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Sustainable shrimp

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The Gulf oil spill is making Americans think twice before tossing some shrimp on the grill this summer and that might not be such a bad thing. After seeing the horrifying pictures, many are about as interested in eating seafood that’s been swimming in the Gulf as they are in diving into the water themselves. What Americans might not realize, however, is that the shrimping industry is an environmental scourge much older than the oil spill.

For more information about the destructiveness of the shrimp industry and for ways to minimize that destruction while still occasionally enjoying a shrimp dinner, see the Natural Resources Defense Council's Simple Steps article, "Meals of Mass Destruction."

Conn. priest charged for $1.3 million theft

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Yet again a Connecticut Catholic priest heavily part-takes in the "good life" funded by citizens-of-faith's donations. It was previously reported that Fr. Kevin Gray spent money on himself for some seven years. The Republican American now reports on the findings of a police investigation that describes Gray's world as consisting of high-end restaurants, male escorts and extraordinary luxury totally some $1.3 million.

"Gray is expected to surrender to police today on a felony charge of first-degree larceny, a crime that could lead to 20 years in prison. Police say for the past seven years he cut checks from the church bank account to pay for designer clothes by Armani and overnight stays at Madison Avenue hotels, among a list of other expenses."

Incredibly, the Hartford archdiocese is applauding its internal investigative work of a problem that unfolded over seven years to get to the problem of it.

Nice work by Archbishop Henry Mansell and the chancery guys. You can't make this stuff up. By the way, any other seven year old felonies you haven't found yet?

A bi-partisan plea to trim military budget

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Finally, the conversation over attacking deficits aims at the most appropriate target: the military budget. In a welcome bi-partisan appeal, Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Ron Paul spell out a compelling rationale for cutting military spending, which for too long has enjoyed protection from scrutiny.

"For decades," write the two members of Congress, "the subject of military expenditures has been glaringly absent from public debate. Yet the Pentagon budget for 2010 is $693 billion -- more than all other discretionary spending programs combined. Even subtracting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military spending still amounts to over 42% of total spending.

"It is irrefutably clear to us that if we do not make substantial cuts in the projected levels of Pentagon spending, we will do substantial damage to our economy and dramatically reduce our quality of life."

Environmental grief so great

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A few days ago I went on to Huffington Post to find that the lead story was about the effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on baby sea turtles. I never got to the article. Instead I stared at a sea turtle that had been doused in oil and was now fighting for its life. Then I did what I have worked hard to avoid as I've followed the coverage of the spill: I wept. The grief was unbearable as I gazed at the tiny creature, a wondrous manifestation of God's creation.

A different view of Vatican's 'rebuke' of Schoenborn

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The common wisdom holds that Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna was roundly reubuked when he went to see Pope Benedict XVI in Rome last week for a meeting that ultimately included Cardinal Angelo Sodano, whom he had strongly criticized in earlier comments.

But as long time church observer Christa Pongratz-Lippit tells it in a commentary in The Guardian, communiques from the Vatican often reveal more in what isn't said than what is stated. She writes from Vienna that Schoenborn, who has come out in some surprisingly frank and pointed comments urging ecclesial reform and highly critical of the church's handling of the sex abuse crisis, remains unapologetic about his remarks.

Houston's clergy support immigration reform

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"All over Houston, in an unusual display of ecumenical solidarity on an explosive issue, scores of pastors, priests, rabbis and ministers used their sermons on Independence Day to promote the cause of fixing a broken immigration system.

The coordinated effort was part of a broad-based campaign begun in January by an interfaith group, the Metropolitan Organization, to lobby Congress to pass an immigration overhaul package this year. The group has collected 12,000 signatures to be sent to lawmakers and has organized workshops to persuade churchgoers to support their effort.

Vatican set to issue changes in sex abuse rules

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tIn the latest chapter of the Vatican’s attempt to come to grips with the sexual abuse crisis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is expected to release a set of changes to the church’s rules for meting out ecclesiastical discipline against abuser priests sometime in the next few days.

tVatican sources caution, however, that the revisions are largely a matter of consolidating existing practice, rather than a dramatic new approach to how sex abuse cases are handled.

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There has been one update to this story: Vatican to heighten women's ordination sin level
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Pope who quit is patron saint of Benedict's 'interior reform'

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tFor the second time in fourteen months, Benedict XVI has paid homage to a predecessor who quit the papacy after only five months, spurning the power struggles and regal trappings which surrounded it: St. Celestine V, whose pontificate ran from July 5 to December 3 in 1294.

Improbably, Celestine V has emerged as a key point of reference and role model for Benedict XVI – not in the sense of resigning his office, but rather the personal humility, lack of lust for power and glory, and efforts at reconciliation which Benedict associates with his 13th century predecessor.

Those qualities, according to Vatican observers, are at the heart of an “interior reform” Benedict is trying to promote in the church, and perhaps especially in its clerical culture. To the extent that Benedict has an “exit strategy” from the various crises currently plaguing the church and his papacy, this interior reform would appear to be it – and Celestine V, at least informally, is arguably its patron saint.

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