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Iraq's Elections - and Ours

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Iraq has not been on the front pages for some time, although recently, news of that country’s elections has made it to the back pages of most newspapers. The results of the election were messy but hopeful: The religious parties did less well than their secular counterparts and, so far, everyone has agreed to abide by the law and the results. After Florida in 2000, U.S. commentators should be reluctant to raise alarms about contestants challenging results in other countries.

But, the bigger, albeit quieter news, is that the U.S. is continuing its draw down of combat troops. On the radio the other day, its was reported that by September 1, we will have only 50,000 combat troops in that country. This is President Obama’s ace-in-the-hole with his base. It is easy to forget how much opposition to the war in Iraq figured in President George W. Bush’s plummeting poll numbers in his last years in office. Democrats who always thought the Iraq War was a mistake should remember that one of the happy consequences of the 2008 election of President Barack Obama is that the war is coming to a close.

Saving, and investing, for the future

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During the current, disastrous economy, many churches and dioceses have attempted to help the unemployed navigate the ranks of unemployment and to get back on their feet.

This week Money magazine published a story titled, "3 investing moves you must make." (Not too long ago, I blogged about investing in faith-based stocks.)

Money points out: "Some of the best strategies for managing money are based on principles that have stood the test of time: Save consistently, diversify, keep your costs down, turn off the TV touts. But that doesn't mean you never have to adjust your thinking in response to a single major event or a fast-growing trend.

Lethal pilgrimage

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Redemptorist Fr. Ricardo Elford, with attorney Isabel Garcia, founded a weekly vigil in Tucson to remember those who die crossing by foot from Mexico into the United States. I was stunned when Ricardo reminded me, in an e-mail, that on March 25 the 512th weekly vigil was held. The liturgy opened with these words:

"Remembering our sisters and brothers who have died on the border in search of work. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, bodies of at least 206 migrants were found just on the Arizona part of the 2000-mile border; since Oct. 1, 85 more bodies; since the year 2000, at least 1,928. Since 1994, at least 5,674 migrants have died -- more border deaths than all the years of the Berlin Wall."

So much death! So much grieving on the part of families whose loved ones died out of desperation: the need to go north to find work. As we approach Easter, let us all resurrect the spirits of the dead by remembering them, honoring their courage, and praying for the end to the kinds of international economic policies that all around the world are pushing people off their lands, making refugees out of huge portions of the world's population.

A reverse invitation from an Episcopal priest

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When I opened up Religion Dispatches this morning, I knew that the Vatican unraveling over the burgeoning sex abuse scandal had reached a new stage. The Rev. Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest, issued a call to his ecclesial leaders to issue an invitation to disheartened Catholics to join the Episcopal church.

It’s an Episcopal answer to the invitation Pope Benedict XVI issued to disheartened Episcopalians last October to join the Catholic Church if they were dismayed by their church’s ordination of openly gay or lesbian priests and bishops.

Balmer says, in part, “I gather that the lesson from the Vatican is that homosexuality, even on the part of those in loving, committed relationships, is sin, must be exposed to the light of day for its shamefulness and must never be countenanced. It’s okay, however, to turn a blind eye to pedophile priests, to reassign them quietly to do harm elsewhere or simply to ignore the problem. I’ll take my Episcopal Church, warts and all, any day.”

Anointing

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Holy Week: Accompanying El Salvador

Holy Week began for Jesus with an anointing. At the house of Lazarus, Martha and Mary in Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem, the disciples threw a banquet to honor Jesus’ triumphal entry into the holy city at Passover time. Mary broke open a precious vial of aromatic oil and poured it over the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair. Her extravagant display of love turned his triumph toward the cross, and her insight that his beloved body must be prepared not for the throne but for the tomb infuriated the other disciples.

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.”

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September 26-October 9, 2014

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