NCR Today

Obama's Keystone decision is something to celebrate

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I've got to admit: I really didn't think Obama would do it. But he did, and I rejoiced.

He rejected, for now at least, the proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported "tar sands" oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast for refining. Most of it would have been shipped to other countries.

Republicans and some Democrats screamed that his decision stymied job creation and prevented easy importation of oil from a friendly neighbor. And this, after all, is an election year.

But in spite of pressures, Obama rejected the proposal because there was not enough time for a proper environmental assessment. Obama doesn't talk about it enough, but he cares about the planet. He knows that climate change is real and that greenhouse gases are responsible for most of it. Tar sands oil is much dirtier than regular oil and would emit far more greenhouse gases in the refining process.

So great is the Tar Sands threat to the environment that more than 1,000 people were arrested at the White House this past summer protesting this project. Many Catholic social justice activists were among them.

Best-paid pastors in the United States

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Catholic bishops and priests do not make a lot in terms of annual compensation in their respective roles. On the other hand, permanent housing, food, pension benefits and health care coverage ain't too bad a deal, all things considered. I know of one bishop who likes to boast to his priests that he takes "no salary" (which is both funny and delusional, given the large estate on which he lives, an entertainment budget, a car and driver and numerous benefits he receives).

In the Protestant world, there are some pastors whose total compensation would make even some on Wall Street blush. Over at Huffington Post is a story on pastor compensation.

An excerpt:

From church closings and foreclosures of houses of worship across the nation to the limited number of clergy jobs for new rabbis, imams and pastors, the recession has hit religious Americans just as it has affected the tens of millions of the country's jobless.

Sister involved in health care ministry donates body to science

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Franciscan Sr. Catherine Ellen Kearney, 92, who worked in health care ministries for more than 60 years, died Jan. 6 at her community’s retirement home in Aston, Pa., according to this article in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

During her long career, Kearney taught, worked as a missionary, worked in prison ministry, worked with AIDS patients, worked as a health care consultant and wrote for health care publications, according to the story. She has donated her body to science.

Despite threat, pastor holds his ground over marriage amendment

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It's a long way to November and the vote in Minnesota over an amendment to the state constitution that would limit marriage to one man and one woman. The Catholic church has joined battle with gay rights forces in what could be a protracted battle to persuade the public.

The push back, however, is not confined to those outside the church. Catholics for Marriage Equality MN strongly oppose the measure and are mounting a strong campaign against its passage. And among clergy, one especially outspoken pastor, Fr. Michael Tegeder, has held his ground despite threats to his ministry from his archbishop.

As 2011 was coming to a close, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul, was ramping up a campaign that had actually begun in earnest in September of last year when the archdiocese sent out 400,000 DVDs, paid for by an anonymous donor, explaining church teaching on the matter and urging that an amendment be put to a vote.

In October of this year, bishops urged priests throughout the state to form committees to help get the proposed amendment approved.

Does Catholic hospital's potential tax violate church/state separation?

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A Catholic hospital in California is considering a sales tax to help fund operations and is trying to gauge voter support for a possible ballot initiative in November, according to this article in San Benito County Today.

St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy, Calif., is not struggling financially, its spokeswoman told the newspaper, but said, "we are not in a position to pay the whole cost for the expanded services that the community needs on our own."

But this raises serious concerns about the separation of church and state, among other issues, writes one of the editors of another local publication, the Gilroy Dispatch.

Read the editorial here.

Santorum staffer: Woman can't be elected president

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In the daily round of emails and Facebook posting comes this news about a Rick Santorum Iowa staffer's opinion that children would be harmed if a woman became president, referring to Michele Bachmann's former GOP bid.

Although Rev. Jamie Johnson, a pastor and the email's author, claims the statement in an email to one person was taken out of context, his view is upsetting people the blogosphere. And he is not backing down.

The email at the heart of the controversy reads in part: "Is it Gods highest desire, that is, His biblically expressed will ... to have a woman rule the institutions of the Family, the Church, and the State?"

Private home of Innocenzo X for sale

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While paging through the glossy Christie's Real Estate magazine this weekend, I came across the unusual headline announcing the sale of the "Private Home of Pope Innocenzo X."

The property description goes like this:

"This magnificent property in Piazza Navona displays original Renaissance frescoes and decorations that are considered artistic masterpieces. Commissioned by Pope Innocenzo X in 1645, the 400-square-meter, or around 4,305-square-foot, home has vaulted ceilings and a balcony viewing the piazza and Bernini's Fountain of Four Rivers. This is a unique opportunity to live amid historical ambiance."

No doubt. The cost to live in such ambiance: "Price upon request."

For more on this property, including 28 pictures, see Christie's website.

Morning Briefing

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The World Wide Web -- Ratcheting up their fight against anti-piracy bills in Congress, internet companies haul out thier most potent weapon: blacking out thousands of web sites.

Nigeria -- Nigeria Christmas church bomb suspect escapes

The 2012 presidential race -- Baptist Perry pointedly praises Santorum as 'good Catholic'

Vatican City -- Vatican’s Chinese Archbishop Appeals for Release of Catholic Priests in China

Tradition's role as source of truth being revisited

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Editor's note: An earlier version of the story incorrectly identified who issued inter insignores. The error, for which NCR apologizes, has been corrected.

The two sources of divine revelation accepted by the church, Scripture and Tradition, have followed very different paths in the last 100 years. Sacred Scripture has been so thoroughly analyzed, reinterpreted, even deconstructed, through various forms of scholarly criticism that our understanding of the message has been greatly transformed. Catholic Tradition, however, experienced little change, remaining almost static over the same time period. If some new interpretation of Scripture seemed to shake long-held presumptions, Catholic apologists could always point to tradition as a corrective and bulwark against challenging ideas or radical changes.

Now, the status quo of tradition is also experiencing tremors. In a chapter in the recent book The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity, Jesuit theologian Francis Sullivan shows how our once-comfortable, unexamined view of tradition is undergoing scrutiny.

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