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Madoff: The pain and suffering of horrific fraud

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This week the prosecutors in the colossal Madoff ponzi scheme case filed 113 victim impact statements. I read them all and admit that after about 20 of them, they began to look, sound and feel the same. The Wall Street Journal blurb on the matter included this paragraph:

"The letters ... range from one paragraph to several pages. Most are personal tales of loss blamed on Mr. Madoff. The story of Morton Chalek of Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., was typical: "I am 86 years old. I have a broken knee, I have lung cancer and thanks to Madoff, I am now bankrupt." A lawyer for Mr. Madoff, Ira Sorkin, declined to comment."

New pro-life Mass wins overwhelming vote by bishops

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In a signal of the U.S. bishops’ strong commitment to the pro-life cause, they approved this morning a text for a new “Mass in Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life.” Among other things,the Mass is to be celebrated each year on Jan. 22, the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

If Jan 22nd falls on a Sunday, the observance will be moved to Jan. 23. The proposal to approve the Mass passed by a vote of 183 to 3 this morning during the bishops' June 17-19 spring meeting.

The text requires approval from the Vatican before it becomes official.

The lone bishop who rose to discuss the "Mass in Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life" was Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, New Mexico, who said that it had long been a "source of wonderment" among his priests that there is no Mass in defense of unborn life.

"We have Masses for fair weather, for earthquakes, for prisoners, but nothing for ending abortion," Sheehan said, urging support of the proposal.

The Lord's Prayer

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"The Lord's Prayer" Matt 6:7-15

Kansas City is a self-proclaimed city of fountains. Perhaps the crown jewel of this claim is the large circular fountain near the Plaza that features horses and other figures frolicking in multiple jets of water. Approached from the west in the early morning, the towering plumes of spray catch the rising sun and magnify it in a rainbow play of light and water. By late afternoon, people will be sitting on the edges with their feet in the fountain or standing in front of it for pictures.

A drastic budget contraction for the city had earlier threatened funding to keep the fountains going. But like swimming pools in the central city as the summer heats up, the human importance of these water works became evident. Fountains lift the spirit. Swimming pools cool the body and tap off frustrations that might go back into the community. We need public signs of vitality to soothe and inspire, bring us together for beauty and comfort.

Bishops endorse immigration reform

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tIn response to a proposal from Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, a longtime advocate for the rights of immigrants, the bishops endorsed a statement in favor of comprehensive immigration reform to be issued in the name of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the bishops’ conference. Mahony urged the conference to speak out in view of signals that congress may be on the brink of addressing the issue.

tGeorge’s statement, adopted by voice vote Thursday morning, urged President Barack Obama and congressional leaders to adopt comprehensive immigration reform by the end of 2009.

t“We respect all just laws, and do not encourage the entry of illegal immigrants into our country,” George’s letter said. “But from a humanitarian perspective, we support our fellow human beings … who suffer from policies that separate them from their families and drive them into remote corners of the American desert, sometimes to their deaths.”

Bishops gear up to oppose same-sex marriage

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Facing a growing political ferment across America around same-sex marriage, including six states that have recognized homosexual marriage and others that have adopted domestic partnership acts, the U.S. bishops this afternoon pondered how to get out their message in defense of traditional heterosexual marriage.

tThe Ad-Hoc Committee in Defense of Marriage presented four key points the bishops hope to make:

•tMarriage is inherently related to the sexual difference between men and women.
•tMarriage is ordered to the good of children. (“A culture that welcomes the child is a culture that welcomes hope,” said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the ad-hoc committee.)
•tMarriage by its nature is restricted to one man and one woman, and saying so is not a matter of unjust discrimination. (“The church deplores all violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, but to treat marriage differently is not unjust discrimination,” Kurtz said. “It stems from the nature of marriage itself, and the state has a positive duty to uphold this fundamental institution.”)

Bishops hear update on Latin American drive to rev up missionary efforts

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Though it’s a point sometimes lost in American Catholic debate, the roughly seventy million Catholics in the United States represent just six percent of the global Catholic population of almost 1.2 billion. That would seem to imply the need for some attention to Catholic dynamics outside American airspace, and today the U.S. bishops made a nod in that direction, hearing a report on the 2007 assembly of the Latin American bishops in Aparecida, Brazil.

Archbishop Roberto Nieves Gonzalez of San Juan, Puerto Rico, tried to sum up the main points of the month-long gathering during an afternoon address to the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops in San Antonio, Texas.

Nieves covered a lot of ground, but he suggested that the lasting importance of Aparecida, the fifth general gathering of Latin American bishops since 1955, may be its missionary thrust. In their concluding document, the Latin American bishops suggested that the entire Christian life can be understood in terms of being a “disciple missionary.”

The signature idea of Aparecida was the “Great Continental Mission,” meaning a coordinated continent-wide missionary effort unfolding at the diocesan level.

Lay group asks bishops to tackle economic crisis

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The lone formal channel of input for lay Catholics to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recommended today that the bishops tackle the current economic crisis, addressing issues such as homelessness, health care, and unemployment.

t“There’s a strong consensus that [the crisis] touches and impacts all people and every Catholic in some way,” said Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, speaking on behalf of the National Advisory Council.

tMembership of the council includes bishops, men and women religious, diocesan priests, deacons and lay persons, and is designed as a way for Catholics at the grassroots to comment on the work of the bishops' conference. The most numerous group (30 members) is comprised of lay men and women, appointed by the bishops, representing different geographic regions.

tWester told the bishops this afternoon that because the conference is taking up fewer documents these days, the council has had time to ponder issues that aren’t part of the formal USCCB agenda. Their recommendation on the economic crisis is one fruit of that effort.

Bishops to speak on immigration reform

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At the beginning of their spring meeting in San Antonio, the U.S. bishops decided to wade into the national debate over immigration reform. Either this afternoon or tomorrow morning, the bishops will vote on a statement from Cardinal Francis George, president of the USCCB, addressed to President Barack Obama and the members of Congress.

Immigration was not part of the prepared agenda for the meeting, but during the first session this afternoon, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles proposed adding a statement from George to the agenda.

"We're meeting in Texas, which is a very important state in the immigration debate," Mahony said, proposing that George make a statement as lawmakers in Washington "undertake immigration reform, which is supposed to get underway next week."

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