NCR Today

A Jesuit in the House of Representatives

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Jesuit Fr. Patrick Conroy is our lead guest on Interfaith Voices this week. He is the new Chaplain of the House of Representatives, only the second Catholic to hold that post.

He has a varied background. He is a lawyer who once thought about running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. But he felt a call from God that led him to enter the Jesuits, the Oregon Province. There he ministered for five years on a Native American reservation ("not a normal career path to the House of Representatives," he says). Later, he served as a chaplain at Georgetown University, and most recently taught theology to ninth graders at a Jesuit High School ("improvisational acting for 55 minutes several times a day," he calls it).

He is now the 60th Chaplain of the House of Representatives, a position where he received the bi-partisan support of both Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi.

Heavy in school, burdened for life

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The New York Times has an OpEd today by three college professors who undertook a substantial study about obesity:

"MUCH of the debate about the nation’s obesity epidemic has focused, not surprisingly, on food: labeling requirements, taxes on sugary beverages and snacks, junk food advertisements aimed at children and the nutritional quality of school lunches.

But obesity affects not only health but also economic outcomes: overweight people have less success in the job market and make less money over the course of their careers than slimmer people. The problem is particularly acute for overweight women, because they are significantly less likely to complete college.

What the Catholic church and the IMF share in common

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A few weeks ago, the alleged sexual assault of a hotel housekeeper by International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn sparked global outrage. He was arrested and quickly forced to resign his position.

In a follow-up story earlier this week, The New York Times reported that at the IMF, "there is one set of ethics guidelines for the rank-and-file staff and another for the 24 elite executive directors who oversee the powerful organization." Though the IMF has strong internal systems, like a hotline for complaints and the publishing of details of complaints in the annual report, the board members remain "largely above these controls."

Does this remind you of another organization plagued by the scandal of sexual abuse?

The long and sad clergy abuse saga takes a local turn

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When will this end? The clergy sex abuse story, national and international in scope, has again taken a local turn.

Less than 24 hours after the release of the John Jay report last month by the U.S. bishops' conference, a report that placed the scandal at the feet of the 1960s social upheaval and sexual revolution, we learned that a Kansas City- St. Joseph diocesan priest had been arrested for having had child pornography in his computer.

Ecocide: naming an international crime

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Last year, I was part of an interfaith delegation to Vietnam investigating the lingering effects of Agent Orange on the civilian population. I saw children with dreadful birth defects and visited the old air base at Da Nang -- now a "hot spot" -- where you can still smell the chemicals today, 35 years after they were stored and spilled there.

Now, David Zierler has written a new book about all this, and named the crime. It's called The Invention of Ecocide. It refers to any large-scale destruction of the natural environment or over-consumption of critical non-renewable resources. Zierler focuses on wartime ecocide, tracing it to the time when the Pentagon began to study weed killers in the 1940s. When the findings merged with theories of counterinsurgency and a perceived need to deny "cover" to the "enemy," it led to the spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam. It covered a part of South Vietnam the size of Massachusetts.

On this day: Battle of Philippi

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On this day, 150 years ago, the first land battle of the Civil War was fought at Philippi, Virginia. Two Union columns, totalling 3000 men, marched all night in a rain storm to take the town, where 800 Confederate recruits were sleeping.

The skirmish at Philippi (pronounced FILL-uh-pea) presaged what lay ahead for the Confederacy. They should have taken a lesson from the rout, but of course they did not.

Two soldiers who were present that cold morning are remembered still. Both were eighteen-year-old boys. One was Ambrose Bierce, and the other was James E. Hanger.

Economic justice: the public may be getting the message

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I was born in what is now the 26th congressional district of New York (Lockport, NY, to be exact). I can personally attest to the fact that it trends very Republican. That was true even when I was young. My high school graduation speaker was none other than Rep. William Miller. Don't remember him? Well, he was Barry Goldwater's running mate.

So I was thrilled to see my old stomping grounds suddenly elect a Democrat (Kathy Hochul) in order to send a message to the country about health care justice. Medicare was the central issue in that campaign. The Republican candidate, Jane Corwin, had endorsed the budget of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which calls for turning Medicare into a "voucher" system that would put seniors at the mercy of the private insurance market and make good health care unaffordable for many.

Feuerherd family, friends celebrate Mass of Christian burial

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Family, colleagues and friends of NCR publisher Joe Feuerherd celebrated and were sustained by a Mass of Christian burial June 1 at the Theological College chapel on the campus of The Catholic University of America in Washington.

We came together, sharing a loss, buoyed by our faith and hope. It was at once a sad and joyful celebration. Joe would have asked: "So what's the fuss?" He asked that there be no eulogies at the service. We carried those in our hearts. Catholics can do funerals spectacularly well. This burial Mass was an example.

Cuomo announces suspension of Fed's illegal immigration enforcement program

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Whatever the merits of the federal Secure Communities immigration program, it's clear that it has very serious problems. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision to suspend the program in order to do less harm to public safety and to pursue actual justice is both prudent and timely. Gov. Cuomo is beginning to show real leadership on immigration, which is at the heart of state of our American church.

We need immigrants both as a church and as a country. In this initiative, Gov. Cuomo should be vocally and substantially supported by the New York State bishops and all people of goodwill. The simplistic notion that every non-documented person who commits felonies in the U.S. can be magically plucked off the streets of our cities and towns and by the clicking of the heels of the local police chief will be placed on a plane and sent to his or her home country is something that might work in former Gov. Sarah Palin's Alaska, but it does not happen as a matter of course in normal circumstances. It's much more complicated and nuanced. Gov. Cuomo gets it.

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January 13-26, 2017

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