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A 'two-for-one' strategy in declaring popes as saints

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

tTwo instances of something may not constitute a trend, but they can at least suggest a strategy. This morning an apparent Vatican strategy on turning popes into saints came into view: When you’re going to move a pope along the path whose cause is sure to cause friction in Catholic/Jewish relations, bundle it with a popular pope also seen as a friend to the Jews.

tCall it a “two-for-one” strategy with regard to pope-saints.

tThis morning, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI has approved decrees of heroic virtue for several figures, including two of his 20th century predecessors: Pope John Paul II, and Pope Pius XII.

tA decree of heroic virtue is an official finding that someone lived a saintly life. It allows the candidate to be referred to as “venerable,” and means that the only hurdle left for beatification is a documented miracle, with one more miracle necessary for canonization, the formal act of declaring someone a saint.

What Should Ben Nelson Do?

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Mountains of pressure from all sides are landing on the shoulders of Sen. Ben Nelson, the conservative Democrat from Nebraska who has refused, so far, to sign on to any of the compromises on federal funding of abortion in the health care reform effort. Even the latest effort by Sen. Bob Casey to thread the needle on the difficult issue has met with a non placet from Nelson. What should he do?

Putting Christ in Christmas: More Than an Old Chestnut

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A few night ago I joined a gathering billed as a "Christmas celebration." There were good eats, including a fabulous ice cream cake shaped like St. Nick, but the main feature was the showing of "Noel," the 2004 film pegged to the season.

Among the stars of the show are Susan Sarandon, Alan Arkin and Robin Williams who does an extended cameo.

The story is a festoon of sorrows. Sarandon strains to care for her elderly, Alzheimer-afflicted mother. A young couple's marriage falls to pieces because of the husband's jealousy. A man wanders in and out of insanity out of grief for his wife. Everyone paints a canvas of bleakness.

But serrendipity comes to the rescue and almost everybody ends up is touched by an angel.

I'm fairly immune to the sappy productions; they're hard to sit through but at least they don't pretend to do much else. This one, however, was downright irritating because it starts out as a genuine human drama, then resorts to cheap answers.

The film is set in New York where Christian symbols were much in evidence. The woebegotten actors play out their agonies among them. Yet the film was otherwise devoid of religious content.

Two dozen Nebraska religious leaders support new health care abortion language

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A group of over two dozen clergy and faith leaders have come together as signatories on a letter to Senator Nelson, asking him to support Senator Casey’s proposed alternative language on abortion to the Senate health care bill. Many faith leaders in Nebraska have been passionately working to make sure health care reform happens as they feel it is a moral imperative to have affordable accessible health care for our communities. The text of the letter follows:

Thoughts on the resignation of an Irish bishop

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This from the Irish Times.

THE FALL from grace of the Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray, is a necessary and inevitable consequence of the Murphy report into the cover-up of child sexual abuse in the Dublin diocese.

But it is by no means a sufficient response to the amorality and recklessness detailed in that grim document. Indeed, it would be grossly unfair to Dr Murray were he to be the sacrificial lamb who must atone for the collective sins of the Roman Catholic Church. If his departure were to be seen as the end, rather than the beginning, of a radical process of accountability, the implication would be that his behaviour was the exception rather than the rule. The truth is he operated a system that seems to have been universally applied throughout the church.

Catholics at Copenhagen

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Irish Columban missionary Fr. Sean McDonagh sent this report from Copenhagen today on the Catholic presence at this and previous U. N. climate change conferences:

"Ever since my first meeting of the U.N. Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC), I have been interested in a ‘Catholic presence’ at these conferences. While Christian Aid and the World Council of Churches had a presence at the Nairobi Conference in 2006, there were very few Catholics in attendance.

In fact, the only Catholic symbol I saw was the Columban logo at the UP in Smoke stand. Columbans in the region of Britain have been involved in funding and producing the The UP in Smoke booklet on how climate change is impacting on the lives of poor people in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia for a number of years. Ms. Ellen Teague has worked tirelessly on these publications for the past few years.

Catholic groups praise Sen. Casey health care proposal

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National Catholic social justice organizations, religious orders and the Catholic Health Association are touting a proposal offered by Sen. Robert Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania that offers a major package of social supports for pregnant women and alternative language to ensure health-care reform does not include federal funding of abortions.

Sen. Casey’s proposal includes strong language on conscience protections for health care workers, and an “opt out” provision that permits individuals to decline abortion coverage in any policy offered in a health-care exchange. It also increases adoption tax credits by $1,000 and ensures segregation of funds in the exchange so that federal subsidies are not used to pay for abortions. The proposal offers significant help to pregnant and parenting women, increases public awareness about resources available to pregnant teens and improves services for pregnant women who are victims of domestic violence.

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