NCR Today

Optimism and ideology


New studies show that humans are naturally optimistic -- it's apparently become one of our survival skills as a species. How then to explain the continued whining of ideologically-driven extremists who are always miserable living in the real world? Shouldn't natural selection have culled them from the human herd centuries ago?

My daughter -- a high school senior -- set me down this path a couple of days ago. She was telling me about a discussion in her religion class, centered on research featured in TIME magazine last spring. The article looked at an assembly of studies over the past several years that showed a "bias towards optimism" within the human family.

In fact, even when we are pessimistic about the overall world, we remain upbeat about our own futures. A study in 2007 showed that 70 percent of respondents felt people in general were less successful than in their parents' day -- but also showed that 76 percent of those same respondents were more upbeat about their own futures.

Think of this as \"Labor Week\"


It all started Sunday evening at a BBQ at my home with Loretto friends and neighbors. It was the day before Labor Day, and we closed the evening by singing some old songs from the labor movement like "Bread and Roses" and "Solidarity Forever."

As I sang the words, I knew they were from another era, and yet eerily contemporary at the same time. From "Bread and Roses:"

Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
tHearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses.

I thought of women in sweatshops at the turn of the century (and the suffragists who used this song too), but I also thought about the women who toil at two or three jobs today just to support themselves and their children. Where are the "roses" in their lives?

On this day: Edwin Vincent O'Hara


On this day in 1881, Edwin Vincent O'Hara was born to Owen and Margaret O'Hara on their farm near Lanesboro, Minnesota, the last of their eight children.

"All the O'Hara children shared the difficult work involved in operating a rural homestead. This, no doubt, helped to forge Edwin's work ethic, which enabled him to accomplish many great things for the nation and the church."

--Cultivating Soil and Soul: Twentieth-Century Catholic Agrarians Embrace the Liturgical Movement, by Michael J. Woods, SJ, Liturgical Press, 2010, page 2.

Morning Briefing


\"Game Time: Tackling the Past\" NBC Family Movie Night, Sept. 3


The latest TV movie from the NBC-Walmart-Proctor & Gamble family friendly triad airs this Saturday, Sept. 3, at 8/7c on NBC: "Game Time: Tackling the Past".

It's a football movie starring Catherine Hicks and Beau Bridges as the parents whose oldest son Jake (Ryan McPartlin) is a pro football player. While his achievements on the field have brought him near a place in the Hall of Fame, his career and ambition have kept him from his family for 15 years. When his dad has a major heart attack, Jake goes home to more devastating news.

This is a rather formulaic made-for-TV movie, but the cast and performances are appealing, especially from Hicks and Bridges. The unique thing about previewing the film was that the marketing company organized an online screening with Hicks, who plays the peace-keeper in the family. During the screening journalists could log in and type-chat with Hicks throughout. I really enjoyed this -- it was as if we were all sitting in a living room chatting while watching, just like families do.

Vatican insists it didn't torpedo Irish response to abuse crisis



tIn an unusually detailed response to recent criticism from the Irish government, the Vatican insisted today that it did not subvert efforts by the Irish bishops to report sexually abusive priests to the police, saying that claims to the contrary by Ireland’s Prime Minister are “unfounded.”

tThe Vatican had earlier recalled its ambassador to Ireland after Prime Minister Enda Kenny on July 20 denounced what he described as “the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism … the narcissism that dominates the culture of the Vatican to this day” in the wake of a critical government report on the rural Colyne diocese, which found that abuse allegations had been mishandled as recently as 2009.

tToday’s 11,000-word statement represents the Vatican’s most comprehensive response to date to both the Cloyne report and Kenny’s statement, which found a largely positive echo in scandal-weary Ireland.

Same-sex adoption: One adoptive mother's perspective


I was on vacation this summer when the news broke about Catholic Charities in Illinois losing state contracts over the agency’s refusal to place adoptive children with same-sex couples. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t following the story. As an adoptive mother, I have a few insights into the process, having spent five years adopting our two children.

