NCR Today

Let's not compare folks to Hitler, OK?


Bishop Joseph P. McFadden of Harrisburg, Penn., must not have read my NCR blog post chastising Cardinal Francis George for the lazy and often logically invalid use of "the KKK card" last month.

I argued that comparing your opponent to the KKK (as George did with some gay activists) was as bad as the infamous logical fallacy "Reductio ad Hilterum," which tries to "prove" that something is undesirable or evil by pointing out that Adolf Hitler or the Third Reich advocated or implemented a similar thing.

According to Religion News Service, McFadden angered the local Anti-Defamation League and ACLU, who claimed he trivialized the Holocaust by comparing today's educational system to Hitler's and Mussolini's because, they tried to establish "a monolith so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things," the bishop said.

Who Controls Birth Control?


The overwhelming percentage of American Catholic laity, sometimes with the tacit consent of their parish priests, rejected the official ban on contraception, many in the name of the internal forum, or conscience.

A sad aftermath is in play as the leadership of the U.S. church reacts against the Obama Administration's ruling that most major Catholic institutions must provide insurance coverage to their employees. The protest is done in the name of conscience.

Their case would be a lot stronger if those institutions weren't presumably staffed primarily with Catholics who were themeselves practicing artificial birth control or approving it for others.

It's easy to imagine an institution comprised pricipally of Catholic employees or students being required to enact a policy in the name of the leadership's conscience which violates their own consciences. Especially when the lay majority has had no involvement in establishing the morality of the contraception issue itself.

Ratzinger, Rahner, et al. On Celibacy (1970)


A reader from Arizona sends in this note:

Ratzinger, Rahner, et al. On Celibacy (1970)

This is an interesting perspective of Joseph Ratzinger some 41 + years ago.
Someone who is now so opposed to optional celibacy was in favor of it at least discussing the subject over 41 years ago. I don't know whether or not you are aware of this article. It might make a good read in NCR. I certainly enjoyed knowing this information.

I always enjoy reading NCR. Keep up your outstanding reporting and articles.

83-year-old priest ends 15 day fast


Activists and friends of an 83-year-old priest who is imprisoned for an of civil disobedience are expressing relief after he announced he has ended a 15-day fast to protest his placement in solitary confinement.

Jesuit Fr. Bill Bichsel is serving a three-month prison term in the Federal Detention Center near Seattle, Wash., for a July 2010 action at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where a new nuclear weapons manufacturing facility is being planned.

While Bichsel was moved Jan. 10 to a prison transition facility in Tacoma, Wash, he was sent back to the federal detention center in Seattle the next day because authorities said he had received an unauthorized visit at the transition facility.

After his return to the detention facility, friends of the priest first expressed concerns when he told visitors he had been placed in solitary confinement, had started a fast upon his re-imprisonment, and was not receiving an adequate number of blankets to keep warm.

An IKEA God: some assembly required


Eric Weiner is a "spiritual seeker," and he has quite a tale to tell on Interfaith Voices this week. And he laces his story with humor. He notes that he was born into the Jewish tradition, but he calls himself a "gastronomic Jew," i.e., someone more familiar with lox and bagels than with the Torah.

But thanks to an emergency room nurse who scared the living daylights out of him when she whispered in his ear about "finding his God," he began a process that he calls "flirting with the divine." He lived eight different religious traditions, with some emphasis on the mystical tradition in each. He tried out Sufi Islam, Nepalese Buddhism and Kabbalah in Judaism.

In the Christian tradition, he went for a Franciscan brand of Catholicism, living with friars in New York who ran a shelter for the homeless. I think they impressed him, except for this business of praying at 6.a.m. He says he continues to volunteer with them.

Though It Glitter, It May Not Be Gold


Many news operations have had a habit of separating the staff into "reporters" and "writers" in an unofficial and often misleading way.

Most staffers aspired to be considered writers because that had a hue of glamor about it. "Reporters" were usually regarded as better diggers of fact, but they hadn't been touched by that proverbial angel of literary divinity.

But being a digger also implied greater trust. The writers were more readable, perhaps, but the smooth sailing could also be accomplished by removing inconvenient obstales like facts. The digger's product might be bumpier because accuracy sometimes involved things that got in the way of telling a good story.

I thought of this while reading a piece in the New York Review of Books regarding the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible.

The erudite review by Robert Pogue Harrison of a raft of books coinciding the with the anniversary (in 2011) reflected the reverence shown by a host of American scholars toward the book that reshaped the English language along with its contemporary contributor, William Shakespeare.

Morning Briefing


Kosher cellphones and the pope's message of Internet silence


Although it is last year's news, I only heard about kosher cellphones today while listening to NPR on the way to an appointment.

I was not able to locate the story on NPR's site, but if I recall well, the story told of the Orthodox Jewish rabbis in the UK who were concerned about the lack of modesty that cellphones can promote among young people in particular because of cameras, Internet access and texting.

The answer? A basic model for cellphones with no "smart" technology. According to the story, cellphone providers didn't think there would be a market so they decided not to produce one, leaving it to those who buy the cellphones to figure out how to disarm the phones and adjust software. This gave rise to enterprise. One man in the U.K. has sold 20,000 modified phones, including to Muslims in Saudi Arabia who share the same concerns about modesty. Other customers like the basic version because they are just easier to use.

Austrian priest publishes names of former Catholics


Here's a new form of evangelization: Publish the names of all the Catholics who have formally left the church.

A pastor in an Austrian church did exactly that. What was he thinking?

The Vienna archdiocese immediately apologized. According to ABC News, "a statement says those affected have been asked 'for forgiveness,' noting making the names public 'is not allowed by state or church rules.' Those who formally renounce their membership in the Austrian Catholic church are freed from paying the mandatory church tax."

Hallmark hits a home run with 'A Smile as Big as the Moon'


'A Smile as Big as the Moon'
9 p.m./8 p.m. central, Sunday, Jan. 29, ABC
8 p.m./7 p.m. central, Saturday, Feb. 4, The Hallmark Channel

In the universe of film and television reviewers, it can get really awkward when trying to talk about the elusive, fragile, frequently manipulated "family" genre. No one can really define a family TV film except in hindsight, I think. When television studios set out to make an "all-in-one" family film, they usually end up reaching fewer viewers than hoped for.

It is also impossible to judge a film or television movie as "good" by what it does not have: no sex, bad language, violence, drugs, etc. Most television family films are just bland or worse yet, bland and preachy because producers favor message over a story.

But here comes Hallmark Hall of Fame with its first film of the year, and I think it is their best love story -- ever. It's not only a good family film -- it's great. The bar has been set. I now have a baseline to judge made-for-TV family films.


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May 19-June 1, 2017