NCR Today

2011: Year of Pope John Paul II?


Maybe some missed the irony in the juxtaposition of two stories on the NCR web site in the past few days.

One was written by Jason Berry about the striking failings of Pope John Paul II in his dealings with the Legionaires and his blindness in the face of the largest crisis to hit the church in centuries – the clergy sex abuse crisis and episcopal cover-up.

The other, a report written by John Allen that states that Vatican efforts will be made this year to beatify Pope John Paul II.

Abortion as a familial, cultural, religious and entertainment issue


After my reflection on a Christmas advertising campaign that featured an image of an ultrasound of a baby Jesus in utero and seeing the new film "Blue Valentine," this opinion piece by Ross Douthat in yesterday's New York Times seems especially thoughtful.

"Blue Valentine" got some controversial press due to an NC-17 rating it received from the MPAA for an oral sex scene, and then when it was down-rated to an R upon appeal.

I thought "Sex and Other Drugs" was much more problematic from the explicit sexuality perspective, but "Blue Valentine" stems from every bad sexual choice the key figure, Cindy (Michelle Williams) makes. Her sexual history may be more realistic than most people think: first sexual experience at 13 and by the time she is in her early 20's she has had more than twenty sexual partners. She is in the midst of an abortion when she tells the doctor to stop, and he does.

Archdiocese of Milwaukee to file for bankruptcy


The Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in a sign that the sad consequences of the priest sex abuse crisis continue to erode the stature of the Catholic Church in the United States, announced it would seek bankruptcy protection today.

The announcement was made by Archbishop Jerome Listecki.

The tensions of the debate over how the crisis should be handled are caught in quotes from a story on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel website:

"For those of you who may feel anger and resentment that we have come to this moment, STOP," Listecki said in a letter to church members on Tuesday. "We are here because of one reason: Priests sexually abused minors."

Jeff Anderson, the Minnesota lawyer who represents victims in the Milwaukee cases, called the action sad and alarming, characterizing it as a ploy to delay the lawsuits and the disclosure of damning information in depositions of retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland and Richard Sklba. Sklba's deposition was initially scheduled for January and recently rescheduled for February.

Five New Year's hopes for American society


Here we are into another new year. It feels like the years seem to pass by more rapidly each time. I wish time, at least for me, would slow down more. As with many other Americans, I think about New Year resolutions or hopes.

Let me share with you five public hopes I have for 2011:

  1. I hope that President Obama will show more resolve in dealing with the Republicans. I’m all for compromise but that should entail a process and not a starting position, as the President too often seems to be inclined.

  2. I hope that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq truly begin to wind down. I don’t expect this, but the deaths of so many people in both countries -- including Americans -- are very much the result of U.S. intervention in both countries. Americans are dying in both countries for failed policies and for the questionable aggrandizement of an American empire based on corporate and military objectives.

Another strike against capital punishment


A Texas man imprisoned 30 years ago on rape and murder charges had his conviction overturned todya after DNA evidence exonerated him.

Dallas County Judge Don Adams overturned Cornelius Dupree Jr.’s conviction Tuesday, clearing his name officially.

"It's a joy to be free," Dupree, 51, said outside court.

Dupree has served more years in a Texas prison for a crime he did not commit than anyone else in the state who was later exonerated by DNA evidence. Only two other people exonerated by DNA have spent more time in prison in the entire country, the Innocence Project said. Texas has freed 41 wrongly convicted prisoners because of DNA testing since 2001, more than any other state.

In tax debate, whatever happened to the 'poor'?


Over the holidays, commentators and politicians -- both outgoing and incoming -- had lot to say about the state of the economy. They criticized (or defended) tax cuts for the wealthy, well off or “connected.” They waxed eloquent on their love for the “middle class” -- and the importance of restoring their economic foundations, stopping home foreclosures, and creating jobs.

Some use the catch-all term, “working families,” which can reasonably describe any family from bank executives to road repair workers.

But one designation seems to have disappeared from public discourse, and that is the “poor.”

We rarely hear the word in political circles. Yet, people are dropping out of the middle class in disturbing numbers as the “wealth gap” widens in this country.

Many people don’t worry about foreclosures because they simply don’t own a home. And lots of those who were once part of a “working family” wish they were again -- but can’t find jobs. They are, in short, “poor.”

There seems to be a political reluctance to use one of the terms most commonly found in the Judeo-Christian scriptures: the poor.

The pope and Woody Allen


Like too many other people, I had the great misfortune to grow up in the 1970s -- I remember its crimes very clearly.

Qiana knit shirts, leisure suits, disco, the Chevy Vega, stagflation, Watergate, and the sitcom "Three's Company" top my list -- but, honestly, I could go on for hours more. Were it not for Woody Allen (more on him later), I wouldn't have laughed at all during those ten years. But awful decade though it was, I don't remember rampant pedophilia being part of the dark mix.

Apparently, I missed it. In his now famous-for-all-the-wrong-reasons Christmas address this season, Pope Benedict did an admirable job of once again addressing the church's sex abuse scandal head on. He said the trauma had reached "an unimaginable dimension" in 2010 and brought "humiliation" upon the church.

Report: Beatification of John Paul II likely in 2011


According to a report by veteran Italian Vatican writer Andrea Tornielli, a miracle attributed to the late Pope John Paul II has been approved by both the medical and theological consulters of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

In effect, that clears the path for the beatification of John Paul II sometime in 2011. Tornielli suggests that the most likely dates would April 2, the anniversary of the pope’s death; May 18, his birthday; or October 16, the anniversary of his election to the papacy in 1978.

Although Benedict XVI typically does not celebrate beatification ceremonies himself, preferring that they be led by the local bishop and staged in the saint’s local diocese, in this case the beatification would be held in St. Peter’s Square in Rome and is expected to draw a vast crowd.

Before a date is set, the full body of cardinals and bishops who make up the Congregation for the Causes of Saints must approve the miracle and then submit their recommendation to Pope Benedict XVI.


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February 10-23, 2017