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Food pantries, soup kitchens busier than ever

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A nationwide study released Tuesday by the Chicago-based hunger relief group Feeding America indicates a sharp uptick in the number of Americans relying on food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters for day-to-day survival, the Chicago Tribune reported today.

In Cook County, the report estimated that more than 678,000 people — including a quarter of a million children — received some form of emergency food last year.

The overall figure is a 36 percent increase compared with the findings of a similar study released in 2006.

NCR ran a similar story at the end of last week, citing Catholic Charities figures.

"Catholic Charities USA reported that in the last quarter of 2009 member agencies around the country experienced nearly twice as many requests for assistance to meet rent or mortgage payments and utility bills."

CSI meets the catechism?

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Just when you think you've seen it all or Technology inside the church, Polish-style

"A Polish priest has installed an electronic reader in his church for schoolchildren to leave their fingerprints in order to monitor their attendance at Mass, the Gazeta Wyborcza daily said Friday.

The pupils will mark their fingerprints every time they go to church over three years and if they attend 200 Masses they will be freed from the obligation of having to pass an exam prior to their confirmation, the paper said.

The pupils in the southern town of Gryfow Slaski told the daily they liked the idea and also the priest, Grzegorz Sowa, who invented it.

Will Earth survive the computer?

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Recent media attention to the new iPad from Apple reminded me of a friend who retired from the Environmental Protection Agency who once said to me: "The earth's life support systems will probably survive the automobile but probably not personal computers and all the other electronic equipment that proliferates now." She based her opinion on a United Nations University study released in 2006 which revealed a new understanding of the impact these necessary tools of the 21st century have on our environment.

According to this report, making the average personal computer requires 10 times the weight of the product in chemicals and fossil fuels. What's more, many of the chemicals used are toxic, while the use of fossil fuels in making computer and electronic components contributes to global climate change. The short life of today's electronic equipment leads to Himalayas of waste, the report says. That waste is then dumped into landfills or recycled, too often in poorly managed facilities in developing countries, leading to significant health risks.

Pius XII was 'totally anti-Nazi,' former aide says

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Italian news outlets reported yesterday that two documents about Pius XII’s role during World War II have been found in an English archive. One is a brief report of a conversation between Pius XII and an American diplomat in October 1943, in which Pius XII does not address the round-up of Roman Jews by the Nazis. The second, a year later, reports a session between Pius and a British envoy in which the pope discusses balancing criticism of the Nazi crackdown on Jews in Hungary with also speaking out against Soviet war crimes in Poland and the Baltic states.

The chubby Lord

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Something struck me yesterday as I was studying the emaciated figure of Christ on the crucifix behind the altar at my parish: Had the story of the incarnation taken place 2,000 years later, in our own time, that figure of Jesus would almost undoubtably be overweight.

Think about it. From the Gospel we know that Christ was an outcast who was economically impoverished. That means he probably ate only two types of food: cheap stuff and what was offered to him by the people he encountered on his journeys.

In his era the cheap stuff probably included lentils, beans and vegetables at market. In our era it mostly includes canned goods overpumped with sodium, juices which are mostly high fructose corn syrup and fast food sandwiches or hamburgers.

Even with all the exercise he did getting from place to place, I think it’s fair to say the difference in diet may have had the Lord looking a little more filled in.

Perhaps that’s just another sign of his solidarity with the trials of those who are forgotten by society.

Top ten stories in January

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Top-ten stories on NCRonline.org

The five parts of the five-part essay by Sr. Sandra Schneiders, Religious life as prophetic life form, took five of the top-10 most-viewed stories on the NCR web site in January.

If we pull Sr. Schneiders' essay out of the line-up, the top stories are:


  1. Mary Daly, radical feminist theologian, dead at 81

  2. NCR Today: The NCR group blog

  3. Mother Millea urges U.S. religious to comply with study

  4. Papal liturgist endorses 'reform of the reform'

  5. Bishop: 'Schneiders' analysis inspiring, challenging'

Cottle on the \"Dark Art\" of Polling

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Michelle Cottle’s essays over at The New Republic are always worth reading but her takedown of Republican pollster Frank Luntz’s new book is a must-read. (You don’t need to know the name of the book because after reading Cottle you won’t want to shell out the $24.99 to get it. In fact, I will give you $24.99 to read anything else!)

Luntz is a pollster and polling is, as Cottle calls it, a “dark art.” It is also the principal reason our politicians are so bland: They are afraid to go to the bathroom without having a pollster tell them the decision will sit well with the voters. More than that, polling is a principal reason our politics are so bad. They turn campaigns into marketing strategies, they ignore the fact that voters are, at any given time, motivated by a medley of concerns that change from morning to night and from yesterday to tomorrow. For example, I will bet, although I have never been polled on the subject, that my concern about rising food prices is higher after I go to the market. Just a hunch.

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October 10-23, 2014

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