NCR Today

The Christian dilemma in the Mideast

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A good friend of mine took his family on a trip to the Mideast a few weeks ago, including a couple of days in Israel. Through his sister, who lives in the region, he reached out to a driver, hiring him to transport his family and act as a guide.

The driver was Palestinian, and took his clients through the Israeli walls, guards and checkpoints around Gaza and the West Bank -- a system of protection that my friend said could only be described as something close to aparthied.

And yet the Palestinian driver was a reluctant supporter of the Israeli government. The biggest reason for this: he was a Christian.

On this day: St. Maria Goretti

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On this day we remember St. Maria Goretti, the eleven-year-old girl who was stabbed to death by nineteen-year-old Alessandro Serenelli as he attempted to rape her. She died of the fourteen stab wounds the next day, July 6, 1902.

Women of my generation grew up hearing about St. Maria Goretti, internalizing the message. In its issue of November 9, 1950, five months after her canonization, Treasure Chest presented parochial school children with "Saint Maria Goretti, The Blood-Stained Lily", by Mary Fabyan Windeatt. At the end, an American woman who has been listening to Assunta Goretti tell her daughter's story says, "Every boy and girl in America ought to hear it." Mrs. Goretti says, "Maybe you'll tell them when you back home? Tell them what a terrible thing sin is and that they should be ready to die rather than offend our Lord."

Morning Briefing

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Vatican UN rep: 'Nuclear weapons no longer morally justified'

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Speaking in Kansas City, Mo. July 1 Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt, Apostolic Nuncio to the United Nations, said there is no longer a moral justification for the continued maintenance of nuclear weapons. He called for a comprehensive convention aimed at the phase out of all nuclear weapons from the world.

“Viewed from a legal, political, security and most of all moral perspective, there is no justification today for the continued maintenance of nuclear weapons,” the archbishop said. “This is the moment to begin addressing in a systematic way the legal, political and technical requisites for a nuclear-weapons-free world.”

My take on the Casey Anthony verdict

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A jury today found Casey Anthony, 25, not guilty of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee, whose remains were found in woods near her Florida home.

For what it is worth, the prosecutor should not have laughed during Jose Baez' closing statements. Baez is a defense attorney and this was his first capital murder case. He tried his best and I think the jury identified with Baez -- the government (Goliath) mocking a person trying their best (David) has no fans -- even when it seems a mother killed her child -- the worst of crimes -- or was responsible for her death.

The Golden Age of the Casino

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On the site where thousands of Bethlehem Steel workers produced the ribs of the Empire State building and the Golden Gate bridge now stands the glittering Sands Casino.

In order to get it there, local, state and federal politicians campaigned hard to win approval, as other officials had done elsewhere in pursuit of gambling revenues. And, like other successful efforts, the Bethlehem pitch also promised the winning combination of plentiful jobs and revenues for tax starved local governments. Opponents were swatted away like pesky flies.

The media in this corner of Pennsylvania keep close tabs on the reports of the "action" from Sands; in short, it's booming, with loads of busses arriving every day to take their chances. Nearly everyone insists they only wager a small, fixed amount and most say they come out even or ahead, claims that tend to contradict the findings of those who study such matters.

'Angry daughter of Christ' dies at 85

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Kip Tiernan, Boston’s much-loved and gritty advocate for social justice, who once described herself as "an angry daughter of Christ," died of cancer in her apartment on Saturday. She was 85 years old.

The founder of the nation’s first shelter for homeless women, Tiernan went on to create a myriad of agencies to assist the disadvantaged in Massachusetts. Daniel Berrigan and Dorothy Day were among her inspirations. After hearing Berrigan speak at a church in 1968, Tiernan said she felt as if a voice inside her head was saying, "‘I have just passed through a door and there is no going back.’”

Her words on how we treat the poor, spoken two decades ago, are still terribly relevant today:

“We should atone for what we have allowed to happen to all poor people in this state, in the name of fiscal authority or plain mean-spiritedness. . .We have as citizens too much to repent for, for what we have and have not done, to ease the suffering of our brothers and sisters who have no lobby to protect them.”

You can read her Boston Globe obituary here.

Won't automated drones just cause more war?

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Eugene Robinson, a Pulitzer-prize winning columnist for The Washington Post, got me pondering this morning. His column was on the morality of targeting (and killing) perceived enemies using drones, those “robots of the air” that are remotely controlled. They are currently used by the United States in at least six countries: Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.

This is not warfare, Robinson contends; it is assassination. I agree: Assassination by remote control.

Clearly, we use drones because it is a way of striking a perceived enemy without endangering American lives. Those of a pacifist persuasion will naturally be opposed to using drones. But even if someone believes it is morally permissible to go to war, this method raises a lot of serious questions and Robinson raises several:


  • Given public outrage at the use of drones in Pakistan (because they’ve killed so many innocent people), won’t this method earn us new enemies?

  • Doesn’t this robot system increase the chance of deadly mistakes?

Editing Henri Nouwen

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Robert Ellsberg, editor-in-chief of Orbis Books, writes a moving essay about his professional and personal relationship with Henri Nouwen:

Henri Nouwen worked with many editors in his life. As it turned out, I was the last. I would not have foreseen this, 10 years before, when I first brought him the news that I had been offered a job at Orbis Books.

"Well," he said, "if someone were to ask me if you would be good for this job, I would say: 'Intellectually, nobody better; a perfect fit.' But, I don't know whether you have the human gifts for that kind of work -- being able to work with people, you know."

Vatican's point man for religious life: 'We've started to listen again'

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From time to time, Vatican officials are accused of living in a bubble, detached from the complex and sometimes harsh realities facing ordinary people. However accurate that may be in individual cases, it’s certainly not the story of Brazilian Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, 64, appointed in January as the new prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Consider these details from his biography:


  • Bráz grew up in a poor family in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, with four brothers and three sisters – the youngest sister, today 47, has Down’s syndrome. His father was a butcher.

  • His surroundings were so rural that when a child was born, the family had to travel by horse-drawn carriage for 25 miles to have the baby baptized. A priest visited their area once a month, so popular lay leaders were in charge of catechism, worship, and devotional life.

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December 2-15, 2016

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