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Unformed future

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In Search of the Emerging Church

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- When Shane Claiborne hops to the podium in the meeting room at the Hotel Albuquerque, he looks as stylistically unbounded as his spiritual quest that’s outlined on a bio sheet. He’s long and lanky with a goatee. He looks bookish in dark-rimmed glasses, his thin face framed by dreadlocks held in place by a handkerchief bandana. He projects a kind of urban underbelly chic with an accent as pure as the early days of NASCAR.

He is a product of East Tennessee Protestant evangelical Christianity transplanted to the Northeast, where he engages in a robust version of Catholic Worker-type community, advocating for the poor and for nonviolent solutions to problems.

Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr speaks of him as a gifted “third-way person.” In the context of the conference on emerging Christianity he is about to address, he serves as a bridge, and a personification of one version of what might be arising out of what is.

$400K donated for Episcopal gay liturgies

A Michigan-based gay rights foundation has given more than $400,000 to a California seminary to help craft formal liturgies for the Episcopal Church to bless gay and lesbian relationships.

The Episcopal Church still officially considers marriage between a man and a woman, reflected in the marriage rite of its Book of Common Prayer. Many dioceses, however, unofficially allow priests to bless same-sex relationships and even marriages.

A Hawaiian-style 'road map'

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When Bishop Larry Silva returned in 2005 to Honolulu, his birthplace, he knew instinct­ively that he needed a map. But it wasn’t the physical geography of the 6,500-mile, 66-parish diocese serving the state’s six major islands that puzzled the church’s new leader. Rather, Silva needed a strategic plan to help guide the future of this statewide church, which is expected to grow by more than one-third over the next 20 years.

Bishops' doctrinal committee looks at abortion case

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The U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine in a June 23 statement discussed the distinction between the church's definitions of a direct abortion and a legitimate medical procedure that could result in an indirect abortion.

The committee's statement, which was provided to all of the bishops, came in response to an evolving debate among ethicists and theologians over the excommunication of Mercy Sister Margaret Mary McBride and her subsequent reassignment at a Phoenix Catholic hospital after news surfaced in May about her role in a decision to let an abortion take place there in late 2009.

A copy of the statement was released to Catholic News Service.

The wide-ranging debate has focused on whether the decision by the ethics committee at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center that an abortion could proceed in the case of a gravely ill pregnant woman was a direct abortion or an indirect abortion that resulted from performing a legitimate medical procedure to save her life.

The woman was 11 weeks pregnant and suffered from pulmonary hypertension, a condition the hospital said carried a near-certain risk of death for the mother if the pregnancy continued.

The meaning of a Cristo Rey high school graduation

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KANSAS CITY, MO. -- With proud parents looking on, their cameras clicking, 60 once unlikely high school graduates eagerly grabbed their diplomas at a ceremony here June 4. As they did, they gave strong affirmation to a novel and still relatively new model of Catholic education.

Cristo Rey, located in the heart of this city, is a Jesuit-inspired, Catholic-operated and community-backed high school and this month it graduated its first senior class.

“Look forward to the future that is yet to be,” the goal-oriented Charity Sr. Vickie Perkins told a beaming graduating class. It would be the last time the students would hear her well-worn encouragement before heading on to college.

For four years the students of Cristo Rey listened to Perkins as she talked about their futures, careers they were carving out day by day by staying faithful to goals they had set for themselves with her encouragement.

This graduation event was special for several reasons:


  • It was memorable for teary-eyed parents who had never had the opportunities their children now have.

Gray areas of excommunication

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Analysis

Editor’s note: NCR editor at large Tom Roberts in the June 11 issue looked at the case of Mercy Sr. Margaret Mary McBride through the lens of Catholic ethicists. This week NCR Washington correspondent Jerry Filteau examines it through the lens of Catholic canon lawyers.

On May 14 Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix issued a statement saying that Mercy Sr. Margaret Mary McBride, the highest-ranking member of her order at Mercy-run St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, was “automatically excommunicated” because as head of the hospital’s ethics committee she approved an abortion to save the mother’s life.

Was she really excommunicated?

One nationally prominent canon lawyer in Washington said no when contacted by NCR. Another said the case in question has many gray areas that would cause him at least to question whether an excommunication had been merited or incurred. A third, who teaches at a seminary in Detroit, said definitely yes, McBride was excommunicated for her actions.

Bishop says new Mass likely in late 2011

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (RNS) A historic change in the way Roman Catholics participate in Mass will likely begin Nov. 27, 2011, according to an Illinois bishop who's been active in preparing for the changes.

Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville, Ill., a former member of the U.S. bishops' liturgy committee, said the official date for the introduction of the new Roman Missal had not yet been set, but “it is very possible, however, that the date will be the First Sunday of Advent 2011.”

The Roman Missal is the ritual text of prayers and instructions for the Catholic Mass. Many of the changes involve parts of the Mass in which the laity respond to prayers said by the priest.

The changes will affect some of the most recognizable parts of the liturgy. That includes the familiar greeting and sign-of-peace response, “and also with you,” which will become “and with your spirit.” Changes to the Nicene and Apostles' creeds have also been made.

Other church officials agreed that because Nov. 27, 2011, is the beginning of the liturgical year, it's a natural date to launch the new missal.

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