NCR Today

Award-winning anti-violence film makes the rounds

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The Interrupters, an award-winning documentary by director Steve James and author Alex Kotlowitz, is generating quite a buzz this month.

The movie tells the story of three violence interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. All three work for Ceasefire, an innovative organization founded by Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist who believes violence mimics the spread of infectious disease and requires similar treatment: attend to the most infected and stop the infection.

The documentary, which received Official Selection at Sundance 2011, is scheduled to be aired at 9 p.m. Eastern time Feb. 14 on PBS's "Frontline," followed by a special panel discussion on WTTW's Chicago Tonight.

E.J. Dionne on the complexities of Catholic views on HHS mandate

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Columnist E.J. Dionne, in today's Washington Post, provides a lucid explanation of why a lot of liberal Catholics lined up to criticize the narrow Health and Human Services religious exception on covering contraceptives. And he explains why so many liberals stay put in a denomination with which they might have major disagreements on some issues.

In part, he writes: "Those of us who are liberal Catholics have remained in the church for reasons beyond tribal loyalties or a desire to honor the traditions of our parents and grandparents. At the heart of the love many of us have for the church — despite our frustrations over its abysmal handling of the pedophilia scandal and its reluctance to grant women the rights they are due — is a profound respect for the fact on so many questions that count, Catholicism walks its talk and harnesses its faith to the good works the Gospel demands."

Facing the elephant in the room of Vatican disarray

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ROME -- A consistory, the event in which a pope creates new cardinals, is supposed to have a festive air. New cardinals bring family, friends and supporters to Rome, to see the sights and to enjoy one another’s company. The afternoon of the consistory is the only time the doors of the Apostolic Palace are flung open to the general public, giving the place the feel of a block party.

Vatican lawyer's statement on end of sex abuse case

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ROME -- On Friday, lawyers for the victim in a Wisconsin sex abuse case voluntarily withdrew a lawsuit against the Vatican, which had also named Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State, and Angelo Sodano, his predecessor, as defendants. The case helped ignite a media firestorm in 2010 about the role of Pope Benedict XVI in the sex abuse scandals, suggesting that while he was still a Vatican official he had delayed action against the late Fr. Lawrence Murphy, accused of molesting some 200 boys at a Milwaukee-area school for the deaf between 1950 and 1974.

See also: Explosive sex abuse lawsuit against Vatican dropped

The following is a statement released on Saturday by California-based attorney Jeffrey Lena, who represents the Vatican in American litigation.

* * *

Statement of Jeffrey S. Lena Regarding John Doe 16 v. Holy See, et al.
(Case No. 2:10-cv-00346 RTR, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin)

White House compromise manages to please both sides

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I did not think this was possible. When I learned of the White House compromise on contraceptive coverage in health insurance, I was struck by a headline saying that BOTH the Catholic Health Association AND Planned Parenthood were pleased with the compromise.

A few groups at both ends of the political spectrum still have problems, but most groups seem to feel that their concerns have been heard and addressed.

The compromise says simply that if a religious institution does not want to include contraception in a health insurance package for moral reasons, then insurance companies are required to supply it directly -- without a co-pay. The cost is shifted from employers to insurers. The administration believes that insurers will not object because contraceptives save more money than they cost because they prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Sounds like a plan to me. It respects the "consciences" of any Catholic leader who objects to paying for birth control coverage, and yet it makes that service available to women through another route. Religious liberty and women's rights are both respected.

Good reading on the contraception issue

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My colleague Jamie Manson cites a piece from "PBS Newshour" in her blog post today alerting NCR readers that the "Bishops' expansion of conscience exemptions is broader than we think."

While much of the reporting on this issue has been problematic, here are some other pieces that do a good job of honestly exploring this issue:

But some of the greatest wisdom I've read on the topic is to be found in the comments from many loyal and long-time NCR readers and subscribers who commented on yesterday's editorial about this matter. I urge you to find the time to read them.

Facing bad press, the Vatican comes out swinging

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ROME -- In the teeth of what it regards as inaccurate or biased media coverage, the Vatican has traditionally adopted a posture that might be described as serene indifference: “This affair will be forgotten tomorrow, but we will still be here in a thousand years,” or so the theory goes.

t Coupled with that lofty view is often a grubbier bit of PR wisdom: You risk giving a story legs simply by responding to it.

tTaken together, those cautions historically have meant the Vatican rarely responds to hostile coverage, and when it does, its public statements are usually slow, measured, and parsimonious. (When a furor erupted in early 2010 over an alleged plot by senior Vatican personnel to sabotage an Italian journalist named Dino Boffo, for instance, the Vatican maintained a steady silence for 18 full days.)

Of late, however, we’ve seen a break with form, as the Vatican has instead come out swinging.

Bishops' expansion of conscience exemptions is much broader than we think

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If you listened carefully to the "PBS News Hour" interview with Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and a chill didn't go up your spine, allow me to highlight one crucial moment in the conversation that ought to be cause for alarm.

Co-host Ray Suarez questioned Picarello about the breadth of protection sought by the bishops. Here is his response:

ANTHONY PICARELLO: ... I think, again, what we're looking for in terms of breadth is to protect the religious liberty interests and consciences of all of those who would be affected by the mandate. So that means employers -- religious employers, yes, but also employers with religious people running them or other people of conviction who are running them.

It means religious insurers. And they do exist. Under this mandate, they're required to include in their policies that they write things that they don't agree with as a matter of religious conviction, and individuals as well who have to pay for it through their premiums.

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May 19-June 1, 2017

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