Bulletins from the Human Side

A sunken cruise ship, a missing couple and a Religious Mystery


We all feel that we know Barbara and Jerry Heil, a Catholic couple presumed dead after the cruise ship Costa Concordia, like a prehistoric creature too clumsy to escape its adversary, heaved its wounded bulk one last time before turning on its side and dying in the shallow waters off the Tuscan coast.

Jerry and Barbara Heil are remembered by their grieving fellow parishioners at St. Pius X Church in White Bear Lake, Minn., as "quiet kindly people deeply involved in the congregation."

Who knew an Irish seminary could be so much like a prison?


NCR received a letter from Msgr. Hugh G Connolly, president of Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth, the national seminary of Ireland. Msgr. Connolly objected to this web column by Eugene Kennedy.

Msgr. Connolly requested the opportunity to respond to Kennedy’s column. To meet that request, I am printing in full Msgr. Connolly’s written statement that gives his account of the changes at the college: Maynooth seminary head objects to Kennedy’s portrayal

Dennis Coday,
NCR Editor


In a story likely to be unsurpassed as what psychologists term an "unobtrusive measure" of what is wrong with the Catholic church in Ireland, its venerable national seminary at Maynooth has decided, according to The Irish Catholic, to "separate the seminary environment from the wider university community."

The new year and the mystery in the mundane


The cackling and cawing of the media birds of prey stripping the Iowa cornfields clean blurred the weekend of our transition into a new year. Yet their departure from Iowa in a noisy fluttering wedge to disturb the peace elsewhere reminds us, as does this steep path of descent from the craggy peak of one year to the lush foothills of another, of the Mystery that swirls around this familiar passage.

Christmas is a bulletin from the human side


The New York Times recently asked an author of a book on imaginary gardens to review a new book that was actually old hat in its debunking the idea that the Garden of Eden and its alleged inhabitants, Adam and Eve, ever really existed.

That flatfooted reduction of the first power couple and their idyllic garden to inventions, like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, to beguile children and the gullible masses, is one of the misunderstandings of the myth of Eden that causes us to miss the spiritual and psychological meaning of this account of our origins.

Separated at birth: clerical and athletic cultures


The Oxford English Dictionary offers several definitions of culture, at least two of which help us understand the sex abuse scandals that have burst into flame on the campuses of Penn State and Syracuse universities and the very same scandal that is still eating its windswept way across the vast prairie of the Catholic church.

These are different faces of a scandal where origins and accelerants are exactly the same. They are functions of the cultures in which the blazes exploded from the same kindling, waxed stronger as the officials perched atop their common hierarchical structures, certain that they could keep them under control, decided not to pull the fire alarm -- what the heck, the fire chief and the newspaper editor were old friends of ours, we can count on them to keep this quiet and, besides, reporting it might increase our insurance rates, and we've had little fires before and if you don't make a big deal out of them, they burn themselves out.

Rome is burning, new texts are fiddling


I must credit my wife for the best observation I heard as we drifted out of Mass among other grumbling survivors of the wreckage of the most over-ballyhooed maiden voyage since that of the Titanic a century ago. Rome, as she observed, is indeed burning, and the pope, surely winking like a German paterfamilias aware that he isn't fooling anybody in his Santa Claus suit, boasts that the Catholic church is leading the way in the war against sex abuse.

What is the sin of Bishop Finn?


Not many bishops can drag their whole diocese with them when they get indicted for failing to report information about a priest predator to the authorities. Sadly, many people are neither surprised nor saddened that Bishop Robert Finn has brought the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese -- the institutional apparatus not the people who are really the Church -- down this rabbit hole of ignominy with him for failing to act about a priest with a computer filled with child pornography.

A modern Adam and Eve re-enter paradise


They would never have thought about themselves in this way. In fact, they didn't think much about themselves at all. That is what made them both great and good at the same time, a combination that is elusive in what we might call the Age of the Drone that refers not to silent airborne weapons that blow people up suddenly, but to the grating windblown political pundits who bore people to death slowly.


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In This Issue

July 14-27, 2017