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Positive Catholic Congressional Briefing on LGBT Rights

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The Catholic Bishops of the United States have been lobbying for years against equal rights for the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) community. There were prominent in favoring repeal of same sex marriage in California and Maine, and they pushed hard to keep it from becoming law recently in Maryland. In addition, they have lobbied against adoption rights and even equality in employment.

tNow, Catholics who favor human equality - no matter what a person’s sexual orientation - have come together to make a political impact for LGBT rights. Implicitly, they are saying to Members of Congress: you may hear from the Bishops on this, but they no longer represent most of the flock. We do.

tOn Wednesday, March 30, a coalition of Catholic groups called “Equally Blessed” sponsored a Congressional Briefing in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill. Congressional sponsors were Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA). It was attended by at least 100 people. I was pleased to moderate the session.

My Brother's Funeral Mass

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Funeral Masses ought to be times to mourn the passing of a family member or friend, as well as times to celebrate who they were and what they contributed to the community.

This is not always the case. Many Catholics have maddening stories to tell about pastors who are rigid with the rules, and funerals that were stale, "boiler plate," without anything that fit the life of the deceased.

But I was lucky recently, lucky to have found a priest who was open, compassionate and flexible.

On Heating Assistance for the Poor, Defending the Indefensible

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The effort that helps poor people pay their heating bills – the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – was launched in the 1970s with revenue from the “excess profit tax” (ah, those were the days!) on oil companies. Now, apparently, both Republicans and the Obama Administration agree that there’s not enough money to continue funding the program at current levels.

At today’s Huffington Post, the always-reliable Sam Stein provides a wonderful account of the hemming and hawing Energy Secretary Steven Chu was forced to resort to as he defended the Administration’s proposed $2.5 billion cut in LIHEAP funding. Defending the indefensible is difficult, even for a Nobel Laureate.

LIHEAP is a rubber-meets-the-road program. It is not sexy – not like converting some old technology to “green technology.” It is not high profile; those who benefit, the nation’s lowest income people living below the poverty line, are not typically the subjects of sympathetic newspaper profiles or television news segments.

\"Limitless\"? That's what you think

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Compared to this time last year when the only film that got my attention in the first months was "Winter's Bone," I have already seen some terrific films.

"Of Gods and Men," "Win Win," "Potiche" ("Trophy Wife"), "The Adjustment Bureau" though I have issues with it, and Julian Schnabel's "Miral." Today I saw "Limitless" and I cannot stop thinking about it. It is parked in my mind.

College president pick reflects dwindling number of brothers

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A recent story in the Lower Hudson News (N.Y.) presents a good overview of the state of the religious vocation to becoming a brother:

When Iona College recently named Joseph Nyre its eighth president, the announcement represented a sharp break from tradition because Nyre is not a Christian Brother.

Iona's first seven presidents were part of the Catholic community that founded the college in 1940 and has run dozens of top schools across the country.

These days, though, there are hardly any Christian Brothers young enough to be considered for such a demanding job. In fact, the role of all Catholic brothers in the U.S. has been quietly shrinking for decades as the often misunderstood "Brotherhood" gets smaller and older.

Only about 4,700 brothers from all communities are still serving nationally, compared to 12,300 in 1965, and their average age is close to 70. The Christian Brothers are a graying microcosm of this trend.

Morning Briefing

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Facebook and faith

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Faith can come from some unusual places -- a long-time friend of mine has found a ready supply on Facebook.

Jim's youngest child is siffering from a rare disorder, the kind of malady that can leave families feeling alone in their worries, isolated by their concerns.

But Jim found social media as a way to connect -- to reach out instead of withdraw, and the faithful responses he received surprised him.

He's written about it on the Huffington Post.

Quest found 'crammed with energy, pathos, yearning, celebration'

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With Elizabeth Johnson's Quest for the Living God under attack by the U.S. bishops' doctrinal committee, it is helpful going back to look at some of its book reviews.

Regina Schulte, a retired theologian living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, wrote one for Corpus Reports, the publication of a church renewal group by the same name.

The review follows:

This book is not a “how to” shopping guide for individuals seeking a religious faith or spirituality for their personal lives. Rather, as indicated by its sub-title, it is a survey of contemporary life experiences wherein communities of people are finding God’s presence in new territories.

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