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Wendell Berry says large-scale farms are killing lands and towns

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By Ted Strong

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA -- A passive populace obsessed with easy answers has led to an economy that is destroying America's land, author Wendell Berry told a packed-in crowd at the University of Virginia on Thursday evening.

"Simple solutions will always lead to complex problems, surprising simple minds," he said.

In a lecture in the full auditorium of the Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature and Culture/Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, Berry outlined the need for small-scale landholders engaging in forestry and farming, as opposed to the industrial-scale operations now in place.

The talk was so popular that seats in the auditorium ran out long before the 5:30 speech began. Eventually, a pair of university police officers shooed away the overflow crowd waiting outside.

Even some of those who made it inside were left without seats, and Berry invited them to sit on the stage near him.

Large-scale and corporate operations cause long-term damage to the environment and to rural cultures, he told the crowd.

Poker-playing priest

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Move over, bingo. Poker is the new way to raise money for your parish. At least that's what Father Andrew Trapp, vicar of St. Michael's Parish in Garden City, N.J., is betting.

The recently ordained Trapp admits to enjoying a friendly game of Texas Hold'em poker with friends and family. So when he heard about Fox TV's "PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge," he got his bishop's permission to try to compete and raise money for the parish's building fund.

Not only did Trapp qualify for the show, he won $100,000 and qualified for the final show--to air December 27--and compete for $1 million. Although that show has already been taped, Trapp is mum about the outcome.

On his personal website (which also contains reflections such as "Christianity is like the Batmobile" and "Is Ronald McDonald Catholic?") he shares his story and answers FAQs about his appearance, including Catholic teaching on games of chance.

A Lost Decade?

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I came of age in the 1970s, and always saw that as one of the worst decades of a not-so-upbeat century = Vietnam, Watergate, stagflation, KC and the Sunshine Band. The list goes on, and on.

But in today's Hollywood trade paper, Varietyeditor Peter Bart makes a good case for another lost decade -- the one we are about to leave.

Bart -- a former New York Times reporter and Paramount Pictures executive -- looks back on the last ten years and finds a list of infamy to rival the '70s: two stock market crashes, Islamic jihad, Hurricane Katrina, two wars that can't be won, and the near-destruction of the American auto industry. Kind of gives disco a run for its money to the bottom of history's barrel.

Bart's musings come as he looks at last night's Kennedy Center Honors program, which presented lifetime achievement awards to artists as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, David Brubeck, Robert DeNiro and Mel Brooks.

Fighting the Anti-Homosexuality Law in Uganda

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The groups Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Faith in Public Life have been doing a variety of good works, showing the many and varied ways that faith informs public policy, organizing prayer services and press conferences on issues from health care to immigration reform. Now, they have given a very special opportunity to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. They have issued a statement, signed by a diverse group of religious and political leaders, about the anti-homosexuality law pending in Uganda. The law would, among other things, make homosexual acts punishable by death.

Dec. 7, \" ... a date which will live in infamy ... \"

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The names of the men, women, and children killed on Dec. 7, 1941, in the attack on Pearl Harbor, are listed here.

Among them are the names of the first American chaplains to be killed in World War II, Aloysius Herman Schmitt, the Catholic priest who was the USS Oklahoma chaplain, and Thomas Leroy Kirkpatrick, the Presbyterian minister who was the USS Arizona chaplain.

There will be a Mass this evening in Fr. Schmitt's memory at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.

"Loras College will have a special Mass on Monday, Dec. 7, at 5:30 p.m. in Christ the King Chapel in memory of the 68th anniversary of the death of the Rev. Aloysius Schmitt at Pearl Harbor.

Vatican summit on Irish sex abuse crisis

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

The two most senior prelates in Ireland will meet Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials in Rome this Friday, Dec. 11, to discuss what a Vatican statement today called the "painful situation" related to publication of a damning recent report on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, President of the Irish bishops' conference, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin will meet the pope, along with Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, the papal nuncio, or ambassador, to Ireland.

Experts skeptical as climate talks begin

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Just two years ago, a United Nations panel that synthesizes the work of hundreds of climatologists around the world called the evidence for global warming “unequivocal.”

But as representatives of about 200 nations began talks Monday in Copenhagen on a new international climate accord, they were doing so against a background of renewed attacks on the basic science of climate change.

In this essay Bill McKibben, explains why he is worried -- and why we should be to. Unlike health care, or any other political issues, which can be modified later, climate change cannot be. Time has run out, he says.

The Meaning of Public Relations -- Notre Dame Style

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The University of Notre Dame has attracted magnified, national attention twice this year.

The first was sparked by its decision to award President Obama an honorary degree. A fierce debate ensued between supporters of the decision and protesters who argued that Obama's pro-choice position on abortion should have made him ineligible.

The second cause has been triggered by the dismal performance of the football team and the subsequent firing of coach Charlie Weis. The school has moved on this issue with a kind of delicacy one might expect of a bomb squad in action.

The Obama controversy got nasty, and has repercussions. In certain respects I think it was a political move to demonstrate a type of broadmindedness that would appeal both to the Catholic mainstream and to American public's sense of toleration, real or not. But whatever the motives on either side, it was unmistakably a legitimate religious moral debate.

An Exchange between Terrence Tilley and Fr. Thomas Weinandy

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In the current issue of the Quarterly of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, Capuchin Fr. Thomas Weinandy, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Doctrine, charges that Terrence Tilley of Fordham University, past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, was guilty of "doctrinal ambiguity and error" in an address last June on the Incarnation.

In response, Tilley has written the following open letter to Weinandy, which is posted here with Tilley's permission.

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