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Democracy is sometimes raucous

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The shouting down of senators and congressmen at town hall meetings convoked to discuss health care is not an entirely bad thing. After all, American democracy has never been as sublime an exercise as people like to think. Those who bend their knee at the mention of the founders would do well to acquaint themselves with the election of 1800. Two candidates with unimpeachable credentials as founders, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, were pitted against each other in a contest that attained high levels of vitriol. Democracy is not, per se, less effective because it is a bit raucous.

Slump strains church finances as need grows

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Houses of worship and faith communities across the country are cutting budgets and staff and at the same time are being pulled to do more, according to this Wall Street Journal story:

Across the country, congregations of all sizes and denominations are struggling with issues of faith and finance as the recession grinds on. Churches are scouring their budgets for wasteful spending. And many, like Bent Tree, have taken the unusual step of reducing staff.

While the collection plate no longer overflows, churches are seeing an increase in requests for support -- be it for spiritual guidance, monetary help or career advice. And religious leaders have the added task of explaining job losses and pay cuts in spiritual terms.

Churches, synagogues and mosques have historically fared reasonably well during recessions, even as other institutions struggled. But the magnitude of the current downturn has caught up with places of worship, too.

LCWR raises $7 million to assist New Orleans needy

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Under twin investigations from the Vatican, U.S. women religious leaders from around the nation have gathered in New Orleans for the three-day conference of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The Vatican has called for twin investigations of the women, one of the leadership conference itself and the other of women religious communities. But instead of focusing on these investigations, the top agenda item on the first day of the gathering has been to board some 250 women on buses (they ran out of buses) to set off to visit the work of rebuilding the city that has been made possible by money raised by women in conjunction with Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA).

The ghost of Tom Joad

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Yesterday I blogged about a video "Scraping By: Portraits of Life during the Great Recession," by filmmaker Stewart Thorndike, which documents a tent city for the homeless and unemployed on the grounds of St Jude's Catholic Church in Redmond, Wash.

"Shades of Tom Joad," commented frequent visitor to this site, Frère charles du désert OSB OBLAT (Congrégation de Subiaco) (not verified). The phrase "shades of Tom Joad" seemed familiar to me, so I googled it and was rewarded with a YouTube video of Bruce Springsteen singing: "The Ghost Of Tom Joad." (I can link to it, but unfortuantely permission to embedded it to other sites is restrecited.)

On that YouTube page is a comment by MrCopperhead1861 that is worth reading: "This was just played on a TV special for Pete Seger, granted, I'm not a fan, but when Bruce sang it, [it] was from his soul. It's scary to think this was written when I was a kindergartner and it seems more relevant now than then as our country moves toward the unknown."

Elected neediness

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Our modern culture has taught us that dependency on others, the need for friendship and community, are signs of weakness. Just think of one very popular cultural icon that we all grew up with -- those characters Clint Eastwood has always played in films (either the Man with No Name or Dirty Harry). Tough, flinty-eyed, hard-jawed independent men, they would single-handedly restore order to one of our crime-afflicted communities and then ride off alone just before the closing credits, while the rest of us clutched each other in wimpy embraces.

Cut your daily water usage in half easily

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Last year, UNICEF announced that humans need about five gallons of clean water a day to survive.

In the United States, we can easily use 400 gallons per household, per day — two to three times as much water as other developed nations. With landscape irrigation estimated at more than 7 billion gallons per day, the per capita numbers get even crazier. Why? Much of our waste stems from unsustainable planning and policies, and a deep sense of entitlement: We deserve it, so it must happen.

Remembering Eunice Shriver

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News media every where are reporting that Eunice Kennedy Shriver, younger sister of President John F. Kennedy and founder of the Special Olympics, died this morning. She was 88.

NCR columnist Coleman McCarthy wrote about Shriver in 2007. The usually curmudgeonly McCarthy began his column: "Whenever I've been with Eunice Kennedy Shriver, I've always come away thinking, 'I must become a better person.' "

Here is McCarthy's 2007 column: Energetic champion for the disabled.

'Hollywood Animal' to do Guadalupe movie

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In a news story that contained, not one, but two groan-inducing puns, the Hollywood Reporter announced last week that screenwriter and director Joe Eszterhas is planning a movie on Our Lady of Guadalupe."He may have sanded his jagged edge, but Joe Eszterhas still, apparently, has the basic instinct," the story joked, in reference to two of Eszterhas' movies, "Jagged Edge" and "Basic Instinct."

Like I said, groan.

The Hungarian-born Eszterhas abandoned the sex, drugs and greed of Hollywood for a quiet family life in Ohio and a return to his Catholic faith after a bout with throat cancer a few years ago. He describes his former life in his first memoir, Hollywood Animal, and his conversion in his second, Crossbearer.

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September 26-October 9, 2014

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