National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

NCR Today

Targeting Obama at the Church Festival


The parish Big Time summer fundraiser in Roseto, PA, last month featured a new game: pay $5 and shoot a likeness of President Obama with six foam darts from eight feet away. Hit targets on the head and heart and win a stuffed animal.

The new attraction was called Alien Attack and invited contestants to fire away at a tall black man who wore a Presidential Seal belt buckle and who grasped a "Health Bill" in his right hand. It was one of the attractions offered by Goodtime Amusements of Hellertown, PA, a carnival which has been hired by the parish for the past 26 years to pull in most of the cash.

Grasping at Straws?


For many of those directly involved in women's religious life, the choice of Fr. Joseph Tobin is good news. Assuming the testimonials to his being well disposed toward Catholic women is well founded, that enthusiasm is understandable.

It's a ray of hope, though likely a very thin ray.

From the periphery, it seems likely to be a shrewd political move intended to soften criticism of the investigations and deflect attention away from the ingrained sexism and animosity toward Vatican II renewal that Fr. Tobin, with all the good will in the world, won't have the standing to influence. Perhaps he will lobby Cardinal Rode to tone down some of his pronouncements at the end of the investigations, but the cardinal has the final word and belongs to that inner circle that still thinks too many American sisters have forsaken "real" religious life.

Appointment of Tobin


This week presented so much good news that it’s hard to take after a summer of oily pelicans, grinding unemployment, Senate gridlock and Islamophobia crazies. But now, BP has virtually killed its oil-spewing well in the Gulf. The Senate broke its gridlock to pass badly needed aid to the states to save jobs. A judge in California overturned the same sex marriage ban as a violation of equal protection under the law. Mayor Bloomberg of New York spoke strongly in favor of the mosque near Ground Zero as upholding the cherished value of religious freedom, even as a panel cleared the way for demolition of an old building so construction can begin.
But then – the truly unexpected: the appointment of Fr. Joseph Tobin as Secretary of the Vatican's "Congregation for Religious." OK, like many NCR readers, I think a woman should be appointed to this and several other Vatican positions, but we all know that the men at the Vatican are (to put it charitably) “slow learners.” We have to note progress when it presents itself.

'Excommunicate me, please'


Sheila O'Brien is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, a product of 22 years of Catholic education and active in her parish. She is a justice of the Illinois Appellate Court, Chicago.

She has a think-piece in the Chicago Tribune titled Excommunicate me, please that begins: "Would someone in Rome formally excommunicate me, please? I want to be excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church because walking away will break my heart."

It has quite a few comments.

United States to give $3.5 billion for food aid


The United States will spend $3.5 billion in the next three years to boost food sufficiency in developing countries.

James Miller, undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Aug. 4 at the International Food Aid Conference in Kansas City, Mo., that the USDA, the U.S. Agency for International Development and non-governmental organizations in the targeted countries will be involved in rolling out the plan. Miller's announcement was a development of the "Feed the Future" food security assistance program, which is a response by the Obama administration to the July 2009 G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, where rich countries pledged contributions of up to $18.5 billion to fight hunger.

The steep rise in global food prices in 2007 and 2008 alerted the world to food insecurity as rioters in cities across Africa, the Middle East and eastern Europe staged street protests.

Federal judge overturns California same sex marriage ban


The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that a federal judge in San Francisco today struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution.

The news comes seven months after the trial was held in January and nearly two years after the controversial measure, known as Proposition 8, was backed by voters in November 2008.

From the Mercury News' report:

In a 136-page ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker sided with two same-sex couples who challenged voter-approved Proposition 8, which embedded a ban on gay marriage in the California constitution and wiped out a prior California Supreme Court ruling that briefly legalized same-sex nuptials across the state. Walker ordered that Proposition 8 should be immediately voided, and same-sex couples be given the chance marry across California.

Jewish benefactors some of Catholic schools' biggest donors


Richard J. Henken, a Boston real estate company executive, grew up in a conservative Jewish family on the south side of Newton. He attends services on the Jewish High Holy Days and considers his religion an important aspect of his identity. He is also one of the most generous benefactors Catholic schools in greater Boston have.

Henken gives $25,000 to $30,000 a year to Catholic schools and serves as an officer on the board of the Catholic Schools Foundation, which raises millions each year to help send children from low-income families to Catholic schools.

“When I started telling my friends I had joined the board, I got a couple of funny looks,’’ he said. “But whoever it is that wants to step up and provide a nurturing environment for at-risk youth based on Judeo-Christian values, I’m with you all the way.’’

Where has all the oil gone?


The question, "Where has all the oil gone?" has been answered in the media in recent days by scientists providing much speculation about how the oil may go away but little hard data about what is actually happening in the Gulf.

"The danger of this conjecture is that people are already beginning to tune out and assume that everything is fine, even within the spill response," says Marylee Orr, director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.

For reports on the whereabouts of the spilled oil, see the Louisiana Environmental Action Network's Web site.

World food aid conference looks at initiatives and trends


Kansas City, Mo -- From Aug. 2 to 4, 650 people from 17 countries are meeting at the annual USDA/USAID Food Aid Conference to discuss the world hunger situation and what is being done to address both immediate needs and to support long-term development of sustainable agriculture in afflicted countries.

More than one billion people -- one sixth of the world's population -- suffer from chronic hunger. Each year, more than 3.5 million children die from undernutrition. Hunger robs the poor of a healthy and productive life and stunts the mental and physical development of the next generation.

“Reducing chronic hunger is essential to build a foundation for investments in health, education and economic growth. It is critical to the sustainable development of individuals, communities and nations,” said Jonathan Coppess of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, who addressed the first general session on Aug. 3.

A focus of the conference this year is on Feed the Future, the Obama administration’s global and food security initiative.


Subscribe to NCR Today


NCR Email Alerts