Once he&rsquo;s retired, George said he hopes to help the new archbishop in any way he can, and to perform confirmations and confessions.</p><p>If he&rsquo;s strong enough, Cardinal George plans to journey to see Pope Francis in Rome in November.</p><p>Bishop Cupich said his first priority will be getting to know people here and the area, talking about the position as an &ldquo;enormous upgrade&rdquo; in reference to the size of the Archdiocese of Chicago compared to his previous dioceses.</p><p>He said he&rsquo;s worked among diverse cultures, including Latinos and Native Americans, and said that it&rsquo;s important for groups to bring their cultures to their religious experience. He&rsquo;s also pushed for immigration reform.</p><p>The bishop -- who headed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops&rsquo; Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People from 2008-2011 -- said the church must continue to &nbsp;work to protect children from priest sexual abuse and to help heal victims, adding he&rsquo;ll try hard to make that an important part of the ministry.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-b8538668-952b-9c4f-7503-0ff9223cf947">Reaction to the selection was mixed in greater Chicago.</span></p><p>Mary Anne Hackett, president of the conservative Catholic Citizens of Illinois, said she&rsquo;s taking a wait-and-see approach.</p><p>&quot;Personally I don&rsquo;t like the designation moderate for anybody,&quot; she said. &quot;I think it would be nice to take a stand one way or another. That might just be a nice way of saying his position. That will unfold as time goes on.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">But the Chicago-based national liberal group Call to Action said it&rsquo;s quote &ldquo;relieved&rdquo; to learn Cupich is moderate. In a statement, they said the Pope&rsquo;s selection shows quote &ldquo;a desire for a humbler, more pastoral church.&rdquo;</p><div><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-8140c6a7-952d-3d48-9bec-bb2f36214810">Local theologian Mike Murphy, who&nbsp;</span><span id="docs-internal-guid-8140c6a7-952d-3d48-9bec-bb2f36214810">h</span>eads Catholic Studies at Loyola University Chicago, called Cupich a good fit for the city. He said the bishop is in line with Pope Francis&rsquo; vision for leadership.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;He is prepared to lead in a way that shepherds the people and not be anchored down to ideology,&quot; Murphy said. He added that he views Cupich as a moderate who&rsquo;s doctrinally very serious while seeing a need for conversation in a polarized society. Murphy also pointed to the bishop&#39;s work&nbsp;serving the poor.</p><p dir="ltr">Bishop Cupich is now archbishop designate. It&rsquo;s likely he&rsquo;ll someday be appointed cardinal, but that wouldn&rsquo;t happen until after Cardinal George -- who&rsquo;s 77 -- turns 80.</p></div><p>Cupich will be formally installed as the new archbishop of Chicago on Nov. 18 at Holy Name Cathedral.</p></p> Sat, 20 Sep 2014 13:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/meet-bishop-blase-cupich-chicagos-incoming-archbishop-110828 Cupich to be next Chicago archbishop http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cupich-be-next-chicago-archbishop-110827 <p><p>The Vatican has picked a replacement for Chicago&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.archchicago.org/Cardinal/">Cardinal Francis George</a>.</p><p>Pope Francis has tapped Bishop Blase Cupich, who leads the diocese in Spokane, Washington. Before that, Cupich was bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota.</p><p>Pope Francis&#39; choice for Chicago has been closely watched. It is his first major U.S. appointment and the clearest sign yet of the direction he hopes to steer American church leaders. Cupich is a considered a moderate &nbsp;among the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops.&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/meet-bishop-blase-cupich-chicagos-incoming-archbishop-110828">Meet Bishop Blase Cupich, Chicago&#39;s incoming archbishop</a></strong></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Cardinal George has been the spiritual leader for two million Roman Catholics in Lake and Cook County for 17 years now. He&rsquo;s 77, and he&rsquo;s battling cancer for the third time.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>George first Chicago native as archbishop</strong></p><p>The Cardinal -- the first Chicago native to become archbishop here -- has been a polarizing and at times even controversial leader. But there are contradictions between the Cardinal&rsquo;s public and private life that could shape how we remember him.