Century Marks

Century Marks

Papal powers

Liberal Catholic theologian Hans Küng points out the Ro­man Catholic Church got along without the papacy as we know it today for a millennium. It was Pope Gregory VII in the 11th century who gave Catholics three enduring elements of the Roman system: “a centralist-absolutist papacy, compulsory clericalism and the obligation of celibacy for priests and other secular clergy.” Küng argues that the church needs a pope who knows how deep the church’s crisis is and how to lead the church out of it. He calls for the church to hold another council along the lines of Vatican II, this time gathering a “representative assembly of bishops, priests and lay people” (New York Times, February 27).

Protest in the academy

Marshall Sahlins, a highly regarded anthropologist at the University of Chicago, has resigned from the National Academy of Sciences in protest. He objected to military-related research projects done by the academy and the election of anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon to the NSA. If it is involved at all in military-related projects, Sahlins said, NAS “should be studying how to promote peace, not how to make war.” Sahlins accuses Chagnon of having “done serious harm to the indigenous communities among whom he did research.” Chagnon has just published a new book, Noble Savages (InsideHigherEd, February 25).

About face

S. Brian Willson’s parents were conservative Baptists in upstate New York. His father belonged to the John Birch Society and gave money to the Ku Klux Klan. Willson became an airforce officer and served in Vietnam, where he came upon a South Vietnamese village that had just been napalmed by American forces. Most of the victims—dead or lying in pain on the ground—were women and children. He began to sob and gag at the scene. This experience turned him into a war resister. He lost his legs while lying across a railroad track in the U.S., trying to block a train carrying munitions. Willson, who is also dedicated to ecological concerns, has ridden 60,000 miles on a handcycle since 1997 (Sun, March).

Outsourced weddings

A focus on elaborate wedding ceremonies has led to the quest for the perfect wedding and rising employment for wedding planners. Wedding planners often play the role of pastor and therapist. Expensive weddings cause some wedding guests to joke that they hope the marriage lasts long enough to pay off the wedding (Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of The Outsourced Self, interviewed by Mars Hill Audio Journal, vol. 115).


The massive infestation of locusts in Egypt right before the Jewish Passover struck many Israelis as downright biblical. Millions of grasshopper-like insects swarmed over Israel’s neighbor, and some made their way to southern Israel. Israeli agricultural experts are on high alert, fearing that the locusts could devastate crops. Some Israelis have noted that varieties of the leggy pests are kosher. Locusts were the eighth plague visited upon the Egyptians, according to the Exodus story (RNS).