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Sister Surveys -- What Might Have Been

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The storm over Rome's investigation of American sisters makes me wish that someone of the stature of the late Sister Marie Augusta Neal were doing the kind of sister surveys for which she was renowned.

Neal, one of the first women to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard, conducted all-inclusive surveys to study the influence of Vatican II's directive to U.S. sisters to renew their communities. The first was in 1966, in the wake of that call, and the second was done in 1982. Combined, they showed solid and increasing support for changes instituted by the congregations: housing, work, prayer and personal growth.

In the current turmoil, such a survey could clear up lots of confusion and misunderstanding. Perhaps there is much more of a live-and-let-live frame of mind among both conservatives and liberals. If a majority of sisters on both sides viewed religious life as a common devotion with multiple expressions, would that make a difference? What do sisters themselves think, apart from their leadership or the local bishop's attitudes or Rome's agenda? That would, of course, assume that sisters had a role in deciding their futures.

September's top stories

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The most read stories on NCRonline.org in September:


  1. NCR Today, the NCR group blog
  2. Discerning ministerial religious life today, an essay by Sandra M. Schneiders
  3. Archbishop explains why he barred nun-catechist, Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk talks about the Sr. Louise Akers case
  4. Louise Akers: Silenced or louder than ever?, Sr. Joan Chittister on the Akers case
  5. Perpetual eucharistic adoration, a column by Fr. Richard McBrien
  6. Cincinnati nun given ultimatum over ordination views, the NCR story breaking the news of Sr. Akers removal

Oregon Catholic teen in running for Top Young Scientist

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Nikita Gaurav, an eighth-grader at Valley Catholic Middle School, Beaverton, Ore., is one of 10 finalists nationwide for the title of top young scientist. She will travel to New York to compete in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge on Tuesday. The winner will be awarded $50,000 in U.S. savings bonds.

What are Gaurav's dreams? She said, "I would like to become an eco-friendly architect or a mechanical engineer who designs sustainable technology."

For more information on the competition, go to this Web site.

Living in Dorothy's Room

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As I’ve mentioned before on this site, I am a Lasallian volunteer living at the Holy Family Catholic Worker House in Kansas City, Missouri.

Living in the house can be an overwhelming affair. With so many people coming in and out on a daily basis it is often hard for me to find time for myself.

Luckily, I do have a retreat of sorts on the second floor of the house: my room. No, my room is not quiet. It does not have mythical properties that block out the hustle and bustle of all the people I see on a daily basis.

But it does have a history which I have found nourishing in times when it all seems to be too much.

Three decades ago Dorothy Day stayed in the room during a visit to the house.

Gerson on Afghanistan

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Michael Gerson’s column this morning on the choice President Obama faces in Afghanistan is a congeries of fears, almost all of them misplaced. He is concerned that the deliberateness of the decision-making process the President is following is itself part of the problem, that “the debate, however, should generally take place in private and produce outcomes with al deliberate speed.” I am not so sure that privacy of judgment helped the Bush administration make wise choices, but never mind.

Gerson warns that an enemy can use delays to conduct propaganda. He quotes Al-Qaeda’s most recent video, directed at the Europeans, warning them that America will cut and run and then “will have gone away far beyond the Atlantic” leaving the Europeans exposed to Islamicist wrath. Well, isolationism exists in the far reaches of the left and right, among a few MoveOn.org types and Pat Buchanan, but Robert Taft is no longer the senior Senator from Ohio. And, NATO isn’t going anywhere.

With Friends Like These

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Strategies that work against themselves.

Woody Allen's appeal to excuse Roland Polanski from being forced to return to the U.S. to face sentencing on charges of raping a 13-year-old girl more than three decades ago. Allen's credibility is a bit strained. While dating Mia Farrow, he began an affair with Farrow's adopted daughter, then 21 (he was 56), and married her six years later in 1997.

As reported on NPR, the Detroit school system, in an effort to bolster attendance as a means of maximizing state funding, is awarding prizes for showing up. Top prize: a 42" flat screen television set.

The Congregation for Religious, in its campaign to assist efforts by conservative U.S. nuns to root out Vatican II-itis in mainstream congregations, turns over the $1.1 million bill to the American bishops. This is unlikely to foster enthusiasm for the inquisition. The unintended consequence seems likely to be to thrown another log on the fire of reaction against it. My guess is that the tab will be, or already has been picked up by one of the usual wealthy Vatican backers, but a bitter aftertaste will likely remain.

Four key fallacies about global climate change

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In December nations will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the United Nations Climate Conference. There they will strive to strike a global deal that will address the climate change crisis. According to Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, this momentous task will be easier if we can dispesne with four common fallacies about solving the climate crisis.

1. We need to set a high price on carbon. According to Pope, a high price on carbon will mean failure as it makes the cost of doing something about the crisis appear to be completely out of reach. What is needed instead is a low price for alternatives to carbon. "That requires, in part, fixing flaws in the energy market. If you rent office space, for example, you have no control over the efficiency of the furnace or windows, but you still pay the bills. The landlord gets reimbursed for inefficiency and has no incentive to change.

Cardinal who's a post-Soviet legend looks back

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tThis year marks the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In Catholic terms, this anniversary is also, in its own way, a moment of regime change.

One by one, the bishops who led the churches of the former Soviet sphere out of the catacombs, and into the “shock therapy” of absorbing several decades of post-Vatican II development in the West all at once, are beginning to fade from the scene. For example, Pope Benedict’s trip to the Czech Republic last weekend was also a swan song for Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of Prague, who’s announced that he expects to be replaced by year’s end.

tAnother legend of the post-Soviet period is Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, Germany, now almost 76 and thus beyond the normal retirement age. While there’s no indication yet of when the pope might accept his resignation, Meisner nonetheless realizes that he's nearer the end than the beginning, and finds himself in an introspective mood.

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