What I learned is that choosing an adoption agency can be one of the most important decisions prospective adoptive parents make. Some make their choice based on the agency’s location, fees or something as random as it coming up first in a Google search. Likely, they learned about it through a personal referral. But often, prospective adoptive parents put quite a bit of thought into choosing an agency. I, for one, had a spreadsheet of dozens of agencies with criteria that included services, cost and estimated wait times.

Whether an agency had a religious background was not only unimportant, it made an agency suspect for us. Often religiously-based agencies came with additional requirements, such as proof of religious belief or church attendance, or with the baggage of proselytizing or problematic adoption attitudes (“Save a heathen orphan!”) Given the Catholic Church's sometimes unfair, but often deserved, reputation for being judgmental, Catholic Charities is probably avoided by a number of prospective adoptive families, besides the same-sex couples who would be automatically rejected.

\"Seven Days in Utopia\": Gentle but uneven film barely makes par


Texan Luke Chisholm (Lucas Black) is an amateur golf champion who is on the brink of turning pro. His dad Martin (Joseph Lyle Taylor) is his life-long trainer and caddie. Martin stomps off when Luke ignores his advice and loses the game and his chance at getting a place on the pro golf tour.

Luke has an angry meltdown and goes his own way. He runs his car off the road in to avoid hitting a bull and discovers he is in the tiny town of Utopia. A rancher, Johnny (Robert Duvall) comes to his aid and brings him to the town diner where he meets Sarah (Deborah Ann Woll) and her mom Lily (Melissa Leo) at the diner; they all think of Johnny as a kind uncle. Sarah's sometimes-boyfriend Jake (Brian Geraghty) is immediately jealous of Luke.

Johnny invites Luke to his ranch bed-and-breakfast to be tended to by the rather peculiar manager (played by an uncredited Kathy Baker).

Johnny, a retired pro golfer, senses that Luke is on the verge of giving up golf or worse. He invites the young man to stay for a week, promising that in seven days he will change Luke's game.

The price of 9/11


Joseph E. Stiglitz, a University Professor at Columbia University, a Nobel laureate in economics, and the author of Freefall: Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy, writes over at the Project Syndicate Web site a detailed and stinging column on the human and economic costs of 9/11.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

The September 11, 2001, terror attacks by Al Qaeda were meant to harm the United States, and they did, but in ways that Osama bin Laden probably never imagined. President George W. Bush’s response to the attacks compromised America’s basic principles, undermined its economy, and weakened its security.

The attack on Afghanistan that followed the 9/11 attacks was understandable, but the subsequent invasion of Iraq was entirely unconnected to Al Qaeda – as much as Bush tried to establish a link. That war of choice quickly became very expensive – orders of magnitude beyond the $60 billion claimed at the beginning – as colossal incompetence met dishonest misrepresentation.

Defend government


There’s an email flying through the Internet that starts by describing how quickly the constitutional amendment for the 18 year old vote passed Congress and the state legislatures.

Then the email proposes a new amendment to abolish Congressional tenure and pensions. There would be term limits and only Social Security to retire on. It calls for the same health insurance other Americans have. And it says, let’s demand passage right now.

Oh, dear. This is a set of bad ideas.

I am in great admiration of almost all of the men and women who commit their lives to government service. I disagree with most of them most of the time. But I admire them. They’ve taken a pay cut to run for office, they get an enormous amount of criticism, and they have to compromise and collaborate to get anything done.

It takes time to learn the legislative ropes. We have had term limits in Missouri since 1996, and now there is no one in the state legislature with an institutional memory. Every year they pass bills that contradict old legislation and have to be corrected the next year.

Worse, most of the legislation is written by lobbyists. The new legislators don't know how to write a bill.


Subscribe to NCR Today


NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

May 19-June 1, 2017