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Facing stormy seas, pope heads to Malta to recall a shipwreck

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tBenedict XVI arrives in Malta tomorrow to celebrate the memory of a shipwreck, and at the moment the pope could be forgiven for feeling like he’s on the brink of another one. In recent weeks, the “Barque of Peter,” a traditional maritime image for the papacy, seems to be foundering on the choppy seas of the sex abuse crisis.

Benedict may well be hoping the Maltese show him the same “rare humanity” with which the Acts of the Apostles say they received St. Paul almost two millennia ago.

Here Comes Everybody: Don't Miss this Meeting

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The lineup of confirmed speakers for the May 6-7 National Catholic Reporter/Trinity Washington University Washington Briefing for the Nation’s Catholic Community now includes:


  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House of Representatives

  • E.J. Dionne, nationally syndicated columnist and author of Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right

  • Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), ranking member of the House Budget Committee and author of A Roadmap for America’s Future

  • Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director, NETWORK, a Catholic Social Justice Lobby.
  • Plus, we have added a panel at which NCR Senior Correspondent John L. Allen, Jr., currently in Rome, will discuss the fallout from the clergy sex abuse crisis in Europe.

    For more information on the conference, and to register for this two-day event at the reduced group rate of $395.00, please visit our updated conference page.

    Previously confirmed speakers include:

    Helen Alvare

The Lesson of July 27, 1945

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As World War II came to a close, and the Free French government of Charles DeGaulle took the reins of power in Paris, a controversy arose about what to do with those French bishops who had collaborated with the pro-fascist Vichy regime. DeGaulle and the stoic ministers of state might have been willing to let bygones be bygones, but Catholic members of the Resistance were insistent. At least some of the worst offenders needed to be deposed.

April 16, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, Pilgrim

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Today is the feast of St. Benedict Joseph Labre. He was born at Amettes, near Boulogne, in 1748. After several attempts to join the Trappists, the Cistercians, and the Carthusians, he realized he was unsuited for religious life. He decided to be a pilgrim.


He walked to shrines all over Europe, including Assisi, and Loreto in Italy, Compostela in Spain, Paray-le-Monial in France, and Einsiedeln in Switzerland. He owned only the rags he wore and the few books he carried in a bag. He slept in the open, and relied on alms freely given. He did not beg, and anything given to him beyond his immediate need, he shared with other poor people.

Brazil's bishops sound alarm about the Amazon

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ROME -- This week Catholic bishops from the Brazilian state of Pará are in Rome for their ad limina meetings with Pope Benedict XVI and the various offices of the Vatican. While here, the Brazilian prelates are desperately struggling to grab the world’s attention about what they see as a massive human and environmental crisis in the Amazon.

tHere’s part of the reason for their sense of urgency: Of the fifteen bishops from Pará currently in Rome, three are facing death threats back home for their outspoken criticism of the government, social elites, and powerful ranching, mining and energy interests.

An Episcopal Tea Party Movement?

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We now have at least two bishops who sound like they are leading an Episcopal version of the Tea Party movement. Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt of Greensburg, Pa., won't permit the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden to advertise for new members in diocesan media because their leadership signed the Network letter championing health care reform.

But we now have the larger specter of former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura, giving an address critical of pro-health-reform nuns at the conservative Institute for Religious Life's national meeting at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois.

Benedict's view of priesthood

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This essay by John Cornwell, The Pope, the people and the paedophiles, has several incisve points about the current state of the Catholic church. Some highlights:

Pope Benedict XVI will be coming to Britain this September. For a man of 82, he has a light step. Yet for the remainder of his papacy he will be travelling the world weighed down like Marley's ghost with the invisible chains and burdens of an agonising crisis. The scandal of the world's Catholic paedophile priests may become the greatest catastrophe to afflict the Church of Rome since the Reformation.

* * * * *

Big banks draw profits from microloans to poor

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This past August, I wrote about a compelling effort by the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Illinois which is making "payday" loans available to the working poor in lieu of their reliance on loan sharks.

Yesterday's New York Times reported that big banks have now caught on to the idea and find it a profitable business. Of course, satisfying shareholders on the backs of the poor raises some interesting questions, especially since "the microfinance industry, with over $60 billion in assets, has unquestionably outgrown its charitable roots."

"In recent years, the idea of giving small loans to poor people became the darling of the development world, hailed as the long elusive formula to propel even the most destitute into better lives.

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