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/168598059&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>As former head of the <a href="http://www.usccb.org/">U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops</a>, the Cardinal led a high-profile fight against Obamacare and the birth control mandate. He&rsquo;s become one of the most prominent voices in the church, nationally and internationally, about what he sees as the dangers of secularism, same-sex marriage and most of all, restrictions on <a href="http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/cardinal-george-addresses-religious-freedom-in-speech-at-byu">freedom of religion</a>.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS5291_CardinalGeorge_Healing_Garden-scr.JPG" style="height: 240px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="Cardinal Francis George (File)" />The Cardinal&rsquo;s often portrayed as unfeeling, aloof, even imperious. But colleagues &ndash; and even some critics &ndash; said there&rsquo;s more to him than that.</p><p>Despite being a powerhouse in the Roman Catholic church, Graziano Marcheschi &ndash; who worked with him for a dozen years at the Archdiocese &ndash; said George is not overly impressed with himself, or the trappings of his office.</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;ll stand in line, he&rsquo;ll grab the paper plate, he&rsquo;ll get the plastic spoon and fork, and he&rsquo;ll put the food on his own plate, and he&rsquo;ll just go sit where there&rsquo;s a place at any table,&rdquo; Marcheschi said. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s not looking for the &lsquo;quote&rsquo; head table, he&rsquo;s not looking for the other power players in the room. He just goes and sits and he talks to whoever&rsquo;s there.&rdquo;</p><p>That doesn&rsquo;t mean the Cardinal&rsquo;s the touchy-feely type. But people who have gotten to know him say he&rsquo;s kinder and has more compassion than people generally give him credit for.</p><p>Marcheschi, who now heads mission and ministry at St. Xavier University, likes to tell a story to illustrate this.</p><p>George was speaking at a retreat for young volunteer ministers several years ago when a young woman asked him about the issue of female priests. The Cardinal told her the church believes it&rsquo;s God&rsquo;s will for men to be priests, not women.</p><p>&ldquo;And the young woman became very distraught, and began to cry, and ran out of the room,&rdquo; Marcheschi said. &ldquo;Well, Cardinal George was just speechless. And then afterward, he turned to my wife and he said, &lsquo;Nancy, what happened?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Marcheschi said his wife explained the woman may have felt the church was closing the door on her dreams. Then later some other women at the event asked the Cardinal if they could further discuss the subject of women&rsquo;s ordination later.</p><p>&ldquo;So he said, absolutely, make sure that young woman is part of the group, and I&rsquo;ll be happy to sit down with you,&rdquo; according to Marcheschi.</p><p>The women spent part of a day talking with the Cardinal, but he didn&rsquo;t budge from his view on church teachings prohibiting female priests. (That&rsquo;s a stance he&rsquo;s remained firm on &ndash; in fact, he has asked some priests who openly supported women&rsquo;s ordination to publicly apologize.)</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Obviously the young woman clearly would have liked to have heard something different and didn&rsquo;t,&rdquo; Marcheschi said. &ldquo;But what did happen is she felt heard, she did not feel dismissed. Here she was with the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, a man with a global reach, a man who meets with popes and presidents, and he took an afternoon to meet with this young woman because he had seen how distressed she had been.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Two views of George legacy</strong></p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cardinal%20george%202014%20by%20LK%202.JPG" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Cardinal Francis George speaks earlier this year. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" /></div><p>Georgetown University Theology Professor Chester Gillis sees two differing views of George&rsquo;s legacy emerging.</p><p>&ldquo;Those who see him as defending the church against what might be kind of an anti-Christian sentiment in culture and society will raise him as a hero and say he stood against gay marriage, he stood against abortion, he stood against a lot of cultural patterns, and they think that&rsquo;s exactly what he should have done,&rdquo; Gillis said. &ldquo;Others will say that&rsquo;s all he did. That&rsquo;s not true that&rsquo;s all he did, but they&rsquo;ll say he was irrelevant.&rdquo;</p><p>On the progressive side, many see the Cardinal as rigid &ndash; even doctrinaire &ndash; in his view of church teachings.