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'Excommunicate me, please'

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Sheila O'Brien is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, a product of 22 years of Catholic education and active in her parish. She is a justice of the Illinois Appellate Court, Chicago.

She has a think-piece in the Chicago Tribune titled Excommunicate me, please that begins: "Would someone in Rome formally excommunicate me, please? I want to be excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church because walking away will break my heart."

It has quite a few comments.

United States to give $3.5 billion for food aid

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The United States will spend $3.5 billion in the next three years to boost food sufficiency in developing countries.

James Miller, undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Aug. 4 at the International Food Aid Conference in Kansas City, Mo., that the USDA, the U.S. Agency for International Development and non-governmental organizations in the targeted countries will be involved in rolling out the plan. Miller's announcement was a development of the "Feed the Future" food security assistance program, which is a response by the Obama administration to the July 2009 G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, where rich countries pledged contributions of up to $18.5 billion to fight hunger.

The steep rise in global food prices in 2007 and 2008 alerted the world to food insecurity as rioters in cities across Africa, the Middle East and eastern Europe staged street protests.

Federal judge overturns California same sex marriage ban

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The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that a federal judge in San Francisco today struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution.

The news comes seven months after the trial was held in January and nearly two years after the controversial measure, known as Proposition 8, was backed by voters in November 2008.

From the Mercury News' report:


In a 136-page ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker sided with two same-sex couples who challenged voter-approved Proposition 8, which embedded a ban on gay marriage in the California constitution and wiped out a prior California Supreme Court ruling that briefly legalized same-sex nuptials across the state. Walker ordered that Proposition 8 should be immediately voided, and same-sex couples be given the chance marry across California.

Jewish benefactors some of Catholic schools' biggest donors

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Richard J. Henken, a Boston real estate company executive, grew up in a conservative Jewish family on the south side of Newton. He attends services on the Jewish High Holy Days and considers his religion an important aspect of his identity. He is also one of the most generous benefactors Catholic schools in greater Boston have.

Henken gives $25,000 to $30,000 a year to Catholic schools and serves as an officer on the board of the Catholic Schools Foundation, which raises millions each year to help send children from low-income families to Catholic schools.

“When I started telling my friends I had joined the board, I got a couple of funny looks,’’ he said. “But whoever it is that wants to step up and provide a nurturing environment for at-risk youth based on Judeo-Christian values, I’m with you all the way.’’

Where has all the oil gone?

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The question, "Where has all the oil gone?" has been answered in the media in recent days by scientists providing much speculation about how the oil may go away but little hard data about what is actually happening in the Gulf.

"The danger of this conjecture is that people are already beginning to tune out and assume that everything is fine, even within the spill response," says Marylee Orr, director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.

For reports on the whereabouts of the spilled oil, see the Louisiana Environmental Action Network's Web site.

World food aid conference looks at initiatives and trends

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Kansas City, Mo -- From Aug. 2 to 4, 650 people from 17 countries are meeting at the annual USDA/USAID Food Aid Conference to discuss the world hunger situation and what is being done to address both immediate needs and to support long-term development of sustainable agriculture in afflicted countries.

More than one billion people -- one sixth of the world's population -- suffer from chronic hunger. Each year, more than 3.5 million children die from undernutrition. Hunger robs the poor of a healthy and productive life and stunts the mental and physical development of the next generation.

“Reducing chronic hunger is essential to build a foundation for investments in health, education and economic growth. It is critical to the sustainable development of individuals, communities and nations,” said Jonathan Coppess of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, who addressed the first general session on Aug. 3.

A focus of the conference this year is on Feed the Future, the Obama administration’s global and food security initiative.

NPR: Canadian tar sands 'last place to go' for oil

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This morning American Public Media's Marketplace ran a feature about companies trying to extract oil from tar sands north of the border in Canada.

NCR reported on the ecologically damaging process in an article by Sharon Abercrombie in May.

Here's a priceless excerpt with an exchange between Marketplace reporter Sean Cole and David Yager, a columnist for Oil Week magazine:

Two notes on Rome rally of altar boys (and girls)

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tAccording to an old Italian saying, only cani e americani move in Rome in August – dogs and Americans. The sweltering heat, however, did not deter an estimated 50,000 altar boys and girls, mostly but not exclusively German, from descending on the city this week for a massive rally with Pope Benedict XVI.

tThe gathering was billed as an “International Pilgrimage of Altar Servers,” part of an event organized every five years by a group called Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium.

“You are not only creating a festive environment in the square, but you are also filling my heart with joy,” Benedict told the youthful crowd in German. He went on to briefly explain the history of Saint Tarcisio, who was an altar server himself.

Two things about the event seem worthy of note.

First, for the first time this year, the female altar servers in attendance outnumbered the males. According to organizers, the balance was roughly 60-40 in favor of females. The official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, pointed to the turnout as a symbol of “the massive entry in recent decades of girls and young women into a role once reserved exclusively to males.”

Anne Rice, come on back

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Anne Rice is best known for writing about vampires, but she has me thinking lately about a Paul Simon song I loved as a kid.

Rice made headlines when she returned to her childhood faith in Catholicism back in 1998, and she's made headlines again this week by walking away from the church one more time. She says she believes in Christ with all her heart -- but belief in the church? That's another story.

Rice's posting on her Facebook page speaks for the frustration of many Catholics who have watched the church move into the messy culture wars that have roiled the nation for nearly fifty years. Immersion in the politics of division did little to burnish the pastoral credentials of such inside-the-Beltway creatures as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell; it is a path U.S. bishops should fear to tread. But no.

Says Rice: "I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life."

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