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Why not cut the military?

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The Republicans are loath to cut the military budget. The U.S. already spends about as much on so-called defense as the rest of the world combined. I find it difficult to imagine what more we need.

Even the assessment of the costs of war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya include materiel replacement costs for items we don't necessarily need to replace. We have a lot of weapons stockpiled.

Papal humor a la The New Yorker

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When Pope Benedict used Twitter for the first time recently, The New Yorker magazine did a selection July 25 of imaginary Tweets he might send. It was amusing, but many were more like one-liners any stand-up comedian might use. Here is a different selection which, I believe, is more papally grounded.

When I see all those people in St. Peter’s Square shouting “Viva Papa,” it sometimes makes me think they’re worshiping me, not God. I’ve got to stop thinking that way.

So I got this idea to come out on the balcony with a false nose, mustache and big glasses one time, just to let people know I’m human.

The Many Faces of Fundamentalism

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It may be small consolation, but the roar of the Tea Party is a welcome reminder that fundamentalism comes in a wide varieties of forms and fashions.

Snake handlers and Biblical literalists take the brunt of social and media sarcasm and scorn but they're just one expression. And they aren't confined to a certain set of churches on the Protestant right wing. They exist across the spectrum of traditions as a stratum within each. I've even known Unitarian fundamentalists. By comparison, Baptists have a lot, but so do Catholics.

Fact is that fundamentalism is a state of mind, a hunger for certainty, an affinity for absolutism. I'd guess few of us would be excluded entirely from this category. I'm a part time fundamentalist; just try to dislodge my firm conviction that the death penalty is wrong.

Fairness conspicuously missing in deficit reduction legislation

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Watching the politically manufactured debt ceiling debate draw to its sad conclusion, I think of the last stanza of T.S. Eliot’s often quoted poem, “The Hollow Men” …

... Not with a bang but a whimper

However you cut it, there is something quite disturbing -- and immoral -- about a debt reduction package that calls for cuts in critical services to the poor while at the same time calling for no sacrifice from the wealthiest elite in our nation. This, of course, is one more sign, if any more were needed, of a well-heeled and finely purchased Congress by the super rich among us. It’s quite sad and should be upsetting to all who support democracy around the world.

Two mandarin oranges

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I attended a wedding this weekend north of San Francisco; it gave me a different understanding of our national debt crisis.

The last few weeks have not been a pretty time for our democratic experiment; the wailing and breast-beating since the debt deal was announced has been just as hysterical. This moment, we are told early and often, marks the beginning of the end for America's golden place among the nations of our globe. We now find ourselves, inexorably, in steep decline.

But far outside the beltway, in a small Marin County town surrounded by hills and range, a very different American debt was paid in full: two young people got married. Nothing exceptional about that, of course, except for the story of their family. Bride and groom were Jewish, and it's safe to say at least one set of parents were fully astounded as they watched the day unfold.

On this day: Bl. Ceferino GimÈnez Malla

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On this day we celebrate the feast of Blessed Ceferino Giménez Malla, Patron Saint of the Rom and Sinti.

He was born 150 years ago this month. In the early days of the Spanish Civil War, 75 years ago this month, he was shot to death while trying to protect a priest.

"Zefferino Giménez Malla (1861-1936), known as 'El Pelé', was born of a Catholic gypsy family. He lived like a nomad for forty years and then settled in Barbastro (Spain). He married but had no children. Although he was illiterate, he taught the gypsy and non-gypsy children the first elements of Christianity, using the Bible above all, and he trained them to pray daily.

Citing scandals, KC diocese delays fundraising campaign

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The diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, which has been in controversy over its response to several allegations of sexual misconduct by priests, has decided to delay a capital campaign "in light of the current challenge."

Announcement of the delay of the campaign came this afternoon in a letter from the diocesan vice-chancellor, which was obtained by NCR.

According to the letter, written by vice-chancellor Paula Moss to the priests of the diocese, the diocese asked its priests if it should continue with the fundraising drive, which was hoped would raise enough for the construction of a new school in the area, since "the challenge with Shawn Ratigan came to the forefront of our attention."

"When we asked our priests for advice and guidance, 75 percent of the priests recommended that we delay our consideration of a capital campaign at this time," writes Moss. "We are following that recommendation."

News of the suspension of the campaign comes as the diocese is facing criticism regarding its response to several allegations of sexual misconduct.

Belleville appeal rejected, again

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From the Belleville News-Democrat:

The Illinois Supreme Court for the second time has denied a request by the Catholic Diocese of Belleville to hear an appeal of a St. Clair County Court jury verdict awarding $5 million to a former altar boy jurors found was sexually abused by a priest.

The only remaining avenue for appeal is to the U.S. Supreme Court, but only if a constitutional question can be raised.

St. Louis attorney David Wells filed the motion on behalf of the diocese asking the state appeals court to reconsider its original denial on May 25 on grounds that the award threatened the religious freedom of Illinois residents.

Church middle management speaking out

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The New York Times is showing more than passing interest to the issue of the ordination of women in the Catholic church. A front page article on July 23 discussed a recent upsurge of priests publicly favoring ordination in three far flung parts of the world.

Religion writer Laurie Goodstein noted first that 150 U.S. priests, all reportedly in good standing, signed a letter of support for Fr. Roy Bourgeois, who is facing excommunication from the Maryknoll order and the priesthood for refusing to renounce his support of women priests.

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