</p><p>&ldquo;He has been a constant complainer about the inroads of secularism and individualism, that those things have crept into the church, and that people aren&rsquo;t like they used to be, and not talking about how the church should be reacting today,&rdquo; said author Robert McClory. McClory is a charter member of the national Catholic group based in Chicago, <a href="http://cta-usa.org/">Call to Action</a>, and writes for the <a href="http://ncronline.org/authors/robert-mcclory">National Catholic Reporter</a>.</p><p>McClory credited the Cardinal with being a hardworking, conscientious overseer of the Archdiocese, but not an innovator.</p><p>&ldquo;He has followed kind of the directives of Pope John Paul II. Keep the church from moving forward, in fact, to keep the church moving backward,&rdquo; McClory said.</p><p>Cardinal George views church teachings in strict terms. He&rsquo;s a noted conservative intellectual, who has earned master&rsquo;s degrees and doctorates in both philosophy and theology. He personally rejects the terms liberal or conservative as being in the realm of politics, not religion. He describes things as being Gospel truth, or not.</p><p>&ldquo;Jesus didn&rsquo;t die on the cross so you could believe anything you want to,&rdquo; he told WBEZ. &ldquo;There is a faith, and the teachers of the faith are the bishops, with a lot of instruction by others. You can say I&rsquo;m Catholic but I don&rsquo;t believe this, I don&rsquo;t believe that. Well, you&rsquo;ve created your own church.&rdquo;</p><p>Perhaps the sharpest criticism is reserved for Cardinal George&rsquo;s handling of the priest sex abuse scandal. He was instrumental in pushing for reforms in the early 2000s that changed how the church handles abuse across the U.S.</p><p>But <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/survivors-lawyers-say-documents-prove-priest-sex-abuse-cover-109557">church records show</a> he let some <a href="http://www.andersonadvocates.com/Archdiocese-of-Chicago-Documents.aspx">priests stay in their positions despite abuse allegations</a>, and sometimes<a href="http://www.andersonadvocates.com/documents/Key_Chicago_Documents/McCormack%20Ex%20126.pdf"> even after the church review board recommended their removal</a>. Advocates point out the Cardinal also didn&rsquo;t discipline those priests&rsquo; superiors.</p><p>The most notorious case on the Cardinal&rsquo;s watch was that of Daniel McCormack, who was convicted of molesting several boys and named in numerous lawsuits over additional abuse allegations.</p><p>In 2012, the Cardinal told WBEZ: &ldquo;Oh, by far, the most difficult challenge has been the terrible fallout from the sexual abuse of children by some priests. I pray for victims. That&rsquo;s been the overwhelming weight in a sense that has stayed with me.&rdquo;</p><p>The Cardinal&rsquo;s also faced protests from the LGBT community as an outspoken lobbyist against gay marriage.</p><p>He has compared the tactics of some gay rights activists to fascism, and he ignited controversy a few years ago by <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/01/07/chicago-cardinal-apologizes-for-linking-gay-pride-parade-to-ku-klux-klan/">likening organizers of Chicago&rsquo;s gay Pride Parade</a> to &ldquo;something like the Ku Klux Klan&rdquo; when he worried that the parade route would disrupt mass at a local church. He later backtracked and apologized for using an &ldquo;inflammatory&rdquo; analogy.</p><p>&ldquo;I wish he was leaving a legacy as someone who was in the trenches with the poor, as someone who was against gun violence that permeates this city,&rdquo; said Martin Grochala, a board member with <a href="http://www.dignityusa.org/">Dignity Chicago</a>, which advocates for LGBT people in the church. &ldquo;I think unfortunately for LGBT people, his legacy is going to be about advocating against gay marriage.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>&quot;A person of vision&quot;</strong></p><p>But supporter Robert Gilligan, who heads the Catholic Conference of Illinois, called Cardinal George a &ldquo;person of vision.&rdquo;</p><p>Gilligan said the Cardinal clearly and eloquently articulated Catholic church teachings on many issues, including the sacredness of life from conception to death, and that will be what George is remembered for.</p><p>Mary Anne Hackett, who heads the conservative <a href="http://catholiccitizens.org/">Catholic Citizens of Illinois</a>, said she thinks the Cardinal was doing just what he ought to, fighting against abortion and for what she calls &lsquo;true marriage,&rsquo; between a man and a woman.</p><p>&ldquo;What he tried to do was to restore the church in Chicago to what the church teaches,&rdquo; Hackett said. &ldquo;You could call that conservative, I would call that Catholic.&rdquo;</p><p>She acknowledged the Cardinal can sometimes be overly blunt. But she doesn&rsquo;t think those moments will be his lasting legacy:</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;ll be remembered as a person that is open to talk things over, to meet with people of all different persuasions and different opinions, to meet with them, and try to resolve difficulties and differences, on a personal one-to-one basis actually,&rdquo; Hackett said.