National Catholic Reporter

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Valuable contribution to the record on sex abuse crisis

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The wide-lens view of today's New York Times' dig into the dense and logic-defying maze of church law and bureaucracy is the latest needed bit of light shed on a culture that struggles today to find its way clear of the sex abuse crisis.

The interviews with archbishops and bishops and their recollections of the tone of a secret Vatican meeting in 2000 are telling indicators of how aware the Vatican was of the scope of the scandal, of what it could do about it, of its unwillingness to confront the problem and of the ridiculous nature of analyses offered by some at the highest echelons of church governance.

Anyone mildly familiar with church culture – with rectories and seminaries and the workings of the local diocese – was aware that bad actors were being shielded and that victims of sometimes horrific abuse were being marginalized and re-victimized with countersuits and public disparagement.

Benedict in the 1980s

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Stunning article in Friday's New York Times, detailing decades of confusion and delay within the church hierarchy regarding how to deal with the incipient pedophilia problem.

The report focuses on then-Cardinal Ratzinger and his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Throughout the article, local bishops (especially Americans) come across as the central force for facing the crisis head on. They, the Times said, could see the damage at street level, and knew it had to confronted in a far more definitive manner.

New Iowa Law: No texting and driving

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"It can wait." That's Iowa Governor Chet Culver's message to drivers, texting behind the wheel. And starting Thursday, it'll have to wait, under Iowa law.

Whether it's weaving, or jerky movements, police say there's no argument: texting while driving is a major danger."

Parents Text & Drive More than Teens

"According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, adults are more likely than teenagers to text while driving, with 47 percent of respondents saying they either send or read messages while at the wheel of a vehicle.

That shockingly high number compares with 34 percent of teens doing the same thing. Pew considers teens as minors aged 16 and 17."

A National Study on Teen Texting

Meanwhile, a recent national study offers the following advice to parents of teens:

Friday Vatican potpourri

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tFriday heading into the July 4 weekend seems a good time for a “reporter’s notebook” round-up of footnotes and nuggets from a dramatic week on the Vatican news beat.

For the record, Pope Benedict XVI will spend July 4 on a one-day pastoral visit to the central Italian town of Sulmona, the home of Pope Celestine V, who reigned briefly in 1294 and was canonized in 1313. Sulmona is currently celebrating a “jubilee year” dedicated to Celestine’s 800th birthday, and while Benedict is in town, he will pray before the relics of Celestine in the crypt of the local cathedral. One wonders what will be going through Benedict’s head at that moment; Celestine never wanted to be elected pope, he resigned just five months after his election (without ever entering Rome), and was later tossed into jail where, some believe, he was killed by his successor.

The Crucifix Controversy

'Parents oblivious to overweight kids'

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This Newsweek headline is shocking and seems to reflect a deeper, psychological component to childhood obesity: Parents are in denial and suffering from what's called the "skewed weight perception" phenomenon.

"The obesity alarm bells are ringing again. A new report out this week finds that more than two thirds of states (38 total) have adult obesity rates above 25 percent—a striking increase since 1991, when no state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. Hardest hit: Mississippi, which weighed in at 33.8 percent, followed by Alabama and Tennessee (tied at 31.6 percent), West Virginia (31.3 percent), and Louisiana (31.2 percent).

World Summit on Media for Children and Youth: Media literacy education on the rise

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From June 14-18, 2010, more than 1,000 delegates from seventy countries gathered at Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden, to celebrate media literacy education at the World Summit on Media for Children and Youth. “Celebrate” is my word, and the best way to describe the 180 sessions and enthusiastic networking that happened over the course of five days.

I was part of the SIGNIS, delegation; SIGNIS is the world Catholic organization for communication. SIGNIS has been a part of the World Summit movement since 2004 in Rio, and had a significant presence at the Johannesburg World Summit in 2007 during which Cardinal John P. Foley, then president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication, presented a message from Pope Benedict XVI. Alas, there was no message for this year but there was a strong Catholic presence and SIGNIS was one of the sponsoring organizations for the summit meeting.

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 .

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October 10-23, 2014

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