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4 million tune into 'Amish Grace'

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More than 4 million viewers watched "Amish Grace," the cable-TV movie I reviewed for NCR (see Without forgiveness, there's no room left for love). Starring Kimberly Williams-Paisley, "Amish Grace" is a fictionalized account of the events surrounding the October 2006 shooting at an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pa. Five of the girls died and the other five were seriously injured. The gunman, a local milkman, killed himself. A shocking tragedy.

But, as I wrote in my review, "we were in for an even greater shock: The Amish community, including the families of the dead and wounded children, forgave Roberts. They visited his wife, Marie, and offered their condolences to her and the couple's three children. As the Amish buried their daughters, the media watched. They questioned this deeply countercultural attitude of the Amish and were, at the same time, astonished."

The film premiered on the Lifetime Movie Network on Palm Sunday. It will continue to air this week.

Thursday, April 1:
8 pm ET / 5 pm PT and Midnight / 9 pm PT

Saturday, April 3:
8 pm ET / 5 pm PT and Midnight / 9 pm PT

Human sexuality -- a great and holy mystery

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Recently in my city an alternative newspaper ran a feature article on an innovative program that had been introduced in the court system to deal with men arrested for soliciting prostitutes. Ongoing group sessions were part of the mandatory sentencing. In initial sessions, the men were extremely belligerent and resentful. Yet, at the completion of the eight sessions, nearly every one of them expressed a special gratitude for this opportunity, for the first time in their lives, to discuss their sexuality in an honest and open way. One man even signed up to repeat the course!

Sexuality, in our culture, is either sensationalized, over-hyped and exploited, or ignored. Mariah Britton, a New York minister, said, “It may require more intimacy to discuss sex than to actually have sex.”

Extra Ecclesia: Maureen Dowd

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Regular readers will know that I am a “big Church” kinda guy. There is room for Lefties like me. There is room for rightwing blowhards like Raymond Arroyo. There is room for everybody in the wide embrace of Holy Mother Church.

Except Maureen Dowd. Her column yesterday, about the Catholic Church and its response to the clergy sex abuse scandal, reached a new low for her, which is really saying something. Her suggestion for dealing with the crisis: Elect a nun as Pope. Of course, her witty prose makes clear that she is not really serious. She is using the idea merely to aid her in her primary purpose which is, as ever, to mock. Mocking is what Dowd does for a living. But, in this case, using the actual sufferings of real life victims of clerical abuse to poke fun seems not just stupid but heartless.

Holy Week 2010: Accompanying El Salvador

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I had to admit to myself, the cold wind felt good against my face yesterday as I joined members from three churches in midtown Kansas City as they assembled on a grassy parkway for our annual ecumenical observance of Palm Sunday. The palm branch I received might have come from El Salvador, where, just 24 hours earlier, I had boarded an early flight home after an 11-day visit to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, murdered while saying Mass on March 24, 1980.

Microlending: no longer just a third world thing

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Last August, I wrote a story about how micro loans represent a healthy and constructive alternative for the poor versus the voracious payday loan companies.

The recession-depression we are in has accelerated microloans for small businesses in the U.S. and it's making a difference, as reported in NPR's story on All Things Considered, "Coming To America: Third World Microlending."

The story focuses on a small business entrepreneur named Ryan Fochler who took out a microloan from the Latino Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit microlender based nearby in Washington, D.C. Because of the small loan, Fochler has been able to expand his business from 75 customers in 2004 to 2,300 today.

Fochler is now urging Congress and the Obama administration to get behind microlending.

Crisis Mis-Management

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They troll the halls of power, ride in speeding elevators to the top floors of corporate influence, and mix among the elites everywhere – everywhere, it seems, except the Catholic church.

They are the grey-suited men and women who, since at least Watergate and the growth of high-speed mass media, have practiced the precision art called “crisis management.”

I was in the news business long enough to know more than a few of them, and know that what they taught to titans in trouble was the truth. It worked. And the people who did not heed their advice generally did so because the truth to was too hot to handle.

Crisis management in our age boils down to two simple Golden Rules:


  1. Get all the bad stuff out there.

  2. And get it out there as fast as you can.

It sounds counter-intuitive, against the basic human survival instinct. When something goes wrong, we circle the wagons, protect the clan, and wait for the danger to blow over. But crisis managers know that nothing blows over anymore. They understand that in modern times the truth will always come out – the best you can hope for is to control it and label it.

Fr. Lombardi: church commitment against child abuse

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VATICAN CITY, 27 MAR 2010 ( VIS ) - Given below is the text of a note released by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., entitled "Vigil of Holy Week".

"The question of the sexual abuse of minors by members of the Catholic clergy has continued to receive wide coverage in the communications media of many countries, especially in Europe and North America , coverage which has continued over recent days following the publication of the Pope's Letter to the Catholics of Ireland.

"This is no surprise. The nature of the question is such as to attract the attention of the media, and the way in which the Church deals with it is crucial for her moral credibility.

"The truth is that the cases that have come to public attention generally took place some time ago, even decades ago, although recognising them and making amends with the victims is the best way to restore justice and to achieve that 'purification of memory' which enables us to look to the future with renewed commitment, with humility and trust.

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