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Death is a mystery


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


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


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 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


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


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\"


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.

On this day: Babe Didrikson Zaharias


On this day, 55 years ago, Babe Didrikson Zaharias died at the age of 45.

"'George, I ain't gonna die,' Babe told her husband just after midnight on September 27, 1956. But as the sun was rising over the Gulf of Mexico at 6:42 a.m., Babe Didrikson Zaharias passed away. George was by her side."

--Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias, by Don Van Natta Jr., Little, Brown and Company, 2011, page 331. On the Amazon page is a short video. (And notice the enthusiastic Editorial Reviews.)

Morning Briefing


Springfield, Ill. -- Judge denies Catholic Charities' request for reconsideration. Department of Children and Family Services can begin canceling its adoption and foster care contracts with Catholic Charities

Justice Scalia Takes Sides in Same-Sex Dorm Dispute

Diocese emerges from bankruptcy, The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington on Monday completed the transfer of more than $77.4 million to a trust fund for survivors of clergy abuse.

Feeding Utah homeless becoming a community project

Green Bay, Wisc. diocesan employee accused of stealing guitar from casket


According to NBC affiliate WEAU Channel 13 News:

A grounds worker at a Green Bay area cemetery is accused of stealing a $2,000 guitar from the casket of a man who died recently.

Brown County sheriff's investigators say the worker was accused of stealing the Fender Telecaster from the mausoleum at Allouez Catholic Cemetery. His employer, the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, says the grounds superintendent is on unpaid leave pending the result of the criminal investigation.

On Saturday, deputies questioned 39-year-old Steven Conard who is the Grounds Superintendent for the Green Bay Diocese.

While being questioned, Conard admitted he had the stolen guitar at his home. Conard said, "This isn’t something I normally do, I just have a respect for fine musical instruments."

Deputies were able to recover the guitar from Conard's home. The guitar is a Fender, Telecaster valued at two thousand dollars.

Inequality is a moral dilemma for Catholics


The Census Bureau reported that the rate of poverty in the United States has significantly increased in the last several years.

Last year 2.6 million people fell into poverty. Some 46.2 million people now live in poverty, the highest number since the bureau began reporting poverty levels 52 years ago.

At the same time, median household income fell by 6.4 percent since 2007.

I don't want to dwell on all these statistics; readers can easily research them. What I want to do is to reflect on what this means morally and ethically especially for American Catholics.

While the Bible tells us that the poor will always be with us, this doesn't mean that we should stand by and do nothing. Let's remember that Jesus was a poor man and that he ministered especially to the poor and oppressed.

The foundations of the Catholic church are found in the Jesus story and that is the story of a church that prioritizes the needs of the poor -- and not just from a spiritual level but also from a material one.


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In This Issue

October 21-November 3, 2016

  • Reformation's anniversary brings commemorations, reconsiderations
  • Picks further diversify College of Cardinals
  • Editorial: One-issue obsession imperils credibility
  • Special Section [Print Only]: SAINTS