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From the mail bag 1


Here at the world headquarters of the National Catholic Reporter, we get a lot of reader mail. Some of it are letters to the editor, which are printed in the newspaper. Some envelopes contain newspaper clippings with penciled in comments like: "Can you believe this?" or "Thought you might want to see this."

In yesterday's mail was such an envelope. The clip came from the Yuma Sun of Yuma, Ariz. The page one headline reads: Large debt revealed at Immaculate Conception Church. The subhead reads: Diocese says nearly half a million deficit not dire, ministries will operate normally.

New Vatican Bank scandal threatens to erupt


This morning, Italian authorities announced that U.S. $30 million in funds belonging to the Vatican Bank have been seized, and the bank’s president and another senior official have been placed under investigation, following allegations of money-laundering. Specifically, prosecutors apparently believe that the Vatican Bank is being used by some Italian entities and VIPs to disguise financial fraud or tax evasion.

Good news from the border at last


The faith-based group, No More Deaths, maintains camps in Southern Arizona near the U.S.-Mexico border. Volunteers from around the country fan out each day from the camps in search of immigrants who might be lost, hungry, thirsty, injured and in danger of death. They also look for bodies of those who could not survive the perilous trek north. To help prevent deaths the group leaves bottles of water along known migrant trails.

Archbishop Dolan: A superman for Catholic schools?


Both the news out of New York's archdiocese and the debut in theatres this weekend of a compelling documentary provide a poignant one-two punch in support of Catholic education.

The news from New York is this: there's going to be radical surgery to keep Catholic schools alive. According to The New York Times, Archbishop Timothy Dolan is working on a program to sever Catholic schools from their traditional main funding source: the local parish. Instead, Dolan is reportedly proposing to close several schools (as many as thirty) and finance the rest out of a common fund contributed to by all parishes in the archdiocese.

It is a far-reaching move, but one that makes sense. Here in Los Angeles, Cardinal Mahony has kept struggling inner city schools alive through a wildly successful annual findraising appeal called "Together in Mission" -- essentially prodding wealthier parishes and parishoners to donate to a fund for everyone else. Archbishop Dolan's proposal institutionalizes this and brings stability to school funding.

Two movies with outdated stereotypes: 'Machete' and 'The Town'


Robert Rodriguez’ strangely watchable Mexploitation grindhouse film “Machete” takes place in an unnamed Texican city. A former undercover cop with the Mexican federal government, Machete (Danny Trejo) -- whose weapon of choice is a machete -- is in Texas on the run from drug lord Torres (Steven Segal with a Spanish accent) who is in league with well-placed U.S. officials.

Machete connects with “the network” of Latinos and those of other ethnicities that care for the undocumented in need. They join Machete against a militia headed by Lt. Stillman (Don Johnson), with the collusion of Senator McLaughlin (Robert di Niro), that wants to get undocumented immigrants out of the U.S.

It’s complicated. But Machete’s brother (Cheech Marin) is a priest. Among other unpriestly behaviors, the padre breaks the seal of confession. He’s crucified by Torres’ men.

The senator’s aide, Booth (Jeff Fahey), tries to manipulate all sides and his wife and daughter, April (Lindsay Lohan), are kidnapped. In the end April dresses like a nun and blows away the opposition with a high-powered weapon.

As Mideast leaders talk peace, a story of action


I confess to being skeptical about what good can emerge from this month’s talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Trips to Israel/Palestine have led me to conclude that for all the talk of “ancient antipathies,” the fight there is fundamentally a territorial one -- a grinding, tedious land grab made possible by denial of Palestinian rights.

'Waiting for Superman'


The Los Angeles Times' observant and opinionated journalist Steve Lopez is often irritating but always honest about life in the city of angels. In Sunday's paper Lopez recounts his visit last Friday to A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. Duffy reacted negatively, as would be expected, to the L.A. Times recent investigation and values-added formula analysis of teachers. Los Angeles Times published on its website a database of names and grades of teachers in the L.A. Unified School District , the largest in the nation in terms of students. Duffy organized a march by union members at the Los Angeles Times building and even canceled his subscription to the Times in protest.


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In This Issue

November 20-December 3, 2015


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