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The Vatican Library goes digital

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The Jan. 3 issue of The New Yorker has a fascinating article by Daniel Mendelsohn about the Vatican Library and its conversion to 21st century technology.

The article gives an overview of many of the unique manuscripts that library possesses. And it provides a glimpse of its efforts to modernize -- i.e., put the collection on line -- over the past several years.

Turns out the library has been closed for three years while this process took place under Msgr. Cesare Pasini, its current Prefect. The author gives him credit for understanding both the needs of the scholarly community and the concerns of the Curia.

If you are visiting Rome, the library recently re-opened.

Hepatitis scare from Christmas Eucharist

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From yesterday's New York Post:

Hundreds of worshippers may have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus while receiving Holy Communion at a Long Island Catholic church on Christmas morning, officials said.

An unidentified person who handled the communion wafers could have transmitted the illness to parishioners at two Masses on the holy day, authorities said.

The possible spread of the virus occurred at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church in Massapequa at the 10:30 a.m. and noon Masses on Dec. 25.

The Nassau County Department of Health said anyone who received the bread wafers should report for inoculation at the church this week. A department spokesman declined to provide details, citing privacy concerns.

"Individuals may be at risk," said Sean Dolan, a spokesman for Diocese of Rockville Centre.

2011: Year of Pope John Paul II?

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Maybe some missed the irony in the juxtaposition of two stories on the NCR web site in the past few days.

One was written by Jason Berry about the striking failings of Pope John Paul II in his dealings with the Legionaires and his blindness in the face of the largest crisis to hit the church in centuries – the clergy sex abuse crisis and episcopal cover-up.

The other, a report written by John Allen that states that Vatican efforts will be made this year to beatify Pope John Paul II.

Abortion as a familial, cultural, religious and entertainment issue

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After my reflection on a Christmas advertising campaign that featured an image of an ultrasound of a baby Jesus in utero and seeing the new film "Blue Valentine," this opinion piece by Ross Douthat in yesterday's New York Times seems especially thoughtful.

"Blue Valentine" got some controversial press due to an NC-17 rating it received from the MPAA for an oral sex scene, and then when it was down-rated to an R upon appeal.

I thought "Sex and Other Drugs" was much more problematic from the explicit sexuality perspective, but "Blue Valentine" stems from every bad sexual choice the key figure, Cindy (Michelle Williams) makes. Her sexual history may be more realistic than most people think: first sexual experience at 13 and by the time she is in her early 20's she has had more than twenty sexual partners. She is in the midst of an abortion when she tells the doctor to stop, and he does.

Archdiocese of Milwaukee to file for bankruptcy

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The Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in a sign that the sad consequences of the priest sex abuse crisis continue to erode the stature of the Catholic Church in the United States, announced it would seek bankruptcy protection today.

The announcement was made by Archbishop Jerome Listecki.

The tensions of the debate over how the crisis should be handled are caught in quotes from a story on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel website:

"For those of you who may feel anger and resentment that we have come to this moment, STOP," Listecki said in a letter to church members on Tuesday. "We are here because of one reason: Priests sexually abused minors."

Jeff Anderson, the Minnesota lawyer who represents victims in the Milwaukee cases, called the action sad and alarming, characterizing it as a ploy to delay the lawsuits and the disclosure of damning information in depositions of retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland and Richard Sklba. Sklba's deposition was initially scheduled for January and recently rescheduled for February.

Five New Year's hopes for American society

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Here we are into another new year. It feels like the years seem to pass by more rapidly each time. I wish time, at least for me, would slow down more. As with many other Americans, I think about New Year resolutions or hopes.

Let me share with you five public hopes I have for 2011:


  1. I hope that President Obama will show more resolve in dealing with the Republicans. I’m all for compromise but that should entail a process and not a starting position, as the President too often seems to be inclined.

  2. I hope that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq truly begin to wind down. I don’t expect this, but the deaths of so many people in both countries -- including Americans -- are very much the result of U.S. intervention in both countries. Americans are dying in both countries for failed policies and for the questionable aggrandizement of an American empire based on corporate and military objectives.

Another strike against capital punishment

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A Texas man imprisoned 30 years ago on rape and murder charges had his conviction overturned todya after DNA evidence exonerated him.

Dallas County Judge Don Adams overturned Cornelius Dupree Jr.’s conviction Tuesday, clearing his name officially.

"It's a joy to be free," Dupree, 51, said outside court.

Dupree has served more years in a Texas prison for a crime he did not commit than anyone else in the state who was later exonerated by DNA evidence. Only two other people exonerated by DNA have spent more time in prison in the entire country, the Innocence Project said. Texas has freed 41 wrongly convicted prisoners because of DNA testing since 2001, more than any other state.

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