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So much for an 'objective' investigation by Cardinal RodÈ

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If anyone actually entertained the thought that Cardinal Rodé was “objective” in launching an investigation of women religious in the United States, she or he need only read what he said in a talk on Feb. 3 in Naples, Italy to be disabused of that idea.

He said, for example, that "the secularized culture has penetrated into the minds and hearts of some consecrated persons and some communities, where it is seen as an opening to modernity and a way of approaching the contemporary world."

Why Italians don't think 'conservative' when the new movements come up

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tWhen Catholics in the States talk about “new movements” in the church, there’s a tendency to think “conservative,” because the few such groups most people have actually heard of – such as Opus Dei (technically a prelature, not a movement), or the Legionaries of Christ (a religious order, with an affiliated lay movement in Regnum Christi) – do tend to lean to the right.

tIn Europe, however, where the new movements have had their greatest success, their ideological profile is far less uniform. That’s certainly the case in Italy, where perhaps the best-known lay movement is the Community of Sant’Egidio. Known for its efforts in conflict resolution, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, and service to the poor, Sant’Egidio is generally seen as standing on the ecclesiastical “center-left.”

tToday Sant’Egidio counts affiliates in 70 countries, including a small presence in the United States, with a grand total of some 50,000 members.

Thanks to Sen. Kirk's staff

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Today is the last day for many of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s staff who stayed on to help Senator Paul G. Kirk before the special election. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., now assumes the role of the junior Senator from Massachusetts.

There have been thousands of post-mortems since the special election Jan. 20, but I wanted to take a few moments to reflect upon the hard work of the staffers leaving today. There are literally thousands of people who worked for Sen. Kennedy over the past five decades, and the Kennedy family was extremely gracious in acknowledging their importance to his legacy all throughout the celebration of his life this past August.

Baltimore archbishop takes 'no nukes' message to Paris

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Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O'Brien was in Paris yesterday (Feb. 3) to address world leaders working for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Speaking to the Global Zero summit, O'Brien said, "The path to zero [nuclear weapons] will be long and treacherous. But humanity must walk this path with both care and courage in order to build a future free of the nuclear threat.”

O’Brien cited the Second Vatican Council’s condemnation of “total war” and the council’s skepticism of “deterrence” as a way to lasting peace. He quoted Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 World Day of Peace message, in which the pope said, “In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims.”

Here's the full text of O'Brien's speech. It is essentially a condensed version of a speech I heard the archbishop deliver in Omaha, Nebr., six months ago. Then O'Brien was addressing a symposium sponsored and organized by the United States Strategic Command, the people in charge of our nuclear arsenal.

How Easily Conservatives Forget

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George Will has a throw away line, actually a throw away parentheses, in his column today. In criticizing President Obama he refers to President George W. Bush as “The Great Alibi.”

Alas, in the world of conservative thought, or what passes for conservative thought, eight years of reckless government spending is best forgotten. President Obama does not have that luxury. He must clean up the mess he was left.

And what a mess it was. We Americans have short memories, so it is easy to forget the huge surpluses George W. Bush inherited when he took office. It is easy to forget the completely unfunded expansion of Medicare through the Prescription Drug Benefit. It is easy to forget the billions upon billions spent on the war in Iraq, none of it accounted for in Bush’s budgets because it was deemed “emergency spending.” It is easy to forget that if the obscene tax cuts for the wealthy had not been enacted, we would not be worrying about paying for health care today because there would be ample funds in the Treasury.

Watchdog group: Budget gives to nukes, takes from cleanup

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In a budget of $3.8 trillion it can be hard to see the importance of a few million dollars here or there. Yet, sometimes, where those few supposedly insiginificant millions are spent can tell the whole story.

With the combination of an increase in spending for nuclear weapons production estimated at around $625 million from last year and a proposed decrease in funding for environmental cleanup at nuclear weapons sites, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) says President Obama’s new budget tells a story of misdirection regarding nuclear weapons policy.

“The threats from nuclear weapons include the environmental and health damage to U.S. communities that hosted weapons production facilities over the past 65 years,” said ANA program director Nick Roth in a press statement released Monday. “Yet the budget for the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management budget was reduced nearly $80 million.”

Winter was not made in vain

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Henry David Thoreau was America's most serious student of winter. "Inspector of snowstorms," he jotted down on forms under the "occupation" question. This 19th-century writer and philosopher carefully watched the seasons come and go. He wore out shoe leather rambling through the cold seasons in his native New England. He explored winter at every hour of night and day, always alert to hear what was in the wind, to feel the tang and piquancy of the season and boil down some meaning out of the daily circumstances beyond his doorstep. He painstakingly recorded his observations, impressions and thoughts in his journals.

In one journal entry in 1854 he summarized his winter observations:

"The winter, cold and bound out as it is, is thrown to us like a bone to a famishing dog, and we are expected to get the marrow out of it ... We must thaw its cold with our genialness. We are tasked to find out and appropriate all the nutriments it yields. If it is a cold and hard season, its fruit, no doubt, is the more concentrated and nutty ... The seasons were not made in vain."

He maybe took time to warm the tip of his pen in a whale-oil lamp, then added:

The crisis that isn't

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Yesterday's Morning Briefing (a daily feature on this blog) had a link to media release titled New Study Confirms Crisis in Catholic Higher Education. The source of this release is The Cardinal Newman Society, a self-appointed watchdog of Catholic colleges and universities.

The society looked at a study presented to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) by researchers at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) and concluded that attending a Catholic college has minimal impact on a Catholic student’s practice and embrace of the Catholic faith.

But not so fast.

Our Washington correspondent Jerry Filteau was at the recent meeting of the ACCU and he heard the CARA presentation on their study. Filteau reports: Catholic higher education enhances students' Catholic identity.

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