July 1st, 2007

Benedict XVI wind

Theological Notebook: NYT on Benedict XVI's Letter to Chinese Catholics

Long-awaited, Benedict XVI's letter to Chinese Catholics has finally been released and adds an increased impetus to the People's Republic to join the world with an increased freedom for religious liberty to match their economic liberalization.

Pope Makes Plea to China’s Catholics
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Published: July 1, 2007
The New York Times

ROME, June 30 — In an extraordinary open letter directed to Chinese Catholics and released Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged the suffering experienced by Catholics under Communist rule but also concluded that it was time to forgive past wrongdoings and for the underground and state-sponsored Catholic churches in China to reconcile.

Openly hoping for a renewal of relations between China and the Vatican, which were suspended in the late 1950s, Pope Benedict reassured the Chinese government that the Vatican offered no political challenge to its authority, while urging the state-sponsored Catholic Church to acknowledge the Vatican’s control on religious matters.

“The misunderstanding and incomprehension weighs heavily, serving neither the Chinese authorities nor the Catholic Church in China,” the letter said.

It was the pope’s long-awaited first official and explicit statement on China’s estimated 12 million Catholics, the majority of whom worship in underground churches to avoid having to register with the government and swear loyalty to it.

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Indy Says Study History

Random: Bennett Essay on the Teaching of American History

Dan Lloyd forwarded to me this passionate essay about the teaching of American History in our schools. I can understand how the topic could be politicized, of course (whether in the 8th century or the 21st, I've learned it's important not just to look at the original sources of what people studied, but perhaps even moreso the textbook treatments of those sources), but I didn't realize that the there were a variety of assessments that were judging our teaching of history as being so poor today. While I'm all for textbooks that don't gloss over America's appalling failures to live up to its ideals, it's just as important to note the centrality of those ideals, and that the ability to critique our government in the way we take for granted is in fact one of the greatest achievements of that government.

Or, to go to what is likely the heart of all ideological debates here, I ask: is an enthusiasm for the American experiment in our teaching of the subject of American History necessarily an exercise in propaganda? Or are the cynics right: is the study of history only and always propaganda? Is it all just perspectivism, once again?

June 29, 2007, 6:10 a.m.
Our National Alienation & Amnesia
How do we ask our children to fight, and perhaps die, for a country they do not know?

By William J. Bennett

Tens of millions of Americans are about to celebrate our nation’s Founding. The worrisome question is, will future generations take to this celebration the way we have for the past 231 years if they do not know the first, second, or third thing about their country?

Two years ago, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough told the U.S. Senate that American History was our nation’s worst subject in school. The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (a.k.a., “our Nation’s Report Card”), released last month, bears that out again. Our children do worse in American history than they do in reading or math. McCullough testified we were facing the prospect of national amnesia, saying, “Amnesia of society is just as detrimental as amnesia for the individual. We are running a terrible risk. Our very freedom depends on education, and we are failing our children in not providing that education.”

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