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Health care and the church

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Throughout much of the oft-times misleading and incendiary campaign against health care reform, voices of authority within the church seemed fairly silent. But here in California, there are signs of a shift.

According to the Los Angeles Times, several Southern California religious leaders have begun to speak out in favor of health care reform -- and the need to include illegal immigrants in any plan.

Last week, more than a hundred parishioners from Our Lady of Angels Church launched a phone bank to tell officials of their support for an all-inclusive health reform plan. The parish -- also known as "La Placita" -- has been a center of immigrant activity in Los Angeles for decades. Parish pastor Fr. Roland Lozano, says he began the phone bank because "it's what God wants us to do."

Protestants into Dorothy Day

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I stumbled across a couple of Catholic stories at Duke University's Leadership Education website. Jason Byassee, a former editor at Christian Century magazine and now executive director at Leadership Education, interviews Notre Dame Assistant Professor Margaret Pfeil, who lives in a Catholic Worker house in South Bend.

"We try to welcome people as they are, without necessarily giving them a spiel about who Dorothy Day was. We try to live in a way that makes guests feel comfortable and welcomed," she told Byassee. "We want them to understand that we intend to be a house of hospitality (I’m sure we do this imperfectly, by the way). Hopefully after awhile people begin to feel comfortable and will start asking questions, 'What is this all about? Why are you doing this? Who is this Dorothy Day?'"

Catholics the New Episcopalians

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Some church traditions have a long history of spotlighting "trophy" converts as a means of gaining an edge. Perhaps the most publicized competition has been between Anglicans and Catholics. The defection of John Henry Newman from the Church of England to Rome remains the biggest headline in that tug-of-war.

The reasons why followers of one church jump to another are myriad. As the great sociologist/theologian H. Richard Niebuhr, social and economic factors are among those that have loomed large: in the "Social Sources of Denominationalism" he outlined the upwardly mobile process.

Niebuhr said that American church groups were arranged in a kind of hierarchy of class and prestige. If you began life as a poor person in a fundamentalist church, your education and spunk might lift to you a higher economic group which would, in turn, incline you toward a church that reflected your new status. And so on.

Cardinal Mahony allegedly delayed report of abuse claim

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The Associated Press reports: "A former high-ranking official with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles testified that Cardinal Roger Mahony ordered a subordinate to delay reporting clergy abuse claims to the police until the priest in question could be defrocked, according to court papers filed Friday.

He also decided not to tell parishioners about the allegations, according to the papers.

The claims were contained in a motion filed by plaintiff attorneys in Los Angeles County Superior Court and were based on the recent deposition of former vicar for clergy Monsignor Richard Loomis. A transcript of the deposition was attached."

Pope Benedict announces Middle East synod

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Pope Benedict XVI said on Saturday he planned to summon a special synod of bishops to discuss the Middle East in October next year, the Vatican said in a statement.

He was speaking to Roman Catholic Church leaders from the region at Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence outside Rome, the Vatican said.

"I will not forget the call for peace you have put in my hands ... and my thoughts go firstly to the regions of the Middle East," the statement quoted the pope as saying.

"I am using this occasion therefore to announce the summoning of a synod of bishops for the Middle East which will take place from October 10 to 24."

Catholics Can Learn a Lot from the Dalai Lama

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I was mesmerized by our lead interview on Interfaith Voices this week. My guest was Pico Iyer, a friend of the Dalai Lama for more than 30 years, and the author of a new biography of him called The Open Road: The Global Journal of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

He provides an intimate portrait of this highly learned man, who calls himself a “simple Buddhist monk.” But the Dalai Lama is a philosopher, a lover of science, a leader of the Tibetan community in exile, and a globe-trotting political leader. Yet he finds time to spend at least eight (count ‘em – eight!) hours a day in meditation. And he’d like more.

The American UnPrincipled Project

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We are disposed, in this culture, to defer to expertise, to respect the seriousness of academic credentials, and to accord academics a place of honor and prominence in our political and social discourse. But, it is difficult to do so when academics engage in silliness.

Professor Robert George of Princeton University has begun something he calls the American Principles Project. The website announces its commitment in patriotic platitudes: “The United States of America does not need new principles. It needs renewed fidelity to the principles set forth in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution….If these timeless principles are to be restored and our national commitment to them renewed, then a new voice is needed in American politics, a voice that is unafraid to stand up for what is right and speak out against what is wrong.” Lucky for the future of freedom and democracy that Professor George’s voice is so handy, so we can restore America’s principles, although I confess I was unaware they had been stolen.

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February 27- March 12, 2015

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