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The Irish bishops: more of the same double standard

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At the risk of sounding ungrateful for the effort the Vatican and certain Irish bishops have already expended to deal with the clergy sex abuse crisis in the most forthright manner we've yet seen, the report of the meeting between the pope and the bishops was profoundly disappointing.

Some might consider that unjustifiably harsh, since the meeting was held behind closed doors and so it is impossible to know all of the details from a distance. However, church leaders were the ones who decided to hold the meeting in secret, so we are left to decipher the content from press dispatches and characterizations of the meeting, and we can only presume that all the public statements were hammered out and agreed upon by all parties present.

What results are statements that seem, given the magnitude of the offense, more self-serving than illuminating.

Empirical spirituality

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The suggestion that we might be able to directly experience divine mystery in the midst of our lives, both in our enthusiasms and struggles, that in fact our daily living is the central arena where the encounter with the divine takes place (spirituality) -- these notions were largely unavailable to most of us until recently. We were, in effect, cut off from our most fundamental spiritual nourishment and from the mystical experience that is at the root of all religion.

In Christianity, for example, the accounts of Jesus' birth are telling us, among other things, that the Great Mystery does not visit only the elite, the professional religious, that the divine is found in the most unexpected and unlikely places.

In the Catholic tradition Fr. Andrew Greeley has pointed out that the sacraments -- those bulwarks of our faith -- exist for the purpose of celebrating and hallowing the grace and spirit that have already entered our lives. We encounter divine mystery primarily in our daily living. The sacraments are there to single out and validate those encounters with grace and mystery and enable the whole community to bless and honor them.

Quote of the Day: Haiti & Missionaries

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Quote of the Day: Sarah Wilson, spokeswoman for relief group Christian Aid

"People shouldn't come down here for an experience. They should stay home and write a check."

--Christian Aid spokeswoman Sarah Wilson on the influx of missionaries -- some with competing priorities -- into Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake. She was quoted by The New York Times: Missionaries Go to Haiti, Followed by Scrutiny.

EWTN & Torture

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Over at Vox-Nova.org, they have been making hay about an interview on EWTN with Bush administration official Marc Thiessen. During the interview, Thiessen criticized the Obama administration for failing to employ “enhanced interrogation techniques” against Christmas Day would-be bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Vox-Nova correctly expresses shock that a Catholic news outfit would indulge someone who is arguing for torture.

This is not the first time. Last spring, Father Robert Sirico spent an evening with Raymond Arroyo winking at torture. Of course, apart from the fact that torture is illegal, it is also an intrinsic evil. Usually, rightwing Catholic groups argue that intrinsic evils should simply be legislated against, when in fact, finding a way to legislate such matters is often more complicated. In the case of torture, that difficult work has already been done. If you treat terror suspects under the civil code as criminals, they are immune from torture under U.S. law. If you treat them as enemy combatants, they are immune from torture under international treaty obligations.

Tragic aftermath of Vietnam war

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This tragic news speaks to the aftermath of war. It comes from Project RENEW, composed by a dedicated group of people who are doing some terrific humanitarian work in Vietnam. Here is a message they sent me today:

There was no Tet celebration to welcome the Lunar New Year for Ho Van Nguyen’s family this year. A cluster bomb explosion killed Nguyen on Friday morning, Feb. 12, as he was cutting weeds around his banana trees and preparing for the Tet holiday which began in Vietnam on Saturday.

'Avatar': A theological movie

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With snow piled high, and a movie theater nearby, I headed out yesterday to see "Avatar." It's been praised for cinematography (and that definitely is great), but I also found it a deeply theological movie.

First impression: it's one of the best anti-imperialist films I've ever seen. Whether one believes in the "just war theory" or not, this shows a clearly unjust war waged by earthlings in search of a precious mineral on the planet Pandora. And the crude earthlings leading the military assault are ready to destroy the civilization of Pandora to get what they want.

Bayh's Retirement & What It Means

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The news of Indiana Senator Evan Bayh’s decision not to seek re-election confirms something that has been going on for a long time: Congress is being taken over by extremes in both parties leaving little room for centrists. This has the very unhappy consequence that very little will ever get done given the Senate’s rules requiring 60 votes to move on any non-budget related matter.

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July 4-17, 2014

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