NCR Today

Secular universities and religious tolerance


Working at a public university is a challenge for people of faith.

It seems to be assumed that intelligence and faith cannot be housed in the same brain and thus, believers are often dismissed as dim-witted throwbacks to a less enlightened era. This is especially true of believers who self-identify by wearing certain clothing or jewelry or, heaven forbid, are seen reading a book of scripture.

(Exception made here for anyone in the Department of Religion: expressions of faith are expected, if not completely welcomed.)

Most of the time, this disdain of faith isn’t overt; academia prides itself on being able to look askance at entire populations while appearing tolerant and even contemplative. But sometimes, as I observed recently, the religious prejudice is so obvious that people of faith are faced with a choice: Endure or ignore the religious hostility or speak up.

Republicans bring back plastic


Usually, as a confirmed news hound, I am totally absorbed in major stories like the Middle East uprisings, labor protests in Wisconsin, and the draconian budget cuts proposed by House Republicans.

But this time, news from the cafeteria of the House of Representatives caught my attention. It seems that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a policy of "greening" the Capitol Building in many ways. Among them was the introduction of biodegradable cups in the House cafeteria, as well as a composting program to go with it.

This seems totally in line with the environmental ethics of all our major faith traditions, including the Catholic church.

Now, in what has to stand as one of the pettiest moves of all time, Speaker John Boehner has ditched the biodegradables and the composting program to return to the earth-killing world of plastic foam cups (proper scientific name: polystyrene). And just to top it off: who is selling these cups to the House cafeteria? None other than George Wurtz, a former executive at a subsidiary of Koch Industries, who is currently the owner of WinCup.

Vatican tries to flesh out 'New Evangelization'


ROME -- In a papacy sometimes accused of lacking administrative direction, the Vatican under Benedict XVI is at least in a full, upright and locked position on one point: The urgency of a “new evangelization.”

In every way he possibly can, Benedict has signaled that he regards the “new evangelization,” broadly understood as reawakening a missionary spirit in the church, as a towering priority.

Bp. Ramirez recovering from illness


Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces N.M., who spoke at the Celebration conference on immigration in San Antonio, Jan. 12-14, is reportedly still recovering from a cold that developed into pneumonia and hospitalization when he got back to his diocese.

According to the Las Cruces Sun-News, Ramirez suffered some broken ribs from coughing, and this prolonged his recovery time. The story also quotes the bishop as saying he would be submitting his resignation Sept. 12, when he turns 75, as all bishops are required to do. Whether it is accepted and when is be up to Rome, he said.

Illinois governor has bill that would end death penalty


Following is a press release just in from the U.S. bishops' office. Here's a little background: Full-Court Press For Death Penalty Abolition Heats Up


WASHINGTON -- Signing a bill to end the use of the death penalty would “begin building a culture of life in our country,” said the bishop who oversees the domestic justice efforts of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in a letter to the governor of Illinois.

In his March 3 letter, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, joined the bishops of Illinois in urging Governor Pat Quinn to sign SB 3539, a bill that would end the use of the death penalty in Illinois and provide funds for training for law enforcement and services for families of murder victims.

God in the apricot tree


Branch Sunday is approaching, that spring celebration of fruitfulness in stories I tell about orchardists who place their excess tree prunings on the altar to praise God with the beauty of the forced blooms.

For years I convinced Tuesday mass attendees at the St. Louis Catholic Worker that it was a real feast. I brought the branches from the Worker orchard in late February with instructions to put them in water in a warm spot in the house.

It's Operation Rice Bowl Time


This Press Release just in:

Holy Father’s Lenten Message Calls for Sacrifice

Operation Rice Bowl provides vital assistance to poor around the world through Lenten Sacrifice

Baltimore, MD, March 3, 2011 – This year Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten message invites Catholics to consider the traditions of fasting and sacrifices. “For Christians,” the Holy Father said, “fasting, far from being depressing, opens us ever more to God and to the needs of others, thus allowing love of God to become also love of our neighbor.”

“This is exactly what we mean at CRS when we say that solidarity can transform the world," said Catholic Relief Services President, Ken Hackett. “As we state in our guiding principles: “We are all part of one human family — whatever our national, racial, religious, economic or ideological differences — and in an increasingly interconnected world, loving our neighbor has global dimensions.”


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March 24-April 6, 2017