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At NCR's Washington Briefing today

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Today is the day!

After months of preparation NCR's" Washington Briefing for the Nation's Catholic Community" is underway in a crowded room here at Trinity University in Washington, D.C. We've got two days full of different speakers and panels ready on a variety of subjects, all with an eye to how Catholics can articulate a vision of our community as advocate, leader and moral compass.

For those who aren't able to join us I'll be blogging bit by bit as we go through the day today. As our publisher Joe Feuerherd just said in his opening remarks, “The Catholic community is a model for a particular style of civic engagement.” Keep checking back to see what that style of civic engagement has to say about our nation today.

Next up: John Allen moderates a panel of US/Vatican relations in the 21st century.

The Domino Effect

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When the Archbishop of Canterbury declared on Good Friday that the Irish hierarchy's admitted mishandling of the child sex abuse scandal had stripped that nation's Catholicism of "all credibility," he might have been talking about the side effects his own Anglicans might suffer.

All roads may not lead to Rome, but most of the media do when it comes to defining Christianity to the world. For better or worse, television has further concentrated this gaze. The center of the Roman Catholic church is, so far as most media are concerned, the place where real Christianity is rooted. All other parties to that tradition are increasingly melded in the public mind.

The emergence of the ecumenical movement in the 1960s strengthened that perception. Though Protestants had initiated that movement earlier in the century, the Second Vatican Council put it on page one and the pope became its sometimes reluctant band leader.

Literalism in Religion

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Last week, on Interfaith Voices, I interviewed a young man who calls himself the Son of Hamas. His father is one of the founders of Hamas, and he was being groomed for leadership. But he was arrested and tortured by the Israelis, and finally came to betray Hamas and work for Israeli intelligence. He also converted from Islam to Christianity.

What struck me in the interview, however, was his literalist understanding of the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an. To him, it is a terrorist book, and both Allah and Mohammed are terrorists. When I pointed out to him that all scriptures are open to interpretation, and that none of the Muslims I had interviewed before would agree with him, he insisted simply, “I am right and they are wrong.”

Best country to be a mom? Not U.S.

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As Mother's Day approaches (don't forget to buy or make a card, buy or pick some flowers, and cook or book reservations for brunch), Save the Children has released its annual "Mothers Report" listing of the best--and worst--countries to be a mom.

Bad news for U.S. moms: The world's only remaining superpower is now 28th out of 160 countries, not even making the first half of the "More Developed Countries" tier. The rankings are based on maternal mortality, infant mortality, maternity leave policies, preschool attendance and other factors.

Some startling stats from a Yahoo news report (which has garnered over 2,000 comments):

* The U.S. maternal mortality rate of 1 in 4,800 is one of the highest in the developed world--nearly 10 times that of Ireland's.

* A child in the U.S. is more than twice as likely as a child in Finland, Iceland, Sweden or Singapore to die before his or her 5th birthday.

McCain v. Constitution

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I had always admired Sen. John McCain. He seemed like a straight shooter, someone who could not be counted on to parrot the party line simply because it was the party line. But, facing a challenge from his right in the upcoming Arizona primary, he seems to have lost not only his reputation for independence but his decency.

First, he announced his support for the racist anti-immigrant law that passed the Arizona legislature. This from the man who once championed comprehensive immigration reform. He now is unconcerned that U.S. citizens of Latino descent might become the objects of racial profiling, asked if they “have their papers,” in the manner of communist regimes of old, about which McCain should know better.

The Times that Tries Some Catholic Souls

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The bitter opponents of the New York Times have been again raging at the barricades of their own making recently, denouncing the newspaper for its alleged anti-Catholicism.

It's surprising that one of the latest volleys has been fired in the pages of Commonweal. Funny because the Times long ago adopted Commonweal's definition of itself as the rational, intellectual Catholics who were, shall we say, acceptable. A string of Commonweal editors have either written for the Times or worked for it. The Times has been the sort of Commonweal Catholic secular newspaper.

The Times's admirable coverage of the child sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church has energized the accusers. The Times picks on the Catholic church while ignoring the other violators, they say. They try to pin undeserved blame on the pope. They always had it in for the Catholic church. And so on.

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November 21-December 5, 2014

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