Michael Peppard

Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University, author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard.

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Pope's trip to Israel canceled? Or not?

The small but dedicated world of Jewish-Christian relations is busy this morning trying to figure out what's going on. The Times of Israel reported yesterday that the Pope's trip to Israel has been canceled due to a labor dispute.

A source at the [foreign] ministry confirmed to The Times of Israel on Thursday that the pontiff’s trip was cancelled because Foreign Ministry workers are currently on strike and are unable to make the necessary arrangements for the high-profile visit.

The cancellation is likely to cause “large, measurable economic damage, with all the lost tourist revenue that would have accompanied the visit,” the source said.

The strike within Israel's diplomatic service would also endanger a visit from British PM David Cameron.

But a few hours ago, the Jerusalem Post countered yesterday's news:

Why the sacramental break between East and West?

Well-educated Catholics know a thing or two about why the Great Schism, separating the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity, occurred in the eleventh century. But most of us know just that -- only a thing or two. I'll include myself in that group: when students ask me, I say something about the filioque and papal authority.

A recent piece by historian George Demacopoulos posted on the blog of the Greek Archdiocese of North America shows the importance of contextualizing the split in the fuller contexts of canon law and the Crusades. He asks: "[H]ow exactly did it come to pass that the Orthodox Church forbid sacramental union (baptisms, marriages, the Eucharist, etc.) with Western Christians in the first place?"

Michael Sam's historic, nonchalant coming out

Sociologists and pollsters in the United States have noted that attitudes toward homosexuality have changed more rapidly than on any other major topic in the history of social science. The chart of overall change in the populace is stunning enough, and the generational change is even more dramatic (see below). But now, when I teach on this topic, I won’t bother using charts anymore. I’m just going to show a photograph of Michael Sam.

UPDATED Melinda Henneberger to speak on Pope and Politics (Fordham)

UPDATE: event to be rescheduled due to weather and campus closing on February 3.

In the past month, several major news outlets have raised the question of whether Pope Francis is having an effect on political figures in the United States. Kathleen Hennessey's A1 story in the Los Angeles Times reported on how and why President Obama, for example, had come to quote the Pope.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem: "Mass" or "Meeting?"

In an anticipated moment for ecumenism with the eastern churches, Pope Francis will meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during his three-day trip in late May. He made the announcement today, the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's meeting with Patriarch Athenagoras.

Visits to Bethlehem in the West Bank and Amman, Jordan, had already been revealed. The announcement of his plans in Jerusalem was what many were anticipating. A few weeks ago Israeli officials were concerned that Pope Francis might not celebrate Mass in Jerusalem during his trip. Now in today's reports there seems to be ambiguity about the function of the meeting at the Holy Sepulchre.

Pope's trip to Holy Land coming into focus

From Yediot Aharonot yesterday and The Tablet today come some tentative details about Pope Francis's trip to the Holy Land. The Israeli newspaper reports that the short trip's proposed schedule has "dashed hopes" of a Papal Mass in Jerusalem.

Is Catholicism compatible with libertarianism?

It's hard to believe that question is still being debated, isn't it? For over 100 years, the definitive answer is No. Pope after pope after pope, right up to Benedict XVI, has explained this in the most magisterial ways.

But perhaps it has taken Pope Francis's singular history, style, and gift for communication to break through the noise of American-style capitalism. Or perhaps the underbelly of globalization has finally come to light, through a combination of the explosion of financial capital, the worldwide recession, and the opportunities afforded by the Information Age for learning about the distant effects of almost-unregulated markets.

Whatever the reason, Pope Francis is getting through. He is obviously not a Marxist or socialist. But he is leveling strong critiques of the current state of global capitalism -- as it is actually being employed.  And to my mind, one of the best interpreters of his message (especially for those reading from the right-wing) has been Michael Gerson.

"Gospel of Jesus' Wife" - One year later

You may recall the hustle and bustle about the so-called "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" papyrus fragment from a year ago. I blogged about it a few times (here and here) and contributed to the Washington Post on it here. (And then Grant Gallicho cleverly mocked me at a Commonweal event, to which I responded here.)

Recently NT scholars Larry Hurtado and Mark Goodacre, both active bloggers, have raised questions about what has happened to this papyrus. While I am certainly not privy to the details at Harvard, I did have a chance to see infra red photos of the papyrus last year and to discuss it with some other papyrologists.

Below the jump I'll summarize my notes from that meeting (beyond what was previously blogged). Beware: content very boring to non-specialists!

Russell D. Moore: A Manifesto on "Some" Evangelicals

When I saw that Russell D. Moore had written a long piece about the so-called Evangelical “retreat” from American politics and culture wars, I was elated.

I am updating a syllabus for a course in religion and American politics, and I hoped this would be the perfect fresh take to round out our coverage of Evangelicalism. Certainly the media-savvy and next-generation Moore, the newish President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, would help my students understand the movement better than when they read speeches by his predecessor, Richard Land.

In short, I was primed for this essay.

Sadly, it is not assignable. This 4000-word feature, authored by the most prominent official of the Southern Baptists, is composed almost entirely of straw men.

Pope’s old friend, Rabbi Skorka, confirms Francis’s “total commitment” to the Jews

Tuesday night at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Rabbi Abraham Skorka spoke informally about his old friend, whom he calls “Bergoglio.” Talking in English on the topics of theology, Jewish-Christian relations, and the themes of Pope Francis’s pontificate, the Argentine Jewish leader combined memorable anecdotes with substantive reflections.

The event, “Pope Francis and the Jews,” was a unique opportunity for the mixed audience—mostly Jews—to hear behind-the-scenes stories about Francis, while also watching Skorka engage questions from Dr. Celia Deutsch, a Sister of Our Lady of Sion and professor of religion at Barnard College.

Since they co-authored a book of dialogues together, On Heaven and Earth (2010), the close relationship between the respective leaders of Jews and Catholics in Argentina has been well known. But recent months have shown the friendship to be deeper and more casual than many had realized. “Since he became pope, our friendship has become stronger,” Skorka said last night.

A long portion of the conversation focused on theology. Deutsch introduced a question by drawing a distinction between how theology is practiced in “the Global North,” especially North America and Europe, and what she sees in Skorka and Francis from the Global South. Theology in the Global North is often written by university professors for university professors, she noted, but “you two do accessible theology.” Skorka accepted the compliment: “Bergoglio and I agree, theology is not just for professionals.” The “task of theology” is easy to explain, he continued. “How to build a connection with God, respecting your neighbor.”

Skorka connected Francis’s “accessible” theology to his overall personality. Bergoglio is a “very pragmatic person,” he said. Yes, he “studied a lot,” but “first and foremost, he wants to pragmatize theology.” He has a “simple way, with simple words,” but a “very deep message.”