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Pay it forward for a nun who has changed your life


How refreshing and inspiring it is to continually hear about the great work that our Catholic sisters are doing around the world. As I noted in a blog here the other day, Nick Kristof writing in The New York Times weighed in with a column about these great women. Even with all the institutional woes of our church, the real work goes on, and all you have to do is go to the poorest areas of developing countries and you’ll see that a substantial amount of that work is by nuns.

Author and occasional NCR contributor Paul Wilkes last year wrote about his experiences, highlighting some of the selfless work of the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco of the Bangalore Province, after a trip he took there. (First piece; second piece).

What to Enshrine at the "Shrine?"


Today’s Washington Post offered yet another dimension of the sex abuse scandal. It seems that Cardinal Dar'o Castrillón Hoyos of Colombia, who once praised a French bishop for not telling police about a priest who had sexually assaulted children, is scheduled to celebrate a Pontifical Latin Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington April 24. That Mass is sponsored by the Paulus Institute, an organization that promotes the traditional Latin Mass.

Here is the Post story in a nutshell:


“Castrillón, the former head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, made headlines last week when a 2001 letter he wrote to French Bishop Pierre Pican surfaced in the French press. In it, he praised Pican for not reporting the pedophile priest to police, despite being mandated to do so under French law.


The Problem with Purity


Union members in North Carolina have announced plans to try and unseat those Democrats in Congress from the state who voted against the health care bill. They believe that voting against such a long-time central plank of the party’s platform was so egregious that these Congressmen should be punished for their votes.

In Arizona and Utah, stalwart conservatives are mounting similar challenges against the two incumbent Republican senators from those states, including the party’s standard bearer in 2008, Sen. John McCain.

The quest for ideological purity misses an important fact about elections. They are binary choices. If the insurgent liberals in North Carolina succeed in forcing the Democratic incumbents to spend resources on a primary campaign, they are virtually conceding the seat to the GOP. It is difficult to see how the interests of the progressive movement are served by electing Republicans. A similar event happened, in reverse, in the special election last year in New York’s District 23. The moderate nominee was challenged by a conservative, with the result that a Democrat picked up that seat for the first time since the Civil War.

April 21, Mark Twain


"I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: 'All right then, I'll go to hell' --and tore it up."

-- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapter XXXI

Huck struggled with his conscience. Should he write to Miss Watson and tell her where her runaway slave was being held? He knew he must. Even though he was "brung up wicked", Huck knew that helping Jim escape would mean "everlasting fire". He knelt down and tried to pray. He even wrote the letter. But then he "got to thinking over our trip down the river".

USCCB to Reporters' Rescue


The USCCB’s Office of Media Relations is scheduling a one-day seminar for members of the media to instruct them on the provisions of canon law and how that law relates, or doesn’t to civil laws. The seminar will focus specifically on how these laws relate to cases involving the sex abuse of minors by clergy. It is scheduled for May 25 and is being co-sponsored by the Canon Law Society of America.

Examining the crisis


A new blog on

What does it mean? What happens next? When will this end? What can we do? We hear these questions and more from many readers trying to make sense of the exploding sex abuse scandal, now involving the Vatican.

To help readers examine these questions more deeply, NCR has opened "Examining the Crisis," a new blog on We will post commentaries, opinion pieces, and yes even a homily or two, about the issues we, as church, must confront. We offer these pieces as a way to begin to move beyond the current phase of reporting of the crisis.

The first piece has just been posted: Turn this dreadful moment into a graced moment, by Fr. Michael Ryan.

Take the St. Francis pledge on Earth Day this week


Earth Day, recognized annually on April 22, is 40 years old this year.
It's a perfect occasion to remember that The St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor was launched one year ago under the auspice of the Catholic Climate Covenant. Over the past year, thousands of Catholic individuals, families, schools, parishes and organizations have pledged to Pray, Learn, Assess, Act and Advocate as part of their commitment.

Join them this week. Take the Pledge.

World people's summit on climate change takes place this week in Bolivia


The search for common ground on climate change between the United States and nations like China at the Major Economies Forum last weekend focused on industrial needs … but a totally different conversation is getting underway in Cochabama, Bolivia, at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth.

Following the perceived failure of the COP15 climate change talks in Copenhagen last year, Bolivian President Eva Morales called an alternative civil-society conference. It is taking place this week in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, bringing together indigenous groups, NGOs, scientists, activists as well as government delegations. More than 15,000 people have gathered in the small Bolivian town of Cochebamba from April 19 to 22. Morales expects the conference to give a voice to the poorest people of the world and to encourage governments to be far more ambitious following the failure of the Copenhagen summit.

Harvard student opines on state-church law


Are states too deferential to the Catholic church and its code of canon law? asks Olivia M. Goldhill, an editorial writer for The Harvard (University) Crimson.

In Punishment for the Pope? Blind acceptance of canon law is wrong, Goldhill writes, "Perhaps to arrest the pope is a step too far, but the Roman Catholic Church should know that its jurisdiction does not supersede that of national justice systems."


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