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NPR's unfortunate decision


I’ve just returned from a few days on the road and have had a chance to consider the firing of National Public Radio’s Juan Williams, and am deeply saddened by the deep divisions and skewed sense of journalistic ethics that it illustrates.

I was fascinated that the memory that surfaced when I first read of the firing and the circumstances that led to it was of a moment in a newsroom about 14 years ago. Our youngest child, a son, had just turned 10 at the time and a story, graphic in detail, came to my desk describing repeated rape by a priest of a 10-year-old boy. I experienced a deep, visceral involuntary reaction and imagined, in that moment, that if someone had done such a thing to one of our children, to one of our three sons or our daughter, I’d have the capacity to kill the perpetrator.

It was a wildly incongruous thought for me. I tend, however imperfectly, toward nonviolence. I am glad there are laws that would restrain me, teaching and training in my background that I trust would grab hold of me. But I can’t deny the explosive anger that I felt in that moment.

Radical disciple, radical author


NCR's own Bob McClory has a new book, and it's getting lots of press attention in the Chicago area. The subject is Father Michael Pfleger, the firebrand white pastor of a nearly all-black church on the city's South Side. Pfleger is used to being in the spotlight--usually for his social justice activism but during the 2008 presidential campaign for mocking Hillary Clinton.

Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church, and the Fight for Social Justice (Lawrence Hill, $24.95) is the seventh book by McClory, a longtime NCR writer and retired journalism professor.

That troublesome nun


"Sandra Schneiders is one of the most prominent and accomplished nuns in the American Catholic Church," writes Peter Kirkwood in Eureka Street, the Australian Jesuit journal of news and opinion. The article is titled Troublesome nun's faith and feminism.

"Schneiders' message and concerns resonate strongly with those of Mary MacKillop, so it's fitting that we hear from her this week when Australians celebrate the canonisation of the new saint."

"Mary MacKillop founded the Josephite Sisters to address the pressing needs of the real world around her. In a similar vein, Schneiders warns of the dangers for the Church in seeing itself above and separate from the world. She argues that scripture and the documents of Vatican II position the Church firmly in the world, with something vital to contribute to the struggles and development of the world.

Tax troubles for Albany churches


Taxman, Albany, NY diocese at odds

The city of Troy, N.Y., has added four closed Catholic churches -- St. Paul the Apostle, St. William's, St. Peter's and St. Francis de Sales -- to the local tax rolls this year. And two more shuttered sites -- St. Mary's and St. Patrick's -- could soon join the list.

Local officials, seeing a green light in state law, want to tax churches after they've been closed for a year.

"A church can be deemed taxable by the assessor if the church is not being used for purposes of the religious organization," according to state Tax Department spokesman Geoff Gloak.

But the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany isn't buying that take on church and state and has launched a legal challenge.

Are the new cardinals just 'Vatican pitbulls?'


In a posting over at Religion Dispatches yesterday, feminist theologian Mary E. Hunt disagrees with John Allen's assessment that the new batch of cardinals were not picked on any ideological basis.

The title of her piece? "Vatican Pitbulls Make Cardinal."

The main argument? That "to become a cardinal you have to do in at least one fellow Catholic, at the very least."

Hunt takes a look at Cardinal-designates Wuerl and Burke's history in the church to make her point.

For Wuerl, she looks into his first appointment as bishop in Seattle:

If You Can't See 'Em You Tend Not to Feel for Them


A regular coffee drinker at my favorite lunch counter was trying to tell his friend that some kind of government rule he couldn't remember had forced companies to hire people who weren't qualified.

He saw me, a familiar face, and asked me if I knew what it was. "You may be referring to affirmative action," I ventured, "but ... "

"Yup, that's it," he said, turning to his friend with the new ammunition. "They had to take guys who didn't know from nothing over guys who deserved it. But they ended it a few years ago."

I listened with my head in my soup. My dejection wasn't aimed at him. It was the reminder that the war on poverty and the determination to right the wrongs against blacks and native Americans exist mostly as fragments of memory, consigned to a far distant past.

Recent official figures paint a bleak picture of poverty, and things are getting worse. More and more people straddle the line between bare economic survival and hunger pains. Unemployment and homelessness are frighteningly common.

Yet I suspect that for most affluent Americans, the specter of this suffering continues to recede into invisibility. Out of sight, out of mind.


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In This Issue

November 20-December 3, 2015


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