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Even more on tax cut compromise

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Black church group criticizes congressional tax cuts

By Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON (RNS) The newly launched Conference of National Black Churches criticized Congress on Thursday (Dec. 9) for linking extension of unemployment benefits to tax cuts for the wealthy.

“Based on our prophetic responsibility to speak to those in power on behalf of the poor, underserved, and vulnerable, we find it utterly shameful that those who insisted that the deficit be reduced, now celebrate billions of dollars being added to the deficit as tax cuts for the wealthy,” wrote the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson, chairman of the umbrella group of nine historically black denominations.

The letter called on President Obama and Congress to endorse “an extension of unemployment insurance without conditions.”

The group issued the letter as 300 of its leaders met in Washington to restart the work begun by the now-defunct Congress of National Black Churches, which helped rebuild Southern black churches destroyed in a spate of arsons in the 1990s.

The DREAM Act and Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Yesterday was December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Millions of Mexicans and other Latinos celebrate this special day to honor the Mexican image of Mary, our Holy Mother.

As Mexicans and other Latinos will become very soon the majority of U.S. Catholics, the celebration of this feast day along with other Latino Catholic traditions will become even more manifest.

Amid Mexico violence, Long Island, N.Y.-born priest thrives

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From New York's Newsday:

The 17 masked men pulled two teenage boys off the Rev. David Beaumont's truck in northern Mexico, forced them to the ground, and put guns against their heads as their mother screamed to the priest that her sons were about to be killed.

Beaumont, who was born in Hempstead and grew up in Commack, has spent the last 20 years as a Franciscan missionary in one of the most dangerous and violent areas of the world. On this day last April, he had to make a split-second decision.

"I was saying to myself, 'Well, now either I'm really going to be a missionary and be prepared to give my life for the people, or run and hide,'" Beaumont recalled in a telephone interview. "I felt it was a pivotal moment in my life. When I walked out to them [the masked men], I realized that the last thing I might see would be the bullets coming at me.

Vatican's ëminister of culture' dazzles in time of PR doldrums

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tSpotting contenders for the papacy and choosing a Quiz Bowl team are obviously very different things, but more and more they have one thing in common: Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, looks like a plausible candidate to make both cuts.

tCertainly there’s never been any doubt about the intellectual chops of the 68-year-old Italian prelate, whom Pope Benedict XVI recently inducted into the College of Cardinals during a Nov. 20 consistory. Whenever Ravasi appears in public, he coughs up literary allusions the way two-pack-a-day smokers do phlegm – regularly, and without thinking about it.

Losing Faith in the System?

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Even the best scientific surveys usually produce "findings" rather than "facts"; that is, they take a picture of a flock of geese whose formation wasn't the same just before and won't be just after.

The picture may also be taken through a blurry or distorted lens so as to make it appear that the number of geese is larger or smaller than it actually is.

I'm thinking of how Gallup indirectly sustained a fiction about America's average church attendance for many decades. From the 1960s onwward the figure hovered in the 40-45 percent range, despite everyday impressions that the figure was too high.

Then an enterprising team at Purdue University tackled the question by measuring actual attendance within a region and extrapolating from that. Their results were around 25 percent which seemed to make greater sense. Their research has since been corroborated.

So with both appreciation for what competent surveying can helfpfully deliver and a degree of wariness about becoming too fixed on particular outcomes, I call attention two two findings that related to the working class.

In Bay area, the old and the new of Guadalupe

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"After five centuries, it would take a minor miracle to find something new about Our Lady of Guadalupe. She seems to be everywhere Mexicans go, even after they've become Hispanics," writes Joe Rodriguez, a Mercury News columnist.

"Almost every Catholic Church showcases her portrait, with millions poised on Sunday to celebrate the feast day for the patron saint of both Mexico and the Americas. And though she's a perennial subject of academic study and pop art, one local sociologist has found a new angle, starting with her own personal connection to Guadalupe."

"'Who is she on a daily basis?' asked Maria Socorro Castaneda-Liles of Santa Clara University. 'That's what I wanted to document.'"

Read the whole piece here.

William Donohue subject of New York Times columnist

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The Catholic bashing Catholic president of the “Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights," William Donohue, is the subject of a column written by Frank Rich inThe New York Times today. It's a column entitled "Gay Bashing at the Smithsonian," and it looks at the mindlessness at the heart of a Donohue-led campaign that moved officials at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington to cave in and censor part of a survey on same sex themes in an exhibit there.

NCR readers are quite familiar with Donohue and the black eyes to the teachings of our church he frequently orders up in the name of protecting the good name of our religion. In the process he manages to twist our faith's gospel-based teachings of mercy, compassion and forgiveness into unrecognizable parody.

It's really quite sad and not helpful for Catholic evangelization.

NCR Publisher and Editor-in-chief wrote about Donohue's misguided ways in a column last May.

Writes Rich today:

Senate advocate for nation's wealthiest is also blocking START treaty

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Of all the elements revealing the influence of the nation's super rich and the corrupted nature of our political system, none does more so than the proposed estate tax in the proposed tax bill compromise.

The agreement between President Obama and the Republicans would set an estate tax exemption of $5 million per person, and a maximum rate of 35 percent, for two years.

Now we learn in The New York Times that its chief advocate in the U.S. senate is working on behalf of the wealthiest of the wealthy in our nation and playing politics with nuclear disarmament.

The estate tax lapsed this year, but is scheduled to return on Jan. 1 with an effective exclusion of $1 million, and a maximum rate of 55 percent.

Here's what the Times writes today:

The provision included in the deal with Republicans mirrors language in an estate tax proposal previously championed by Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Republican, and Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas.

Sex abuse crisis, Vatican PR woes figure in WikiLeaks scoops

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

Secret diplomatic cables revealed this morning as part of the WikiLeaks releases confirm that while the Vatican was appalled by revelations of clerical sexual abuse in Ireland in 2009 and 2010, it was also offended by demands that the papal ambassador participate in a government-sponsored probe, seeing it as an insult to the Vatican’s sovereign immunity under international law.

That stance, according to the cable, came off in Ireland as “pettily procedural” while failing to confront the reality of clerical abuse, and thereby made the crisis worse.

The cables also contain critical diplomatic assessments of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decision to create new structures to welcome disgruntled Anglicans, as well as the perceived technological illiteracy and communications ineptitude of some senior Vatican officials.

PR woes in the Vatican, according to one cable, have lowered the volume on the pope’s “moral megaphone.”

Newly disclosed cables also indicate that:

•tThe Vatican has expressed desire to resist the influence of Venezuelan Socialist strongman Hugo Chavez across Latin America;

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