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Reflections after the American Catholic Council meeting

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I’m a veteran of conferences on church reform. I started out at the first Women’s Ordination Conference in 1975, attended the original Call to Action (the one the U.S. Bishops called in 1976) and participated in numerous Call to Action and Women’s Conferences since then. I’ve even attended a couple in Europe, including the 8th of May Movement in the Netherlands.

So, the American Catholic Council meeting in Detroit this past weekend (June 10-12) was of great interest to me. I was especially interested in signs of change and maturing in the movement. Here’s what I sensed and observed:


  1. The issue of women’s ordination, and gender equality generally, has risen to a new level of prominence on the roster of reform. It is at the top of many reformers’ lists -- men as well as women. It’s clear as never before: the denial of women’s equality just makes no sense to most Catholics anymore, especially these Catholics.

Asian bishops acknowledge global sex abuse problem

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In response to the Vatican’s May 16th request that all bishops to formulate policies on the sexual abuse of minors, the Federation of Roman Catholic Asian Bishops’ Conference will host a 6-day seminar in Bangkok on “The Impact of Pedophilia.”

Msgr. Charles Scicluna, a official at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and the Vatican’s chief sexual abuse prosecutor, will join the bishop in creating new, specific guidelines.

Hisashi Yukimoto of Religion News Service reports (See Asian bishops say abuse isn't just 'a problem of the West') that many Asian bishops have admitted to an increase in “letters from different quarters of the church that pedophilia has already become a considerably serious problem in Asia.”

An announcement on the Federation’s website is remarkably candid:

“Let us not be complacent that pedophilia is a problem of the West or the other continents of the world; it is equally prevalent in many countries of Asia.”

Fostering tolerance in religion

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This story about Eboo Patel offers hope that some positive change is coming to religious tolerance.

From today's New York Times:

Interfaith activism could be a cause on college campuses, he argued, as much “a norm” as the environmental or women’s rights movements, as ambitious as Teach for America. The crucial ingredient was to gather students of different religions together not just to talk, he said, but to work together to feed the hungry, tutor children or build housing.

“Interfaith cooperation should be more than five people in a book club,” Mr. Patel said, navigating his compact car to a panel discussion at Elmhurst College just west of downtown Chicago, while answering questions and dictating e-mails to an aide. “You need a critical mass of interfaith leaders who know how to build relationships across religious divides, and see it as a lifelong endeavor.”

On this day: Harriet Beecher Stowe

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On this day, two centuries ago, Harriet Beecher was born in the parsonage at Litchfield, Connecticut, to the Congregationalist minister Lyman Beecher and his wife, Roxana Foote. The baby born on June 14, 1811, would grow up to become the author of the most important novel of the 19th century.


Click here for the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. At the right, click on the live stream for today's 24-hour reading of Uncle Tom's Cabin, beginning at 10:00 A.M. Eastern. At the left, click on the Museum Store for various editions of Uncle Tom's Cabin, including an annotated one edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Morning Briefing

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Sex and the Single-Sex Dorm

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In today's Wall Street Journal, the president of The Catholic University of America announced that the university will eliminate all co-ed dorms and return to single-sex dorms in an attempt to curb binge drinking and "hooking up."

Already, conservative bloggers, traditionalist Catholics and nervous parents are applauding the move. I suspect that was John Garvey's true motivation.

For those shocked that a Catholic university, especially one like CUA, which has official ties to the Vatican, even has co-ed dorms, worry not. As the university's housing services’ Web page explains, all student residence halls are already single-sex by floor, wing or building.

Catholic NY state senators face gay marriage vote

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In an article in the regional section of today’s New York Times, Michael Barbaro examines four members of a group of New York State Senator’s who have come to be known as the “Undecided Eight.”

They are “undecided” about how they will vote this week on the legalization of gay marriage. Their eight votes will determine the outcome.

Three of the four senators profiled in this piece are Italian Catholics. One of them is Staten Island’s Andrew Lanza, who shares a story about an exchange that he had with his priest. The striking account of their conversation not only shows Lanza using his primacy of conscience, but also overcoming his own internalized clericalism:

Mr. Lanza, who is Roman Catholic and voted against same-sex marriage in 2009, found himself on the phone recently with a priest he has known for three decades. The priest was adamant. Redefining marriage, he told Mr. Lanza, “would cause more harm than good for everyone involved,” he recalled.

The aftermath of war

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The classic just war theory has a great deal to say about justifications for going to war, and about the proper conduct of war once it’s being fought. But it says almost nothing about the aftermath of war. (For the record, I think this whole theory is defunct. There is probably no such thing as a “just war” in the 21st century. Just for starters, how does one make the required distinction between combatants and civilians?)

The weapons of modern warfare often leave horrific legacies that create death and havoc after a war. Think about the radiation after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the unexploded land mines around the globe, the depleted uranium in Iraq, and the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

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December 2-15, 2016

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