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A six-point program for church communications

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
São Paulo, Brazil

tArchbishop Raymundo Damasceno leads the Aparecida archdiocese in Brazil, home to the famed Our Lady of Aparecida sanctuary visited by Pope Benedict XVI in May 2007. A former secretary general of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, he is now the President of the Latin American Episcopal Council, or CELAM, which opened its fifth General Conference in Aparecida with the papal visit.

tAll this makes Damasceno a fairly big deal in Latin American Catholicism, even if in person he’s actually fairly short and unassuming.

tDamasceno, 72, spoke today at a seminar on church communications in São Paulo. He ticked off a six-point program for communications which, he said, a Colombian journalist had once offered to CELAM:

1.tOvercome the idea that the means of communications are themselves communication. In other words, building TV networks, radio stations, and web sites is all well and good, but if you don’t have something compelling to say, building new and better ways to say it won’t accomplish much.

Obama: echoes of Catholic social justice teaching

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It was the conclusion of President Obama's address on health care that truly moved me. I heard strong echoes of Catholic social justice teaching, in both the words of Sen. Ted Kennedy, and in Obama's own embrace of the philosophy of the "common good."

Obama quoted a letter written in May by Sen. Kennedy reminding him that health care "concerns more than material things." "What we face," he wrote, "is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country."

Obama's moral case for health care

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President Obama yesterday called healthcare a "moral issue" only once, at the end of his speech before a joint session of congress. He did it, citing a letter he had received from the late Senator Edward Kennedy.

Here is what the president said:

I received one of those letters a few days ago. It was from our beloved friend and colleague, Ted Kennedy. He had written it back in May, shortly after he was told that his illness was terminal. He asked that it be delivered upon his death.

Ratzinger has changed his spots (but not the way you think), Brazilian cardinal says

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

tMore than four years into the papacy of Benedict XVI, analysts have repeatedly pulled his track record apart and put it back together again, raising provocative questions about where the pope comes from and where he might be going. In that vast forensic exercise, however, one question often seems to loom above the rest.

Has Ratzinger changed his spots?

tThat is to say, has the lion of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the infamous “Panzer Kardinal” who polarized opinion like few other Catholic figures for the better part of 20 years, really metamorphosed into the lamb of Benedict XVI – seemingly a kinder, gentler, more optimistic figure? Or is such talk an illusion?

tTypically, those who answer “yes” mean it in terms of the categories of secular politics – that Ratzinger the archconservative has given way to Benedict the moderate. Today, however, one senior church official offered a version of the case for “yes,” but from a very different angle.

The Date

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In the sphere of spookdom, nothing compares to "666" as a creepy portent, but today's date, 9-9-09, ain't too shabby. Futurists and apocalypticists are no doubt conjuring such matters even as I type. As in, how might it portend the nature of Obama's speech?

Obama's Health Care Speech

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The President has many tasks in his speech tonight. But, the most obvious is that he must finally articulate his own plan for reforming health care. For much the past few months, people have spoken about “the President’s plan” and “Obamacare” when, in fact, what was being debated were a variety of bills being drafted by different committees in both the House and the Senate. Tonight, the President must make a compelling case for those parts of the reform effort upon which he is willing to stake the prestige and power of his office.

Complete list of Apostolic Visitation questions to U.S. nuns

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In an earlier blog on this site today I posted some questions sent in from a reader, taken from the working paper, or "Instumentum Laboris" of the Apostolic Visitation. Those questions and others are to be answered by U.S. women religious as part of phase two of the Visitation process. As an aid to readers I thought it would be helpful to see the entire list of questions, all taken from the working paper. The questions follow a brief introduction:

Inquisition's Questions

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My gratitude to Tom Fox for fetching those questions from the list of those being used to investigate American sisters. They undermine any pretense of neutrality. They are loaded with unsubstantiated, prejudicial assumptions that further highlight a punitive agenda. On a related note, the whole purgative purpose seems to me to violate the meaning of "Visitation" in Catholic tradition.

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