NCR Today

We need to do something about Syria


Every week, every day, we get new reports of deaths, killings, shootings, military repression, attacks on innocent civilians and other horrors in Syria. It is estimated that more than 5,000 people were killed in the last few months, and there's no end in sight of the repression of the Syrian government.

I just watched a CNN broadcast that featured a young Syrian opponent of the regime broadcasting through Skype that in one Syrian city, about 200 people were killed by army artillery and tank fire on Friday alone. With much emotion, the young Syrian told Anderson Cooper, "People are dying and the U.N. and others are doing nothing!"

He's right. Yes, there are some sanctions, but they do not seem to be effective. The U.N. Security Council is discussing a resolution asking for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. But no resolution, even assuming if it passed, is going to result in such resignation.

Vatican sex abuse summit: ëDon't wait for the media to make us act'


SNAP blasts event as ‘cheap window dressing’

ROME -- Conceding that church officials in various parts of the world often adopted tough policies to fight child abuse only in response to negative media coverage, the Vatican’s top doctrinal official today called for a “more proactive” approach.

In part, that's likely a reference to the fact that while the sexual abuse crisis has already exploded in North America and parts of Europe, it has not yet really arrived elsewhere, including much of the developing world -- where two-thirds of all Catholics today live.

tAmong other points, American Cardinal William Levada stressed that the sexual abuse of minors is not merely a crime under church law, but also under civil law, and that the church is therefore obliged to report “such crimes to the appropriate authorities.”

tLevada spoke this evening to a summit conference on sexual abuse hosted by the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome, and co-sponsored by several Vatican departments. The four-day event is titled “Toward Healing and Renewal.”

Occupiers, Tea Partiers find common ground against National Defense Authorization Act


For those who despair that the American political scene is irredeemably polarized, here is a small, intriguing tale of hope. Occupy Worcester in Massachusetts and the Worcester Tea Party have found a common cause in opposing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). On Friday, the two groups demonstrated in the city's federal building as part of a national day of protest against the act, which passed Dec. 31, 2011.

The Occupiers and Tea Partiers rightly fear the NDAA marks yet another erosion of our civil liberties. The bill allows for the use of military detention and military trial for any person -- U.S. citizen or foreigner -- suspected of terrorism.

Writing for the political newsletter Counterpunch, military veteran Brian Trautman called the bill "one of the greatest threats to civil liberties in our nation's history":

Morning Briefing


Roman notebook: Strokes for Sant'Egidio and Dolan


ROME -- I’m in Rome for most of February, primarily to cover three big-ticket Vatican stories: A summit on the sexual abuse crisis from today through Thursday at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University; a joint meeting of bishops from Africa and Europe Feb. 13-17; and the consistory on Feb. 18-19, when Pope Benedict XVI will create 22 new cardinals, including two Americans (Archbishops Timothy Dolan and Edwin O’Brien).

Scandal triggered by U.S. nuncio just won't die


ROME -- You can often tell how upset someone is with a story by how many statements they put out denying it, and how detailed those statements are. By that standard, the Vatican seems mightily piqued indeed by the recent scandal surrounding Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò – which is one part about Viganò’s charges of financial corruption, and another about his exposing internal Vatican power politics.

On Saturday, the Vatican issued a second lengthy statement on the Viganò mess, this one signed by a cardinal, a cardinal-to-be, and two other senior officials.

tViganò is today the pope’s nuncio, or ambassador, in the United States, but from 2009 to 2011 he served as the number two official in the government of the Vatican city-state. It’s responsible for the physical 108-acre Vatican territory, including operations such as the Vatican museums, gardens and post office, as opposed to institutions or funds directed at the universal church.

In that role, Viganò earned a reputation as a financial reformer by cutting costs, employing centralized accounting, and imposing consequences for cost overruns.

Some words with the prefect for religious life


After a six-hour ceremony Feb. 4 at the shrine of the Uganda martyrs outside Kampala, a procession of hundreds of African sisters and novices and postulants made its way to a nearby lake, part of the shrine grounds, for a final blessing by the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, (Prefect for Religious Life) Cardinal-elect Archbishop Joao Bráz de Aviz, who was in Kampala for the outset of religious leadership gathering of the major conferences of men and women religious from throughout Africa.

Time to look at football injuries


A favorite photo from my childhood shows me kneeling in our front yard, suited up in football pads and a red jersey, my hands resting on a helmet on my knee. I was 11 years old and a defensive tackle for the Redskins, champions of the fifth-sixth-grade bracket of the Mighty Might Football League. The trophy from that year still sits on a shelf in my mom’s sewing room.

Validation: Brainstorming doesn't actually work


It feels wonderful sometimes to have a certain aggravation of yours validated by major national publications. This isn't a proper feeling -- not Christian, really -- because it borders on vengeance. Still, it sends the heart pumping and the blood racing, as a certain ungenerous smugness blankets your psyche.

And so it is for me, I reluctantly admit.

Here's the aggravation: I am strongly allergic to something often referred to as "brainstorming." You know the concept: Get a bunch of people in a room with a blank sheet of paper and command instant brilliance. "We need a new campaign for Irish Spring soap by four o'clock. Let's go, people!"

Short of soap commercials (maybe), I've felt this kind of thing to be a colossal waste of time. A waste of time now stamped as such by reports in The New York Times and the New Yorker.

More financial shenanigans by another Connecticut priest?


Here in Connecticut we've had more than our fair share of embezzlement/theft/larceny by Catholic priests.

Today, NBC News is reporting that the Connecticut state police have opened up an investigation of a priest in the Diocese of Norwich.

According to NBC News:

"State police said they launched an investigation into St. Bridget Church in Moodus in December.
That's the same month in which Father Gregoire Fluet took a voluntary leave of absence, according to Michael Strammiello, the spokesman for the Diocese of Norwich.
The investigation pertains to the church's finances and was launched after a single parishioner raised questions, Strammiello said."

We'll have to see what happens here as the investigation continues.


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July 14-27, 2017