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NCR and Celebration booth at the Call to Action conference center

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The NCR exhibit at the CTA conference is Milwaukee was a lively place for much of the afternoon Saturday. We shared a table with Benetvision, a spiritual resource center run by the Benedictines of Erie. At the NCR booth greeting passers-by were NCR Marketing Director Sara Wiercinski and Celebration Editor Pat Marrin.

A little time with Joan Chittister

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What a treat is was to spend a little time with my good friend and colleague, NCR columnist Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, in the Frontier Airline Conference center in Milwaukee where Call to Action is having its annual convention. I found Joan near the entrance of the center, drinking a morning coffee with Benedictine Sister Maureen Tobin, who manages Chittister's very active schedule. We sat together and I had the chance to watch this one of a kind Benedictine greet her many admirers as they entered the center. Chittister will be a keynote speaker Sunday. Always energetic, creative and hospitable, Chittister is always a big draw. Throughout the day she was autographing books near the Benetvision exhibit on the third floor of the conference center.

Young adult 'most progressive generation of Catholics'

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MILWAUKEE -- Nicole Sotelo, Call to Action staff member and youth organizer, was also part of the CTA welcoming ceremony. Sotelo spoke about new initiatives the Catholic reform group was making to welcome young Catholic activists. She noted that surveys have shown that young Catholics are the most socially progressive-mind among Catholics today.

The following are Sotelo’s remarks.

Good evening. For more than a decade, Call To Action’s young adult program has served thousands of young Catholics who believe that justice is not a movement that stops at church doors, but one that must be welcomed and lived inside the church and its structures. Contrary to popular opinion, young adults are the most progressive generation of Catholics alive today.

Call to Action conference opens in Milwaukee

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The annual national Call to Action gathering, held each year in early November, opened in Milwaukee Friday evening.

CTA Executive Director set a welcoming tone for some 2,000 restless Catholic souls in his welcoming remarks. He told those gathered to be the church they envision and to not wait for the Catholic hierarchy to give them permission to take those steps.

Said FitzGerald: "My sisters and brothers, changing minds of those in the hierarchy can no longer be the benchmark of progress. We cannot wait for those with institutional power to create a church that welcomes everyone equally. We must do this. God is calling on each and every one of us, from every generation, to be church to one another."

Catholic Media Through the Ages

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Those attending the Call to Action annual convention in Milwaukee this weekend may want to stop by and say hi at the NCR booth in the exhibit hall. Or come to the 2 p.m. focus session featuring a whole panel of NCR folks, including yours truly.

Young Voices columnist Mike Sweitzer Beckman will moderate (or attempt to moderate!) four generations of Catholic journalists:

* Longtime NCR writer Bob McClory
* NCR Editor at large Tom Roberts
* Columnist and blogger Heidi Schlumpf
* and Young Voices columnist Jamie Manson

We hope to share our perspectives on how Catholic media has changed through the ages--and how it has affected the church's ability to communicate with its followers and its critics.

As usual, CTA has an awesome schedule of inspiring and challenging speakers and presenters. Hope to see some of you there!

Pres. Bush admits to war crimes?

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Former President George W. Bush is soon to publish a new memoir called Decision Points. According to advance information, he admits in the book that he authorized the use of waterboarding on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, although he rejects the label "torture" for that procedure.

Bush may reject that label, but international law and international legal experts definitely categorize it as torture. In fact, the United States government prosecuted U.S. soldiers after the Spanish-American War and Japanese soldiers after World War II for waterboarding.

Bad theology, bad art, and a good blog

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Back in 2001, I wrote an essay for NCR on my experience reading some of the Left Behind book series. It turns out I wasn't nearly ambitious enough -- at least not compared to Fred Clark of the slacktivist blog. Clark, a progressive evangelical Christian, has since 2003 been systematically analyzing, scene by scene, the Left Behind novels, which purport to depict the coming end times in fictional form.

Clark's treatment is insightful and a great read; I look forward to seeing the latest installment pop up in my feed every Monday (or Tuesday -- he's not always prompt). If he can be said to have a basic thesis, it is that bad theology leads to bad art.

Retired priest charged with embezzling

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A retired Catholic priest with parishes in Norfolk, Va., and Hampton, Va., has been indicted on 11 counts of embezzlement, accused of taking $77,000 from the Catholic Diocese of Richmond.

Joseph Quoc Hai-Nguyen was granted bond Thursday with the condition he stay in Virginia, according to attorneys.

Hai-Nguyen, 65, was arrested in Texas following a direct indictment last month, said Amanda Howie, spokeswoman for the Norfolk commonwealth's attorney's office.

Prosecutors say Hai-Nguyen was working for two parishes between 2003 and 2009 while embezzling money from the diocese.

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