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The (un)ethics of ethanol


The Senate voted June 16, 73-27, to end all taxpayer-funded subsidies for ethanol. Three cheers for this first step toward restoring corn-based sanity -- and ethics! Yes, this bill has a rocky road ahead -- even a potential veto by the White House -- but it’s a start.

There are serious ethical questions about the diversion of a large part of our corn crop here in the United States from food to fuel.

I certainly believe that we need to find alternatives to coal and oil, but I’m not convinced that ethanol is the answer. Yes, it’s renewable, and yes, it does not require shipment from the Middle East. But it’s impact on the environment remains highly debatable.

And in a world where millions go hungry, the diversion of crop land to fuel land is a real moral issue. Indeed, the World Bank and other international organizations recently called on governments to stop ethanol subsidies because they were driving up world food prices.

That is something the poor of the world cannot afford.

Lost in the garden


My front garden this year is spectacular; it’s been blooming since February. Neighbors comment. The man walking his dog tells us they stop every day to look. I want to flag down passing cars and say, “Open your eyes. Come smell the lilies.”

Most of all, I stop to look myself, a dozen times a day. Right now we have the end of the lilies, fierce beauties – orange, maroon, yellow, white, pink. They stood at attention beneath our porch, tall waxy sentinels of creamy petal, thick brown stamen, reddish pollen flecks, and tiny pockets of nectar where the petals fold in at the bottom of the flower.

Lilies like their heads in sun and their feed in shade, in a patch of friendly Shasta daisies that are coming into their own, as are the day lilies, ruffled flirts that beckon the eye and are gone next morning.

I’m much better at living with beauty than visiting it as a tourist. I glaze over in the mountains and on the ocean shore. But standing on my front stairs, holding onto the railing, I lose myself in awe, over and over.

Father Corapi: You can't make this stuff up


Three months ago, I wrote on this blog about the allegations of misconduct against Father John Corapi and the troubling reaction by what I termed his "fans." It looks like he lost a few of those fans this weekend with his announcement, via a YouTube video, that he is leaving the priesthood and establishing himself as the "Black Sheep Dog" where he can continue and broaden his ministry and outreach.

A favorite of traditionalist Catholics and EWTN watchers, Corapi and his almost unbelievable story of conversion from a fast life of money and drugs to the Catholic priesthood is taking some even stranger turns.

Charitable giving still below peak


From The Wall Street Journal:

As the economy regained some momentum in 2010, Americans responded in kind by increasing their charitable giving.

Philanthropic donations from individuals, foundations and corporations increased 3.8% to $290.89 billion in 2010, up from $280.3 billion in 2009, according to the latest Giving USA survey, released Monday.

But with an uptick in 2010, the implications for fund-raising and for charities across the country remain uncertain for now, said Nancy Raybin, a spokeswoman for the Giving USA Foundation and managing partner of Raybin Associates, a New York-based nonprofit consulting firm.

...More than a third of all contributions made last year are to religious organizations and giving in that sector remained flat in 2010.

Bruce Springsteen's Big Man


When I was a kid, you didn't see many white and black musicians sharing the glory of an album cover. Clarence Clemons broke all that down.

The saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen (who dubbed him "The Big Man"), died this weekend at age 69, after a severe stroke. Obits will remember his talent and on-stage stamina, along with the trademark saxophone wail that punctuated several of Springsteen's best song.

But I'll always remember that album cover.

On this day: St. Alban


On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Alban, Britain's first Christian Martyr.

"He was yet a Pagan, when the cruel Emperors first published their edicts against the Christians, and when he received a clergyman flying from his persecutors into his house as an asylum. Having observed that his guest spent whole days and nights in continual praying and watching, he felt himself on a sudden inspired by the grace of God, and began to emulate so glorious an example of faith and piety, and being leisurely instructed by his wholesome admonitions, casting off the darkness of idolatry, he became a Christian in all sincerity of heart.

Single-sex dorms won't stop drinking or 'hooking up'


My colleague, Heidi Schlumpf, wrote this past week about John Garvey, Catholic University's new president, and his decision to return the campus to single sex dormitories.

Mr. Garvey argues that this step will curb binge drinking and "hooking up."

Laura Sessions Stepp disagrees.

Stepp is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, formerly with The Washington Post, who specializes in the coverage of young people. She has written two books: "Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both," and "Our Last Best Shot: Guiding Our Children Through Early Adolescence."

According to Stepp:

Summer intern discovers new Lincoln documents


David Spriegel, a rising senior at St. Mary's University in Minnesota, made a discovery of a lifetime just two weeks into his internship at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

He [Spriegel] turned up two previously unknown documents written in 1844 by then-up-and-coming lawyer Abraham Lincoln in Springfield.

“I have to say that this discovery has piqued my interest in Lincoln as an individual and in his early career,” said Spriegel, who will is interning at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield this summer. “This will give me new purpose to explore the life of a great man.”

Spriegel was organizing a four-inch tall stack of documents in the library’s manuscript’s department when he made the discovery. The intern had noticed the previously overlooked small inscription on the documents that read: “The above memorandum is in the inscription of Abraham Lincoln. — M. Hay”


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In This Issue

October 21-November 3, 2016

  • Reformation's anniversary brings commemorations, reconsiderations
  • Picks further diversify College of Cardinals
  • Editorial: One-issue obsession imperils credibility
  • Special Section [Print Only]: SAINTS