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Insecure about maximum security prisons?

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Am I missing something? Did I miss the congressional hearings about how unsafe our maximum security prisons are? Did I miss the outraged neighborhood protests from those who live near these facilities?

To hear the Republicans yelp about bringing Guantanamo detainees to the mainland for trial, you would necessarily conclude that America's prisons are categorically unreliable. The Tanzanian brought to New York yesterday was not, after all, dropped off at a Starbucks in midtown. Do not our prisons hold countless inmates whose crimes, while not motivated by a perverse Islamic extremism, were nonetheless heinous and whose continued incarceration is an obvious obligation of government?

Kyra Sedgwick Breaks Madoff Silence (but why not the Redemptorist priests?)

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In early February 2009, NCR editor-at-large Tom Roberts and I broke the story of the Redemptorits Fathers in New York City, Baltimore, and in San Juan, Puerto Rico, along with a Catholic high school in Florida and the Diocese of St. Thomas-Virgin Islands, all of which lost money in the Bernard Madoff ponzi scheme.

While we received some initial reaction from representatives of the Redemptorists, we never received a response to our repeated for an interview from Father Patrick Woods, C.Ss.R. Provincial Superior of the Baltimore Province (based in Brooklyn, NY).

Stop requested

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A long digital panel at the front of the bus posts the date and time and, when a rider pulls the cord strung above the windows, the display says succinctly; "Stop Requested."

The Broadway musical "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off," comes to mind. Or a poignant moment on the Sunday morning news program, "Meet the Press" in 1968, when Robert Kennedy, besieged by questions about his possible presidential gambit, sighed audibly and said, "I can't very well leave the planet," though in effect he would depart abruptly on June 6 of that tumultuous year.

Thomas Berry's reach

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Thomas Berry, who died June 1 at the age of 94, had a reach well beyond the Catholic church, which was his home. The following is how the editors of EnlightenNext magazine, a quarterly publication dedicated to catalyzing evolution in consciousness and culture, announced his death to its readers.

A Good Life

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This weekend my parish in Los Angeles began saying goodbye to the man who has been our pastor for twenty-eight years -- an astonishing stretch. Fr. Kevin Larkin will retire at the end of the month, and this past Sunday our parish celebrated a special Mass to honor his time with us.

Ten priests celebrated with him, including Fr. Tony Scannell, a Franciscan who has been on-loan to us for several years. In his homily, Fr. Tony focused on something I hadn’t heard spoken of in a very long a time: what a good thing it was to be a priest.

He recounted the changes in American life since Fr. Larkin took over as pastor (and since his ordination 50 years ago -- something else we celebrated this Sunday). Through this time, generations had literally grown-up with Fr. Larkin -- he had married couples, baptized their children, married those children, and in some cases, baptized the grandchildren. He was a central part of the human parade, and Fr. Tony spoke of the “joy” the priesthood brought to him and to others. Of the eleven priests assembled, there was not one dry eye.

The accolades are heaped too high

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OK, OK. I love the President also and, like most Americans -- Mr. Limbaugh and his ilk excepted -- I want him to succeed at the enormous challenges he faces. But, I do not think that it helps him if our accolades are such as to suggest he was born on Krypton.

First, there was John O’Malley’s article in America which suggested that Obama embodied the "spirit of Vatican II" in his recent speeches at Notre Dame and in Grant Park on election night. Well, yes, the style of his rhetoric is different and more positive than the Manichean worldview of his predecessor. But, context is, if not everything, nonetheless significant. The Council Fathers spoke in an explicitly ecclesial context. The President does not. That is no fault of his: He is not an archbishop. But, the metaphor breaks down when you consider that the conciliar documents were achieved by consensus and the President’s election night address was delivered to a partisan crowd at the culmination of an explicitly partisan -- and proudly partisan -- event.

Adoption community makes itself heard

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Pro-life groups often purport to support adoption as well as oppose abortion, but you rarely find them on the streets with protest signs when adoption is under attack. Traditional pro-life groups (including the UCCB's Pro-Life Activities Office, which doesn't even include adoption as one of their issues) have been noticeably silent, for example, about the extremely negative portrayal of adoption and adoptees in the new horror movie, "Orphan," scheduled for release July 24 by Dark Castle Entertainment, Warner Bros. and Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way.

The adoption community, on the other hand, took action as soon as the trailer -- featuring the tag line "It must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own" -- came out. Messages made the rounds on various adoption listserves, a Facebook page (3,000+ members strong) was created and calls were made to Warner Bros.

Mahony pledges to pick-up school slack

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Here's a development out on the West Coast today that vies for "best Catholic news story of the day." Cardinal Roger Mahony has stepped in and offered struggling public schools a helping hand. Because of California's extreme budget crunch, funding for all public school summer programs have been eliminated. Mahony announced today that Catholic summer school programs can pick up the slack - and that non-Catholic students are welcome to take part. This is an essential piece of news, especially in poorer neighborhoods. And at a time when Catholic schools across the country are struggling, Mahony's actions demonstrate anew the vital role these schools play, especially in our urban areas.

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April 11-24, 2014

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