- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

Bishops issue stricter priest-training guide

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a new program for training seminarians that reflects the toughened policy of the church on clergy sex abuse.

The updated Program of Priestly Formation has a greater emphasis on the emotional and spiritual development of candidates for the Roman Catholic priesthood, including helping seminarians better prepare for a life of celibacy.

The program also spells out that applicants with any record of sexually abusing minors will be rejected. In addition, the 98-page document states that seminaries must follow the guidelines of the Holy See on applicants “with same-sex experiences and/or inclinations.”

Last November, the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education issued a document designed to keep men with “deep-seated” same-sex attraction out of the priesthood.

The revised edition updates a 1992 program and has approval from the Vatican for five years.

Secular group joins religious program

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — A Colorado Springs group dedicated to separation of church and state has been added to an Air Force Academy religious education program that has been criticized for promoting evangelical Christianity.

Free Thinkers of Colorado Springs has joined the school’s Special Programs in Religious Education, an umbrella group for extracurricular religious programs.

The academy should be congratulated for recognizing “the need to expand mentoring services to cadets by including the secular as well as the religious,” Jeff Lucas of Free Thinkers said in a statement.

Free Thinkers formed in 1993 in response to “the special threat we find from religious groups in Colorado Springs,” according to the group’s Web site.

The group bills itself as “a haven for people moving away from religious dogma.”

Free Thinkers hopes to start work at the academy with weekly discussions and bring in scientists, authors and academics.

Academy leaders have been accused of using the religious education program to impose Christianity on cadets. Air Force graduate Mikey Weinstein, a lawyer in Albuquerque, N.M., who is Jewish, is suing the Air Force over claims that academy officials have illegally forced evangelical Christian views on cadets.

An Air Force task force said last year that it found no overt religious discrimination at the school but that some cadets and staff were insensitive.

Jordan’s militants blocked from pulpit

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan’s parliament has approved a law that gives the state the authority to approve mosque preachers, a setback for Muslim militants seeking to enter the country’s pulpits. King Abdullah II must decide whether to sign the legislation.

Following last November’s triple hotel blasts in Amman, Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit pledged to tighten Islamic teaching at mosques to prevent extremist ideology from taking root.

Violators can be imprisoned up to one month and fined up to $142.

Al Qaeda in Iraq took responsibility for the hotel bombings, which killed 60 persons.

The new law, replacing one enacted in 1986, was approved by a show of hands after a heated debate during which some lawmakers accused the government of curbing religious freedoms and succumbing to U.S. and Israeli pressure to crack down on hard-line preachers.

“The government is pleasing the Zionists and the Americans by gagging the people who speak out on resistance and jihad [holy war],” said legislator Abdul-Rahim Malhas.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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