</p><p>Dignity Chicago&rsquo;s Martin Grochala experienced this firsthand when he and his group met with George several times.</p><p>&ldquo;While we did not see eye to eye on church teaching about sexuality, our conversations were warm and respectful,&rdquo; Grochala said. &ldquo;He was very intelligent and quite, quite quick-witted. Very funny.&rdquo;</p><p>The Cardinal has called this kind of contact with parishioners his greatest joy. And he has packed as much of it as he could into his final days in office. Although he&rsquo;s facing cancer for the third time, George has resembled the Energizer bunny of late.</p><p>His battles with cancer aren&rsquo;t the first time he&rsquo;s faced serious illness. As a teen, George fought polio and overcame it, though the disease left him with a limp. Quigley Preparatory Academy turned him away, saying he was disabled and couldn&rsquo;t be a priest. So George found another religious school, before going on to hold high posts in Rome and being appointed a bishop, archbishop and finally cardinal.</p><p>The Cardinal doesn&rsquo;t plan to entirely slow down. He has said repeatedly that he&rsquo;ll help his successor any way he can. He hopes to spend much of his time doing confirmations and hearing confessions.</p><p>&ldquo;The skill of living is to live as if you&rsquo;re going to die tomorrow and still do your job,&rdquo; the Cardinal said. &ldquo;In a sense prayer does that. You live for a while in a moment where you&rsquo;re not in charge, you&rsquo;re just at God&rsquo;s disposition. And as long as that&rsquo;s the case, then, well, I don&rsquo;t want to die tomorrow, but if I did, I&rsquo;m sure the Lord would still be providential in his care of the Earth. It doesn&rsquo;t depend on me.&rdquo;</p><p><em>WBEZ&rsquo;s Lynette Kalsnes covers religion and culture. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes">@Lynette Kalsnes</a></em></p></p> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 20:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cupich-be-next-chicago-archbishop-110827 Bear ye one another’s burdens: Chicago Christians share health care costs http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/bear-ye-one-another%E2%80%99s-burdens-chicago-christians-share-health-care-costs-110745 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/healthcare ministry pic.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Sherri Myers was at a dance class in 2009 when she felt something tear in her leg.</p><p dir="ltr">The Bolingbrook woman went to the hospital, and soon learned her leg was bleeding internally, and she needed surgery. Her bills started mounting. Myers was worried &mdash; &nbsp;her family had switched from traditional insurance to a new way to pay health care costs just months before.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It was cheaper, truthfully,&rdquo; Myers said. &ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t need a lot of the bells and whistles of insurance, and with our insurance it didn&rsquo;t take care of that anyway, and it felt like instead of just sending for your insurance, it seemed like such a way to minister to other people.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Myers had signed up for a cost-sharing ministry, and this was the first big test.</p><p dir="ltr">People from all over the country sent her checks to cover her medical bills, and cards to encourage her.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like a gift in a way,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re praying for them, they&rsquo;re praying for you, at different times. And that God in all of it gets glorified.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Myers is a customer of <a href="http://samaritanministries.org/">Samaritan Ministries</a>, based in Peoria. As is her pastor, the Rev. Timothy Greene, at Living Word Bible Church in Morris. He said Samaritan&rsquo;s health care plan is based on the Biblical principle of carrying your own load, and helping others bear their burdens too.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Our bodies are created by God, we need to take care of them,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;There is a real sense of responsibility that we feel. We don&rsquo;t just want to rush off to the doctor for everything.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The pastor estimates nearly 20 percent of his 150-member congregation is part of Samaritan.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, thousands of people joined them during the rush to sign up for traditional health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. While millions bought private plans on the new health exchanges, others opted to join a Christian health-care sharing ministry.