Century Marks

Century Marks

Demon possessed?

Pope Francis’s open recognition of the devil is making some Catholic theologians nervous, leading one to accuse the pope of opening the door to superstition. Quoting his critics, Francis said recently at a Vatican mass, “But Father, how old-fashioned you are to speak about the devil in the 21st century.” He has praised the International Association of Exorcists, and a Vatican-sanctioned convention on exorcism was held recently. “The sad truth is that there are many bishops and priests in our church who do not really believe in the devil,” a priest-exorcist said at the conference (Washington Post, May 10).

Christian kindness

Desiderius Erasmus, the Catholic reformer and humanist known for his work on the New Testament, wrote commentaries on 11 Psalms. In a study of Psalm 38, he offered a long litany of the failings of the church and its theologians. He added these pastoral words: “It is a mark of Christian kindness not to make rash judgments and to forgive human error in others, while not forgetting one’s own weaknesses; to put a favorable interpretation on anything which has been ambiguously expressed and to express sincere approval of things which have been well said” (Howard Louthan, in Church History, March).

The study of life

Universities have given up their primary role of asking about the meaning of life, says Miroslav Volf, professor of theology at Yale. Students are left on their own to choose the “end” of their lives, and they do that like we choose consumer goods—it’s a matter of preference. “The Christian faith can help universities build robust humanities programs in which the question of life worth living figures prominently,” says Volf. “This may in fact be the most important contribution that the Christian faith has to make to the flourishing of universities.” Volf is co-teaching a course at Yale called “Life Worth Living” (ABC Religion and Ethics, April 30).

Grace under pressure

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter spent 19 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Last month Judge H. Lee Sarokin, who released Carter from prison 28 years ago, was surprised to get a call from Carter. “I want yours to be the last voice I hear before I pass away, because you were the one who gave my life back to me. I love you, man.” They both had a cry. Several days later Carter died from cancer. Every year Carter had called Judge Sarokin on the anniversary of his release. Carter, who gained fame as a boxer, was never bitter about his incarceration and was positive to the end, said Judge Sarokin. “I was honored to know him and be his friend” (Huffington Post, April 23).

Top 100

Barbara Brown Taylor, a Century editor at large, has been chosen by Time magazine as one of its 100 most influential people. “Few souls are as synched to the world’s mysteries as Barbara Brown Taylor’s,” writes Time correspondent Elizabeth Dias. Taylor’s latest book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, was featured in the cover story for Time’s April 28 issue. This year’s list of influential people included 41 women, a record number (Time, May 5).