NCR Today

Housing First


In the past five years a new philosophy has replaced old attitudes about serving the homeless. The old view was: provide addiction treatment; provide detox; provide medical care; provide anti-psychotic drugs; provide temporary shelter in a hospital or other care facility that can access all these services.

Today the watchword is Permanent Housing First.

Women religious: which group points way to the future?


I knew it was inevitable that the objections would begin to fly when John Allen, in his Aug. 19 column about World Youth Day, used a finding in a 2009 survey on religious life to bolster points he was making about a rise in what he terms “evangelical Catholicism.”

More than a few women religious from the “liberal” side of the divide reacted to the implication that the future of religious life is emerging from the conservative side of things.

Tax break for clergy questioned


From The Wall Street Journal:

As Congress scrutinizes every nook and cranny of the budget for possible revenue, a surprising court decision is allowing clergy members to buy or live in multiple homes tax-free.

The U.S. Tax Court ruled that Phil Driscoll, an ordained minister and Grammy Award-winning trumpeter who went to prison for tax evasion, didn't owe federal income taxes on $408,638 provided to him by his ministry to buy a second home on a lake near Cleveland, Tenn.

Under a provision of the tax code known as the parsonage allowance, first passed in 1921, an ordained clergy member may live tax-free in a home owned by his or her religious organization or receive a tax-free annual payment to buy or rent a home if the congregation approves.

Experts say the parsonage allowance was originally included as a way to minimize taxes on clergy members, whose compensation was often meager. It still is widely used for that purpose, church officials said, although the IRS doesn't track usage of the benefit.

On this day: St. Rose of Lima


On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Rose of Lima.

". . . with the emergence of new cultural histories and the study of mentalités, critics have begun to examine the broader contexts of Rosa's life: the role of the Counter-Reformation, the extirpation of idolatrous practices in Peru, and the development of a cr'ollo identity. Scholars . . . ask why Rosa de Lima was America's first saint. . . . A recent study of the politics, dogma, and iconography involved suggests that Rosa was in the right place at the right time and that her image could be molded to fit the changing needs of the faithful."

--from "'Redeemer of America': Rosa de Lima (1586-1617), the Dynamics of Identity, and Canonization," by Kathleen Ann Myers, inColonial Saints: Discovering the Holy in the Americas, 1500-1800, edited by Allan Greer and Jodi Blinkoff, Routledge, 2002, page 253.

Morning Briefing


On banning girl altar servers


I hate waking up to this kind of news: a headline about the rector at the Phoenix cathedral who has decided to ban girls as altar servers, even though nothing in current church law forbids it. Like the church isn't getting enough bad press already!

Already there have been some perceptive reactions (including from NCR's own Michael Sean Winters, who makes several important points) as well as from the Women's Ordination Conference and U.S. Catholic magazine's blog.

Let me add my two cents.

They say you can't put the toothpaste back into the tube, but here in the church there are some who refuse to quit trying. Despite consistent moves toward more openness and acceptance (of laity, of women, of gays and lesbians) in both society and the church, these folks fail to recognize this movement as coming from the Holy Spirit.

Reactions to 'No Girl Servers' in Phoenix story


I noted this story -- Phoenix diocese cathedral won't allow girl altar servers, Altar duties called part of priesthood prep -- in the Morning Briefing today and Michael Sean Winters commented on it (No Altar Girls at Phoenix Cathedral).

Here is what the Women's Ordination Conference has to say:

Women's Ordination Conference Decries Ban on Altar Girls in Phoenix Diocese

Contact: Erin Saiz Hanna, 202 675-1006,

WASHINGTON, DC - August 22, 2011 - Girls will no longer be allowed to serve as altar servers during Mass at the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, SS. Simon and Jude. In response, Women's Ordination Conference has issued an action alert calling on the Diocese to immediately reinstate female altar servers in that parish.

Disturbing the universe


Last week, I showed the documentary "William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe" to a group of attorneys and other interested persons. It’s really an amazing account.

The two filmmakers are his daughters from his second marriage. They were in high school when he defended the accused attackers of the Central Park jogger, the accused killer of Rabbi Kahane who founded the Jewish Defense League, and the first World Trade Center accused bombers.

The young girls were embarrassed when their friends asked why their father would defend such men and Kunstler’s wife was terrified because the family was receiving death threats. Then Kunstler died of a heart attack. His daughters grew up to be documentary filmmakers and decided to learn themselves and tell the story of their famous father’s life.

My hope is that people will stay for half an hour after the screening to talk about the need for better defense than the overworked public defenders are currently able to provide. I would really like to have a group of attorneys who meet regularly to review not only claims of innocence but also parole hearings, jail conditions and misuse of prosecutorial power.

Avatar of secularism faces blowback for pro-papal line


Lord Palmerston, the 19th century British Prime Minister, famously said that in politics there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. Benedict XVI would probably concur on the strength of his experience in Madrid the last few days, where liberal and secular currents in Spanish society have voiced outrage over the blatantly pro-papal line emanating from -- of all places -- the government of Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodr'guez Zapatero.


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In This Issue

May 19-June 1, 2017