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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.

In tax debate, whatever happened to the 'poor'?

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Over the holidays, commentators and politicians -- both outgoing and incoming -- had lot to say about the state of the economy. They criticized (or defended) tax cuts for the wealthy, well off or “connected.” They waxed eloquent on their love for the “middle class” -- and the importance of restoring their economic foundations, stopping home foreclosures, and creating jobs.

Some use the catch-all term, “working families,” which can reasonably describe any family from bank executives to road repair workers.

But one designation seems to have disappeared from public discourse, and that is the “poor.”

We rarely hear the word in political circles. Yet, people are dropping out of the middle class in disturbing numbers as the “wealth gap” widens in this country.

Many people don’t worry about foreclosures because they simply don’t own a home. And lots of those who were once part of a “working family” wish they were again -- but can’t find jobs. They are, in short, “poor.”

There seems to be a political reluctance to use one of the terms most commonly found in the Judeo-Christian scriptures: the poor.

The pope and Woody Allen

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Like too many other people, I had the great misfortune to grow up in the 1970s -- I remember its crimes very clearly.

Qiana knit shirts, leisure suits, disco, the Chevy Vega, stagflation, Watergate, and the sitcom "Three's Company" top my list -- but, honestly, I could go on for hours more. Were it not for Woody Allen (more on him later), I wouldn't have laughed at all during those ten years. But awful decade though it was, I don't remember rampant pedophilia being part of the dark mix.

Apparently, I missed it. In his now famous-for-all-the-wrong-reasons Christmas address this season, Pope Benedict did an admirable job of once again addressing the church's sex abuse scandal head on. He said the trauma had reached "an unimaginable dimension" in 2010 and brought "humiliation" upon the church.

Report: Beatification of John Paul II likely in 2011

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According to a report by veteran Italian Vatican writer Andrea Tornielli, a miracle attributed to the late Pope John Paul II has been approved by both the medical and theological consulters of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

In effect, that clears the path for the beatification of John Paul II sometime in 2011. Tornielli suggests that the most likely dates would April 2, the anniversary of the pope’s death; May 18, his birthday; or October 16, the anniversary of his election to the papacy in 1978.

Although Benedict XVI typically does not celebrate beatification ceremonies himself, preferring that they be led by the local bishop and staged in the saint’s local diocese, in this case the beatification would be held in St. Peter’s Square in Rome and is expected to draw a vast crowd.

Before a date is set, the full body of cardinals and bishops who make up the Congregation for the Causes of Saints must approve the miracle and then submit their recommendation to Pope Benedict XVI.

On this day: Bl. Thomas Plumtree

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On this day in 1570, Thomas Plumtree was hanged in the market place at Durham for his role as Preacher to the Rebels of 1569.

Thomas Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and Charles Neville, Earl of Westmoreland, led the Rising of the North against Queen Elizabeth with the intention of deposing her and replacing her with Mary, Queen of Scots. Thomas Plumtree joined them as their chaplain. He officiated at the Mass in Durham Cathedral on December 4, at which clergy and people who had conformed to the new religion were reconciled to the old faith.

--See Lives of the English Martyrs Declared Blessed by Pope Leo XIII. in 1886 and 1895, Written by Fathers of the Oratory, of the Secular Clergy and of the Society of Jesus, Completed and Edited by Dom Bede Camm, O.S.B., Longmans, Green and Co., 1914.

Morning Briefing

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Nashville Dominicans Part II

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The problem with the magnified attention given to the Nashville Dominicans -- the latest being a approving piece by National Public Radio -- is that it carries a silent agenda in addition to an obvious one.

The obvious one is to record the life and faith of a community of nuns that has unquestioned integrity and value all in itself. The print, radio and television reports capture an interesting story of women preserving a way of life that is sincere and grounded in solid convictions. Journalists rightly note this development.

That part is clear and well-founded.

What goes unspoken, however, is that these accounts usually ignore the attack by those who advocate conservative women's communities against the forms of religious life that emerged from Vatican II. Unwittingly, perhaps, the media are taking sides in a struggle that launched the investigations by Rome aimed at rolling back those emerging forms. Those investigations continue even as the Vatican takes steps to dispel fears of a crackdown.

Controversial Super Bowl commercial

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While this football fan is still reveling in yesterday's Green Bay Packer victory over "Da Bears," others already have their eyes on the Super Bowl. Cranky Catholics protesting a proposed commercial, that is.

A submission in a commercial contest created by Doritos and Pepsi depicts a pastor with a declining flock that magically increases when he starts distributing Doritos and Pepsi for communion. (The version on Pepsi's website here is edited to feature just Doritos.)

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