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Bishop struggles with change in Camden diocese

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According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Since Camden Bishop Joseph Galante began merging South Jersey parishes three years ago in what has become a model for dioceses nationwide, Mass attendance has fallen substantially, according to data provided by the diocese.

In the fall of 2006, a year and a half before Galante announced that he planned to reduce the number of parishes by more than a third, the annual fall Mass count was 114,000 parishioners. Last fall, the count dropped below 100,000 in the diocese, which stretches across southern New Jersey.

"Yes, it's disappointing," Galante said Tuesday. "But the diminution in Mass attendance didn't happen overnight, and I don't expect that overnight it will suddenly recover."

A former undersecretary at the Vatican, Galante has made the issue of helping parishes overcome a priest shortage and falling attendance his signature mission since taking over the Camden Diocese in late 2004. In his first year, he went out to the churches, sometimes visiting four in a week, and concluded that downsizing was the only option.

American employees as Third World workers

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A factory-focused battle in rural Virginia provides a stark look at what global corporatism means when the exploited Third World workers are Americans.

A compelling article in The Los Angeles Times details the conditions and anger at a Swedish-owned factory in Danville, Virginia that churns out low-cost furniture for IKEA stores -- the darling of hip, young urbanites.

On this day: St. Guthlac

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On this day we commemorate Guthlac, an Anglo-Saxon saint who lived as a hermit in the fens of East Anglia in the early 8th century.

"Because of the ambiguity of the Old English word beorg, which can mean both "hill" and "tomb," scholars have debated whether or not the beorg which Guthlac inhabits in Guthlac A is a pre-Christian burial site. Whether it is a tomb or simply a hill, Guthlac's fenland beorg bears an interesting likeness to the tombs of Tolkien's barrow-wights in The Fellowship of the Ring. Both are situated in a misty borderland area, and both are occupied by a nebulous demonic presence which is eventually exorcised."

--J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment, edited by Michael D. C. Drout, Routledge, 2007, page 262.

Idea of suffering behind bishops' critique of Johnson's book?

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John F. Haught, Senior Fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, writing on the Commonweal blog examines the issue of evolution and God's role in human suffering as he critiques the U.S. doctrine committee's stinging rebuke of Fordham University Elizabeth Johnson's "Quest for the Living God."

Haught writes: "In order to take evolution seriously theology has to ask whether God cares about the suffering of all living beings, not just humans. Today almost all theologians who take evolution seriously have accepted the idea of a suffering God in one form or another. Of course, what it means to say that God suffers has always been a matter of dispute in theology, and the issue remains unsettled."

Kmiec faces friendly fire

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If outcomes are what matters, then Douglas Kmiec, US Ambassador to Malta, appears to be doing a fine job.

“The Ambassador had been at post more than a year at the time of the inspection, and had achieved some policy successes,” according to a report from the State Department's Inspector General released Thursday.

So what’s the problem?

Kmiec, it seems, “has created friction with principal officials in Washington"

Secret Church in Czechoslovakia honored

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The Tablet today posted a fascinating piece by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt about the secret church that sustained the Catholic community in the former Czechoslovakia during four decades of Communist rule.

It has become increasingly clear in our own time of crisis in the church – granted most of it self-imposed and not a matter of state interference – that when things get bad enough the community can always find the theology to meet the need. Too few priests? All of sudden pastoral associates, who could be nuns or lay people or a married couple, have what it takes to run a parish.

Seminaries short on single, celibate men? Other schools of ministry are filled with lay people doing theology and studying pastoral skills needed to minister. Or we bring in foreign priests or ordain waves of married men as deacons or accept men from other denominations and allow them to break the unbreakable rule and bring their wives and families to ordination.

Budget debate highlights importance of telling the truth

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When I was a kid I got into the habit of lying because I was good at it, not because I was doing anything terrible that I wanted to hide. This habit persisted into adulthood until I recognized it in a moment of grace when I was in my 30s. I had said yes, that I planned to attend some event when I had no intention of going.

There was no reason for the lie. No one would think less of me for not going. My sudden realization was a shattering insight that I was not a truthful person. I began to catch my lies, correct myself and tell the truth.

In the course of that process, I gained new understandings about truth -- not only that its ramifications are much less harmful than lies but even more that simply being honest is a radical choice to benefit the common good and that it leads to deeper thinking and better solutions to all sorts of human situations. I began to grasp my college philosophy professor’s ramblings about how the good and the true yield the beautiful.

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April 22-May 5, 2016

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