National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

NCR Today

Lighting the autumn flame


Very soon the autumn equinox comes. Day and night are of equal length as the Earth tilts away from the sun in the Northern hemisphere. The sun itself rides lower in the sky. Dawns are a little chilly. Sunset comes earlier.

A sure sign of autumn here, and everywhere, is the fire of sumac. This wild plant grows everywhere on roadsides and at the edges of fields, native to almost every area of the world. The name comes almost unchanged from the Arabic down through Old French. The wild species goes unnoticed untl its leaves explode into a deep, vibrant red color as summer wanes.

Crimson is its main color but it also displays a brilliant yellow, a rich orange or an exquisite purple.

Hal Borland, a nature writer who wrote a weekly column in the New York Times for years, comments: "One wonders why the legend-makers never gave it credit for lighting the autumn flame in the forest, setting off the whole blaze of color. Legendary or not, there it stands now, full of cool autumn fire, ready to set the whole woodland aflame."

Seattle archbishop retires; Joliet bishop named successor


On the wire this morning:

Archbishop Brunett of Seattle retires; Joliet bishop named successor

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted Seattle Archbishop Alex J. Brunett's resignation and appointed Bishop J. Peter Sartain of Joliet, Ill., as his successor.

The changes were publicized in Washington Sept. 16 by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Archbishop Brunett, who was named to Seattle in 1997, is 76 years old. Under canon law, bishops must submit their retirement at age 75.

Archbishop Sartain, who is 58, has headed the Joliet Diocese since 2006. Before that he was the bishop of Little Rock, Ark., for about six years.


50 British notables decry Pope's visit, Bill Donahue responds


Writing in The Guardian, 50 British notables (including Richard Dawkins and Terry Pratchett) released a letter this morning decrying the fact that the Pope is being given "the honor of a state visit" to the UK this week.

The letter has sparked a response from Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League here in the U.S.

For your ease, here's excerpts from both.

From the letter:

We believe that the pope, as a citizen of Europe and the leader of a religion with many adherents in the UK, is of course free to enter and tour our country. However, as well as a religious leader, the pope is a head of state, and the state and organisation of which he is head has been responsible for:

Opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids.

Promoting segregated education.

Denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women.

Opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Hijacking Newman


John Cornwell's essay in the Financial Times, The papal hijacking of Cardinal Newman, is creating quite a stir. Cornwell's biography of Newman, Newman’s Unquiet Grave: The Reluctant Saint, is the book of choice this week in the NCR Book Club, with a review by Jesuit Fr. Peter L’Estrange.

Cornwell's thesis in his essay is that "John Henry Newman has always been a source of inspiration to Catholic liberals for his tendency to see both sides of every question and to follow conscience wherever it may lead," and this makes his imminent beatification "paradoxical."

At bicentennial, Mexico's future questioned


From the Dallas Morning News:

Mexico celebrates 200 years of independence, violence & poverty persist

"As Mexico prepares to celebrate the bicentennial of its independence from Spain and the 100th anniversary of its revolution today and Thursday, many Mexicans are questioning how much liberty and opportunity they really have in a country racked, again, by bloodshed and still plagued by poverty.


Subscribe to NCR Today


NCR Email Alerts