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Richard Rohr criticizes 'Fortnight for Freedom'

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Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr, a popular spiritual writer and retreat leader, has publicly criticized the U.S. bishops' campaign for religious freedom, saying it "strikes a large part of the population as crying wolf when there is no wolf."

The campaign, undertaken by the bishops as a symbol of opposition to a controversial federal mandate requiring coverage of contraceptives in health care plans, is known as the "Fortnight for Freedom" and is to continue through July 4.

Rohr's comments regarding the campaign, posted June 23, came on his personal blog.

"It feels like entitled people wanting more entitlement," writes Rohr of the campaign. "How different from the early Christian martyrs, whom we piously venerate, who became holy and courageous through the limitations imposed on them by empires and emperors. Too bad Sts. Perpetua and Felicity could not sponsor a fortnight for freedom from their prison cells."

Review: 'Stella Days' looks at the church, cinema and dark night of the soul

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In a small town in rural Ireland in the 1950s, Fr. Barry (Martin Sheen) visits the sick, reads Latin prayers to them and promotes the installation of electricity in homes and businesses. Fr. Barry spent 20 years in America and many years in Rome in academic pursuits and research at the Vatican library. He was replaced, however, and sent back to Ireland, where he has been these last three years.

A 20-something's plea for answers

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Last week, I wrote a blog entry, mostly about recent events in Philadelphia, that contained the paragraph:

"How does anyone explain the headlines to a youngster? How do you explain priests doing such horrible things? How do you explain bishops and cardinals, for God's sake, covering up the ugly truth for decades on end? How do you deal with such deep betrayal and yet say, "This is the community you belong to, this is the community that you should stick with"?

A 20-something wrote the following response to me:

"I'd love to see a campaign of some sort run (online? Viral? protest?) aimed at the hierarchy of clergy asking the simple questions you pose on behalf of young catholics (or disenchanted ones like myself),

Morning Briefing

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Health care decision due this week. (Video) The Supreme Court will likely hand down a decision about Obama’s controversial health care law this week

Egypt's new president-elect, Islamist Mohammed Morsi, moved into the office once occupied by ousted leader Hosni Mubarak and started consultations Monday on forming his team and a new government.

Years of work by Philadelphia D.A.'s Office led to priests' trial

Philadelphia -- Lawyers For Convicted Priest Seek House Arrest

Fox News Reporter Hired as Vatican Media Adviser

Jury finds Lynn guilty of child endangerment

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After 13 days of deliberation, the jury in the landmark Philadelphia abuse trial has found Msgr. William J. Lynn guilty on one charge of child endangerment, acquitting him on a second endangerment charge and on one count of conspiracy.

The jury declared itself hung on both charges against Fr. James J. Brennan, who had been accused of attempted sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy in 1996. Prosecutors could choose to retry their case against him.

Minnesota archbishop becomes a union buster

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The conservative Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis is channeling his inner Scott Walker, the controversial, union-busting Republican governor of neighbor Wisconsin. Archbishop Nienstedt is unilaterally terminating the archdiocese's Catholic newspaper union. This really comes as no surprise given the tenor of these Tea Party Catholic times. Instead of working through whatever managerial challenges the archbishop might have had with the 13-member newspaper guild, he just disbands it.

And with a presumably straight face, he puts forward a worker-protection policy implemented by his predecessor, Archbishop Harry Flynn, called "Justice in Employment," which created certain safeguards for archdiocesan employees prior to being fired. Back in early 2009, I wrote an NCR story about the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis' Justice in Employment policy.

Featured Omaha school survives in latest archdiocesan plan

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In the March 30-April 12 NCR special section on Catholic Education, Holy Name Catholic School in Omaha, Neb. was featured in a story on the state of Catholic education in the United States.

At the time, Holy Name faced an uncertain future after an early proposal for reconfiguration in the Omaha archdiocese listed it among six schools recommended to close, viewed as unable to sustain itself long-term. The parish was recommended for closure, as well.

Following up on that story, on Wednesday the Omaha World-Herald reported Bishop George Lucas, while unveiling Promise 2020 – the archdiocese’s final plan for its schools and parishes – announced that Holy Name would remain open.

Rep. Paul Ryan and the Nuns on the Bus

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If I were Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), I would rather deal with the Democrats in Congress or President Barack Obama than with nuns. After all, the Nuns on the Bus tour of nine states has captured the imagination of the media like nothing progressive Catholics have tried in a decade or more.

This bus tour comes on the heels of the Vatican attack on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a move that has led to a groundswell of support for nuns nationwide. Tour organizers are taking advantage of that attack to publicize the needs of those at the bottom of the economic ladder by opposing the budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan. At the same time, they are boldly continuing the social justice work that the Vatican complains they emphasize too much. But since the bishops also oppose the Ryan budget, the nuns can't be accused of being disloyal. Cool move!

In fact, this tour came right to Ryan's doorstep: his office in Janesville, Wis. The nuns highlighted the injustices in his budget, which slashes funds for the poor and vulnerable, turns Medicare into a voucher program (a caricature of its present self), and offers huge tax breaks to the very wealthy.

Morning Briefing

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When Smaller Isn't Better

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In the fight against obesity, smaller is everything. As a prescription for the Catholic church, it's risky.

As a mainline Protestant, I remember embracing similar utterances as our churches began to lose members in the 1970s. It sounded noble, a relay of God's will for a more dedicated corps of mature believers in place of a bloated membership of hangers-on, the kind the estimable Peter Berger called "almost believers."

It was a way of explaining a stunning exodus, one that has continued among Presyberians, Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians. We would shed the fat and emerge slimmer and better equipped to preach the Gospel.

But it was largely a defensive strategy which denies reality and feeds on its own negativism. The causes of decline are complex, both cultural and religious, but the answer wasn't to celebrate the outcome of those causes by attempting to put a better face. In a nutshell, we mainliners had lost the conviction needed to evangelize. We couldn't convert anyone if our lives depended on it, which in a eway they did.

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July 18-31, 2014

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