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When Journalism Rises to its Best Principles

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Two gigantic extremes dominate life in America to an increasing degree and journalists either slavishly serve one or the other -- or stand between them, ethically challenged.

One extreme is full bore exposure of triviality. The peccadilloes of the stars, both show biz and political, shouted and magnified by their publicist accomplices; hyped outrage at moms who let their kids have dessert before finishing their carrots; and the juicy details of exotic murders.

The voluntary side of that is the orgy of self-exposure. Accounts of troubled childhoods that spare no gruesome detail. "Biographies" that blame everyone else for everything. Revelations that pretend to shock while expecting sympathic reactions.

Secrecy, the other extreme, is even deadlier, operating in the shadows to manipulate persons and enormous resources to maintain its own privileges. Corporations thrive on it; so do universities and governments. It takes a Freedom of Information Act to pry the Federal doors open even enough to find a fraction of what should be readily available.

In Belgium, anti-pedophile priest rips 'silence and omissions' of bishops

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Back in April, retired Belgian priest and anti-pedophilia crusader Fr. Rik Devillè told reporters that he had informed church authorities more than fifteen years ago about sexual abuse allegations against Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges, but no action was taken. Vangheluwe resigned on April 23, admitting that he had repeatedly abused his teenage nephew in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Webathon Meets Goal

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We did it. Over the past hour (it’s midnight on Friday night), we received more than $200 in online donations. Combine that with Webathon-designated pledges arriving by snail mail and we have gone beyond our $30,000 goal.
Thank you to everyone, more than 700 individual donors, who have shown their support for the independent Catholic journalism – the news, analysis, and informed opinion you see at NCRonline each day – NCR provides.
We are truly grateful, and truly privileged to serve our readership.

A happy adoption story

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So often when adoption is in the news, it is not a positive story (the religious folks shadily trying to get orphans out of Haiti, for example). But on today's Huffington Post, there is an absolutely "happily ever after" story about a family who adopted a little boy from Malawi.

The adoptive mother is a former seminary classmate of mine and the former religion reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times (and author of several books). Cathleen Falsani and her husband, Maurice Possley (also a journalist), met 8-year-old Vasco while on an African trip they had won as a raffle prize. Orphaned by AIDS, Vasco was sickly and needed heart surgery.

Lessons from the oil in the Gulf

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"Well I do think that people are understanding that technology sometimes doesn’t work, that it breaks down and that it may not be able to save us from the mistakes that we make. There is a sense of that in the Gulf, that my gosh, one after another of these multi-million dollar systems that are supposed to operate under extreme conditions failed. And all of the rescue attempts failed. And I think that’s a very healthy lesson for us to learn at this moment when we’re being asked to support ever-more risky energy options; that these technologies that we’re told are infallible are fallible."

-- Michael Klare, author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy.

Listen to (or read the transcript of) an interview with Klare on PRI's The World, a radio redeclaration by Public Radio International, the BBC and WGBN, in an episode titled: "Reconsidering deep-sea oil drilling."

Vietnam Report on Interfaith Voices this Week

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This week, Interfaith Voices features a full report on the interfaith delegation to Vietnam that investigated the horrific legacy of Agent Orange and Dioxin in the bodies of children, and in the earth itself.

We tell the story in a two-part "lead." The first features sound from Vietnam and the major findings of our trip. The second part is my interview with Bob Edgar, the leader of the delegation, currently President of Common Cause, and formerly a Member of Congress and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches.

Cleaning up after this war is a moral “no-brainer.” But politically… well, that’s something else again. If you are interested, go to the Plan of Action, developed by prominent citizens of the U.S. and Vietnam.

\"Hold the salt, please\"

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We read in Matthew 5:13, "You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."

Well, according to a new study, we are a salty people indeed.

"Ninety percent of Americans are eating more salt than they should, a new government report reveals.

In fact, salt is so pervasive in the food supply it's difficult for most people to consume less. Too much salt can increase your blood pressure, which is major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

"Nine in 10 American adults consume more salt than is recommended," said report co-author Dr. Elena V. Kuklina, an epidemiologist in the Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention."

The moral of the story is that we should become a humble "people of God" and not literally salt of the earth. Enough of the salt already.

SNAP's Isely meets with Austria's Cardinal Schoenborn

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SNAP Midwest Director Peter Isely was part of a delegation of SNAP activists that spent time in Europe recently meeting with survivors there. An email he sent out recently about the trip included the following paragraph:

“The survivors and advocates we met with and joined in Europe were unforgettable. They form with us a single voice of struggle and justice. All of these ancient European capitals are beautiful and majestic. What difference does it make? It is the same pain and anguish, the same sorrow, whether in Berlin or Boise, the same continuous and unbroken chain of trauma, memory and witness. One can only conclude from so many brave souls what Camus did in the final line of his post war epic, The Plague, a book many of us read college (I hope still do) …that what one learns in times of plague is “…that there is more to admire in men than to despise.”

Tar sands pipeline possible site of the next environmental disaster

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If we could go back in time before the BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, what would we learn? What steps would have helped avert what is now the nation's worst environmental disaster? Could this hindsight help us prevent similar catastrophes in the future? Would our political leaders have the moral compass to "get it right" this time around?

A ready-made test case for such an exercise exists in the form of TransCanada's push for a pipeline to transport toxic tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, through the American heartland down to Houston.

For more on this, see Sarah Hogdon's blog on the Sierra Club's Climate Crossroads.

NCR looked at the issue of tar sand extraction in an article by Sharon Abercrombie that ran in the May 14, 2010 issue.

The exodus of German Catholics

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German Catholics are leaving the church in record numbers, according to the latest figures in this report from Religion News Service: Abuse may lead to exodus of German Catholics

It may have attracted the attention of the hierarchy.

"This high number of departures cannot leave us at peace. Anyone who leaves the church wants to fulfill his faith and his life's desires without the church in the future," said Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, the bishops' president, in a recent statement.

"That kind of decision always raises questions directed at us from which we cannot shy away."

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September 12-25, 2014

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