NCR Today

Horse Trades for the Common Good


There is a reason the Vatican does not allow nuns and priests to run for public office. Politicians, by the nature of their work, must make compromises. They have to work with people who hold different values than their own.

The Vatican expects us nuns and priests to be true believers. But it has canonized kings, the quintessential deal-makers.

These days in the United States, voters have elevated ideologues to high office, electing them ostensibly to serve us. But what they serve is their own ideology, not the common good. So we have people elected as pro-life who oppose abortion but vote to cut food aid to new mothers and their infants, who support the federal death penalty, and who have never seen a military program they didn’t like -- and who favor Styrofoam and incandescent light bulbs.

In order to serve the common good, politicians have to be willing to horse-trade, and they have to be good at it. It’s not like bluffing at poker and it’s not Russian roulette. The best politicians make deals where everyone walks away feeling like they gained something. Instead, these days we measure success by the measure of humiliation we heap on the loser.

Are we the Dupes?


Republicans seeking additional budget cuts argue that the country "is broke" and simply can't afford such luxuries as assistance to those who need help paying their heating bills.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne notes in his current column that the major problem with this analysis is that it is not true.

The contention that "we are broke," says Dionne, is smart politics and those promoting it deserve "full credit for diverting our attention with an arresting metaphor." But, he warns, "The rest of us are dupes if we fall for it.

When a nun dies


Have you ever wondered what happens when a nun dies?

When I entered our community of the Daughters of St. Paul in 1967, only one sister had died in our U.S. (and English-Speaking Canada) Province since our foundation here from Italy in 1932. Her name was Sr. Mary Attilia Trevisan. She was born in Verona, Italy, in 1900; entered the community in 1929; made profession in 1933; arrived in the U.S. in 1934; and died in Staten Island, N.Y., on October 10, 1943.

She was buried in a borrowed grave at Calvary Cemetery in Queens. (In 1978, when the next two deaths in the Province occurred, her remains were exhumed and reinterred at our just-constructed mausoleum in Boston.)

For those who do not know about the Verona archdiocese, until fairly recent times, it was a priestly and religious vocation factory, sending out more missionaries, through numerous congregations, than any other diocese in the world.

Exactly one page about her life exists in the archives of our congregation in Rome. It attests to her dedication to bring the word of God through good books to families, workers, and prisoners.

Morning Briefing


How Active Is Your God?


Here we are again. Calamities pile up on one another and the nagging, eternal still small voice cries, "Where is God in all this?"

Nature demolishes the Japanese, a Lybian madman murders his own people, a Wisconsin martinet destroys a basic human right -- and those are just the headline grabbers.

The old theodicy question arises again. How could a good God allow these assaults? Christians who sincerely believe God interevened to heal Aunt Victoria of a stroke may cringe at the suggestion that the same Omnipresent One also must have caused human and natural disasters, or at least tolerated the human treachry in the name of free will. But that's the implication of a faith that's consistent.

Deism always appears to provide a clean solution. God winds up the watch and lets it run from a remote location not unlike the owners's box in the former National Football League, without interference. But that leaves out personal experience of God, the hallmark of most Christianity, and posits a deity of chilling indifference. It isn't the God than Jesus mirrors. Yet the One manifested by Jesus is a selective micro-manager.

Rigali profile: explaining the man


One of the responses to Michael Sean Winters' posting today about Philadelphia and Cardinal Justin Rigali contains a link to a 2002 profile of the cardinal in the Riverfront Times, an alternative paper in St. Louis.

The piece was written by Jeannette Batz, a name that might be familiar to NCR readers. For a number of years she wrote a regular column for the paper. Batz is a wonderful writer, so the profile is worth it for the sheer pleasure of the read, but she is also a skilled and persistent researcher with an eye for telling detail and a talent for connecting dots that others might not even see.

Low crime, false prosperity in El Paso


Last week I spent several days in El Paso, Texas, my hometown, giving some talks on my new book Blowout! Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice (University of North Carolina Press). I'll write about this book in another blog, but what I want to relate in this one is my observations of conditions along this section of the U.S.-Mexico border.

For one, I was reminded of what a huge trans-border metropolitan region the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez area constitutes. El Paso now has a population of more than 700,000 while Juárez has one of close to 2 million.

Since my last visit two years ago, I felt this huge population. El Paso seemed more crowded and with much more traffic especially on the freeway where there is now bumper-to-bumper congestion.

The Tire Iron and the Tamale


Justin Horner writes a piece in the Lives section of the New York Times magazine that recounts three instances of getting stranded in his car during the past year. Many people passed him by. Each time, it was only a Mexican immigrant who stopped to help.

Horner realizes a truth that I, and so many who have worked with the poor and marginalized, know well. Very often the most disenfranchised and persecuted members of our society are also the most generous and compassionate.

Horner’s story of a particular encounter with a Mexican family would be a wonderful companion piece to the gospel of Luke. Not only is it a living illustration of the Beatitudes, it could also be understood as a modern twist on the Good Samaritan parable.

Catholic Schools: Time for a new model?


As a product of Catholic schools, I have a bit of emotional attachment to what they represent and the enormous contribution they've made to the culture.
But two stories on NCR's Daily Briefing blog, here and here raise anew questions about whether Catholic schools as we have known them are sustainable.
Declining enrollment, a drop in the number of schools and the inability of parishes and parents to finance them properly keep calling into question whether Catholic education will survive.
I don't know the state of the national conversation, or whether one is even being conducted, but I venture to ask, for two reasons, if it isn't time to rethink the system.


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In This Issue

February 10-23, 2017