</p><p dir="ltr">With about 37,000 families enrolled, Samaritan is one of the three largest cost-sharing programs in the U.S.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Health care sharing ministries are a mechanism for people of faith to band together to share medical bills without using insurance,&rdquo; said Executive Vice President James Lansberry.</p><p dir="ltr">Many didn&rsquo;t want to buy insurance that covered abortion or some types of contraception.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t say people were attracted to us because they wanted a way (out) from the Affordable Care Act,&rdquo; Lansberry said. &ldquo;I think there were particular facets in plans in the Affordable Care Act that caused them to have some moral concerns that drove them toward health care sharing.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In fact, members are required to lead an evangelical Christian lifestyle and share certain religious beliefs.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The members all agree to attend church, they agree to abstain from illegal drugs, they agree not to abuse tobacco or alcohol,&rdquo; Lansberry said, adding they also agree to abstain from sex outside of &ldquo;traditional marriage.&rdquo; (The plan won&rsquo;t cover pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases if they happen outside of marriage.)</p><p dir="ltr">Members sign a pledge each year, and their pastors sign off that they&rsquo;re following the tenets of the plan.</p><p dir="ltr">At Samaritan, the monthly cost ranges from $180 for a single person to $405 for a family. Members pay for routine care like doctor&rsquo;s visits out of pocket.</p><p dir="ltr">When big things happen, like baby deliveries or broken legs, customers help repay each other&rsquo;s bills. Samaritan coordinates who pays whom.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Every month we send our check in, but we&rsquo;re not just sending it to a big company somewhere in Omaha or Providence, we&rsquo;re sending it to an actual person,&rdquo; Lansberry said. Once a year, members send their checks directly to the company to help with administrative costs.</p><p dir="ltr">But not everyone thinks this system works. Some consumer advocates like Kevin Lucia &nbsp;have misgivings.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I have concerns in part because some of the important consumer protections that apply to the individual market do not apply to health care sharing ministries,&rdquo; said Lucia, a senior research fellow at <a href="http://chir.georgetown.edu/">Georgetown University&rsquo;s Center on Health Insurance Reforms</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">These companies don&rsquo;t have to meet protections provided by the Affordable Care Act because they&rsquo;re exempted as religious ministries. That&rsquo;s why people who sign up for them <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/exemptions/">don&rsquo;t pay a penalty</a> for not having traditional insurance. The ministries are also exempt from many state and federal laws, Lucia said.</p><p dir="ltr">For instance, the ministries can cap reimbursements; and they don&rsquo;t have to cover pre-existing conditions.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://samaritanministries.org/how-it-works/faq/">Both of these things are true of Samaritan</a>, which caps reimbursements for a single need at $250,000, and qualifies how it covers pre-existing conditions. Some members are in an additional program to save up money and share higher costs for expensive things like cancer treatment that can easily top $250,000.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;In most states, there are reserve requirements because if a plan takes on too much risk and they can&rsquo;t pay out the claims for their members, there is this possibility the insurance company will go under,&rdquo; Lucia said. Ministries don&rsquo;t have to hold such reserves in case health needs outpace contributions.</p><p dir="ltr">When that happens at Samaritan, <a href="http://samaritanministries.org/how-it-works/faq/">the company prorates </a>how much people get paid back for their bills. After three months of this, it asks members to vote on increasing their monthly contributions.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Because they&rsquo;re not covered in many states under insurance law, (members) don&rsquo;t have this kind of army of consumer regulators that are available to protect them in case something goes wrong,&rdquo; Lucia said.</p><p dir="ltr">If there&rsquo;s a problem, Lucia said, the only remedy is the Attorney General&rsquo;s Office or the courts. The Illinois Attorney General&rsquo;s Office reports one complaint back in 2000, and no lawsuits show up in federal or Cook County court records.