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Detroit weekend of lectures, emotions neglects sex abuse crisis

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Several thousand Catholics from around the U.S. and even a few foreign countries gathered in Detroit June 10-12 to ponder their assessment of the present and hopes for the future of the Catholic Church. The weekend revealed some toxic aspects of today's version of the institutional Church. It also revealed some expected and also disturbing aspects of the groups gathered. The single phenomenon that has forced into the open the tragic and often toxic flaws of the institutional Church has been the worldwide sex abuse crisis. Yet, officially, the American Catholic Council only gave the abuse issue a passing nod: a single breakout session.

In wake of sex abuse scandals, priests to host Latin Mass

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- With many questioning the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese over allegations of sexual misconduct by clergy, and subsequent inaction by diocesan officials, several priests here are planning something they hope will "promote unity" among the faithful: A special Latin-language "Solemn High Mass."

The Mass, to be held June 29 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church here, is to be celebrated in the "Extraordinary Form," or according to the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, which typically includes prayers in Latin and the priest facing towards the altar during the celebration.

News of the Mass comes as the Kansas City diocese has been rocked by three cases of allegations of sexual misconduct by clergy in recent weeks.

Maybe I could marry my car...

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I'm miserable. Really. This is not a play for pity or the prelude to a plea for cash. I'm just simply miserable because I spend around two hours a day sitting in my car fighting traffic. And now some scientist in Sweden says this could very well ruin my marriage.

Well, I can definitely share this: it certainly isn't making it any more fun.

Here's what happened: until six months ago, my office was about a 15-minute drive from my house. Twenty on a tough day. An easy commute by Los Angeles standards. In fact, my wife and I moved to our current neighborhood just because it was close to nearly every major media company in town -- this way, no matter where our careers took us, we'd be covered commute-wise.

But then in January, my group moved to Santa Monica. On Google maps, this adds only ten or so miles to the drive each way. But in real-LA-traffic terms, it is the seventh circle of hell with asphalt instead of fire. The commute places me on Southern California's two busiest and accident-prone freeways with few real alternatives. I get to work keyed up and aggravated; I come home exhausted and frayed.

As if I needed this confirmation, along comes a study from Sweden, which (who knew?) apparently has traffic troubles of its own. Researcher Erika Sandow reports that long commutes can actually drive up the divorce rate by 40 percent.

The (un)ethics of ethanol

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The Senate voted June 16, 73-27, to end all taxpayer-funded subsidies for ethanol. Three cheers for this first step toward restoring corn-based sanity -- and ethics! Yes, this bill has a rocky road ahead -- even a potential veto by the White House -- but it’s a start.

There are serious ethical questions about the diversion of a large part of our corn crop here in the United States from food to fuel.

I certainly believe that we need to find alternatives to coal and oil, but I’m not convinced that ethanol is the answer. Yes, it’s renewable, and yes, it does not require shipment from the Middle East. But it’s impact on the environment remains highly debatable.

And in a world where millions go hungry, the diversion of crop land to fuel land is a real moral issue. Indeed, the World Bank and other international organizations recently called on governments to stop ethanol subsidies because they were driving up world food prices.

That is something the poor of the world cannot afford.

Lost in the garden

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My front garden this year is spectacular; it’s been blooming since February. Neighbors comment. The man walking his dog tells us they stop every day to look. I want to flag down passing cars and say, “Open your eyes. Come smell the lilies.”

Most of all, I stop to look myself, a dozen times a day. Right now we have the end of the lilies, fierce beauties – orange, maroon, yellow, white, pink. They stood at attention beneath our porch, tall waxy sentinels of creamy petal, thick brown stamen, reddish pollen flecks, and tiny pockets of nectar where the petals fold in at the bottom of the flower.

Lilies like their heads in sun and their feed in shade, in a patch of friendly Shasta daisies that are coming into their own, as are the day lilies, ruffled flirts that beckon the eye and are gone next morning.

I’m much better at living with beauty than visiting it as a tourist. I glaze over in the mountains and on the ocean shore. But standing on my front stairs, holding onto the railing, I lose myself in awe, over and over.

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May 6-19, 2016

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