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The Catholic Key and Who Speaks for the Church

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I give Jack Smith, editor of Kansas City diocesan paper, a good deal of credit. His “Catholic Key” blog breaks beyond the usual church-sponsored model of communication. It is provocative, in tune with the bishop, Robert Finn, for whom he works, and a good place to get perspective on conservative views in the Church. (I rarely agree with his political points and think he’s taken some real cheap shots on a number of issues, but that’s another story.)

The Catholic Key blog, in other words, is a good read. But is it more than that? And should it be?

Yesterday, Smith weighed in on the controversy surrounding Cardinal Francis George’s comments at the closed door meeting of the US Bishops last week. It’s a long story (background here), but the essence of it is that the “Catholic News Agency” attributed remarks to George that the spokesperson for the US Bishops Conference, Helen Osman, says are a “fabrication.”

Austrian laity in new push for church reform

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The Associated Press is reporting today that Austrian Catholics are ramping up a campaing for reform in the church, partly as a consequence of the ongoing sex abuse scandal.

The Austrians, as do Germans, have a unique bit of leverage. When they leave the church, they stop paying a controversial, government-administered church tax. Tens of thousands of Austrian Catholics are leaving each year, with the number predicted to grow significantly this year, and many are citing their wish not to support a church that harmed children and that is led by what they perceive as an out-of-touch hierarchy.

Fire McChrystal

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When I began managing Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café back in 1987, the first thing the owner told me was to hire my own replacement. I thought this a bizarre request seeing as he had just hired me to run the place. He explained that many people depended for their livelihoods on the café running successfully and that if I got hit by a bus, the whole operation could not come grinding to a halt. My first task, therefore, was to make sure that I had in place one or more colleagues and subordinates who knew how to do the schedule, examine the payroll, train new staff, etc. This was sage advice.

Interview with Cardinal Scola on Christian/Muslim relations

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

One frustration about inter-faith dialogue has long been that it tends to be delegated to, and thus dominated by, a narrow band of experts. While smart and well-meaning, these folks sometimes have more in common with one another, both biographically and theologically, than with either the rank-and-file or the policy-makers in their own traditions.

Trying to bring the mainstreams into the game was part of the reason that Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice launched the “Oasis Foundation” in 2004, which promotes solidarity among Christians in the Middle East and dialogue with the Islamic world.This week, June 21-22, Oasis held the annual meeting of its “Scientific Committee,” which brought together 70 Christian and Muslim leaders in Beirut, Lebanon, to talk about the theme of education.

Scola, 68, was widely tipped as a potential papabile, or candidate to be pope, in the run-up to the conclave of April 2005, and depending on the timing, he could well be in the mix the next time around.

According to notes from the Beirut meeting released by Scola’s media office, it was a bit of a good news/bad news experience.

Pitt. Catholic Charities gets $500,000 for free health clinic

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Insurer Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield gave $500,000 to a Catholic-run health center for the uninsured Tuesday that should help it get through another year.

Highmark president and CEO Kenneth R. Melani said he hoped the donation would help sustain the center and its clientele until provisions of the Health Care Reform package take effect.

Asked why Highmark didn't opt to help uninsured families obtain health insurance, Kaitlin O'Brien, spokeswoman for Highmark, said the Catholic Charities clinic "is the best place for them to receive appropriate care and be part of the health care system."

Increasing numbers of uninsured people have turned to the center, located Downtown near Liberty Avenue and Ninth Street, for primary and preventive health care since it opened in 2007. Patients can receive dental care. Its 135 volunteer physicians have treated 6,902 medical and dental patients, averaging about 5,000 visits a year.

Alt bishop

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I had no idea the new bishop of Springfield, Illinois, was so into the alternative music scene.

According to an article in the State Journal-Register yesterday, Bishop Thomas Paprocki uses lyrics from Coldplay and Linkin Park in his homilies.

"He likes to sing during his homilies, especially when doing (the sacrament of) Confirmation," said Springfield Catholic Diocese spokeswoman Kathie Sass, who added that he often asks young people what music they listen to and then tries to incorporate it in his homilies.

I knew then-Father Thomas Paprocki when he was chancellor of the Chicago Archdiocese and don't recall him being quite so hip then. I appreciate any attempt to connect with popular culture, but I wonder if Catholic teens just roll their eyes when a 57-year-old bishop starts quoting "In the End." Just sayin'.

You Can't Make this Stuff Up

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Remember Raffaelo Follieri, the scam artist who tried to convince church officials that he wanted to do social good by buying rundown parishes in cash-strapped dioceses using supermarket magnate Ron Burkle's money? (If you need a refresher, here's the NCR story on Follieri.) Follieri is now serving time in a federal prison.

It seems that Anne Hathaway, the movie star who was dating Follieri right up to the time of his indictment, can't quite rid herself of the real estate tycoon's legacy. The New York Post reports that "Federal authorities are planning to auction off baubles Hathaway's high-living ex-boyfriend gave to her before he was busted in an investment scheme that involved fake connections to the Vatican."

Serving the faithful

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In today's Morning Briefing, NCR publisher Joe Feuerherd linked to this Associated Press story: Cardinal denies corruption allegations. The cardinal is Crecenzio Sepe, who is now archbishop of Naples, Italy, but in 2001-2006 was prefect, i.e, head cook and chief bottle washer, of the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Apparently there were also some questionable real estate transactions involving that congregation during that same time period. Read NCR's senior correspondent John Allen for more on that (A hint of accountability in new Vatican financial scandal).

Here's what caught my eye in the AP report (emphasis is mine).

"[Sepe] sought to dispel suggestions that he had been demoted to Naples archbishop by Pope Benedict XVI after serving in such a politically powerful position as prefect of one of the Vatican's wealthiest congregations.

The people's right to know -- even in the church

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The current back and forth over what Cardinal Francis George and the other bishops may have said or not said about the Catholic Health Association and other Catholic groups prompts a larger question that is rarely discussed at the episcopal level. Do church leaders have an obligation to disclose their discussions about matters that affect the church? And if so, how far does that obligation extend? Indeed, do church members have a right to know?

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