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A \"Catholic Moment\" by Any Other Name

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Ross Douthat, the designated conservative New York Times columnist, is a refreshing presence, often reminding me of my more traditional roots.

In the latest Atlantic he states flatly that the "Catholic Church is Finished," positing its collapse on the immensity of the Watergate-like sex abuse scandal. Douthat infers that the damage is so immense that the church's "big story" has become a tough sell.

The trouble he cites takes place, of course, within a culture increasingly influenced by a scientific mentality that relies on a kind of skepticism that makes Christian claims less marketable.

Douthat's succinct verdict generally sounds right to me and can be debated by others. My concern is that the concept of "sex scandal" needs to be expanded to include the church's treatment of women.

The two scandals, one involving clergy abusing children, and the other, Catholicism's relegation of women to subservience, are rarely linked by those who comment on the current crisis. But I think there's good reason to do so.

Who's to blame for failing church in Europe?

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The New York Times columnist and Atlantic writer Ross Douthat gives the necessary nod to historical perspective(for those inclined to think the sex abuse crisis might sink the church) in a blog entry before coming to the following dire conclusion about the Catholic Church in Europe:

"But if the Church isn’t finished, period, it can still be finished for certain people, in certain contexts, in certain times. And so it is in this case: for millions in Europe and America, Catholicism is probably permanently associated with sexual scandal, rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as in many previous dark chapters in the Church’s history, the leaders entrusted with that gospel have nobody to blame but themselves."

I have the same point of view when it comes to the crisis and what it might portend for the future. Consequently I find it curious that Pope Benedict would seek redemption for the institution in part through a new liturgical movement, as explained here by John Allen .

Kasper resigns; Koch takes his spot

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As John Allen reported yesterday (Triumph of theologians over diplomats in Vatican) Pope Benedict XVI today appointed Bishop Kurt Koch of Basel, Switzerland, as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Koch succeeds Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has reached retirement age.

Here is the first reaction I have seen to Kasper's resignation: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said:

What Benedict means by 'new liturgical movement'

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tSometime soon, the Vatican is expected to release a motu proprio, meaning a legal document under the pope’s authority, which will transfer responsibility for an aspect of marriage law from one Vatican office to another. Though it will probably fly below the public radar, the document provides a glimpse into Pope Benedict XVI’s approach to liturgy, meaning how the church celebrates the Mass and its other rituals.

tSpecifically, Benedict is expected to encourage the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Vatican's office for liturgical policy, to focus on promoting what he describes as a “new liturgical movement." The obvious question, of course, is what exactly he means by that.

New study: when waterboarding ceased to be torture

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There's a fascinating new study out of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government that's the subject of a story on Salon.com.
According to the Salon piece: "This new study examines how waterboarding has been discussed by America's four largest newspapers over the past 100 years, and finds that the technique, almost invariably, was unequivocally referred to as "torture" -- until the U.S. Government began openly using it and insisting that it was not torture, at which time these newspapers obediently ceased describing it that way." The study itself can be found here.

Pax Christi to honor LCWR

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The Catholic peace group Pax Christi USA has announced that it will honor the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) with its Eileen Egan Peacemaker Award during Pax Chrisit's national conference in Chicago July 18.

In announcing the honor, Pax Christi head Dave Robinson said, “Everyone in Pax Christi USA knows and recognizes that women religious are the backbone of the Catholic peace and justice movement."

I'm in Charge Here, No?

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Mel Brooks proclaimed "it's good to be the king" as he pranced around as Louis XVI in "History of the World Part I," oblivious to the fate that awaited him.

The Revolution was about to separate his head from his torso, but there he was, in full divine right glory, denying reality.

Benedict XVI, on the other hand, must have no illusions that it's any fun being the religious counterpart, the supreme pontiff, both because he isn't a sinister hedonist and no doubt understands fairly well that the natives are plenty restless.

Still, he or his support staff persist in portraying the papacy in medieval, royalist privileges that alienate it further from the egalitarian ideologies that undergird, at least in theory, the modern world.

I refer to the pope's insistence that he alone is entitled to rap the knuckles of cardinals. Another cardinal may not. Let's be clear, as President Obama might say, I'm the pope and, in case you forgot the rules, I'm the critic in chief. The rest of you keep your sniping to yourselves, or at least within the college of cardinals dining hall.

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September 12-25, 2014

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