</p><p dir="ltr">Samaritan&rsquo;s James Lansberry said members regulate themselves: &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no direct regulation from any state or federal agency because there&rsquo;s no need for it. If we make our members upset, we won&rsquo;t have an organization.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">20 years after it started, Lansberry&rsquo;s organization is still here and growing stronger because of people like John Appleton. The West Chicago man&rsquo;s been a member of Samaritan Ministries for 15 years. He likens it to an Amish barn raising, where everyone voluntarily helps each other.</p><p dir="ltr">But he acknowledges not everyone will be comfortable with health care sharing ministries.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s all about where you put your faith,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;If some people would rather put their faith in the government or an insurance company, for us, we put our faith in Christ and his people.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a WBEZ reporter/producer covering culture and religion. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes">@LynetteKalsnes</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 17:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/bear-ye-one-another%E2%80%99s-burdens-chicago-christians-share-health-care-costs-110745 Tiny religious sect thrives in Chicagoland despite cultural clash http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/tiny-religious-sect-thrives-chicagoland-despite-cultural-clash-110712 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/jain%202.JPG" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Members of the Jain community in greater Chicago take part in a sacred pageant to celebrate the birth of a great teacher, Lord Mahavir, 2,600 years ago. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" /></div><p>When Hemali Shah was a girl, sometimes it was hard to be a Jain. She wanted to run in the grass with other kids, but had to worry about accidentally stepping on an insect, and killing it.</p><p><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/jainism/">Jainism</a> is a tiny Indian religious sect in Chicago. Jains believe in nonviolence, to the point of not harming any sentient being, through action or even thought.</p><p>&ldquo;I was an athlete, so I played softball a lot, and obviously if you&#39;re playing in the grass, there&rsquo;s lot of bugs, so I ended up playing in the infield,&rdquo; Shah said.</p><p>Shah is 24 now, and said she&rsquo;s happy to avoid the grass. But she still struggles with Jain teachings about not being possessive and accumulating stuff.</p><p>&ldquo;Everywhere they&rsquo;re showing mega scenes of the newest and best thing that everyone wants and I guess that&rsquo;s how it works in like, Hollywood. That&rsquo;s one of my impulses, getting something just because somebody else has it, which is I guess not good at all.&rdquo;</p><p>Shah said she filters these desires through Jainism: &ldquo;I end up not buying it because my Dad tells me not to, because my Dad is completely non possessive, he doesn&rsquo;t like things. And I feel like I&rsquo;m just going to be on (the TV show) &lsquo;Hoarders&rsquo;,&rdquo; she said with a laugh.</p><p>These Jain beliefs seemingly clash with some of the most powerful forces in American culture. Yet Jains are finding ways to adapt and even thrive here in the U.S. They&rsquo;re passing these beliefs on to the next generation during their holiest holiday this week, called <a href="http://www.jainworld.com/jainbooks/images/31/PARYUSHAN_PARVA.htm">Paryushan</a>, at their temple in Bartlett.</p><p>To celebrate Paryushan, Hemali Shah&rsquo;s been fasting for almost a month. She hasn&rsquo;t consumed anything but boiled water since July. The time she used to spend preparing food and eating, is now spent reading religious materials.</p><p>&ldquo;It does get me closer to my soul, &lsquo;cuz I know that&rsquo;s what the whole process is for. It just takes away all the other distractions like television, or music, or food,&rdquo; Shah said.</p><p>Unlike previous generations, Shah grew up surrounded by Jains. She has Jain friends, and even Jain bosses. That&rsquo;s because she lives in the northwest suburbs, which you could almost call Jain central. That&rsquo;s where many families settled, near the temple in Bartlett.</p><p>A bell rings out at the temple. A dozen men and women in colorful Indian robes and dresses sit on the gleaming white marble floor of the Jain temple. They&rsquo;re praying and reading scripture.<br /><br />Several wear cloths covering their mouths to prevent insects or other organisms from getting swallowed and dying.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/jain-temple.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Members of the Jain community pray and read scripture in their Bartlett Temple. