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Nicholas Kristof, Times' columnist, again praises work of 'lowly' women religious and priests

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For the second time in two weeks New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof has singled out the inspirational Christian works being done by largely unknown women religious and priests in some of the most impoverished areas of the world. His overall point in a column published April 17th and his newest column, published May 2nd, in The New York Times is this: if the top leadership of the church has strayed from its roots, much of its base is still deeply inspiring.

Thank you, Nicholas, for sharing with your readers what NCR readers have known for so many years: Our church is filled with men and women, lay, religious and clergy, who are living selfless lives on behalf of countless marginalized and vulnerable human beings.

Vatican statement on Maciel, Legionaries

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Today the Vatican released a comminque summarizing the results of a year-long investigation of the Legionaries of Christ, indicating that Pope Benedict XVI will shortly appoint a special delegate to lead the order and a commission to review its founding documents.

The language of today's statement is remarkably blunt, referring to a "system of power" created by the founder of the Legionaries, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, designed to hide "true crimes" and a private life "without scruples or authentic religious sentiment." The statement indicated that the Legionaries must follow a "path of purification," including a "sincere encounter" with victims of sexual abuse inside and outside the order.

After years of denial, the Legionaries have recently been forced to acknowledge that Maciel lived a double life, including having a child out of wedlock with a woman with whom he was in a long-term relationship and to whom he provided financial support. Maciel has also been accused of sexual abuse of former members of the order.

Immigration Reform and Gay Rights

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Cathy Grossman over at USAToday has a post up about the letter from Bishop Wester, chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, that offered conditional support for the “framework” for immigration reform legislation, presented yesterday by Sen. Harry Reid. She called me for comment, which I did, but I want to elaborate.

A couple of things are striking here. First, the “framework” emerged almost overnight. It appears to have been devised not so much as an authoritative first draft of comprehensive legislation but as an effort to reap the Arizona press whirlwind. Second, the quickness of Wester’s response shows how seriously the USCCB takes the issue of immigration reform. Third, as Grossman points out, there is the issue of how to treat same-sex couples under the immigration law.

Has Benedict brought baroque back?

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I must admit my window into religious experience is a long way removed from liturgical vestments. And I also have to say I am left scratching my head trying to figure out what could possible draw a man to wear a cape with a thirty foot train.

Jerry Filteau, NCR Washington Correspondent, who covered the Latin Tridentine Mass last weekend at the Washington Basilica swears that the cappa magna worn by Oklahoma Bishop Edward J. Slattery was every bit of thirty feet if it was an inch -- and it trailed behind him gloriously as he moved up the center aisle and through the sanctuary.

While pondering vestments as a kind of new sign language in church life I came across an article in the Catholic Herald with a banner headline that "Benedict XVI proclaims that baroque is back." It's worth a read. Whatever you think of it, you might want to take a few moments to admire photos of some baroque vestments, found at the bottom of the piece.

Hollywood to film Catholic sex abuse story

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Hollywood production companies, Anonymous Content and Rocklin/Faust Productions, are developing a movie that will follow the Boston Globe's "Spotlight Team" during its year-long investigation into allegations of clergy sex abuse in the Boston archdiocese in 2002.

According to the entertainment business Web site, Deadline.com, the producers hope to make the film in the mode of "All the President's Men," the 1976 Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman film that re-created Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward's and Carl Bernstein's investigation of the Nixon White House.

"One of the planned film's hooks is that some of the journalists are themselves Catholic and were conflicted as they researched and wrote their stories," Deadline.com reported.

Tucson cop challenges Ariz. immigration law in court

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Redemptorist Fr. Ricardo Elford sent an article to me from the Arizona Daily Star. A Tucson cop, Martin H. Escobar, has filed a federal lawsuit challenging Arizona's new legislation cracking down on undocumented workers. The 15-year veteran of the police force claims that the legislation will make it difficult for police to proceed with investigations in places with large Hispanic populations.

"What are we saying to the undocumented who are victims of crimes, what are we saying to the undocumented who are critical witnesses to crimes?" Richard Martinez, Escobar's attorney told the Star. The attorney also expressed dismay at the prospect of racial profiling. "Hey, there's a lot of people lawfully who speak Spanish; there's a lot of people who speak with an accent," Martinez said. "Those tell you that they're Latino or Hispanic or Mexican, but they don't tell you anything about their document status."

Be a Part of It: Washington Briefing Includes Steele, Pelosi, Keehan and Much More

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Can American Catholics of differing political views – conservative, moderate, liberal, Democrat, Republican – get together in one place at the same time and discuss public policy issues in a civil manner through a Catholic lens?
The answer, gratefully, is yes. And you can be part of it.
On May 6-7, Catholics from all over the country will gather for “A Washington Briefing for the Nation’s Catholic Community,” an event cosponsored by Trinity Washington University and NCR. Among the speakers: Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Catholic Health Care Association President Sr. Carol Keehan, George Mason University law professor Helen Alvare, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), Network Executive Director Sr. Simone Campbell, former US Ambassadors to the Holy See Thomas Melady and James Nicholson, NCR contributors John Allen and Tom Roberts, pollster John Zogby and many more.
The full program and registration information can be found here.

An independent abuse commission for the Vatican?

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The Hartford Courant, the Conneticut newspaper published stories on sex abuse by reporters Jason Berry and the late Gerald Renner, has an editorial in this morning's edition: Catholic Church Must Own Up To Shame.

The gist of the piece is:

To regain credibility, the church, all the way to Rome, must candidly acknowledge the extent of the worldwide scandal. It must discipline those who covered up abuse.

Pope Benedict XVI could take a big step toward greater transparency by appointing an independent commission with no ties to the Vatican to conduct an impartial investigation and propose specific steps to reach out to victims, many of whom feel abandoned by the church they trusted.

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