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Omaha Archdiocese Bars Student


This story is complicated from a variety of standpoints.

In short, an Omaha couple is allowing their 8-year-old son to openly live life as a girl. It’s a decision that means the child is no longer able to attend Catholic school.

The Archdiocese of Omaha decided that a transgender kid is not welcomed into the succeeding grade: "The child is welcomed to come, but it would not be acceptable to change the child’s gender and present as a girl," said Omaha Archdiocese's Chancellor, the Rev. Joseph Taphorn. Taphorn said having the child attend the school for three years as a boy, and then presenting as a girl would not be a good learning environment for the child or other students. He said school has to be a peaceful, positive environment for everyone. The child will attend a public school in the fall, using her chosen name and wearing a ponytail in her hair."

Holy cards better than aspirin


Brain researchers have explored faith-based pain relief, finding that stimulating a prayerful state of mind in devout Catholics triggers neural processes associated with substantial alleviation from physical pain.

This is according to a report by neuroscientist Katja Wiech of Oxford University in England and her colleagues, the results of which were published in the scientific journal Pain.

“Our data suggest that religious belief alters the brain in a way that changes how a person responds to pain,” said Oxford neuroscientist and study coauthor Irene Tracey.

In the study, church-going Catholics perceived electrical pulses delivered to one hand while viewing an image of Mary as less painful than pulses delivered while looking at a picture with no Catholic context. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) showed a change in these volunteers’ brain activity only while viewing the religious icon.

In the same study, professed atheists and agnostics derived no pain relief from viewing the same religious image as they were prodded painfully on the hand.

An Earth-friendly printer font


Double-sided documents, using recycled paper – both are great ways to make printing more eco-friendly, but neither is a solution to the millions of leaky ink cartridges piling up in landfills each year.

Using Swiss cheese as its inspiration, a Dutch communications agency has invented a font designed to cut down substantially on ink consumption.
The new Ecofont, downloadable for free at the company’s website, appears at small sizes like any other type, but each letter is actually filled with tiny, inkless circles:

The design minimizes ink usage by up to 20 percent, the company claims. But even with a more ink-efficient font, the cartridge will eventually run out. When it does, websites like make it easy – and economical – to keep your used plastic out of the dump.

Vatican study of GMO foods bear watching


A study week on "Transgenic Plants for Food Security in the Context of Development" opened Friday and runs through tomorrow in Rome, sponsored by the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

NCR's senior correspondent John L. Allen, Jr. is reporting on the event for our web site and in the May 29 issue of the newspaper.

I've got a backgrounder, What are GMO foods?, on the issue.

Critics have pointed out that the study week appears to be a totally one-sided campaign to promote genetically modified crops, that featured speakers and panelists are largely spokespeople for big agribusiness corporations.

For more information about the study week, visit the web site of Vatican's Academy of Sciences.

Religious meet: Creation at the Heart of Mission


Catholic religious leaders from around the world gathered last week in Assisi, Italy for a conference aimed at drawing attention to the peril we face by abusing the resources of our planet. The meeting was organized by SEDOS and the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission (JPIC) of the women and men religious superiors. Over 230 religious men and women, including leadership teams of religious institutes participated. They hare Fr. Denis Edwards from Australia and Fr. Seán McDonagh from Ireland address the theme "Creation at the Heart of Mission."

Participants agreed on two actions: An open letter to the members of their religious congregations challenging them to ecological conversion; and a draft of points that could be included in letters to governments or politicians of their countries to take action in halting the destruction of our planet.

More information can be found here.

Hollywood's Holy Week


For at least one week each year, everyone in the television business gets religion.

Starting today, executives from Los Angeles will fly in to New York for the annual “upfronts,” glitzy presentations of the new network fall schedules made in front of the Madison Avenue advertising industry. Throughout Southern California, people are praying. If Hollywood has a holy week, this is it.

For more than a month now, several current shows have lived “on the bubble” – the networks have made it known these lower-rated programs may not survive into the 2009-2010 season. At the same time, dozens of hope-fueled pilots were shot all around town. These past few weeks have been, in some ways, television’s version of spring training: which rookies will make it to the majors? Which veterans will be told it is time to pack it in?

This annual rite is indeed something of a sport for newspapers and entertainment publications. But Holy Week -- solemn and spiritual – seems the better analogy. Thousands of real lives are in the balance; this is a week that has genuine meaning.

An 'A' for Obama


Writing over at America Magazine’s blog, Michael Sean Winters gives President a “C-minus” for his Notre Dame address.

Writes Winters: “Those of us Catholics who have supported President Obama and defended his being awarded this honorary degree … hoped the speech would set the stage for a rapprochement with the Catholic hierarchy, if not with Catholic Republicans who have no interest in seeing a good relationship between the President and the leaders of the Catholic Church develop.” Obama, Winters repeats, “failed to find the language and the logic that might have laid the foundation for building a better relationship with the Catholic hierarchy.”

What conscience dictates


I hope attentive Catholic readers will take the time to consult Judge John Noonan's Laetare address yesterday at Notre Dame's commencement. I greatly admired Father Jenkins' speech, and thought the President's address was wonderful in parts but deficient in others, but Noonan's speech was sublime. The text and a video of his address are here.

Noonan pointed out that there is a difference between conscience and opinion. Everyone may be entitled to their own opinion, but some opinions are wrong. Conscience, too, can be wrongly formed, but as he pointed out as powerfully by his presence as by his prose, well formed consciences can reach different conclusions about many things. A person must always listen to his or her conscience. But, all of us must seek to bring our consciences into line with the demands of truth. People use the word "opinion" in a casual manner, like a set of clothes, something that suits an occasion and can be easily changed. The human conscience is the most formidable created thing in the universe.

Beyond civility, celebration


Thinking about all the possible outcomes of the Notre Dame commencement yesterday, I began to feel more hopeful as I listened to the Sunday gospel reading, a reading I figured most of those who would attend later in the day would also be hearing.

John reminded us of the centrality of being a Christian.

This is what we heard:

Jesus said to his disciples:
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you."
John 15 9-17

Obama's speech at Notre Dame


When a man in the cheap seats near the top of Notre Dame's Joyce Center interrupted President Obama's commencement speech, shouting "Abortion is murder," the crowd boo'd loudly, then errupted into the cheer, "We are ... ND!" To which Obama responded, "We're not going to shy away from things that are uncomfortable."

He didn't.

Obama tackled the controversy surrounding his speech at the Catholic university directly, calling for "fair-minded words" and a "presumption of good faith" to those with whom we disagree. Applause for this line: "Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardships might be relieved." (Read the complete text.)


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September 12-25, 2014


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