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Top ten stories in January

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Top-ten stories on NCRonline.org

The five parts of the five-part essay by Sr. Sandra Schneiders, Religious life as prophetic life form, took five of the top-10 most-viewed stories on the NCR web site in January.

If we pull Sr. Schneiders' essay out of the line-up, the top stories are:


  1. Mary Daly, radical feminist theologian, dead at 81

  2. NCR Today: The NCR group blog

  3. Mother Millea urges U.S. religious to comply with study

  4. Papal liturgist endorses 'reform of the reform'

  5. Bishop: 'Schneiders' analysis inspiring, challenging'

Cottle on the \"Dark Art\" of Polling

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Michelle Cottle’s essays over at The New Republic are always worth reading but her takedown of Republican pollster Frank Luntz’s new book is a must-read. (You don’t need to know the name of the book because after reading Cottle you won’t want to shell out the $24.99 to get it. In fact, I will give you $24.99 to read anything else!)

Luntz is a pollster and polling is, as Cottle calls it, a “dark art.” It is also the principal reason our politicians are so bland: They are afraid to go to the bathroom without having a pollster tell them the decision will sit well with the voters. More than that, polling is a principal reason our politics are so bad. They turn campaigns into marketing strategies, they ignore the fact that voters are, at any given time, motivated by a medley of concerns that change from morning to night and from yesterday to tomorrow. For example, I will bet, although I have never been polled on the subject, that my concern about rising food prices is higher after I go to the market. Just a hunch.

Attitudes toward Muslims and Jews linked

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On the most recent "Interfaith Voices," I interviewed Dalia Mogahead, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. She reported on a new poll of Americans that found that 43 percent admitted feeling prejudice toward Muslims. And that’s the percentage who admit it. Not surprisingly, Islam registers a much higher negative rating than other religions. Given the negative media coverage of Islam, and careless political language used by some public officials, that’s not surprising.

Charities merge and close

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For years the bylaws of most not-for-profit organizations contained a provision related to dissolution and transfer of assets. Rarely has this provision ever been invoked.

These days, however, it is employed, studied and used as more and more charities fold their tents and/or merge with other charities. Today's Wall Street Journal describes this relatively new phenomenon.

For many boards of directors, casting a vote in favor of closure is not a comfortable role to be in. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of charities which should close.

Why the new Apple iPad stinks

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We've probably all heard it by now. During a press event last Wednesday in San Francisco, Apple announced its version of the tablet computer: the iPad.

We've also probably all heard the hype. You know, the chatter about how this new product is going to save the world. How it's loaded with all the goodies you absolutely need: clean aluminum and glass styling, an innovative touch-screen interface, wireless internet, and on and on and on.

As an Apple user for the past few years, I've got to admit that I'm not immune to this chatter. Apple certainly knows how to create a product that is intuitive and just darned easy to use.

Apple fanboy in me aside, however, I just can't understand what the company was thinking with this newest creation. Yes, sure, the possibilities of the tablet computer for specific purposes are exciting. (Just for one example, can you imagine the time and energy a doctor could save by having a small, easy to use tablet computer to record and search for information?) But the iPad seems almost purposefully constructed so as to make it as useless as possible.

So, putting aside my Catholic worker sensibilities and my questions about the need for new technology, here are my four (thoroughly unresearched) reasons why the Apple iPad simply stinks, in no particular order:

New documents fuel debate over Pius XII

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tTwo new documents concerning Pius XII and the Holocaust unearthed in an English archive seem destined to add fuel to the fire of an already polarized debate about the World War II-era pope’s alleged “silence.”

tItalian news agencies are reporting today that the first document is a brief account of an Oct. 19, 1943, meeting between Pius XII and the American Ambassador to the Holy See, Harold Tittmann. Although that session came just three days after the deportation of Roman Jews by the Nazis, the subject apparently did not arise.

Instead, Tittmann reported that Pius XII urged the Allies to ensure that the city of Rome did not become a battleground.

tPius XII also expressed concern, according to the document, about “small bands of Communists” operating around the city which might commit acts of violence between the departure of German occupying forces and the arrival of the Allies. Reportedly, he also stated that up to that point, the German occupiers had demonstrated respect for the Holy See.

Why people vote against their own best interests

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This morning I was reading this enlightening piece on the BBC Web site when I heard from a friend who told me of a small business owner who was puzzled that most people in his firm's work force oppose health care reform. He was puzzled about why his employes could be opposed to something that would so clearly be to their benefit.

The BBC story asks much the same question and reports some very interesting answers.

Feb. 1, Brigit, Holy Woman

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"Brigit was remade in Christian form and occupies a space between myth and history, pagan and Christian, oral and written, vernacular and Latin, folkloric and ecclesiastical. She may be contextualised either way, to be purely a Celtic goddess or purely a Christian saint. Yet both these versions of her are incomplete, mutilations of the complex and multifaceted reality. Thus, Ó Catháin's suggestion she be designated the 'Holy Woman' is an excellent one since, whether pagan or Christian, Brigit is always distinguished by her holiness and her femaleness."

--"Brigit: Goddess, Saint, 'Holy Woman', and Bone of Contention", by Carole Cusack, Associate Professor of Studies in Religion at The University of Sydney

Rethinking an 'immigration gap' between European and U.S. bishops

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tBob Dole once quipped that being Vice President of the United States is a great gig: “It’s indoor work, and there’s no heavy lifting.” For journalists, predicting the future is much the same – it sounds terribly smart, yet it requires no real effort because there’s no way to be wrong, at least at the time the prediction is made.

tLater on, however, the bills come due if your forecasts turn out to be off the mark. The only way to save face is to get ahead of the curve, before someone else calls attention to your mistakes. Hence one function of this blog is to acknowledge when things don’t seem to be developing in quite the way I suggested in The Future Church, and recent events in Italy suggest just such a case with regard to the Catholic Church and immigration.

tIn a nutshell, I opined that the future might see a growing divide between European and American bishops on immigration, with the Americans becoming staunchly pro-immigrant and the Europeans more cautious. The basic reason is that a disproportionate share of new immigrants to the United States are Hispanic, thus Catholic, while in Europe they tend to be from the Middle East and North Africa, hence Muslim.

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