Those who read our touching story about abuse survivor Elizabeth Ann Murphy, courtesy of The Catholic Review in Baltimore, might be interested in a petition she is promoting to keep her abuser, former Catholic school teacher John A. Merzerbacher, in jail. Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore is among those who have signed on (see page 26 — signature 1268).
The book by the British author is due to be released next week — just a week before Pope Benedict XVI’s scheduled visit to Great Britain Sept. 16-19.
In his new book, Hawking, who is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, poses the question whether the universe needs a creator; he concludes that God is not a necessary part of creation because the laws of physics and gravity show that something can come from nothing.
In the past he has asserted that religious beliefs and science were not incompatible — a postion the Vatican does agree with.
While the Vatican hasn’t come out with a reaction to the book yet, one of our favorite Vatican astronomers, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, just sent us his reaction to Hawking’s claims:
“The ‘god’ that Stephen Hawking doesn’t believe in, is one I don’t believe in either. God is not just another force in the universe, alongside gravity or electricity. God is not a force to be invoked to ‘swell a progress, start a scene or two’ and fill the momentary gaps in our knowledge.
“God is the reason why existence itself exists. God is the reason why space and time and the laws of nature can be present for the forces to operate that Stephen Hawking is talking about.”
VATICAN CITY — Employees of the Vatican Museums spent more than three weeks this summer dusting the Sistine Chapel.
“Our restorers removed an unimaginable quantity of dust and sediment” from the walls and ceiling of the chapel, working at night from mid-July to Aug. 10, Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, told the Vatican newspaper.
Paolucci said Michelangelo’s famous frescoes and those of Botticelli and Perugino had not been touched in four years; with an average of 20,000 people entering the chapel each day and with the chapel sitting in the middle of a modern capital filled with cars, the dust and grime was significant.
To avoid disrupting summer visitors — and probably for their own safety — museum workers erected scaffolding each evening after the museum closed and took it down again each morning before the museum opened.
The museums’ crack team of restoration experts also used the nighttime cleaning project as an opportunity to evaluate the frescoes’ current condition, Paolucci said. Their conclusion is that someone, somewhere must be intelligent enough and technologically savvy enough to design a climate- and dust-control system that would prevent such a quick buildup of damaging grunge on the ceilings and walls.
The museums also announced this week that in September and October they again will open from 7-11 p.m. each Friday.
The Friday evenings in October will feature special events incorporating poetry, music and dance. As one example, “Australia Night,” Oct. 15, will feature a talk by Nereda White on the spirituality of aboriginal music and dance, as well as performances by indigenous people from Australia and the Torres Strait. The museum event precedes the canonization of the Australian Blessed Mary MacKillop Oct. 17.