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Nostalgia takes wing

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Each new TV season is a bit like a national Rorschach test: the shows that audiences choose to check out often reveal or confirm something deeper about who we are and where we are. So far, this season has brought us mass psychology delivered in a package stamped "Pan Am."

The ABC series is set in 1963 and focuses on the glamorous lives of four jet-setting stewardesses who fly the international skies of the now-defunct, then-supreme Pan American Airways. The show draws inspiration from the cable hit "Mad Men," set on Madison Avenue in the same era -- but with crucial differences that provide some interesting insights.

"Mad Men" takes a skeptical and skewed look at the early '60s: drinking, smoking, and racial and gender attitudes are all played with a "can you believe people acted this way?" attitude that seeks to show us how far we've come, even if the suits and haircuts then looked much hipper.

But there's nothing like that raised-eyebrow in "Pan Am."

On this day: Pope John Paul I

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On this day in 1978, Pope John Paul I died in his bed at the Vatican. He had reigned only 33 days. His body was discovered the next morning by Sister Vinceza Tafferel, one of the four nuns who served him.

Odd behavior and inconsistent statements by Vatican officials raised questions about what had caused the new Pope's sudden and unprovided death.

"I am completely convinced that Pope John Paul I, Albino Luciani, was murdered."

--In God's Name: An Investigation Into the Murder of Pope John Paul I, by David Yallop, Carroll & Graf, 2007 edition, page 228.

Death is a mystery

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In the past three months a dear friend died and a dear friend of my mother's died. Neither one was a member of organized religion and I was asked to lead the memorial services.

It has put me in mind of death as a mystery. Another friend, a priest who has also died, Jim Krings, said to me once, don't try to explain death. Don't let yourself or anyone else think they can understand it.

That was my first point in my brief opening homilette: Death is a mystery.

Secondly, I am so aware for myself that I bring to every funeral all my own past losses. Brothers, friends, my father -- they are in the background of my mind. That word loss is so short and simple but it stands for holes in our lives, missing persons, unfinished conversations.

And in the moment of feeling loss so acutely, we also feel alive. Life is at least as much a mystery as death. How did we come to be and what is our meaning? And so we are grateful. We mourn the loss and we celebrate the life.

Celebrating 100 years and 135 years in Catholic health care

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September marks at least two anniversaries in Catholic health care, both in California. For a look at "then" and "now," read this story about St. John's Regional Medical Center, founded 100 years ago in Oxnard by the Sisters of Mercy, or this one, about the arrival of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael in Stockton 135 years ago.

Former Abbot: Paul VI undermined Vatican II

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In a talk delivered at a Spanish theological congress in early September, an Italian former Benedictine abbot said problems with implementing Vatican II began with Pope Paul VI.

It was he, said Giovanni Franzoni, who intervened at critical moments during the council to dilute various council documents, resulting in ambivalent interpretations and contradiction as to their true meaning.

Franzoni, who attended the council, said, "In many places...it is said that John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ... were the ones who put a stop to the post-conciliar ferment, imposing a restrictive, minimalist interpretation of Vatican II. However, in my opinion ... Paul VI set the premises so that the Council could be, at least in part, 'tamed' and the post-conciliar period 'cooled down.'"

Netherlands: health care abuses

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Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) says it has found more evidence of abuses that "went on unreported for years in Dutch Roman Catholic homes for the mentally disabled," including "sex offences, castration, secret medical experiments and possibly murder," according to this report.

Read RNW's previous coverage of deaths at Catholic homes for mentally disabled boys and girls in the 1950s here and here.

Gold brings little wealth to Guatemala

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I went to Guatemala last week for meetings with sisters there about several projects we work on together. The four of us from the U.S. attended a special presentation on Goldcorp Mining Company.

Goldcorp is mining gold (what else?) in the western mountains of Guatemala, in the San Marcos province. When the company bought the land, parcel by parcel, agents told the people a huge orchid farm would be established, offering jobs and the opportunity to work in beauty. The land is poor and people were glad to sell for modest prices – until one holdout was paid $40,000.

Bridgport, Conn. diocese begins parish closings; Norwich, Conn. diocese \"clustering\"

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From the Connecticut Post:

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport's just-unveiled plan to close three longtime churches in the city prompted some parishioners to make their displeasure known to Bishop William Lori Sunday.

By some accounts, the bishop was booed as he addressed more than 100 parishioners at Holy Rosary Parish on East Washington Avenue.

"This is nothing more than a money grab," said Chris Caruso, a parishioner at Holy Rosary and a former state representative. "We have the money and they want to grab it. I've been a Catholic for 52 years and I am praying that the bishop tells us what is really happening and be square with us."

And yesterday, from the Norwich newspaper, The Day:


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich will hold informational meetings tonight and next Monday on "clustering" parishes in the New London deanery.

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