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Newman's beatification scheduled


Simon Caldwell of Catholic News Services is reporting that Cardinal John Henry Newman will be beatified in Birmingham, England, May 2. The date and venue have been proposed by the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes and are expected to be accepted soon by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, the source told CNS July 15 on condition of anonymity.

The presidential pitch


One of the "rules" of political campaigns is never have a politician play a public part in a sporting event. They will get booed. This is a particular instance of a greater rule: Know your audience.

Sports fans come to a stadium to watch sports. For some it is merely a fun pastime. For others sports is an escape from the quotidian, a literal "field of dreams" where people can indulge their fantasy of sports' greatness through the power of their imagination. For others, cheering for the home team is part and parcel of local loyalty, as anyone who has been in Red Sox Nation during the playoffs knows. No one, repeat no one, comes to a ball game to see, still less hear from, a politician.

Italy to press UN on compulsory abortions


Yesterday the Italian parliament, currently controlled by center-right parties, approved a resolution introduced by a close friend of the late Pope John Paul II to press the United Nations to condemn the use of compulsory abortions as part of population control programs.

The most commonly cited example of compulsory abortion in the world is usually China, where the country's one-child policy was strictly enforced as recently as the late 1990s, especially in urban areas. More recently, however, declining fertility and rapid aging have induced China to relax the policy somewhat.

From time to time, the prospect of compulsory abortion is floated elsewhere. In 2006, for example, Bulgaria's Minister of Health suggested a policy of mandatory abortions for pregnant girls under 18 who belong to the Roma people, more commonly known as "gypsies." Under pressure from international human rights groups, the idea was abandoned.

Alumni sue to keep school open


The fight over the fate of Towson Catholic High School in Maryland escalated Tuesday when the alumni association filed suit against the school's parish and its pastor over the abrupt closing of the school. The group is seeking an injunction to keep the school open at least another year.

"This closing is a slap in the face to the alumni and to anyone who ever loved this school. We were ready to remedy this through various options, but we could not get the [Baltimore] archdiocese to the table," said alumni association president Paul Mecinski, who announced the lawsuit at a rally last night.

Mark Graber, professor of law and government at the University of Maryland School of Law, has said an injunction might be difficult but is possible, given that many parents had paid their deposits and begun making tuition payments for the new school year.

"If they have put down money, the parents have fulfilled their part of the contract with the school, in the understanding that there is going to be a school," Graber said.

VOTF's financial shortfall


Religion News Service's story about the funding crisis at Catholic reform group, Voice of the Faithful, (Here's the story Tom Roberts filed for us today) quotes Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, which Religion News describes as a "conservative advocacy group":

"They should do the honorable thing and say listen, we hope we have pushed people in the church to change some things. Then they should close up shop."

Lessons learned in a July garden


I picked the last of my bib lettuce last night. It had begun to bolt in the hot July weather. Eating it at lunch today I couldn't help but notice how it was almost bitter and how different the taste is then when I began harvesting the lettuce in May. The first leaves were fragile and sweet. Today’s leaves are tough. And bitter. But still so much better than what we can buy at the supermarket. I realized, too, that eating only commercially grown lettuce I would have missed the change in tastes.

I was prompted to reflect again about the holiness of working a garden. Dare I say that it is sacramental? I feel gratitude while in the garden. I feel connected to something beyond myself. The mystery that is nature. The blessedness of God's creation. (Fellow NCR staffer Rich Heffern writes much more eloquently on this subject.)

These things were on my mine when I came across this essay by Jack Heppner of Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada:

The Price of Sugar


In October 2007, I reviewed a feature-length documentary, "The Price of Sugar." I wrote:

The film informs viewers about human-rights violations that are almost invisible. It inspires and illumines the meaning of Catholic social teaching by showing exactly what it means to put the gospel into practice and empower the poor and stateless. Intriguing, heartbreaking, informative and hopeful; intense. (See: Eye on Entertainment, St. Anthony Messenger).

A year later I wrote a blurb about the film in view of its release on DVD.

Diss a culture at your own risk


Amidst all the coverage of Sonia Sotomayor's first day of confirmation hearings, one sentence jumped out at me. Lynette Oliver, who runs a women’s support group in Puerto Rico, told the Washington Post that she brought a small Puerto Rican flag to wave at the hearing. "I want her to know people from the island are here," she said. Pride in this sense is not a deadly sin.

When John F. Kennedy ran for president, he won the Catholic vote overwhelmingly. (44 years later John Kerry lost the Catholic vote.) When Mike Dukakis ran for president in 1988, Greeks of all political persuasion not only cast their ballots for the first Greek-American nominee, they opened their wallets and kept his campaign coffers filled. African-Americans carried Barack Obama to the Democratic nomination last year. When someone from one's group is breaking through, the tribe rallies round.

A 'perilous experiment' that comes off


Just received a press release from Westminster John Knox Press, the Presbyterian publisher, about the death of an author.

Robert L. Short, acclaimed author of The Gospel according to Peanuts, dies

Louisville, Kentucky -- Robert Short, who pioneered the study of religion through popular culture, passed away on July 6 after a brief illness. He was 76.

Born in Midland, Texas, in 1932, Short is perhaps best known for his landmark first book, The Gospel according to Peanuts. Upon its release in 1965 it became the top nonfiction bestseller in the United States, selling over 10 million copies in 11 languages. It was lauded by The New York Times Book Review as "a 'perilous experiment' that comes off" and earned the admiration and respect of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz. Through his work, Short became a trailblazer for other authors seeking to reveal the sacred in the simplest of places.


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