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Considering our treasure, the Penatgon

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Where our treasure is, there our heart is also. Our treasure is lodged in the Pentagon. Well, lodged might not be the right word. Perhaps squandered is a better word. Whatever. Military spending tells us a lot about our national heart.

Right now Congress is debating whether to permanently end funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which would leave some rural areas at the mercy of corporate news casting and endanger Sesame Street and other commercial-free children’s television. The cut would reduce the deficit by about $400 million.

It is difficult for me to get my mind around how much a million dollars is, especially since I heard yesterday that a poll of millionaires reports most wouldn’t feel really rich unless they had at least seven and a half million dollars.

But take a look at ballistic missile defense. The Pentagon has been trying to do it -- that is, acquire the capacity to shoot down incoming enemy missiles while they are still in the stratosphere -- since 1961. We have spent $135 billion on this effort and the Pentagon has budgeted another $40 billion for the next four years. And we still don’t have the hang of it.

What is a \"Vatican II parish\"?

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As a freelance writer, I compose my columns for NCR, first in my head and then on the computer screen, in solitude. Then I email them off to the editors and wait to see them in print or online. So it's always interesting to see what touches people--or hits a nerve.

In my most recent piece, "In religious education, actions speak louder than words," I wrote about the importance of parents teaching the faith through example.

Not a whole lot to debate about there. But it seems one small phrase in the column prompted a number of comments. After remembering how our family made a monthly trek to a soup kitchen, I noted that the lessons learned there were reinforced at our "Vatican II parish."

"A "Vatican II" parish?" asked one commenter. "As opposed the other, Vatican I parishes? Are you claiming some special insight into doctrine or ethics or theology that other Catholics don't have?"

New Israeli settlements foment more terrorism

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Ten years ago, I visited Israel as a guest of the government. I was part of a group of Catholic journalists invited to the Holy Land in hopes we would return to the U.S. and write articles encouraging travel to Israel. I have many memories of that trip, but a few stand out:


  • Going to the Holocaust museum and realizing that what was done to Jews then is similar to what Jews do to Palestinians now. For instance, the Germans made Jews wear yellow stars; in Israel, Palestinians have to have green license plates.

  • Interviewing the mayor of Jerusalem and naively asking, “Why can’t you just share the land?” and flinching as he snapped, “You Americans and your 200-year-old history. You know nothing of history!” He went on to describe with disdain the U.S.’s vision of starting fresh every day.

  • Getting a phone call from a priest I’d met there and hearing him describe a complaint he’d received from a parishioner who had been stopped at an Israeli checkpoint as his pregnant wife labored in the back of the car. They were detained until the woman’s water broke and then, finally convinced she was actually pregnant, let them through.

University of St. Thomas' next president could be a lay person

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From the Star Tribune:

The next president of the University of St. Thomas won't have to be a priest to get the post.

The St. Paul university's governing board changed its bylaws last month to allow a Roman Catholic layperson serve as president.

It will still show priests "strong preference."

The move acknowledges the shrinking number of Catholic priests interested in and qualified for colleges' top jobs. Seton Hall University in New Jersey recently hired a layperson after its first search -- for priests only -- was unsuccessful.

About 60 percent of Catholic colleges are now led by lay people, said Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

A note on comments

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Dear Readers:

Many of you have noticed that we turned off the commenting function for much of today. Behind the scenes, we were being flooded with wave after wave of spam comments. To get a handle on the situation we had to stop accepting comments.

This was a drastic measure because of the unprecedented flow of spam comments. We are hit with such things from time to time, but nothing like what we saw today.

The good news is that it did not interrupt the flow of web site content to you. If you missed the chance to comment today, come back tomorrow. We are open for business.

I apologize from the inconvenience.

Whither the Diaconate?

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Invitation to NCR readers:

Deacon William Ditewig, a professor of theology at St. Leo University in Florida, is speaking at Boston College tonight (March 15) on the topic "Wither the Diaconate." Ditewig wrote the lead essay in the NCR special section on deacon Feb. 4. His essay was titled, "A letter to a newly ordained deacon."

The talk is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Murray Function Room of the Yawkey Center, Lower Campus, Boston College

For more information: church21@bc.edu or call (617-552-0470)

Amidst Nuclear Crisis, A Good Question from a Key Quarter

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“If the competent and technologically brilliant Japanese can't build a completely safe reactor, who can?” syndicated columnist Anne Applebaum asks today. Applebaum’s question is perhaps the one that will be most discussed and debated in the months and years ahead.

Just as important is who’s asking it. Applebaum is no classic anti-nuke type. Far from it. She previously served, for example, as an adjunct fellow at the influential American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Washington’s foremost neo-conservative think-tank.

Bottom line: If some good number of conservatives and neo-conservatives begin to publicly question the efficacy of nuclear power, then its future as an energy source – already a big question mark – is doubtful, if not doomed.

Gluten intolerance and First Holy Communion

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In several weeks' time, youngsters will be receiving their First Holy Communion. Today's Wall Street Journal has a story titled, "Clues to Gluten Sensitivity," of the increasing understanding of "gluten intolerance," as a separate condition from Celiac Sprue disease.

The Committee on Divine Worship of the U.S. Catholic bishops conference has helpful information on the subject titled, "A Short Introduction to Holy Communion and Celiac Sprue Disease," which can be found here.

Parents should work with their parish leaders to prevent unnecessary complications for those children (and adults), who suffer from gluten intolerance or Celiac Sprue disease.

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January 29-February 11, 2016

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