As the Catholic church works through the horrific, dispiriting priest abuse scandal and attendant cover-up by bishops, there's been little to applaud. But when something does go right -- or at least mostly right -- it's worth noting.
A small c catholic
When I look back on my life, I'm astonished.
I've ridden elephants in India and camels in Egypt. I've seen Paris from near the top of the Eiffel Tower. I once woke up in Athens on New Year's Day. I've camped out near Montreal.
But I've never heard an actual voice I believed was God's. And yet ...
As a pure-hearted journalist whose salary has always been paid out of vending box proceeds and not from ad sales, I’ve always had some disdain for sin-stained people in the public relations business.
NORTH SPRINGFIELD, Vt. -- I've been here in soft, green New England learning patience and waiting for death.
Not my death, but that of my wife's sister, who early this year entered her fourth year of living with the dark and vicious stranger called ovarian cancer. It is cellular evil, a parasitic wanderer that will invade more than 22,000 women this year, while killing more than 15,000 previously diagnosed women, including Leslie. Worse, the American Cancer Society reports that the mortality rate for ovarian cancer has not improved in 40 years.
Like the oblivious frog sitting in the pot of water that's slowly coming to a boil, we often find it almost impossible to discern even historic changes while they're happening.
And sometimes when we guess at seismic shifts that may be occurring, we're embarrassingly wrong: Thomas Watson, IBM chairman in 1943, is (maybe falsely) reported to have said then: "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
I'm always surprised when I find religious leaders using terms in ways that seem to mean the opposite of what I think their common meaning is.
For instance, Pope Benedict XVI said this in one of the recent ad limina visits bishops periodically make to him:
Among the many responses that piece stirred up was a reader's comment that I want to unpack because I think it identifies an approach to Christianity that, though admirable in many ways, ultimately misses the mark.
As a Protestant, I have, as usual, been looking in from outside Catholicism at a running news story -- and finding myself profoundly puzzled.
News of the Vatican's condemnation of the largest organization representing Catholic nuns in the United States -- the Leadership Conference of Women Religious -- is not of the same magnitude as the long-running story of sexual abuse and cover-up in the church. But in its own way, it is needlessly damaging the church -- and not just the Catholic church, but the church universal.
It says to non-Christians that women cannot be trusted to think for themselves, to order their lives in ways that make sense, to take reasonable positions on issues, to be autonomous human beings outside the control of males.
I understand that some of these interpretations of what the Catholic church is saying to its women religious may be unfair, but as we all know, perception often trumps reality.
TEL MARESHA, Israel -- The underground cave in which we are digging for archeological treasures here is domed with rock, cool and a bit damp.
Our Jewish-Christian study tour group has stopped at Bet Guvrin-Maresha National Park in the Judean lowlands to get a sense of the astonishing layers of history in the Holy Land. And the experts who oversee this ongoing archeological dig are letting us do some real digging.
Using small claw-like tools, we churn up soil that has remained untouched by human hands for at least 2,000 years. As we do so, we watch for pieces of pottery, jewelry or anything else that seems not to be chalky rock or simply soil. The burden of not losing history seems palpable.
I soon find a shard of pottery a couple of inches across, and I put it into one of the "save" buckets. Soon, one of the women in our group begins to unearth what turns out to be a large pot that could hold several gallons of liquid. It's quite an amazing find for an amateur, and the professionals helping us are thrilled.
SAFED, Israel -- Abraham Faraj, once an Israeli soldier who, for a time, was the driver for future prime minister Gen. Ariel Sharon, was selling juice -- orange and pomegranate -- from his little sidewalk stand here in this northern Israeli town.
His mood was good at seeing tourists. He was laughing, pointing this way and that at his wares, even offering samples.
And then the sirens blew.
It was Holocaust Remembrance Day, when at 10 a.m., all of Israel stops in silence for two minutes to remember and honor the six million Jews of Europe who perished at the hands of Hitler's deputized murderers.
Well, not all of Israel stops, it turns out. The ultra-orthodox -- who spend their time praying, studying Torah and not participating much, if at all, in the civic state of Israel because it would mean dividing their loyalties between it and God -- make it a point to ignore, sometimes ostentatiously, the two-minute observance.