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How can we explain evil in the world?

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Reading the newspaper today made me think the writer of "The Adjustment Bureau" just might be on to something.

The premise of the film is that angels dressed as businessmen are walking among us, their only business to keep humans on the right track. There are hokey references to “the chairman” and “the plan” in the beginning of the movie and I was just about to write it off when I found some interesting theological food for thought.

The protagonist, played by Matt Damon, meets up with one of the leading angels to argue his case for being with the woman he loves. During that conversation, the angel explains to Damon's character that humans are not really free. Indeed, he says, human beings only have the “appearance of having free will.”

Cesar Chavez and today's unions

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Here in California last Thursday, it was a state holiday -- the birthday of Cesar Chavez, founder and leader of the United Farm Workers Union. There were no brass bands nor Main Street parades, but this day this year comes at a crossroads for unions in America.

In Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere, public employee unions are under siege. Many conservative commentators have asserted a difference between these unions of largely white collar bureaucrats and the struggles of miners, farm workers, and the really/truly oppressed. But Chavez himself made no such distinctions -- he was, in the finest Catholic tradition, a bulwark for dignified labor no matter who it was and where the work happened.

That key to Chavez is made clear in a column by the new Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez. Writing in the archdiocesan newspaper The Tidings, Gomez notes of the labor leader: "In everything, he declared that life is sacred and that the human person has a dignity as a child of God that no one can take away."

Scranton diocese adopts social networking site

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From a press release:

Diocese of Scranton in PA is an early adopter of the site AreYouCatholic.com. The site focuses on bringing the world together one good deed at a time. The site currently reaches parishioners across the world and will be another medium for Catholic evangelization and faith sharing.

AreYouCatholic.com is currently home to 16 Catholic Churches and over 175 Good Deeds to date. The churches are registered by a member from the church and currently represent the United States, Canada, and Africa. Plans are to get the site in the hands of the Catholic youth, Catholic missionaries, and Catholics across the world. The site is completely free and requires no login information.

Founder, Brian Pedone, is no stranger to startups or Catholicism. He is an active member in his church, the founder of a non-profit boxing gym, head developer in his software company, and was featured in 2008 BusinessWeek's Top 25 Entrepreneurs 25 Years and Under.

On this day: Orphan Trains

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On this day, a century ago, "Sixty-six babies from the New York Foundling Hospital were shipped . . . to foster parents in the South and West in a special car on the noon train for St. Louis from the Grand Central Station.

"The sixty-six foundlings were in charge of two sisters of charity and Agent O'Hara, who has been conducting the hospital's semi-annual transcontinental foundling tours for a great many years."

Elizabeth Johnson honored at Fordham University

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For the record, the March 24 U.S. bishops' doctrine committee's stinging critique of Sister Elizabeth Johnson's Quest for the Living God was not the first time Johnson was in the news last month.

She was honored two weeks earlier by Fordham University where she teaches theology. Johnson was awarded with a Bene Merenti Medal, honored for 20 years of service at the university. The citation on the program read as follows:

Dr. Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J.
Distinguished Professor of Theology

New York Times editorial: 'What Happened to Zero Tolerance'?

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The Times took on the U.S. bishops again writing:

The indictment of a layman and four church figures — including a monsignor accused of covering up abuse — is proof that the bishops’ system of local and national review boards isn’t strong enough.

Board appointees are supposedly equipped to scrutinize each diocese’s adherence to zero tolerance. But the grand jury in Philadelphia found that the hierarchy there continued to protect accused priests despite repeated scandals and vows for reform.

The leader of the Philadelphia review board pointed to one major weakness: currently, any allegations about rogue priests are first vetted by chancery officials working for the archdiocese. They rightly should go directly to the review boards. This should be a universal no-brainer, along with stronger outside auditing of safeguard programs. Both were initially required, but the bishops subsequently eased that to a policy of “self-reporting” with audits every three years.

The haunting question is how many other Philadelphias may be out there.

House Leader Calls Bishop 'Pedophile Pimp'

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The New Hampshire House majority leader said he stands by his Facebook post referring to Catholic Bishop John McCormack as a "pedophile pimp."

McCormack spoke at a Statehouse rally Thursday, criticizing budget cuts.

"We urge the legislature and the governor to place the poor, the unemployed, and our most vulnerable citizens first," he said.

On Friday morning, D.J. Bettencourt, a Catholic, responded on his Facebook page.

"Bishop John McCormick (sic) of the Catholic Diocese of NH told the crowd, ‘It’s a moral concern (because) the vulnerable take priority in our society.’ Would the Bishop like to discuss his history of protecting the 'vulnerable'? This man is a pedophile pimp who should have been led away from the State House in handcuffs with a rain coat over his head in disgrace. He has absolutely no moral credibility to lecture anyone," the post said.

Positive Catholic Congressional Briefing on LGBT Rights

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The Catholic Bishops of the United States have been lobbying for years against equal rights for the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) community. There were prominent in favoring repeal of same sex marriage in California and Maine, and they pushed hard to keep it from becoming law recently in Maryland. In addition, they have lobbied against adoption rights and even equality in employment.

tNow, Catholics who favor human equality - no matter what a person’s sexual orientation - have come together to make a political impact for LGBT rights. Implicitly, they are saying to Members of Congress: you may hear from the Bishops on this, but they no longer represent most of the flock. We do.

tOn Wednesday, March 30, a coalition of Catholic groups called “Equally Blessed” sponsored a Congressional Briefing in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill. Congressional sponsors were Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA). It was attended by at least 100 people. I was pleased to moderate the session.

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February 12-25, 2016

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