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Picking blackberries: an adventure in simple living


It all started in the blackberry patch. One hot July day when I was a kid growing up in Missouri I was taken to an overgrown pasture outside of town where gallons of this delicious wild fruit hung, free for the taking, on thorn-bristling vines that drooped heavily toward the earth. We filled our pails with berries until our hands were stained dark blue and hauled them home to use in pies, cobblers, and for homemade ice cream.

I can remember being spellbound beyond all reason, delighted and pleased that the local countryside had provided this bounteous harvest without any sowing or cultivation on my part, but just by means of its unheeded daily comings and goings: the spring rains had fallen, the June sunshine happened. On those long July afternoons the fruit had ripened while the meadowlarks sang and the bluebirds warbled nearby.

I have never forgotten the lesson of those pastures, long since gone to shopping malls. The Earth takes care of us. She provides a pantry from which we draw our daily sustenance.

The Quiverfull Movement: promoting Christian patriarchy


This past week on Interfaith Voices, we looked at the Quiverfull Christian Movement. The name comes from the "quiver," the container in which an archer keeps arrows. And it draws on a quotation in Psalm 132: "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." This gives it both a sexist and violent context.

This movement actually promotes patriarchy, the total subjugation of women to men, and objects to any kind of family planning, even natural family planning (and we thought the Catholic Church had problems!) Movement adherents believe that children are the ultimate blessing from God -- and push for large families, very large families, like the Duggers on the TLC reality show with their 18 children.

But, as the author who has studied this movement, Kathryn Joyce, points out, the Duggers have money. In many of the families in this movement, poverty is the norm.

'Catholic progressives like this one'


Hat tip to Dan Burke over at Religion News Service for his comments and assembly of reactions to the new papal encyclical.

He writes: "Reaction to Pope Benedict XVI's long-awaited social encyclical 'Caritas in Veritate,' is starting to pour in. In it, Benedict calls for a reformed United Nations with policing power and a new financial world order to enforce business ethics. ... Already, Catholic progressives are embracing the document."

Encyclical tosses aside left and right


Pope Benedict's social encyclical shows, among other things, just how unhelpful the classic left v. right classifications are when assessing the state of contemporary church teaching. We use the terms, and we more or less know what they mean. I speak from the left. George Weigel and Michael Novak speak from the right. But, the dominant thought coming from the pope does not fit easily into those classifications. The interesting debate is not between left and right but between the "Communio" school and both the left and the right.

Vatican deficit blamed on 'global crisis'


With all the buzz over the meta-economic story, Benedict XVI's encyclical and the global economy, you might have missed the micro-economic story: Vatican City reports $22 million deficit. Vatican City is the secular state.

News was a bit brighter for the Holy See, the episcopal jurisdiction of the pope, reported a loss of merely $1.3 million, down from $14 million in 2007.

World's oldest Bible digitized


The surviving pages of the world's oldest Bible have been reunited -- digitally. The early work known as the Codex Sinaiticus has been housed in four separate locations across the world for more than 150 years. But starting Monday, it became available for perusal on the Web at so scholars and other readers can get a closer look at what the British Library calls a "unique treasure."

Pope proposes a 'Christian humanism' for the global economy


New encyclical on the economy offers something for both the political left and right to cheer … and something to be grumpy about


tBlending a call for increased aid to developing nations, support for global governance with “real teeth,” alarm at the “unregulated exploitation” of the environment, and staunch opposition to population control programs, Pope Benedict XVI today sketched what he called a “Christian humanism” for the globalized age in his long-awaited social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”).

tTo be sustainable, Benedict argues, economic policies must be rooted in a comprehensive vision of human welfare, including spirituality – as opposed to a “technocratic” approach, or one driven by “private interests and the logic of power.”

tThe pope rejects a laissez-faire economic philosophy which would treat the market as largely free-standing. Benedict specifically brushes off the idea that the economy has an in-built “quota” of poverty and underdevelopment required to function successfully.

Indiana firm can claim a papal thumbs-up from new social encyclical



tThough the Vatican typically is loathe to put the pope in the position of endorsing a commercial product, in effect a papal thumbs-up is precisely what Mundell & Associates, an environmental consulting firm in Indianapolis, Indiana, can claim from Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI’s new social encyclical.

tFounded in 1995, Mundell & Associates is a 20-person firm specializing in environmental clean-up and design; for example, it’s currently helping Ball State University convert its entire campus to geothermal energy. Directed by a Catholic couple, Mundell & Associates is also part of the “economy of communion” network of businesses linked to the Focolare movement.

The “economy of communion” was cited by Benedict XVI as a promising form of intermediate activity between for-profit business and classic non-profit institutions, rupturing what the pope called an “exclusively binary model of market-plus-state” which is “corrosive of society.”

tThat papal seal of approval should give “great credibility” to enterprises such as his own, said John Mundell, founder of Mundell & Associates, in a July 6 telephone interview.


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