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Examination of the hierarchy continues

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Sr. Fran Ferder and Fr. John Heagle add to the growing examination of the culture of hierarchy in the Catholic Church, an examination occasioned by the horrific and ongoing tales of child abuse by clergy.

I doubt that people like Ferder and Heagle -- not to mention Fr. Tom Doyle or Richard Sipe or Mary Gail Frawley O’Dea or Eugene Kennedy or Fr. Donald Cozzens or the leaders of SNAP or any of the host of other long-time church observers, some schooled in the psychological disciplines, others deeply familiar with the workings of the hierarchy -- will be asked any time soon to a meeting in Rome to present their best insights into the abuse crisis.

But NCR retains a record of their insights and those of others over the long decades of the church’s nightmare, and the record continues to accumulate in efforts such as the online series Examining the Crisis.

Finding Christian community in 110 degree weather

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My walk home from work yesterday was hot. Clothes sticking to you, arms glistening, sun pounding you into the ground kind of hot.

The heat index was 110 degrees. My first thought as I walked outside through the office door was that I just wanted to be home.

Yet, on the way there I had an unexpected opportunity to slow down and appreciate the importance of building community — no matter the hot, sticky weather.

About halfway home (sometime after my polo shirt was seriously soaked through with sweat ) I was stopped by a voice calling out to me. Looking to my left I saw an older man sitting on his porch, holding a cool glass while gesturing at me.

The man didn't waste any time with introductions of pleasantries. As soon as I had walked close enough to hear more clearly he started to speak at a mile a minute, as if he thought I would walk away if he even took a breath. In truth, if he had given me the chance I probably would have blamed the heat and kept on my way.

But thanks to his persistence I found myself transported in time and space.

Holocaust film produced by Jesuit possible Oscar contender

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A film about the Holocaust – produced by a Jesuit priest and directed by his son – finds itself on a possible path to the Academy Awards.

The 37-minute documentary is called “The Labyrinth,” and tells the story of Marian Kolodziej, a Polish Catholic resistance fighter during World War II who survived more than five years in Auschwitz.

For five decades, Kolodziej – prisoner number 432 – kept silent about his years inside the death camp. He became a set designer for Polish film and theatre, he married, and – like so many survivors -- tried to somehow stitch together a normal life.

Then in 1993, he suffered a severe stroke. During his rehabilitation, he quietly asked for a pencil – and immediately a flood of images from Auschwitz poured out onto paper. Kolodziej soon had more than 300 drawings, all depicting the camps in nightmarish and surreal detail. A church in Poland gave him its basement as a workspace and gallery – with his wife, he set up his enormous drawings in a place he came to call his Labyrinth.

After religious violence, Indian archbishop holds peace summit

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A Catholic professor in India recently had his hand chopped off by Islamic radicals for allegedly insulting Islam in an exam question paper.

The archbishop's response?

A peace summit. Here's the inspiring story from UCA News.

An archbishop in southern India has brought together Hindu, Muslim and Christian leaders in a meeting to promote peace in Kerala state.

This comes in response to a recent incident in which Islamic radicals chopped off the hand of a Catholic professor, T.J. Joseph, for allegedly insulting Islam in an exam question paper.

“It’s our duty to maintain harmony and mutual respect. That’s why we organized this meeting,” said Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis, head of the Kerala-based Syro-Malankara Church.

A statement issued after the meeting, which was held in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram on July 31, appealed to leaders of all religions to fight the “divisive forces” that aim to destabilize society.

Are Faith and Philosophy at odds?

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For more than 2500 years, philosophers have tried to settle the big question: can man prove God exits? A leading philosopher from Nore Dame says, no, we can't - and that's just fine.

Notre Dame philosophy professor Gary Gutting writes his striking account online in The New York Times. He describes debates with his students, seeking to answer life's main mysteries. Gutting says many of these arguments end with one student or another simply asking: what about faith? Can't we just take these things on faith?

For philosophers, Gutting writes, this is a source of exasperation. No, they say, we shouldn't take the big questions on faith. The job of a philosopher is to find the answers, to strip away the mystery.

But he admits, when it comes to God at least, philosophy hasn't done a good job. The real winners in those debate have been the agnostics - seeing little merit in arguments presented for or against God's existence.

A real-life Jack McCoy

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A Law & Order fan, like myself, would feel right at home at the national conference of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), held last weekend here in Chicago. Among the 300 or so attendees and speakers were judges, district attorneys and lawyers--lots of lawyers--and plenty of talk about statutes of limitations, corroborative evidence, and discovery hearings.

There was Victor Vieth, a former prosecutor who now trains law enforcement professionals about child sexual abuse and its spiritual implications; Michael Dolce, the Florida attorney who led the successful drive to eliminate that state's statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors; and of course Jeff Anderson, the famed Minnesota attorney who has represented hundreds of victims of clergy sex abuse.

But the legal professional who most impressed me was Phillip A. Koss, the district attorney of Walworth Couty, Wisconsin. Koss prosecuted Donald McGuire, the Chicago Jesuit a local newspaper called, "the most dangerous priest in America."

Among his more chilling revelations about the case:

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