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Hollywood-Catholic truce broken?

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Just when we thought that "Angels & Demons" had called a truce in the battle between Catholics and Hollywood, a new front has been established.

Screen Gems, part of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group and Sony Pictures Entertainment, has announced it is working on "Priest," about a rogue, "warrior" priest in a future world ravaged by centuries of war between humans and vampires. The film is based on the Korean comic book series of the same name created by Hyung Min-woo.

Starring are Paul Bettany (You may remember him as Silas in "The Da Vinci Code." I remember him as Geoffrey Chaucer in "A Knight's Tale.") as warrior priest Ivan Isaacs, and Cam Gigandet (who played a vampire in that other vampire movie, "Twilight") as a half-human, half-vampire sheriff. The two team-up to save Gena (not yet cast), Bettany's niece and Gigandet's girl friend.

The film is in pre-production. A late summer 2010 release is expected. Stay tuned for culture war fall out.

Keep same sex-marriage issue in the legislatures

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The New York Times today lambastes the Obama administration for failing to try and overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which held that the federal government would only recognize the marriages of one man and one woman. DOMA also kept states from having to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states that permit them.

The Times was especially upset that the Obama administration brief cited laws barring states from having to recognize marriages between relatives. The Times failed to note that the oddity here is that consanguinity is not much of a problem when assessing same-sex unions. But, then again, legal analogies, like other analogies, are never exact so the Times editorial board should calm down.

Berry memorial in New York City in Sept.

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All are invited to an award ceremony and memorial service to be held Sept. 26 in New York City in honor of Fr. Thomas Berry who died on June 1:

Thomas Berry who passed away on June 1st is being remembered in many places across North America and around the world. So many messagesare coming in with words of deep appreciation for this remarkable teacher, writer, and sage.

Thus we are pleased to invite you to join us for the Thomas Berry Award and Memorial Service on Saturday, September 26th 2009 at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City. For many years the Cathedral has held a special place in the religious and cultural life of New York. Thomas Berry was a canon there and he was a major inspiration for the Cathedral's long standing concern for the environment. We are delighted that Dean James Kowalski is welcoming this event with great enthusiasm.

Get out of marriage business altogether

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One interesting response to California's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 seems to be gaining traction: encouraging the state to get out of the "marriage" business altogether. In an Op-Ed article in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times, Catholic writer and Pepperdine University law professor Douglas Kmiec argues that would be a win-win for everyone in the contentious same-sex marriage debate.

Beware the 'business as usual' mindset

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I was recently asked to consider the question: What should we as "church" be telling our parishioners about their devastated financial condition? This gut-wrenching and depressing matter requires more than the usual platitudes and spiritual maxims. It needs hard thinking, feet-on-the-ground analysis. But where does one find such insights?

One good source is Mohamed El-Erian, the chief executive and co-chief investment officer of Pimco, a world class fixed income asset management firm. El-Erian's book When Markets Collide won the 2008 FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year.

Bill Gross is a well-known strategist and someone worth reading on a regular basis. Here's his June 2009 analysis.

El-Erian wrote in today's Financial Times about a framwork for thinking about the future. It is a summary of a longer talk that he recently gave.

Be perfect ...

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"Be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matt 5:48

This is one of the most enigmatic sayings in the Sermon on the Mount. What is perfection?

Greek architecture and sculpture expresses conformity with underlying laws of proportion pleasing to the eye and satisfying to the mind's need for completion, fulfillment.

Jesus offers a more mysterious notion of wholeness, applying it to God's capacity to hold everything, even contradictory qualities together. God's wholeness encompasses both good and evil, his friends and his enemies. God's love is unconditional, and to be perfect as God is perfect, so must our love also be unconditional.

In the postcript to her 1952 autobiography, Dorothy Day captures the human striving toward wholeness in the following words: "We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community."

Prop 8: the controversy continues

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Researchers will tell you: it takes a lot to stir American Catholics out of their pews and into engagement with their church and parish. Most people are content to sit through Mass, grab a donut on the way out, and get moving with their Sunday.

One hot topic changed all that on a Sunday last November in my Southern California parish: the battle over Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage ballot initiative supported by the Catholic Church and eventually approved by voters.

First a little recent news: the Los Angeles Times noted in an editorial that Prop. 8 continues to divide the state. The locus of that lingering anger is state now Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George -- who's had the poor luck to rule both in favor and against single-sex marriage.

Early last year, George ruled legislators couldn't ban same-sex marriage on their own. But when voters did just that via the ballot, George then sided with them -- ruling the will of the people should not be overturned by court fiat. So now both sides in the debate are going after him.

NCR Coverage of US Bishops Meeting in San Antonio

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The US Bishops meet this week in San Antonio. NCR Senior Correspondent John Allen will be there and blogging about the meeting here at NCR Today. The public sessions of the gathering take place Wednesday and Thursday.

Below is the agenda for the meeting distributed by the bishops' conference. There is some speculation that the meeting will be a venue for the bishops' to discuss the controversy over President Obama's speech last month at Notre Dame. Whether any of that conversation takes place in public, however, is not at all clear.

Here's the agenda, from an April press release:

Charities staffs cut up to 40%

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With Catholic Charities offices across the country experiencing unprecendent demand for their services -- food, housing, health care and employment aid -- they are also facing unprecedendted cuts in funding, accoring to a media release from Catholic Charities USA.

The release, "Government Must Not Balance Budget on the Backs of the Poor", says:

"Catholic Charities agencies are scaling back programs and laying off the [peopel] who serve those most in need. In some cases the lay-offs will rise as high as 40% of paid workforce, catapulting more workers into the long lines who stand in need of help."

In an open letter to goverment officials at all levels, Fr. Larry Synders, president of Catholic Charities USA, warns that "proposed and unprecedented cuts to programs that provide minimal, but essential, services to the country’s poor and most vulnerable are leaving these people with no hope for safety net services."

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