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Americans' view of clergy ethics drops

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In a story by Solange De Santis of Religion News Service, Americans' views of the "honesty and ethics" of clergy have hit a 32-year low, with just half rating their moral caliber as high or very high, according to Gallup's annual Honesty and Ethics Ratings of Professions survey.

The reason for the decline from 56 percent last year to 50 percent in 2009 is "unclear," according to a Gallup news release, which also noted that "now the clergy's ratings are below where they were earlier this decade" at the height of the Catholic Church's clergy abuse scandal.

Ratings dropped year-over-year among Catholics and Protestants, as well as among regular and occasional churchgoers. However, they rose in one category: among those professing "no religion." Last year, 31% rated clergy honesty high or very high; in 2009, that figure inched up to 34%.

The most highly regarded profession was nursing, with 83% judging nurses' honesty and ethics as high or very high.

Feast of Pope Damasus I, who reigned from 366 to 384.

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For anyone who has wondered when and how and why women lost the influential positions they held in the early Church, an examination of the pontificate of St. Damasus will provide answers.

From The Bone Gatherers: The Lost Worlds of Early Christian Women, by Nicola Denzey:

"Chief among Damasus's concerns was to see to it that the bishop of Rome was foremost among all the bishops of the late empire--a position we call 'Roman primacy.'"

"Damasus largely extirpated women from this sacred landscape, not necessarily because he was misogynist, but because as he sought to promote a new, papal Christianity, women played a greater role in the Christianity of his rivals than he would acknowledge. Women simply lost out, secondhand victims in struggles for power between a masculinized, 'Catholic' or papal Christinity and the more lay oriented, democratic, and local Christian communities of the city. In this papal hierarchy, there were simply no roles for women except as idealized, mythologized, and symbolic succors to male interests."

NCR's Demetria Martinez in the news

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NCR columnist and blogger on this site was interviewed this week and asked about her thoughts on U.S./Mexican border issues and on her poetry, two of her favorite subjects.

About the border, she tells the interviewer: "At least one person a day dies trying to cross the U.S./Mexico border. There is a human remains project founded in order to connect DNA and hope to make matches with relatives back in Mexico. The situation is very dire. ... We’re seeing growing numbers of women and children who are among those dead."

Niebuhr Lives In Oslo

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President Obama’s speech this morning in Oslo was truly remarkable. A monsignor called shortly after the President finished his remarks and said it was the best speech from a politician he had ever heard. I suspect the monsignor’s judgment was biased because the speech was, above all else, theological. And the theology was all Reinhold Niebuhr.

In fact, you could say that the key difference between George W. Bush and Barack Obama is that Bush’s worldview lacked any intellectual underpinnings, it was all gut, while Obama has grounded his worldview in the thought of one of the most penetrating minds of the last century. Niebuhr, more than any other theologian, provided the intellectual justification for the policy of containment that characterized American foreign policy for forty years, achieving its twin goals of avoiding World War III while containing the Soviet Union’s expansionist policies so that the internal rot of that hideous regime would not have a longer shelf life through the conquest of new imperial lands. Containment was the most successful foreign policy in the annals of our national history.

\"Faith at the summit\" site follows the world's religious leaders attending the Copenhagen conference

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Odyssey Networks has a "Faith at the Summit" website that is following representatives from the world's religions attending the Copenhagen climate change conference. It includes videos of interviews, press conferences and news about faith in action at the climate summit. Representatives attending include Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi (Buddhist), author Andrew Harvey, and many others.

Odyssey Networks is the nation's largest coalition of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith groups dedicated to achieving interfaith understanding and promoting peace and social justice through media.

Fr. Sean McDonagh reports on the climate change issue of \"Adaptation\"

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Columban Missionary Fr. Sean McDonagh is attending the U. N. Climate Change conference in Copenhagen. He sent NCR this discussion on the issue of "Adaptation," a term widely used in the climate change debate, defined as the socioeconomic, institutional and cultural ability to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change.

An example of an adaptation strategy to prevent damage from climate change is shore protection (e.g., dikes, bulkheads, beach nourishment), which can prevent sea level rise from inundating low-lying coastal property, eroding beaches, or worsen flooding. If the costs or environmental impacts of shore protection are high compared with the property being protected, an alternative adaptation strategy would be a planned retreat, in which structures are relocated inland as shores retreat.

One possible outcome of the Copenhagen conference agreement will be the establishment of a worldwide Adaptation strategy and fund, a centralized pool of both financing and think-tank strategizing. As a member of a missionary order, Fr. McDonagh has been working on this issue for a long time.

A year after Madoff

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It's hard to believe a year has passed since Bernard Madoff shocked investors, Wall Street, regulators and the world. Since that time, investors have begun the long road back to some form of healing. Law enforcement, playing catch-up for sure, rolled out a dragnet to capture and prosecute co-conspirators. That process continues. Family relationships of all kinds have been practically destroyed because of the theft.

But what are the lessons of this horrific experience?

1. "Thou shalt not steal" was given to us for a reason.

2. "White collar" crime has serious consequences, including death.

3. With massive amounts of money swishing around Wall Street, temptation abounds.

4. Govenrment officials need to be competent for the jobs they hold. If not, thousands can be deeply hurt.

5. No single ethnic group or organization of any kind is immune from stealing.

6. Will we ever accept the maxim that "if it's too good to be true, it probably is?"

In defense of sin

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On Tuesday a friend and I had a discussion about original sin. Using the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which proclaims that the Virgin Mary was graced at the very first moment of her life with redemption from original sin, my friend proposed a thought experiment: What if, from that same moment, all of humanity was graced with a restoration to life without the stain of original sin?

The implications of such a notion are immense and beyond the limits of my knowledge to be able to fully consider. But the idea has spurred some thoughts for me.

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April 11-24, 2014

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