Vatican to debate 'noble' atheists

As Western culture becomes more and more secular, the Vatican is hoping to engage atheists and agnostics in a series of debates on faith as part of its recently created foundation, “The Courtyard of the Gentiles.”  

According to The Independent, the Vatican plans to stage the debates in Paris next year. 

The foundation is in line with one of Pope Benedict XVI’s main goals of his papacy: to fight the growing secularism in the West, with its deep Christian roots.  

“The Church is open to cooperating with anyone who does not marginalize or reduce to the private sphere the essential consideration of the meaning of life,” the pontiff said during his visit to Portugal last month. 

Perhaps that’s why atheists who have sought to marginalize or reduce the role of religion will not be invited. As Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told the National Catholic Register, the foundation would only engage with “noble atheism or agnosticism, not the polemical kind — so not those atheists such as [Piergiorgio] Odifreddi in Italy, [Michel] Onfray in France, [Christopher] Hitchens and [Richard] Dawkins.”

Catholic music in space

Catholic musician Matt Maher’s songs are out of this world. No, that’s not just our opinion; it’s fact.  

As Maher announced last month on his MySpace blog (blogs.myspace.com/mattmahermusic), Mike Good, one of the astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which landed after what is scheduled to be its final mission May 26, brought a copy of Maher’s CD “Alive Again” along with him on the flight. 

In fact, the astronaut, who is a University of Notre Dame graduate, gave a shoutout to the CD’s invigorating title track during a call with NASA’s headquarters in Houston: “Good morning Houston! It’s great to wake up here in space again. We’re looking forward to another beautiful day docked at the International Space Station. I thank God for this opportunity to view the glory of His creation from this perspective — and thanks to Matt Maher for that song, ‘Alive Again.’” 

This was Maher’s third appearance on a space mission.

Atheist teacher at Catholic school? It doesn't add up

An Iowa teacher is learning the hard way that what people post on social media websites can come back to haunt them professionally. 

According to the Des Moines Register, Abby Nurre was teaching math at St. Edmond Catholic School in Fort Dodge, Iowa, last fall when she marked on a Facebook survey that she didn’t believe in God, miracles or heaven. Later, she posted a comment on an online forum called Atheist Nexus. 

She was fired from the school and had been in battle with the school and the Iowa Catholic Conference on whether or not she should receive unemployment benefits. An administrative law judge recently ruled that she was entitled to the benefits. 

Nurre has denied she advocated atheism, and claimed that because her opinions were not shared with students, she should not have been fired. 

That’s not the point, however. Catholic schools exist for the formation of students both in educational pursuits and Catholic morality and social values. Students deserve to have teachers who will pass on the faith and be obedient to Church teachings. It’s hard to see how someone who denies a belief in God could be a part of that mission.