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Ken Burns & The National Parks: America's Greatest Idea

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Brilliant filmmaker, Ken Burns, and his colleague Dayton Duncan, and their team have done it again. Their documentary on the U.S. national parks is outstanding. Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature’s most spectacular locales, "The National Parks: America’s Best Idea," is a six-part, 12-hour documentary series on the history of America’s national parks.

Gifts - Authorized and Not

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The first reading and the Gospel this past Sunday both involved the unauthorized use of divine gifts and the challenge to that use by those in authority, or better to say, by those of lesser authority. The unauthorized were prophesying in the camp of the Israelites and some who were not followers of Jesus were casting out demons in his name. Disciples of both Moses and Jesus took umbrage at these unauthorized acts and, in both cases, Moses and Jesus – those with true and full authority – pointed out that God is the author of such gifts and that no one should be jealous of their use.

This brought to mind an observation that Balthasar used to make at the close of his retreats for priests. He recalled the closing scene in the Gospel of John when Peter is jealous and asks what is to happen to the beloved disciple. Balthasar would comment “It is not [Peter’s] business to know exactly where the boundaries between the official Church and the Church of love are to be found….The last thing said to the servant Peter, the last word of the Lord in the Gospel, is the watchword for the Church and theology in every age: ‘What is that to you?’”

Return of the old ways of thinking threatens recovery & maximum confusion

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Democratic political strategist and pundit, James Carville, came up with the effective and stinging slogan, "It's the economy, stupid," as a way for presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, to attack President George H.W. Bush, during the 1992 campaign. The slogan is as relevant now as it was then. Yet, for most people it seems impossible to understand economic theory and policy. The most important economic issue for families is jobs. After that it's wages, benefits and retirement.

Archbishop Tomasi's indefensible defense

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Public relations has never been the Vatican's strong suit, but one would think by now that someone would have sent out the memo advising against defending the church's activity in the sex abuse scandal by pointing the finger at everyone else.

But there was Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent observer to the UN, defending the church's handling of the crisis by citing suspect numbers (only 1.5-5 percent of priests involved), questionable social science (most of the perpetrators were homosexual) and the thin consolation that sex abuse exists not only in the wider culture but in other religions and denominations.

Outrage over Vatican request for $1.1 million to fund sisters investigation

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The comments section on our news articles is always lively, and, frankly, often contentious. Deep divisions of opinion quickly come to life. So it is rare, and says something pretty dramatic, when virtually all the comments sing in a common chorus. Such seems to be the case in the comment section of the article I posted yesterday.

We’ve known for some time the Vatican’s Apostolic Visitation of U.S. women religious has not gone down well in many parts of the church here in the states. With the revelation yesterday of the call by Cardinal Franc Rodé to have the U.S. bishops fund the investigation -- meaning, of course, that U.S. Catholics are being called to cough up, a new round of anger has erupted. Now the process, in addition to the substance, of the effort is receiving new and wider scurtiny.

Sharing stories ñ the new television season

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The new television season began in earnest last week, and all around Hollywood so many executive fingers were crossed, it was hard to pound out even the simplest message on a Blackberry. The previous television season – marred by a months-long writers strike – was an unmitigated disaster, perhaps hastening the demise of television as a mass medium.

Would this season be different? Would the major broadcast networks lure viewers back into the fold? Would tough economic times bring people together around the electronic hearth to share stories once again?

Great Women Never Die

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I am so glad that Newsweek (“Why are all the really old people women?” Sept. 28, 2009, page 72) has finally answered a media literacy education question that I have had for years: why great women never die. In fact, if you read the four or five enhanced obituaries of daily newspapers in major US markets, women seldom die at all.

A few years ago I heard Sr. Helen Prejean speak at a Catholic Press Association meeting in pre-Katrina New Orleans. I paraphrase but the gist is, “When a white man is murdered in New Orleans it is front page news; when a black man is murdered it is on page 30.”

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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