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Papal example a rebuff to Swiss vote on minarets

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tIn a surprise result, Swiss voters yesterday approved a constitutional ban on the construction of minarets, the tall spires on Islamic mosques from which the call to prayer is issued five times a day. The initiative was approved 57.5 to 42.5 percent by some 2.67 million voters. Only four of 26 cantons, or states, opposed it, granting the double approval that makes it part of the Swiss constitution.

tThe ban had been proposed by far-right political forces, and was denounced in the run-up to the vote both by the government and by a wide cross-section of religious leaders – including the Catholic bishops’ conference in Switzerland, which had issued a statement warning that “fear is a poor counselor.”

Passage of the measure is considered the clearest expression to date of mounting anti-Islamic backlash in Europe, fueled by rising levels of immigration. Though counts vary, some analysts predict the overall Muslim population will level off at 15 percent of the European total.

Move ahead by stepping back?

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Can you move ahead by stepping back? Two articles in Sunday's New York Times seem to explore that question -- and present challenges to certain factions
of the church.

The first report is not about religion at all, but focuses on South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham. Not long ago, Graham was a darling of the far right when (as a member of the House Judiciary Committee) he helped lead impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. But recently, Graham has become a voice of centrism and civility on several issues -- and segments of the GOP in his home state is having none of that.

Dublin's archbishop gets it

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For months, Catholics in Ireland's Archdiocese of Dublin have been bracing themselves for release of a government report on decades of sexual abuse of children by priests and cover up of the abuse by the hierarchy.

Catholics in the United States will find much familiar about the reports of abuse -- the patterns of grooming, of brutality, of cover up and of payoff. Strikingly different, however, from what we've become accustomed to hearing from members of the hierarchy in the United States has been the reaction of the current cardinal archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin. Read the full text of his statement here.

In part, he said:

"The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law; it is and always was a crime canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful.

Nov. 27, St. Bilhildis, O.S.B.

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Today is the feast of St. Bilhildis, widow of Duke Hetan I of Thuringia, who, after her husband's death, founded the monastery of Altmünster near Mainz. She was abbess of the large community until her death in 734.

(This Orthodox site, in German, has information near the bottom about a recent scientific examination of a skull, preserved as a relic of St. Bilhildis through the centuries. The age is right -- 60, and the date of death -- 750-815, is right.)

Dublin sex abuse coverup report out

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Press reports out of Dublin this morning say that the Church in Dublin covered up decades of child abuse by priests in order to protect the church's reputation, an expert commission reported Thursday after a three-year investigation.

The government said the investigation "shows clearly that a systemic, calculated perversion of power and trust was visited on helpless and innocent children in the archdiocese."

Nov. 26, St. John Berchmans, S.J.

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Today is the feast of St. John Berchmans, 1599-1621.

From an account of the saint's short life by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.:

"Here's a quotation from St. John Berchmans that every Jesuit has memorized. Let me give you the Latin first. It sounds so nice -- 'meus maxime mortificatio est vita communis.' -- my greatest mortification is community life. I repeat there is no statement of any saints that a Jesuit will not agree with more heartily than that one, that his heaviest mortification, his worst penance, is community life. That doesn't mean you don't like your brethren, but, being human, being oneself and living with other human beings, community life is indeed a great mortification."

Dorothy Day is Smiling: The Nun's Story of the 21st Century

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I was both amazed and pleased to read Tom Fox’s story about the “almost universal resistance” among the leadership of women’s religious communities in answering the intrusive questionnaire from the Vatican about American nuns’ “quality of life.” These responses are no doubt rooted in years of prayerful, non-violent struggle against global human rights violations, injustice and war. Dorothy Day must be smiling!

Obama's First State Dinner

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Yes, I have been distressed lately that President Obama has not done more to honor his pledge to ensure that the health care reform bill contains no federal funding of abortion. And, like many on the left, I have been distraught that more has not been done to push for cap-and-trade legislation or immigration reform or higher taxes on the rich. But, let’s take a minute to gush over him. Last night, at the state dinner, he looked fabulous. And Michelle – OMG! Not since Jackie Kennedy greeted guests to the White House has a First Lady been so glamorous you could almost hear the heads turning as she walked into the room.

Two priests for the year of the priest

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Voice of the Faithful honored Fr. Joseph Fowler and Fr. Donald Cozzens with its Priest of Integrity Award at its 2009 National Conference.

Fr. Fowler was recognized for his work in Louisville, Kentucky, for survivors of clergy abuse. Over the years, Fr. Fowler has tirelessly worked to make things better for those in need. He has spoken out against injustice and dishonesty in our Church and society.

Fr. Cozzens was recognized as a priest who challenges the status quo with wit, wisdom and unflinching honesty. He encourages priests and laypersons alike to be persons of integrity: to speak the truth, to be a voice for the voiceless, to right the wrongs that have been done, to both challenge and encourage one another, and to do so with compassion and kindness.

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April 11-24, 2014

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