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'Sex abuse is the Catholic 9/11'


ROME -- Massimo Franco is a veteran journalist who writes for Corriere della Sera, the most prestigious daily newspaper in Italy. Recently he published a book titled C’era Una Volta un Vaticano (“Once Upon a Time, there was a Vatican”), arguing that underneath the PR meltdowns and internal crises of the Vatican under Benedict XVI lies a radical historical shift – from the Vatican as the chaplain of the West, to the Vatican as representative of a minority subculture.

For centuries, he argues, the Vatican thought and acted like the representative of a cultural majority in the West – a mentality forged in the era of Christendom, and given new life during the Cold War, when the Vatican and the great Western powers were fundamentally on the same page. It’s no longer adequate to the changed cultural landscape of the 21st century, he says – and the inability of senior Vatican personnel to adapt to this new world is the fundamental force, he argues, beneath their apparent disorientation.

My essay on Franco’s book can be found here: Diagnosing the 'implosion' of Benedict's Vatican

Penny wise, peace foolish


Fr. Ted Hesburgh, former University of Notre Dame president and adviser to several U.S. presidents, is among those admonishing the U.S. House for cutting funding to the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), a bipartisan governmental organization created during Ronald Reagan's administration.

"Now is not the time, in the face of global adversity, to cut peace," Hesburgh wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post. "As a man of faith and reason, I know that we need to balance our budget. But I also know that you cannot balance a budget on the backs of our men and women in uniform. Nor can we take the risk of making our nation less safe."

And the USIP does just that: make our nation safer. A commenter to Hesburgh's article asked what the return on investment was to U.S. taxpayers. Rep. Michael Honda of California explains how the USIP is making America safer from terrorism in his article in support of the institute:

    Wisconsin governor gets one right


    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker deserves an “F” in labor relations. And he clearly has an inflated view of his own significance. But when it comes to rudimentary history, he scores higher marks than some of his critics.

    In the now infamous prank phone call in which blogger Ian Murphy posed as billionaire conservative bankroller David Koch, Walker offered a not-so-subtle comparison between his actions and those of the fortieth president, conservative icon Ronald Reagan.

    Massingale on Wisconsin


    Regular readers of NCR will no doubt recognize the name Fr. Bryan Massingale, associate professor of theological ethics at Marquette University in Milwaukee and a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

    Massingale has an opinion piece in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's approach to collective bargaining and balanced budgets. A sample:

    On this day: St. Senan


    On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Senan (pronounced Shanawn), a 6th-century bishop, founder of Irish monasteries, most notably the one on Scattery Island in the Shannon estuary, and the patron saint of West Clare.

    If you've ever landed at Shannon Airport, you've flown over Scattery Island and Senan's home town of Kilrush. In those last minutes before landing, you're flying low enough to see the round tower on Scattery Island, and the ferry crossing from Kilrush on the Clare side to Tarbert on the Kerry side, and maybe, if it's a sunny day, the dolphins.

    Morning Briefing


    Vatican to craft Catholic 'Sullivan Principles'


    ROME -- Few efforts to cajole corporations into a deeper sense of social responsibility have been more celebrated than the “Sullivan Principles,” elaborated in the late 1970s by African-American minister Leon Sullivan to apply economic pressure on South Africa to revise, and eventually abandon, its system of apartheid.

    By consensus, the “Sullivan Principles” worked because they condensed volumes of lofty theoretical language about global solidarity and human rights into a short set of concrete, practical commitments, which had a visible impact in the real world.

    Building on that model, the Vatican may now be preparing to develop a similar template for business ethics in the 21st century – a sort of Catholic version of the “Sullivan Principles” – based on Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate.

    America: Time for laity at the top


    "You say your grandmother's a cardinal?"

    "Your dad's meeting regularly with cardinals in Rome?"

    Maybe not so unrealistic as it sounds.

    A recent America magazine editorial advances daring proposals that the magazine itself had to admit might sound "pie in the sky." But they just may be ideas whose time is long overdue: change canon law and/or create structures within the church that place laity near the top decision makers.

    The Jesuit publication, in its Feb. 21 issue, editorialized that the "fundamental criticism of the institutional church" in the various crises that have jolted the church in the United States, England and Europe, "is that its clerical, all-male establishment has not made room for other voices. There is no need to list the number of recent policy decisions, from Rome to home, which would have been more prudent if only a variety of laypersons had been consulted."

    Read the full proposals here.

    Diagnosing the 'implosion' of Benedict's Vatican


    ROME -- Perhaps the most telling index of the severity of the various PR and managerial catastrophes which have beset the papacy of Benedict XVI is that there’s now a budding literary genre attempting to explain them. It’s also a measure of the reduced global profile of the papacy these days that, to date, the Italians basically have a monopoly on it.

    Last year brought Attaco a Ratzinger: Accuse e scandali, profezie e complotti contro Benedetto XVI (“Attack on Ratzinger: Accusations and Scandals, Prophecies and Plots against Benedict XVI”) by two of the best Italian Vatican writers going, Paolo Rodari and Andrea Tornielli. Though hardly blind to the Vatican’s own failures, Rodari and Tornielli also suggested there’s an effort afoot to damage the moral authority of the pope and the church, perhaps even of cosmic dimensions. (One chapter ponders whether Benedict’s woes were foretold by Fatima and other Marian apparitions.)

    Driving with forgiveness


    For a little more than a year I’ve been trying to drive my car in a spirit of forgiveness and loving kindness.

    It was a dark and stormy night last November at an intersection under construction when an SUV honked furiously and at length at me. I was in the right, and, oh my, did I feel some righteous anger -- once I got over the relief at not being hit when the other driver didn’t see that the lanes curved sharply.

    I was mad. I had at some time or other, unbeknownst to myself, given myself permission to be mad and to enjoy being mad.

    It was a satisfying righteousness that was still there the next morning. I was hoping the other driver would drive through the intersection in daylight, see the error of his ways and be ashamed. I caught myself. It was pleasurable to be angry. I didn’t want to be taking pleasure over someone else’s driving errors.

    During the next several weeks I began to notice that same anger rising in me when other drivers passed on the right, didn’t use their turn signals, honked, whatever. Not only had I given myself permission to be angry and to enjoy being angry, I was feeding the anger, calling the driver stupid and, again, feeling righteous.


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    October 9-22, 2015


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