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Dying with discernment, setting an example

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The New York Times this morning has done a sensitive and informative article on dying, featuring the Sisters of St. Joseph, a congregation in Pittsford, N.Y., whose approach to aging and dying provides insights into many changes that experts say are needed in end-of-life care.

Jane Gross writes in today’s Times that among "the nuns’ advantages are 'a large social network, intellectual stimulation, continued engagement in life and spiritual beliefs, as well as health care guided by the less-is-more principles of palliative and hospice care — trends that are moving from the fringes to the mainstream.'”

Morning Briefing

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Wafer controversy: Did Canada's PM take communion?

Pope deeply interested in Australia's first would-be saint: Rudd That would be Mother Mary MacKillop -- her local bishop excommunicated her for insubordination and tried to surpress the order she founded.

Catholic author creates comic to foster abortion discussion A fetus named Alphonse survives an abortion attempt and “sets out on a mission of revenge.”

Group warns pope about Obama's "true" record on abortion The American Life League, the largest U.S. Catholic pro-life organization, launched a petition drive.

Bon Jovi lends star power to Philly housing plan. Project H.O.M.E. founded by Sr. Mary Scullion and the Bethesda Project of the Sisters of Mercy

Nuns speak out

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The NPR radio program "On Point," a call-in talk show from WBUR Boston, spent an hour today on What’s going on with America’s Catholic nuns.

The New York Times July 1 story "U.S. Nuns Facing Vatican Scrutiny" by Laurie Goodstein, apparently sparked this radio show. Goodstein was on the show. That of course is a story that we have been following since January -- Here, here, here and here, for four quick samples.

Obama to tour quake devestated town

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President Obama is visiting the town of L’Aquila for the G-8 summit. The town was hit by a devastating earthquake during Holy Week and the president is supposed to tour the ravaged town as part of the visit.

And, therein we shall find a clue as to how plugged in the White House team is to Vatican sensibilities. Both the Sant’Egidio community and Communione e Liberazione have tents for assisting those who are still suffering from the destructive quake.

Companies reducing adoption benefits

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"Support for adoptive parents — one of the most popular “feel-good” employee benefits of the boom years — is emerging as the first to fall under the ax in the recession. For would-be parents, the trend threatens to further complicate an increasingly difficult adoption process, calling for more planning, saving ahead and stockpiling of time off."

While googling, I came across the text of a 1997 speech given by Al Hunt titled, "Why Liberals and Conservatives Should Agree on Adoption." At the time, Hunt was still the longtime Wall Street Journal Washington reporter, now working for Bloomberg News. Hunt is married to Judy Woodruff of CNN and now PBS fame.

While the speech is a bit dated, the underlying views are still relevant.

The talk was sponsored by the Center of the American Experiment, which is a nonpartisan, tax-exempt, public policy and educational institution that brings conservative and free market ideas to bear on the hardest problems facing Minnesota and the nation.

Assessing Weigel's assessment

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Yesterday, I pointed readers toward George Weigel's assessment of Caritas in Veritate. You many recall that Weigel said the encyclical "resembles a duck-billed platypus" meaning that it combined the pope’s thought with "passages that reflect [the Pontifical Council for] Justice and Peace ideas and approaches that Benedict evidently believed he had to try and accommodate."

Michael Sean Winters, who blogs for NCR Today and for America's blog, In All Things, takes on Weigel today over at America:

Weigel’s essay resembles nothing so much as the Soviet Union’s remakes of movies during its de-Stalinization period. During Stalin’s long reign, cinematic treatments of the Revolution always showed Stalin at Lenin’s side, even when the historical record had him hundreds of miles away. So, during de-Stalinization, rather than re-make the entire movie, the censors would have a soldier enter stage right and in front to obscure the image of Stalin behind. I go too far: Weigel’s effort is actually clumsier than the Soviet re-makes.

Dignity

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At moments, it actually seemed like a church service. It had the tone of a memorial, the hush of a funeral, the respectful feeling of a true farewell. The Jackson Family pulled off something nearly impossible – a larger-than-life ceremony for Michael Jackson that was truly more dignified and grounded than the media circus that surrounded the singer's life and death.

My wife -- a news anchor here in Los Angeles -- was inside the Staples Center to report on the event, and she came away impressed. She said the arena was silent as final preparations were made before the memorial began. People listened respectfully as letters of sympathy were read from international figures like Nelson Mandela.

New encyclical offers a very \"Green\" vision

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On a first reading of Pope Benedict’s new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, I’m struck by the consonance in many of the pope’s statements with the key values of the worldwide Green movement. The Greens have consistently espoused and based their policies on what they call the Ten Key Values (or a summary Four Pillars in the case of some of the world's Green parties). These include such concepts as “community-based economics,” “grassroots democracy,” “decentralization,” “future focus,” “ecological awareness,” "social justice," and more.

These Green ideas, some originating in the writings of economic thinker E. F. Schumacher, are a blueprint for shaping a world economy based on real human values. Similarly, Benedict’s encyclical urges Christian humanism as the basis for a world order.

The subject of development in the world, the encyclical states, is closely related to duties arising from our relationship to the natural environment. “The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole.” This is ecological awareness of the first order.

Maine abuse case can go forward

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The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday that the head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland is not immune from being sued by an Augusta man who alleges he was molested as a boy after the diocese assigned a priest it knew had sexually abused children in the past to a parish in the state capital.

In a 5-2 ruling, the court affirmed that under current law charitable groups such as churches, museums and sports organizations are immune from claims for negligent actions, but it said they are not immune from intentional ones.

The impact of the court's ruling will be felt by every nonprofit organization in the state, a dissenting justice predicted.

The state's high court sent back to Kennebec County Superior Court the question of whether the bishop of the diocese knew that the Fr. Raymond Melville had a history of sexually abusing minors when in 1985 he was assigned to St. Mary Catholic Church and School in Augusta.

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July 18-31, 2014

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