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Is bishop statement end of discussion?


One can almost hear, in the statement released by the U.S. bishops addressing the anguishing case out of Phoenix involving Mercy Sr. Margaret McBride, a punctuating sentiment: And that’s it! No more discussion! See story (and the bishops’ statement) here.

The bishops didn’t actually say that, but it is the essence of the conclusion by the doctrine committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. What occurred in Phoenix was a direct abortion, they determined, and “Nothing … can justify a direct abortion. No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church."

The statement seems to end all discussion of the matter, though one wonders if a declaration simply ends all questions, including those posed by church ethicists.

Obama's Firing of McChrystal


The President did what he had to do: He fired Gen. McChrystal. Conservatives were ready to pounce at the President’s removal of a commanding officer from the line of battle. But, then the President pulled a Petraeus out of the hat and all the conservative angst went away. Sen. John McCain was the first to praise the selection but soon virtually everyone was on-board.

Virtually everyone. Mr. Limbaugh, of course, was not appeased by the choice and falsely charged that then-Senator Obama had failed to criticize when it ran an especially stupid and juvenile ad that played on the general’s name; the ad was entitled “Betray Us.” Obama did, in fact, criticize for the ad. I have little regard for They are to the left what the Tea Party is to the right. But, here is the difference. For weeks now, Chris Matthews has issued an open challenge to any Republican willing to come on his show and denounce just one of the many outrageous comments that spew forth from Mr. Limbaugh. We are still waiting. Obama criticized Is there not one honorable member of the GOP willing to challenge the radio showman?

Oil vacuums and ministry


When I interviewed Craig Taffaro, the president of St. Bernard Parish, La., about the impact of the BP oil disaster on his parish, I asked (the obvious question) what his greatest need was. That was June 8 and he said, "Primarily we just need some additional resources to fight the oil as it approaches … we want to be able to actively attack it in the water and not wait for it to get near shore or on our shorelines."

A week later, in a written response to President Obama's national address on the oil disaster, Taffaro said much the same: "First and foremost, we are grateful that the president has made four trips to this region and I believe he's engaged. But part of what we continue to fight is a lack of actual resources on the ground to be able to attack this oil in the water … I think [Obama] understands [the situation], but we need to have the resources."

Next generation


At first glace, the report about Smith College in Massachusetts firing its three chaplains seemed to be about the big-bad administration cutting the budget at the expense of religious life at the school.

Turns out, however, that there wasn't much "religious life" going on. According to the school's dean of religious life, only about 50 students were participating in regular religious services offered to Catholics, Protestants and Jews.

This, out of a student body of 2,600--all women, who at least traditionally have been more regular church-attenders than men. Of course, Smith is not a school with religious roots, and some 40% of students check "no religious affiliation" as incoming freshmen, the New York Times article said.

Granted, attending formal religious services isn't the only way to be religious, especially during one's college years. And it's sad that today's financial realities have made head-counting like this a necessary way to determine which services stay and which go.

Kathy Kelly: the real offense in the McChrystal saga


Kathy Kelly, a co-director of Voices for Creative Non-Violence and a long-time anti-war activist and chronicler of what’s happening in war zones, was recently in areas of Pakistan that are regularly in the news, and she also spent some time in Afghanistan with members of an Italian relief organization. She’ll be writing about her experiences and observations for NCR in the near future.

I emailed her today to see what she thought of President Obama relieving Gen. Stanley McChrystal of his command in Afghanistan. Here’s her reply, one that you won’t get on this evening’s news:

“It seems to be rearranging the deck chairs. In the Rose Garden, President Obama said there would be no change in policy. Def. Sec. Gates replaced General McKiernan with Gen. McChrystal because he and others in the Obama administration wanted to employ McChrystal's experience in organizing special operations. In Iraq, that experience involved developing death squads, planning night raids, and coordinating undercover assassinations.

'Smokestack lightning'


One of the benefits of living in Kansas City, Mo. is the Saturday Night Fish Fry, a music program on local public radio you can hear every Saturday night from 8 to midnight. The host, Chuck Haddix, serves up vintage and current blues, soul, jumpin' jive, zydeco, funk, doo-wop, four-handed boogie woogie piano, Mardi Gras mambos, gospel, R&B ballads, and Cajun stomps, along with notable barbecue recipes and lively chat about the local music scene and domino games in summer backyards. In our house the Fish Fry is welcome background music, but over the years I notice it's also become, for me, an kind of ongoing prayer, though of the "noisy contemplation" variety.

Do these names ring a bell? Pinetop Perkins, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vincent, Muddy Waters, Slim Harpo, Professor Longhair, Etta James, Ma Rainey, Peetie Wheatstraw? They're all stellar lights in the genre known as the blues, which is largely the music of black America a few generations ago, what 60 years ago used to be called "race music." It's the fertile seedbed of rock 'n' roll and has become the quintessential music of American working folks.

Top Philippine military officer says he will serve new president


So you think President Obama has problems with his top Afghanistan military officer, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who war relieved of his command just moments ago.

It could be worse.

This only vaguely reassuring report comes out of the Philippines, where the top military commander says he will serve the incoming president, Benigno Aquino.

If you have to say it, something is wrong.

MANILA, Philippines - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be at the service of incoming president Benigno Aquino, Jr., its top official said today.

The military will be a good follower for the next administration, obedient enough that it is going to follow the national leaders even if they happen to be likened to "dogs," Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales told reporters.

The Aquino government therefore must not fear that the AFP wants to topple the next administration, Gonzales said.

Aquino, who will replace incumbent president Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo, will take his oath as the country's 15th chief executive on June 30.

Report: 245 million women around the world are widows and over 115 million live in poverty


At least 245 million women around the world have been widowed and more than 115 million of them live in devastating poverty, according to a new study launched Tuesday night by Cherie Blair, wife of the former British prime minister.

The most dire consequences are faced by 2 million Afghan widows and at least 740,000 Iraqi widows who lost their husbands as a result of the ongoing conflicts; by widows and their children evicted from their family homes in sub-Saharan Africa; by elderly widows caring for grandchildren orphaned by the HIV/AIDS crisis, and by child widows aged 7 to 17 in developing countries, the report said.

"Across the world, widows suffer dreadful discrimination and abuse," Blair said. "In too many cases they're pushed to the very margins of society, trapped in poverty and left vulnerable to abuse and exploitation."

The Catholic Key and Who Speaks for the Church


I give Jack Smith, editor of Kansas City diocesan paper, a good deal of credit. His “Catholic Key” blog breaks beyond the usual church-sponsored model of communication. It is provocative, in tune with the bishop, Robert Finn, for whom he works, and a good place to get perspective on conservative views in the Church. (I rarely agree with his political points and think he’s taken some real cheap shots on a number of issues, but that’s another story.)

The Catholic Key blog, in other words, is a good read. But is it more than that? And should it be?

Yesterday, Smith weighed in on the controversy surrounding Cardinal Francis George’s comments at the closed door meeting of the US Bishops last week. It’s a long story (background here), but the essence of it is that the “Catholic News Agency” attributed remarks to George that the spokesperson for the US Bishops Conference, Helen Osman, says are a “fabrication.”


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