NCR Today

Catholics shouldn't oppose Occupy movement

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I marched yesterday with 700 St. Louis occupiers and friends. Four of the men carried a tent with a sign that read "Occupy Everywhere." We went from downtown St. Louis past the Federal Reserve building, which drew jeers, to the Martin Luther King Bridge that is in need of repair. Twenty people sat in front of the traffic in an attempt to close the bridge. The police arrested them and they went off gracefully.

Back when I was risking arrest to protest weapons contracting, we talked a lot about graceful direct action -- by which we meant actions motivated by and full of grace. These protesters were prepared and committed. And yesterday somebody was carrying the sign: "What would Jesus do? Occupy!"

It surprised me that a couple of comments to my last blog about the occupation said Catholics shouldn't be there. It reminded me at first blush of the criticism of Jesus dining with tax collectors.

Morning Briefing

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Crystal Cathedral to be sold to Catholic diocese

Austria's dissident Catholics urged to "maintain church unity"

Amy Sullivan of Time asks: Is the Obama Administration ‘At War’ with Catholics?

Le Roy, N.Y. -- Catholic schools merger elicits mixed feelings

2 RI men charged in $25 million investment fraud, stole identities of terminally ill and elderly people they met by advertising offers for a $2,000 charitable gift in a Catholic newspaper.

When is dissent not just dissent?

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The recent, very thorough survey of American Catholics, whose results were featured in the Oct. 28-Nov. 10 NCR, revealed no overwhelming shifts in belief and practice since the first such survey in 1987. The latest figures reinforce the fact that a substantial number of Catholics are convinced they can be in good standing with the church without adhering to church teachings on various issues, including weekly Mass attendance and remarriage after divorce. More than half the respondents in the survey consider "not very important" Catholic positions opposing abortion, same-sex marriage and requiring a celibate male clergy.

Bishops, priests and other church leaders have been viewing similar results for years now without throwing up their arms and declaring panic. Their easy and obvious response is that the surveys are polluted by the number of lax Catholics, half-Catholics, and pseudo-Catholics affected by the winds of secularism, relativism and individualism howling through American culture. Obviously, they say, this is dissent, this is disobedience.

Voices that balance the political/religious conversation

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Don't wish to be redundant, but for those who haven't caught the latest on colleague Michael Sean Winters' blog, I'd like to call attention to the recent appearance by John Gehring, senior writer and Catholic outreach coordinator for Faith in Public Life, on MSNBC.

He was interviewed about the U.S. bishops' initiative on religious freedom. The point is, agree or not -- and in this case I more agree with Gehring than not -- he has become one of the public voices in the Catholic world that has come to the fore in the aftermath of the 2004 election when the far right seemed to own the only religious interpretation of events.

Another of those groups is Catholic Democrats, who issued a detailed plea that was posted elsewhere on these pages to the U.S. bishops to address poverty.

On being spiritual but not religious

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I often describe "spiritual but not religious" as the fastest-growing denomination in the United States. Many people who used to attend a house of worship or were raised in a particular faith are going off on their own, searching for God in sunsets and beaches, in yoga classes, meditation centers, technology apps, discussion groups and even shelters and soup kitchens where they volunteer their time.

This is not a small group. According to a 2009 Newsweek poll, 30 percent of Americans identify as "spiritual but not religious" to some degree. And among the millennial generation -- those in their 20s -- the percentage climbs as high as 70 percent.

Now, some of these folks still identify with the faith into which they were born, and some go to religious services occasionally, but not regularly. Others do not attend any type of religious services. This phrase has different meanings for different people.

Award-winner's novel reminds of tragic history

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On Oct. 27, Demetria Mart'nez, longtime writer for the National Catholic Reporter and accomplished poet, novelist, essayist and short-story writer, received the prestigious Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature by the University of California, Santa Barbara.

This award is given annually to a writer of Chicano/Latino literature who has achieved a national and international reputation. It is named after Professor Luis Leal, one of the early champions of Chicano literature in the United States who taught at UC Santa Barbara for many years.

Mart'nez is certainly very deserving of the award. Her most noted work is her novel Mother Tongue, which deals with the migration of Central American political refugees in the 1980s because of the civil wars in countries such as El Salvador. It also concerns the role of the Sanctuary Movement in attempting to assist these refugees.

Morning Briefing

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SCITUATE, Mass. — It's the eighth autumn since Roman Catholic parishioners began occupying St. Frances X. Cabrini church around the clock to protest the Boston Archdiocese's 2004 decision to close it. But this season could have passed without heat to kill the chill.

Press Release: Catholic Charities USA Receives Major Gift from Walmart Foundation

Papal Trip to Africa -- African Catholic Church tested by scandals and rivals

A slideshow: 10 politicians who say God told them to run

Letter to Editor: Anti-Irish cartoonist Thomas Nast doesn't belong in NJ Hall of Fame

Fewer Americans live in middle-class areas as country divides between rich, poor

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Today's letter to Archbishop Tim Dolan, head of the U.S bishops' conference and the Archdiocese of New York, from the leadership of Catholic Democrats is complemented by the release of a new study by Stanford University researchers.

Their conclusions are grim:

"In the latest sign of a deteriorating middle class, growing number of Americans are living either in poor or affluent neighborhoods, not somewhere in between, a new study finds.

Thirty-one percent of households lived in either affluent or poor neighborhoods in 2007, according to a study by Stanford University researchers that analyzes Census data in 117 metropolitan areas. That's more than double the 15 percent that lived in affluent or poor neighborhoods in 1970.

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February 24-March 9, 2017

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