NCR Today

CBS features rifts in Catholic church

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In an extensive television piece Sunday, CBS's Sunday Morning featured the conflict between Sr. Margaret Mary McBride and Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmstead over her decision to authorize the termination of a pregnancy at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Both mother and fetus would have perished, McBride and her staff believed, if the action had not been taken. Olmstead subsequently declared McBride excommunicated and St. Joseph's no longer a Catholic hospital.

The TV segment also took notice of the condemnation of the American Catholic Council meeting by Detroit's archbishop and the harsh critique of Sr. Elizabeth Johnson's book by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It was titled "The Catholic church: A house divided?"

Watch it here.

Morning Briefing

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Is excommunication losing its bite?

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The proliferation of excommunications in recent years is sapping the energy out of that formerly most-feared weapon in the church's quiver. Once upon a time, excommunication was seen as a virtual death penalty to the soul of the unfortunate recipient. And in the Middle Ages, it could lead to a literal death sentence for the body as well.

But now the roaring lion appears to be morphing into little more than a mewing kitten.

During the last 50 years of the 20th century, the only excommunications most Catholics were aware of included the one pronounced against Jesuit Fr. Leonard Feeney, who insisted in 1953 that nobody, absolutely nobody, could attain salvation who was not a Catholic, and the one put on Archbishop Marcel Lefevre in 1988 for consecrating four new bishops without Vatican approval and starting his own schismatic church.

'The Heart of Christmas' touches the heart

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This is the third in a trilogy of blog posts by Sr. Rose Pacatte looking at some of this year's new holiday television movies. The first post, focusing on "Have a Little Faith," can be found here. The second post, on "Game of Your Life," can be found here.

The Heart of Christmas
Sunday, Dec. 4
GMC, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST

The Gospel Music Channel, now knows as GMC, will air its first primetime made-for-TV movie, "The Heart of Christmas," on Sunday.

It is based on the true story of little Dax Locke, who, at the age of 13 months, was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. The family literally moved from Illinois to St. Jude's Hospital in Memphis for 18 months. Julie, Dax's mom, started a blog that touched thousands of people.

St. Nicholas, patron saint of the Occupy movement?

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Despite the continuing Occupy protests taking place across the country, some have observed that those of us of the Roman bent aren't quite as involved as those of other faiths.

That observation has Tom Beaudoin, a theologian at Fordham University who blogs over at America magazine, asking "Where are all the Catholics?"

Noting that a meeting of Occupy Faith NYC, a coalition supporting the Occupy Wall Street protests, saw few Catholic churches or organizations show up yesterday, Beaudoin encourages people to support a new group: Occupy Catholics.

Take a look at the group's website. They're organizing a novena to St. Nicholas in support of the occupy movement until the saint's feast day, Dec. 6.

The organizers calling forth of Nicholas may be particularly appropriate. A fourth century saint, Nicholas is of course most remembered as the inspiration for Santa Claus because of his gifting of coins in shoes.

Spirituality doesn't require you to be serious, Jesuit says

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This week on Interfaith Voices, I interviewed Jesuit Fr. James Martin, author of a terrific new book called Between Heaven and Mirth.

This guy has to be the best-known Jesuit in the country since Dan Berrigan protested the Vietnam War in the 1960s. He's been on Stephen Colbert's show, and his book has been featured in the Washington Post, on Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and on The Huffington Post and now on Interfaith Voices.

His message is simple: Spirituality does not require being dour, grim or serious. In fact, humor, joy and laughter are central to the spiritual life. Not peripheral. Central.

When I interviewed Jim, I used some of the soundtrack from The Sound of Music, where Maria's frolicking behavior is dubbed a problem -- of course -- by her abbess. Jim agreed that this is a great example of the culture of gloom that has surrounded traditional religion. And it need not be so.

Morning Briefing

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Is the new missal good prayer?

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The anecdotal reactions to the new English-language prayers officially implemented Sunday break down into predictable categories. Those who dislike the changes describe them as simply bad and unreadable English, inhibitors to authentic prayer. Those in favor of the changes commonly use the term "poetic" in praising the new prayers. The quiet middle seems philosophical about accepting the new missal. Most appreciated the efforts by local parishes to prepare the congregations for the change-over.

Here are some reactions I collected Sunday.

At the Mass I attended, one octogenarian woman kept leaning over to the 40-something woman next to her and saying, "This is stupid. This is stupid. I'm never going to learn these changes," she said. After Mass, the older woman kept bemoaning the changes as she left the building.

New Mass rites greeted with disappointment, shrugs in Virginia

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"Why is this important?" asked Robert, a seminarian in the 1960s and a longtime parish music minister, when he was asked for his reaction to the changes in the liturgy introduced Nov. 25-26 in parishes across the United States.

"We'll get used to it," he added, although he found some of the language changes in the Mass prayers -- such as the creedal change from "one in being with the Father" to "consubstantial with the Father" -- "awkward."

Kathleen, a member of St. Thomas à Becket Parish in Reston, Va., objected strongly to the new formula at the end of the consecration of the wine, which has Christ saying the cup of wine is his blood given up "for you and for many" instead of "for you and for all."

In his homily on the changes, she said, the current parish administrator tried to explain that change as a reflection that all are called to salvation but not all respond to the call -- but in a way that suggested to her that it meant "many are called but few are chosen."

That, she said, seemed to her to "initiate a fear tactic [about who can be saved]. … I found that disconcerting."

Maryland priest tells parish new missal is 'only words'

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The early evening sky was streaked with pink clouds as I hustled in to attend the vigil Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows in Takoma Park, Md. The church sits tucked between a bewildering array of shopping plazas, gas stations and auto repair stores that line New Hampshire Ave.

It was clearly an immigrant crowd, who had gathered in the brightly lit sanctuary to mark the start of the Church's new year. Aside from the pastor Fr. Raymond Wadas and my family, the 50 or so people attending were various shades of brown. The dress and demeanor of some suggested they had come from distant lands where English, let alone Latin, was not the mother tongue. There were tired-looking Latino men sitting alone in their pews, small clusters of Africans, and sweet-faced, elderly African-American women.

At the front of the church were laminated cards with the newly scripted prayers. The wording of the Mass had changed, the lector said, and he reminded us to use the guide. Even with this cue, some of us occasionally lapsed into the old utterances.

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April 21-May 4, 2017

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