Century Marks

Century Marks

Just said no I

Ägidius Zsifkokvics, a Roman Catholic bishop in Austria, is refusing to allow an anti-immigrant fence to be built on church property. The Austrian government is building a fence along its southern border to prevent immigrants from entering from Hungary, maintaining it is already overwhelmed with an influx of 90,000 immigrants last year. Part of the fence is projected to cross land owned by the Catholic Church. Bishop Zsifkokvics said he grew up with the iron curtain and remembers his relief when it came down. “A fence would be contrary to the spirit of the gospel and Pope Francis’s clear message to Europe,” he said. The church’s refusal means there will be a gap in the fence (Telegraph, April 22).

Tax dodgers

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have one thing in common—an address in a nondescript, two-story office building in Wilmington, Delaware. Hillary and Bill Clinton each have a corporation registered there. Of Trump’s 515 companies, 378 are registered in Delaware. The building is officially the home of Apple, American Airlines, Coca-Cola, Walmart, and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies. It has registered 15 times more addresses than a well-known tax-dodge center in the Cayman Islands. Because of tax laws in Delaware, companies there are able to avoid paying taxes in other states, costing those states an estimated $9 billion. Neither Clinton nor Trump has been willing to explain why they have registered with the state of Delaware (Guardian, April 25).

Just said no II

The citizens of Tacoma, Washington, are celebrating after plans for a $3.4 billion methanol plant were canceled by a Chinese-backed venture. The plant, which would have been the world’s largest, was to be located in an industrial area in Tacoma. The methanol would have been shipped to China. Some citizens were concerned about the intensive use of water the plant would have required; others worried about safety. The company behind the project backed out because there were too many delays and issues in the regulatory process and the environmental impact review. It still plans two other methanol plants in the region (Fusion, April 20).

Earthy spirituality

Christopher Pramuk sees a connection between Thomas Merton and Pope Francis. What binds them together is St. Francis’s awareness that the fate of the earth and the fate of God’s creatures are integrally related. As Pope Francis wrote in Laudato si’: “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. . . . There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology.” Pramuk says that Merton’s writings embody what Pope Francis calls an “integral ecology,” challenging modern certainties and envisioning a different way of being human in the world (Los Angeles Review of Books, April 23).

Wolf in sheep’s clothing?

The United Church of Canada has decided to proceed with the review of Gretta Vosper, an ordained minister, that could lead to her being defrocked. Vosper openly says that she believes neither in God nor the Bible, going against the denomination’s ordination vows, which include belief in a triune God. Her lawyers have submitted 1,687 pages challenging the review, but the judicial committee responded with a terse, one-page response saying it saw no reason why the review, not yet scheduled, shouldn’t proceed. Vosper’s Toronto congregation is standing behind her. The review was initiated after Vosper sent an open letter to the church’s spiritual leader following the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. In the letter Vosper argued that belief in God can motivate people to do bad things (Canadian Press, March 31).