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Is Vatican letter on abuse a 'smoking gun'?

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ANALYSIS

A January 1997 letter from the papal ambassador to Ireland, communicating the opinion of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy about a set of proposed Irish policies on priestly sexual abuse, confirms that in the late 1990s the Vatican was ambivalent about requirements that bishops be required to report abuse to police and civil prosecutors.

Tucson, assassination attempts and fame

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As the nation examines its civic conscience in the aftermath of the Tuscon shootings, a Secret Service study reveals that politics rarely motivates political assassins. Instead, those shooters are driven by a much more American malady: the quest for fame.

That's the central conclusion of a compelling report on NPR. The radio network takes a close look at the "Secret Service Exception Case Study Project," begun in the mid-1980s, shortly after the attempt on President Reagan's life.

Psychologist Robert Fein worked with the Secret Service, reviewing files of assassins and attempted shooters -- many unknown to the public. Fein and his team also interview some of the infamous, to get additional insight into what propelled them. Their results were published in 1999.

We want our country back

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Like many other Americans, I was very moved and impressed by President Obama's memorial address at Tucson concerning the victims of last week’s horrendous tragedy. One could not help but be affected as the President spoke of the individuals who died and especially nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green.

Watching her young parents hold each other and shed tears as the president remarked on their daughter’s wonderful personality and how she was already excited and curious about public service, I couldn’t help but think of my own children when they were Christina's age. It was a reaction common to many other parents, I am sure. How would we have reacted to the shooting and killing of our young children? I hope in the same courageous way as Christina’s parents.

I was especially moved when the president called on us to rethink our political discourse and our political differences and commit ourselves to imagining an America through Christina's eyes -- an America where people first and foremost worked to help each other and to establish a more perfect union and one aimed at achieving liberty and equality for all.

Martin Luther King and a 'Day of Service'

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I awoke yesterday morning listening to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic 1967 speech at Riverside Church in New York when he took a public and prophetic stand against the War in Vietnam.

Over the weekend I had heard many replays of his “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington. And for Interfaith Voices, I recently interviewed the author of a new book on the prayer life of King.

All of these reveal a man steeped in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, a man for whom justice was the beacon that guided his path.

In a deep sense, King resonated with the message of the 1971 Synod of Catholic Bishops who said in their document, Justice in the World:

Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church's mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.

The sad legacy of sexual abuse

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The horrific pain and suffering caused by sexual abuse is described with brutal honesty in a 4,000-word suicide note left by a renowned internet programmer who committed suicide last week.

Bill Zeller, whose father was an evangelical pastor, described a childhood of physical and sexual abuse and its lifelong legacy of darkness that he ultimately felt he could never overcome. The 27-year-old Princeton PhD candidate posted the note online.

While extremely difficult to read, it should be required reading for those in the Catholic hierarchy who deal with the sexual abuse crisis in the church so they remember the tremendous, lifelong wounds such abuse leaves. His words echo those of other abuse victims I've interviewed and read about.

Pro Sports and Civility -- Is Anyone Listening?

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In the wake of the Tucson shootings, the airwaves are crackling this week with appeals for more decency in public talk.

Somehow the New York Jets weren't tuned in. In advance of their show-down National Football League game against the New England Patriots, the Jets have actually ramped up hostility against their opponents.

The coach, Rex Ryan, has been firing barbs against star Patriot quarterback, Tom Brady, and Antonio Cromartie, a Jet cornerback, turned that up a notch by calling Brady an epithet that refers to the far end of the digestive track.

Athletes generally learn to suppress their verbal instincts or to couch their hatreds in terms that sound downright polite. But anyone close to the playing field is well aware of the barrage of insults, invectives and obscenities that are spewed during games, from all directions, including fans.

The defense of such coarseness and profanity is that it's a healthy outlet for players and fans and, as entertainment, stands apart from everyday life, thus should be taken too seriously.

Belleville diocese loses appeal; $5 million verdict

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From the Belleville News-Democrat:

In a decision made public Thursday, the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon rejected arguments by the Catholic Diocese of Belleville that a 2008 civil trial jury verdict that awarded $5 million to a former altar boy allegedly sexually abused by a priest should be overturned.

In an 85-page decision, of which nearly half was dedicated to a summary of decades of sexual abuse against boys and at least one girl allegedly committed by the Rev. Raymond Kownacki and repeated coverups of this activity by former diocese officials, the three-member panel of judges voted 2-1 to uphold the verdict.

Kownacki was removed from priestly duties in 1995 by a diocesan review board after numerous articles in the News-Democrat about sexual abuse by local priests. Kownacki, who has stated he will not comment, lives in Dupo.

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