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Morning Briefing


Can Scalia be denied communion now?


It was widely reported this week that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia defended his pro-death penalty position during a speech at Duquesne University School of Law.

According to John Gehring's Bold Faith Type blog on the Faith in Public Life Web site, Scalia's lecture [link updated 9-29-11] was met with protesters who oppose the death penalty. The lecture took place just days after the controversial execution of Troy Davis.

During the speech, Scalia noted the presence of the protests, and said that he found no contradiction between his Catholic faith and his support of the death penalty. He added,

"If I thought that Catholic doctrine held the death penalty to be immoral, I would resign," he said. "I could not be a part of a system that imposes it."

Gehring did a fine job of presenting texts from John Paul II, the Vatican's Justice and Peace office, and statements from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that clearly state the church's doctrinal opposition to the death penalty. They oppose it on the same grounds that they oppose abortion: executions are seen as an assault on the sanctity of human life. This is why, just last week, Pope Benedict XVI himself asked for Davis's life to be spared.

Sr. Mary Roch Rocklage


Sr. Mary Roch Rocklage, a Sister of Mercy, was named to the Modern Healthcare's HealthCare Hall of Fame last March. Read more here.

I missed that announcement, but it is never too late to sing someone's praises.

Back in 1977 I was one of seven women who opened a Catholic Worker house for women and children. We had an old convent with a dozen or so bedrooms for guests and an attic where we built walls for community bedrooms. We had to clean and paint everything, beg a kitchen stove and beds, plan house management, raise money, etc. We were up to our ears in work.

The phone rang and I answered it. It was Sr. Mary Roch. "What can I do to help?" she asked.

U.S. priest to attend Irish meeting


A representative of the newly created Association of U.S. Catholic Priests will attend the general meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests (the Irish organization) Oct. 4-5 in Dublin.

Fr. Bernard Survil, who was instrumental in the formation of the U.S. association, said he hopes only to establish personal contact with officers and members of the Irish group.

"We are two independent organizations," he said, "and we don't see that the goals of the Irish association are replicable in the United States."

Vatican II eye-witness speaks out


Earlier this month, theologian Giovanni Franzoni, a former Benedictine abbott and one of the youngest participants at Vatican II, and now one of the few remaining eyewitnesses, delivered his reflections on the council during the 31st Congress of the Asociacion de Teologas Juan XXIII in Madrid.

Fellow NCR Today blogger Bob McClory wrote about this yesterday (See Former Abbott: Paul VI undermined Vatican II), but it bears more attention.

Ireland: Priests meeting


In Ireland, the actuality of the Oct. 4-5 annual meeting of the independent Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) may be of more consequence than the agenda -- important though that is.

The Irish priests will be joined by Msgr. Helmut Schüller from Austria and Fr. Bernard Survil from the United States. Minor though such international representation is at present, this initial show of transnational solidarity among priests could have major consequences.

Nostalgia takes wing


Each new TV season is a bit like a national Rorschach test: the shows that audiences choose to check out often reveal or confirm something deeper about who we are and where we are. So far, this season has brought us mass psychology delivered in a package stamped "Pan Am."

The ABC series is set in 1963 and focuses on the glamorous lives of four jet-setting stewardesses who fly the international skies of the now-defunct, then-supreme Pan American Airways. The show draws inspiration from the cable hit "Mad Men," set on Madison Avenue in the same era -- but with crucial differences that provide some interesting insights.

"Mad Men" takes a skeptical and skewed look at the early '60s: drinking, smoking, and racial and gender attitudes are all played with a "can you believe people acted this way?" attitude that seeks to show us how far we've come, even if the suits and haircuts then looked much hipper.

But there's nothing like that raised-eyebrow in "Pan Am."

On this day: Pope John Paul I


On this day in 1978, Pope John Paul I died in his bed at the Vatican. He had reigned only 33 days. His body was discovered the next morning by Sister Vinceza Tafferel, one of the four nuns who served him.

Odd behavior and inconsistent statements by Vatican officials raised questions about what had caused the new Pope's sudden and unprovided death.

"I am completely convinced that Pope John Paul I, Albino Luciani, was murdered."

--In God's Name: An Investigation Into the Murder of Pope John Paul I, by David Yallop, Carroll & Graf, 2007 edition, page 228.


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In This Issue

July 14-27, 2017