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Bulletins from the Human Side

The sad, secular substitutes for Easter

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Perhaps no period of the year -- not even when Christmas is reduced to XMAS -- tells us better how impoverished are the sad, searching celebrations presented as stand-ins for Passover and Holy Week.

Like a journeyman basketball player who lacks the magic of Michael Jordan in his prime, these events, sent in as subs, lack the Mystery generated spontaneously by these feasts whose date is set by the first full moon after the spring equinox. They are born, so to speak, from the inexhaustible symbols whose energy affects the tides of the oceans as well as those that rise and fall within us.

The dating of these feasts flows from the ancient practice of attempting to coordinate the lunar and solar calendars, symbolizing the two modes of eternal life. At the vernal equinox, when dark and light are in balance, the sun and the moon stand across the sky from each other. The moon, as Joseph Campbell once explained to me, "represents engagement in Time, like throwing off death, as the moon its shadow, to be born again. The disengaged sun represents the Eternal, the moon's source of light and the source of light for all of us who live in Time."

Bishop Robinson and the redemption of Eros

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The blessed bishop from Australia who talks such good sense about human sexuality is a Robinson by name and by myth. For he is a Robinson Crusoe, building a ship with the help of Friday, avatar for all of us, that will allow the church to set sail into the deep of human sexual experience.

The bishop wants the church, in the phrase from the Pentecost season, to "speak an entirely new language" about sexual acts, but he understands that he must phrase his invitation in an old-fashioned vocabulary of legal distinctions and regulations that has become the institution's native and sometimes forked tongue.

'Downton Abbey' is more myth than Masterpiece Theater

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"Downton Abbey" has attracted so many fans that PBS showed it twice on Super Bowl Sunday so football fans would not miss an episode.

The series about the parallel lives of the downstairs servants and the upstairs aristocrats, like the Orient Express on which some long to ride and at which others prefer to hurl stones, has stirred reactions out of proportion to its Masterpiece Theater origins.

A sunken cruise ship, a missing couple and a Religious Mystery

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We all feel that we know Barbara and Jerry Heil, a Catholic couple presumed dead after the cruise ship Costa Concordia, like a prehistoric creature too clumsy to escape its adversary, heaved its wounded bulk one last time before turning on its side and dying in the shallow waters off the Tuscan coast.

Jerry and Barbara Heil are remembered by their grieving fellow parishioners at St. Pius X Church in White Bear Lake, Minn., as "quiet kindly people deeply involved in the congregation."

Who knew an Irish seminary could be so much like a prison?

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NCR received a letter from Msgr. Hugh G Connolly, president of Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth, the national seminary of Ireland. Msgr. Connolly objected to this web column by Eugene Kennedy.

Msgr. Connolly requested the opportunity to respond to Kennedy’s column. To meet that request, I am printing in full Msgr. Connolly’s written statement that gives his account of the changes at the college: Maynooth seminary head objects to Kennedy’s portrayal

Dennis Coday,
NCR Editor

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In a story likely to be unsurpassed as what psychologists term an "unobtrusive measure" of what is wrong with the Catholic church in Ireland, its venerable national seminary at Maynooth has decided, according to The Irish Catholic, to "separate the seminary environment from the wider university community."

The new year and the mystery in the mundane

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The cackling and cawing of the media birds of prey stripping the Iowa cornfields clean blurred the weekend of our transition into a new year. Yet their departure from Iowa in a noisy fluttering wedge to disturb the peace elsewhere reminds us, as does this steep path of descent from the craggy peak of one year to the lush foothills of another, of the Mystery that swirls around this familiar passage.

Christmas is a bulletin from the human side

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The New York Times recently asked an author of a book on imaginary gardens to review a new book that was actually old hat in its debunking the idea that the Garden of Eden and its alleged inhabitants, Adam and Eve, ever really existed.

That flatfooted reduction of the first power couple and their idyllic garden to inventions, like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, to beguile children and the gullible masses, is one of the misunderstandings of the myth of Eden that causes us to miss the spiritual and psychological meaning of this account of our origins.

Separated at birth: clerical and athletic cultures

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The Oxford English Dictionary offers several definitions of culture, at least two of which help us understand the sex abuse scandals that have burst into flame on the campuses of Penn State and Syracuse universities and the very same scandal that is still eating its windswept way across the vast prairie of the Catholic church.

These are different faces of a scandal where origins and accelerants are exactly the same. They are functions of the cultures in which the blazes exploded from the same kindling, waxed stronger as the officials perched atop their common hierarchical structures, certain that they could keep them under control, decided not to pull the fire alarm -- what the heck, the fire chief and the newspaper editor were old friends of ours, we can count on them to keep this quiet and, besides, reporting it might increase our insurance rates, and we've had little fires before and if you don't make a big deal out of them, they burn themselves out.

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In This Issue

August 15-28, 2014

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