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Report: One in three working families near poverty

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A new report on the working poor is extraordinarily troubling.

The new report, released by the Working Poor Families Project, should give all of us serious pause, especially during this Christmas season.

The Huffington Post reports:

In the aftermath of the worst economic downturn since the Depression, much attention has been focused on the 15 million people who are officially out of work, yet even among those who have jobs, livelihoods and living standards have been substantially downgraded. Growing numbers of employed people live in near poverty, struggling to make ends meet.

Almost a third of America's working families are now considered low-income, earning less than twice the official poverty threshold, according to a report released Tuesday by the Working Poor Families Project. The recession, which has incited layoffs and wage cuts, reversed a period of improvement: Between 2007 and 2009, as the recession set in, the percentage of U.S. working families classified as low-income grew from 28 percent to more than 30 percent.

Condoms not a 'lesser evil,' Vatican insists

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Responding to the media sensation created by Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks on condoms in a recent book-length interview, the Vatican’s doctrinal office has released a statement insisting that the pope has not softened the church’s traditional ban on contraception, and that condoms cannot be viewed as a morally justified “lesser evil,” even in the context of HIV/AIDS.

That said, the statement concedes that in some instances, such as prostitution, the use of a condom with the intent of reducing the risk of infection may represent “the first step in respecting the life of another.”

Indicating the level of concern in the Vatican about possible over-interpretation of the pope’s words, today’s 1,000-word statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was released simultaneously in six languages: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese.

In the book, titled Light of the World, Benedict XVI says that in certain cases, such as a prostitute, the use of condom “can be a first step in the direction of moralization,” reflecting concern for the life and health of the other party.

Keeping Christ in Christmas

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For a very thoughtful (though long) discussion of the how to keep Christmas a religious holiday by avoiding commercialism, check out this discussion between Father James Martin and Susan Thistlehwaite, a United Church of Christ minister, professor at Chicago Theological Seminary and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

They conclude that our society now doesn’t have a Christian theology, but a “Santa theology.” Thistlehwaite did a great column this year in the Washington Post about the difference between Jesus and Santa. The gist: Jesus will forgive you, while Santa will not.

Martin, an editor at America magazine, was on Fox and Friends this morning discussing the so-called “War on Christmas.” (No link available yet.) On Facebook, he noted this morning that “for all of Fox's horror over the dearth of Christian imagery in the season, the lobby of the Fox News Building had a Menorah, but no creche!”

On this day

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On this day, the winter solstice, in the first reading at Mass, the Beloved "comes leaping on the mountains, bounding over the hills".

"For see, winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth.
The season of glad songs has come,
the cooing of the turtledove
is heard in our land."

In the Gospel, more hills and more leaping. "Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."

On PBS: 'The Calling'

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On Dec. 20-21, PBS will air a documentary exploring what it means to be “called” to serve as clergy in the 21st century. It relates a fascinating set of personal stories, featuring seven young people who have felt a “calling” to serve God as either as priests, ministers, rabbis, imams or Islamic chaplains.

On this day

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On this day, 150 years ago, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published "Paul Revere's Ride".

LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; t
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, ‘If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light, --
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be, t
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.


There's more; it's 130 lines long. And it's much more than a fictionalized version of Revere's ride. Jill Lepore explained in an op-ed piece in The New York Times yesterday, that " 'Paul Revere's Ride' is less a poem about the Revolutionary War than about the impending Civil War -- and about the conflict over slavery that caused it."

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