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Belleville diocese loses appeal; $5 million verdict

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From the Belleville News-Democrat:

In a decision made public Thursday, the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon rejected arguments by the Catholic Diocese of Belleville that a 2008 civil trial jury verdict that awarded $5 million to a former altar boy allegedly sexually abused by a priest should be overturned.

In an 85-page decision, of which nearly half was dedicated to a summary of decades of sexual abuse against boys and at least one girl allegedly committed by the Rev. Raymond Kownacki and repeated coverups of this activity by former diocese officials, the three-member panel of judges voted 2-1 to uphold the verdict.

Kownacki was removed from priestly duties in 1995 by a diocesan review board after numerous articles in the News-Democrat about sexual abuse by local priests. Kownacki, who has stated he will not comment, lives in Dupo.

Martin Luther King, Jr. would support Afghan war, Defense Department says

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If Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today, he would support the Afghan and Iraq wars, a Defense Department official said at the Pentagon commemoration of the civil rights icon yesterday.

"I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation's military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack," said Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel, according to the American Forces Press Service.

I think this news is worthy of a poll.

Pope to show support for Neocatechumenate

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

tJust days after the president of the Japanese bishops’ conference publicly complained that the Neocatechumenal Way is causing “rampant confusion, conflict, division, and chaos” in his country, Pope Benedict XVI is set to welcome the leaders of the controversial movement in a public audience in Rome on Monday.

tThe Neocatechumenal Way also released a statement today reporting that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has upgraded the status of the movement’s catechetical materials, and that the Pontifical Council for the Laity has declared that decision signals “the conclusion of an institutional process” that “offers doctrinal guarantees for all the pastors of the church.”

tThough both the audience and the change in status for the catechetical materials were well in the works before the recent controversy in Japan, the high-profile gathering with the pope will nevertheless likely be seen as a gesture of support for the Neocatechumenal Way at a time when it’s under fire in another part of the world.

Morning Briefing

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Beatification announcement for John Paul II expected soon

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An announcement on the beatification of Pope John Paul II could come from the Vatican as early as tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 14, sources said today. Most observers expect the beatification ceremony to take place in Rome sometime this year, potentially as early as April for the six-year anniversary of the late pope’s death.

Will power? Maybe later

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Sometimes there's that thing, that trend we all know is true -- and it just takes someone to piece it all together, call it by its rightful name. If the 1970s were famously dubbed "The Me Decade," is America just now waking up from a hangover caused by "The Age of Excess?"

Daniel Akst is very sure the answer is yes.

He's written a book that has its flaws, but it getting attention for the way it synthesizes all those threads in our society that have knitted together to form this particular moment. The book is called We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in the Age of Excess.

Akst looks at American obesity, reckless debt, the housing bubble, and the vast array of "addictions" we keep coming up with -- then he calls it what it plainly is: a loss of self-discipline.

President Obama lifted a nation last night

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President Obama was eloquent last night, solemn when he needed to be, uplifting when called for, and all the time thoughtful. He was as much priest as president in what was essentially a spiritual reflection on how people should conduct their lives and care for each other.

Said the president: "If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost. … Let's make sure it's not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle."

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