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A Tale of Two Fatimas

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Fatima, Portugal

t In a sense, there have always been two Fatimas in the popular Catholic imagination.

One is a gentle devotion focused on Mary’s appearances to three illiterate shepherd children, an icon of God’s special favor for the simple ones of the earth.Then there’s the other Fatima, a darker and harder-edged subculture focused on speculation about the errors of Russia, nuclear annihilation, and the great apostasies of the Catholic church after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

tThat second Fatima, according to some, has often obscured and perverted the first. Writer and commentator Carlos Evaristo, for example, says feverish devotees can become so engrossed by the second Fatima that they almost have to be “deprogrammed.”

“Unfortunately, many people who have a devotion to Fatima start with the regular devotions of the rosary and the First Saturdays, and then they get into some of the more exoteric literature,” Evaristo said.

“Once you get people into that mentality, it’s very hard to get them back.”

My brief encounter with Mr. Donohue

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Some years ago, I had my first – and last – on air encounter with William Donohue (who responds here to an NCR column), then not quite as well known as now. It was for a version of Chris Matthews’ Hardball, a show I rarely watched. My vantage point was the darkened studio of a local public television station in Kansas City, Mo., where I sat, plugged in only by an earphone as the show got underway.

My recollection is that for most of the next 20 minutes Mr. Donohue screamed. I had never quite met anyone like him. He shouted incessantly -- non sequiturs, insults, bromides, broadsides, a veritable firehose of mischaracterizations and conclusions all delivered at a decibel level that would have been outlawed in any other industry.

I must say I went home somewhat marveling at the man’s capability for delivering so little at such great volume.

A Reply to Bill Donohue's Reply

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You can always count on Bill Donohue to put the “id” back into “idiocy.” For Donohue, the world is a small place, and he fills it substantially with his pseudo-intellectual obesity. His rebuttal to the article by Joe Feuerhard claims he intends to rebut the charges leveled against him one by one, but he mostly obfuscates the issues, all the while showing why he has become the favorite Catholic blowhard on the cable channels.

Donohue defends his exorbitant salary, noting that Sister Carol Keehan makes significantly more than he does in her role as head of the Catholic Health Association. He fails to note that Sister Carol, who is a Daughter of Charity, has taken a vow of poverty and so she never sees a paycheck because it goes to her religious order. He also fails to note that to earn Sr. Carol’s salary he would have to learn something about health care, a subject on which his rantings have been even more obtuse than usual.

Pope lauds 'maternity of God' as counter-sign to egoism

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Fatima, Portugal

tIn the teeth of a world inclined to sacrifice unity “on the altar of base egoisms of nation, race, ideology, the group and the individual,” Pope Benedict XVI today proposed Fatima as a counter-sign of the “wondrous maternity of God.”

tThe comments came in the pontiff’s homily this morning for an open-air Mass in the world’s premier Marian shrine, before a vast and tightly-packed crowd estimated at half a million. Today is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, recalling the reported apparitions of Mary to three shepherd children in this spot between May and October 1917.

tBenedict’s use of feminine imagery was striking, though in context the phrase “maternity of God” appeared to refer to Mary’s role as the Mother of God. Benedict said that Mary testifies to the “sweet joys” of God’s love for humanity.

tThe pope lauded the three young visionaries of Fatima, saying they had “an experience of grace.” At the same time, the pontiff insisted that Christian faith does not depend upon such dramatic confirmation.

Fear of 'illegal aliens' nothing knew

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The recent tension in Arizona over State Law 1070 that would allow local police to ask for proof of citizenship or legal residency as part of a crime investigation can and should be seen in a broader historical context. That is, the concern and even hysteria over “illegal aliens” is nothing knew.

Nativism, or anti-foreign sentiment, has a long history and perhaps is as American as apple pie.

Benedict Should Be Called Leo

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I love Pope Benedict, but I am beginning to think he chose the wrong papal name. He should have picked Leo. When the Council of Chalcedon met in 451, it was said “Peter has spoken through Leo.” In 1049, Pope Leo IX assumed the papal throne and began a reform of the Church, starting with the curia, in to which he recruited the best and brightest of his day. And, of course, Leo XIII, in his encyclical Rerum Novarum, laid the groundwork for the development of the Church’s social justice tradition in the modern world.

The parable of the wastebasket

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A television comedienne I saw once talked of visiting the mall to buy a wastebasket for her new apartment. The clerk put her basket in a sack. She carried the sack home and then wadded it up and threw it in the new basket she had just bought. She threw up her hands, saying “What am I doing?!!!”

Hers is an apt parable for what we are up against. One really can’t blame the clerk, the store … or anyone, in particular. Such wasteful policies and practices are the result of countless incremental decisions and choices made thoughtlessly by all of us over a long period, the end results of which are fast destroying our planet’s life support systems. The reversal of such destructive ways will no doubt result from countless incremental decisions and choices made thoughtfully over time. Individual efforts to live with less waste do finally add up.

Part of our job description as simple living people is to keep at this task. It’s an important one. We must describe with our lives the future we want to see for our children. It may or may not be enough. The jury is out, and no one really knows what the verdict will be.

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September 12-25, 2014

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