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Senate rejects budget cuts in victory for Catholic advocates


In what seems to be a victory for Catholic social ministry advocates, the U.S. Senate today rejected two budget proposals that would have exacted massive cuts in federal spending for domestic social programs and international aid.

The Huffington Post reports that Senate Democrats voted down a House Republican bill that would have cut $57 billion from current funding levels. The bill failed 56 to 44.

Catholic activists and advocates have been vocal in their disagreement with the House budget bill, which cuts poverty-focused international assistance by 27 percent.

Representatives with Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. bishops conference said those cuts are “disproportionate” and don’t “share the sacrifice with the rest of society" on a Feb. 28 conference call.

Because Congress didn't approve a full-year budget plan last fall, it must pass and President Obama must sign a "continuing resolution" to keep the federal government operating until the end of the fiscal year. The deadline is March 18.

As the cardinal exits


Compelling column in the Los Angeles Times by Tim Rutten -- who conducted an "exit interview" with Cardinal Roger Mahony.

Here, Mahony covers a range of topics that thread through his 25 years as archbishop of Los Angeles. (He retired last week when he turned 75 years old.) It's interesting to read a tour of issues and societal changes by a man who left a large imprint on Southern California.

This is Mahony on why he would not refuse to give Communion to elected officials who stray from church teachings: "You know, throughout the Gospels, Jesus never appeals to punitive measures to change anyone's life," Mahony says.

He then asks: if you're going to punish an official for, say, a pro-choice vote, where does it stop? "Does that mean the chief of staff who didn't stop him or her from voting that way also can't go to Communion? Does that mean that the secretary who handles their paperwork also can't go? I mean, where does it end?"

Facebook is the new chocolate


In previous generations, chocolate or candy was probably one of the most popular things to "give up" as a penance for the 40 days of Lent. Today, a growing number of U.S. Catholics are choosing to give up Facebook.

In the past week, I've read (on Facebook, ironically) about a number of friends who are unplugging for 40 days from social networking or even the from entire Internet, or at least personal use of it.

Good for them. I'm not questioning or debating anyone's individual choice about how best to practice the spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer and almsgiving during this spiritual season. And, for many, social networking can be an unhealthy distraction that takes away from work, in-person relationships or prayer time. Certainly worthy of fasting from--at least temporarily.

But let me tell you why I won't be giving up Facebook for Lent.

I just finished scrolling through my friends' Facebook status updates from this morning, and about three quarters of them mention Ash Wednesday or offer a link to some spiritual sustenance.

For example:

Pope: Digital media must allow us to 'think more deeply'


Pope Benedict Feb. 28 addressed the annual gathering of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication (PCCS), headed by Archbishop Claudio Celli, successor to Cardinal John P. Foley of Philadelphia who helmed the commission and then pontifical council from 1984 – 2007.

In his remarks the pope refers to his address for the upcoming 45th World Communications Day on June 5th, Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age, and describes the task of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication:

More Marshall on Gingrich


Josh Marshall of the must-read Talking Points Memo website picks up where he left off on Hardball last night. The "...the pattern with Gingrich shows a level of hypocrisy, cruelty and emotional immaturity that most people won't accept in a president," he writes.

I'm not so sure. The good news for Gingrich is that he doesn't, at least early on, need the votes of "most people." Instead, in a crowded Republican field he needs a plurality of votes, or a vote count that "exceeds expectations," in the early contests of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Given the weakness of the Republican field, and given Gingrich's ambitions, that's a bet well worth making.

Among the latest to pray in Phan Thiet, Vietnam


For the past two weeks my wife and I have been traveling with family, friends and others, including a number of NCR readers, through central Vietnam. We began our trip in Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam, moved by bus to Hoi An, a 17th century Vietnam coastal trade city, then down to Nha Trang, Vietnam, a booming tourist center.

This is the sixth time my wife and I have led tour groups through Vietnam in recent years. We come back here to share Vietnamese culture, history, cuisine and religion with friends and to visit my wife's family members along the way.

Illinois giving up the death penalty for Lent


The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign a bill banning the death penalty tomorrow.

Quinn, a Catholic, picked Ash Wednesday to sign the legislation that the state House and Senate passed in January. The governor had not gone public with his intentions and was said to still be listening to both sides as of last week.

Illinois will join New York, New Jersey and New Mexico, all of which have done away with the death penalty in the last three years.

Many Catholics, including this one, had been urging the governor to sign the ban. This is truly a prolife victory. Amen.


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November 20-December 3, 2015


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