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Are the Crusades alive and well?

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Some of you may be following the ongoing scandal about Blackwater, the private contactor that has made billions providing "security services" during the war in Iraq. Among other allegations, Blackwater operatives were accused of the reckless killing of 17 civilians in Baghdad, and The New York Times reports that they were hired by the CIA under the Bush/Cheney regime to run an assassination program against Al Qaeda for the CIA. This was the program that Leon Panetta, CIA Director in the Obama Administration, cancelled immediately when he heard about it.

Catholic Key is Out of Tune Again

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In his address to the Knights of Columbus, Cardinal Francis George called for a renewed commitment to unity among Catholics. “The Church’s unity today is severely strained, as we all know, and alternative Catholicisms are claiming authenticity even sometimes against the Holy Father and bishops,” he said and called for prayers for, and reflection upon, the ways we all can better stitch together the unity that we should enjoy as Catholics Christians.

In a statement on the issue of health care, delivered on the even of his installation as the Archbishop of New Orleans, Archbishop Gregory Aymond had this to say: “Strident or shrill rhetoric does not help us to engage in civil and respectful deliberation about a serious social issue with significant moral implications. God grant us the wisdom to discern what is right and the courage to do it.” The new archbishop’s words were a perfect application of Cardinal George’s call.

The Politics Of Ted Kennedy's Health

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The failing health of Senator Ted Kennedy has begun to take on acute political significance. All during the spring and summer, Kennedy’s presence has been notably missing in the legislative maneuvering on health care reform, an issue to which the Senator has been committed his entire life. Now, he has written to the political leaders in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts asking that they change the current provisions for filling a senatorial vacancy.

Vatican reverses parish closing

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Worshipers at a U.K. church controversially shut by Catholic diocesan authorities, have won an historic ruling from the Vatican that the closure order was "null and void."

Sts. Peter and Paul's church in New Brighton -- known as the "Dome of Home" because it is visible to sailors in Liverpool Bay -- was shut in 2008, despite protests from its parishioners.

The Diocese of Shrewsbury had insisted the church was too expensive to operate and moved services to the Anglican All Saints -- a step which angered many worshippers.

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This Vatican decision will likely serve another purpose: It will be the necessary miracle some blessed soul will need to become a saint!

The hallmark of holiness

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The late Blessed Sacrament Sr. Gloria Davis taught Native American spirituality in the Santa Fe, New Mexico archdiocese for many years. In an interview with her, she told me that her notions about spirituality were first formed as she grew up in her traditional Navajo family.

"I noticed," she said, "that the holy people in our community, the ones we all turned to for spiritual guidance, the ones who conducted the elaborate sings, blessing ceremonies and healing rituals were always the people who had the keenest sense of humor. You could always tell them by the laugh wrinkles around their eyes."

What an idea! The hallmark of holiness here is not a gaunt, hollow-cheeked face or a look of otherworldly serenity, but just a common, garden-variety lively sense of humor. And a sense of humor is chiefly woven of the fabric of life's ups and downs, its absurdities and sorrows, its humdrum everyday, its joys and comic interludes, its tediums, tensions and ironies, its unpredictable encounters and quiet satisfactions.

Some good Jewish friends ... and some of their perspectives

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A postcript on the blog by my colleague, Joe Ferullo, regarding a statement by Alan Dershowitz regarding Justice Scalia on the death penalty posted yesterday on this site.

Have you, too, noticed that some of your Jewish friends follow Catholic morality, based in the church's social teachings, more closely that some Catholics you know?

U.S. poverty numbers rising

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The Associated Press reports that the numbers of poor and uninsured Americans are probably rising, with more than 38.8 million thought now to be in poverty.

Rebecca Blank, the Commerce Department's undersecretary of economic affairs, spoke in advance of next month's release of census data. Blank said the 2008 data will probably show a "statistically significant" increase in the poverty rate, to at least 12.7 percent. That would represent a jump of more than 1.5 million poor people last year.

The number of people who lack health insurance is also expected to increase from the current estimate of 46 million.

Almost 150 countries have signed up to back nuclear treaty

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The total number of countries that have ratified the United Nations-backed Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has inched closer to 150 after Liberia ratified the agreement this week.

In September, US President Barack Obama is scheduled to chair a meeting of the Security Council focusing on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues.

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