NCR Today

Morning Briefing

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Los Angeles archdiocese loses a precious resource

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A few days ago, the story broke that Bishop Gabino Zavala of the Los Angeles archdiocese had fathered two children who are now young teenagers and living with their mother in another state.

As a result of this revelation, Bishop Zavala has resigned as auxiliary bishop serving a predominantly Latino area of the larger Los Angeles metropolitan area. This is a real tragedy, especially because Zavala is a highly progressive liberationist who has promoted Catholic social doctrine and social justice issues, including the interests of Latino Catholics and the immigrant community.

He has served as president of Pax Christi USA, which advocates world peace. He has worked against capital punishment and has supported immigration reform that would allow undocumented immigrants to regularize their status. His resignation and forced departure from his position of influence leaves a major gap in church leadership, especially among the majority Latino Catholic population of the L.A. archdiocese.

Hidden in the Same Mystery

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Fifty years ago today – January 9, 1962 – the Trappist Monk Thomas Merton visited the Mother House of the Sisters of Loretto and spoke to a group of second-year novices. He reflected on the presence of Christ in their lives, about not waiting to “encounter Christ in the future,” but rather recognizing the encounter was taking place in the present moment – every moment of their lives.

Apologizing for Iraq

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The end of 2011 marked the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. In mid-December, I listened, while I baked Christmas cookies, to the various reports on NPR about a war that wheezed to an end without the signing of a treaty.

Here in my warm kitchen, where heat and electricity are a given, the destruction of Iraq seemed a distant event, a bit of news that I could take in or turn off with the flick of a switch.

Reports about the war's conclusion brought on a flood of memories. I remembered the many demonstrations I attended during the winter of 2002/2003. Worcester. Washington, D.C. New York. It was a time of frenetic peace organizing and hope.

I remembered the first time I cried for what we were doing to Iraqis. It was while watching Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore's scathing documentary about the lies that led up to the war. In one scene, the camera lingered on an Iraqi woman undone with grief because a U.S. bomb had killed her loved ones. The woman wailed, prayed and cursed all in the same sentence. Flailing her hands heavenward, she beseeched God to rain fire down on the Americans and show us no mercy.

Cardinal George apologizes

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Cardinal George has apologized for comparing the Chicago gay pride parade to the Ku Klux Klan, saying today that he was "truly sorry for the hurt my remarks have caused."

I'm not sure what eventually changed his mind--or why it took so long (he made the comments Christmas Day and continued to defend it in the following week)--but I agree this is a step in the right direction.

See full story here.

What's a just cause for a bishop's resignation?

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Like Pax Christi USA, I, too, am sad about the resignation of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop and Pax Christi USA President Gabino Zavala. I did not know him, but if he's associated with Pax Christi, he must be in tune with the justice and peace message of the Gospel, and that's great. So why did he resign? He fathered two children.

I'm sad for two reasons. We have not yet seen the day in the Catholic church that a priest or a bishop can marry and father children without it being some sort of scandal. It's long past time that we move to a priesthood that welcomes and celebrates marriage and fatherhood. (And while we're at it, motherhood as well!)

But I'm also sad because resignations are apparently necessary when a bishop "fathers" children, but not when a bishop fails to deal seriously with the abuse of children. I'm thinking of all those bishops who moved abusing priests from parish to parish, who covered up abuse, who have failed to report abuse to authorities. Most of them are still running dioceses.

If we had our priorities straight as a church, which kind of bishop would be forced to resign?

Help get clemency for this Missouri woman

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Patty Prewitt is incarcerated in a Missouri prison, serving the 26th year of a 50-years-to-life sentence for killing her husband. She has always said she is innocent and refused an 8-year sentence plea bargain deal. There's no trail to prove her innocence, but there is plenty of reason to ask Gov. Jay Nixon for clemency. To learn more, go to her website.

Individual cases like Patty's are a tap root of the tree of justice. By taking an interest in Patty's case, we nourish that root, even if we fail to free her. Our action changes us, making us more aware of human suffering and more compassionate.

If you would like to take action, you can call Governor Nixon at (573) 751-3222. An operator will answer the phone.

Say, "I'd like to urge Governor Nixon to grant clemency to Patricia Prewitt."

She will say, "Thank you. I will see to it that he gets the message."

You can say, "Would you like my name and address?"

She says, "If you would like to leave it."

But you don't have to. Your call will add to the numbers one way or another.

2011 nonevents that failed to shake the world

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Now that you've heard about all the big Catholic stories and happenings of 2011, get ready for a few of the big nonstories and nonhappenings. Some of these say a lot more about the state of the church than do the big events that got wide recognition.

Benedict at Assisi

Pope Benedict did not pray at Assisi. His predecessor John Paul II made an historic breakthrough in 1986 when he invited leaders of many world religions, including Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and non-Catholic Christians, to meet at Assisi, sign a statement calling for world peace and together publicly pray for peace.

2011 marked the 25th anniversary of that event, and Benedict did indeed travel to Assisi along with about 200 other faith leaders. They signed a new peace commitment. But Benedict didn't pray with them.

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March 10-23, 2017

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