NCR Today

Former priests refuse to 'disappear'


About 45 years have passed since the great diaspora of Catholic priests out of active ministry and into lay life. The departure rates stayed amazingly high for a time then subsided, but continue to this day.

Now these men, in their 30s and 40s when they left, have aged into their 70s and 80s, and many are reflecting on their journey. Chicago Cardinal Francis George recently expressed regret that priests had left their God-given calling and suggested that most had at least the good sense to just "disappear." That perception may have had some validity in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th when the "fallen" clerics were regarded with either scorn or pity. Often commented on in the seminaries of those days were books like Shepherds in the Mist, which recounted the sad, frustrated, guilt-ridden lives of these betrayers of their vocation.

Morning Briefing


New drone technology further removes us from war


Yesterday's Sunday Review in The New York Times featured an article about the moral use of drones by United States.

The author, Peter Singer, asks if drones are undermining democracy.

For a while now, some ethicists have wrung their hands over the "push-button war" where pilots drop bombs and soldiers shoot off missiles without ever seeing their targets. But now drones can identify footprints, read license plates and destroy houses and automobiles without troops ever setting boots on the ground.

Thus, President Barack Obama did not seek a declaration of war in Libya, and Congress didn't seem to expect one.

Our soldiers' lives are not at risk, so the public has little reason to pay attention.

Singer says, "And now we have a technology that removes the last political barriers to war."

Restraint is not an easy virtue, and it doesn't fit within our practice of foreign policy. If we have a weapon, we use it. Current political campaigners are calling for even less restraint.

On this March for Life day, a reasoned discussion on abortion


In questions of abortion in the Catholic church, it sometimes seems as if there’s no room for civility. Most of us are familiar with the rhetoric. You’re either pro-life or pro-death, for us or against us.

As the annual March for Life takes place today in Washington, it was refreshing to notice a blog post this morning that didn’t fit the paradigm.

Could a man who made his own Bible get elected?


Imagine for a minute that a media story revealed that one of the candidates for president of the United States had created his own version of the Bible, keeping those things with which he agreed and eliminating those things with which he had problems. Could such a candidate be elected? Even nominated?

Almost certainly not. But one of our most esteemed presidents actually did that, though he kept it quiet.

Thomas Jefferson took a razor and glue brush and cut and pasted the Gospels of the New Testament into his own version. He eliminated most references to the supernatural, including the virgin birth, miracles and even the resurrection of Jesus. He kept what he considered the moral philosophy of Jesus -- parts like the beatitudes, most parables and the Lord's Prayer.

Jefferson once said, "I am a sect by myself, as far as I know." That's certainly true. We may not agree with his biblical choices, but we can only respect the honest wrestling of a man dealing with his faith.

Morning Briefing


In quest to grow, Catholic hospital system pares religious ties. Catholic Healthcare West, one of the nation’s largest hospital systems, is ending its governing board’s affiliation with the Catholic Church and changing its name.

Conservatives, evangelical Christians rebuff Romney in South Carolina

Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind. -- Diocese calling Catholics home

See NCR's story on this national ad campaign: Ads aim to extend Catholic welcome

Editoraila: Respecting religious exemptions. The administration’s feint at a compromise.

NCR coverage:

Evangelicals, power and presidential elections


A blog post by David Neff, the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, titled "Why Last Saturday's Political Conclave of Evangelical Leaders Was Dangerous," went viral this week, with lots of strong opinions pro and con about his assertion that Christians are not called to be kingmakers or pawnbrokers.

Neff quotes James Davison Hunter, author of To Change the World, who told CT in a 2010 interview:

"Whenever Christian churches and organizations partake in the will to power, they partake in the very thing they decry in society."

Instead, Neff advocates:

"Rather than trying to demonstrate power through the promise or threat of votes, evangelicals should use influence. Influence is a matter of education and persuasion—informing and convincing constituents and lawmakers alike."

Why nuns are heading to the Super Bowl


"The buzz anticipating Super Bowl XLVI is already astir," writes Nancy Conway in a recent op-ed on the new site "However, 11 congregations of Catholic nuns are stirring things up as well."

Conway, a leadership team member for the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph in Cleveland, explains that these women religious are members of the Coalition for Corporate Responsibility for Indiana and Michigan (CCRIM). The organization's mission is to "invest in certain businesses, including the lodging industry, to be in a position to affect social change where we see human suffering that needs to be stopped."

Wherever the Super Bowl is hosted, sex trafficking seems to swell with the festivities.

As reported in the Huffington Post, "An estimated 10,000 prostitutes flocked to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl."

A look at racism in the prison system


Prisons exemplify racism -- the wielding of power in favor of an ethnic or racial group. One black man in three will go to prison. Prisons are placed in white rural areas, far from the prisoners' homes and families. These men (and women) are arrested, prosecuted, defended and ultimately guarded mostly by white men.

Of course, to know what is unjust racism and what is just punishment for crime, one has to look at individual cases. That is just what ProPublica has done with a small segment of prison data on presidential pardons.

The short summary is that when everything is taken into account, white criminals seeking presidential pardons are almost four times as likely to succeed as people of color.

The researchers looked at demographic data, criminal history and congressional interest in cases. They looked at 1,729 individuals who applied for pardons and the 189 who received them during the tenure of President George W. Bush. The president did not know the race of those he pardoned, but the staff who made the recommendations knew.


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May 19-June 1, 2017