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" /><div class="inserted-credit">&nbsp;</div><div class="inserted-credit">&ldquo;What we are celebrating is known as Paryushan, and what that really means is staying close to your own soul,&rdquo; said Dr. Mukesh Doshi, a trustee of the <a href="http://www.jsmconline.org/">Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago</a>. &ldquo;It is a time of reflection, it is a time of observing austerities, it is a time to get engaged in religious activities and to get our soul as close to its own original-in-heaven pureness as possible.&rdquo;</div></div></div><p>Along with embracing nonviolence and non-possession, Jainism also tries to respect multiple viewpoints. But the religion wasn&rsquo;t necessarily an easy sell to Jain children back in the &lsquo;60s.</p><p>There were only about 20 families here then. Dr. Doshi said they didn&rsquo;t have a temple, a guru, even a place of worship. They met in a doctor&rsquo;s home.</p><p>&ldquo;At that time it was a challenge even to find a vegetarian food when you are going out. And many of us have spent time eating nothing but the corn chips during the day because here is no other vegetarian food&hellip;only corn chips,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Times are different. The Jain Society in Bartlett now numbers 1,700 families, and has the largest Jain temple in the U.S.</p><p>Vegetarian food is easy to come by.</p><p>Still, Dr. Doshi said, &ldquo;We have to make some changes which are appropriate for the Western world. Like for example, devout Jains should not be eating anything, consuming either food or water after sunset, and it is very difficult to observe.&rdquo;</p><p>Jains aren&rsquo;t supposed to eat at night, because they believe preparing food can inadvertently kill insects or organisms.</p><p>Dr. Doshi said Jains aren&rsquo;t supposed to eat garlic, onions and root vegetables, either. Onions and garlics are believed to increase desire, while harvesting a root vegetable kills bugs and uproots the entire plant.</p><p>But avoiding these foods has been nearly impossible in the U.S., so many don&rsquo;t follow that requirement.</p><p>Paryushan is based on the lunar calendar, but so many people work Monday to Friday, Jain officials here had to shift the dates so people could come.</p><p>Dr. Doshi said the Jain Society also translates texts and prayers into English so youth can understand what they&rsquo;re saying.<br /><br />&ldquo;Our main goal at this time is since our kids are exposed to the Western culture, where a meat-eating population is the norm, to keep them vegetarian. Another biggest challenge is to keep them free of drugs, free of liquor, no smoking and we try to insist on no premarital sex,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The Jain Society teaches these traditions with religious education at its temple and community center, and through giant gatherings like the Paryushan observance.</p><p>Nearly 3,000 people sat in the audience at the Jain community center in Bartlett Saturday, watching raptly as a man dressed in gold robes led them in religious songs.</p><p>Several Jain families paraded around the stage and the auditorium, each led by a young woman carrying a gold object on her head. They were part of a sacred pageant celebrating the birthday 2,600 years ago of a great Jain teacher called Lord Mahavir. Many modern Jain teachings flow from him.</p><p>But some young Jains like Hemang Srikishan didn&rsquo;t come for the pageant. Instead of performing rituals like worshipping idols, they were downstairs at a seminar on how to apply ancient Jain teachings to the modern world.</p><p>&ldquo;Rituals and practices that were very common amongst my parents&rsquo; generation and much more so among previous generations are simply not enough, I think, for people in my generation to connect to,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Instead, Srikishan said some young Jains are pushing the principles behind the religion even further. Many are concerned about the living conditions of dairy cows and becoming became vegan. Others are careful about avoiding toiletries made with animal products or testing.</p><p>Srikishan -- who&rsquo;s Jain and Hindu -- practices the tenets of Jainism at work. He&rsquo;s a middle school math teacher, and students are good at pushing their teachers&rsquo; buttons.</p><p>&ldquo;I see it as not just as a process of failure, but a process of building up the kind of person you want to be and getting to continuously self improve,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>That&rsquo;s the essence of the teachings of Jainism.</p><p>Rather than succumbing to anger, Srikishan said, he tries to reflect, and to change his actions and his reactions to help his students.</p></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/tiny-religious-sect-thrives-chicagoland-despite-cultural-clash-110712