National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

People

Why is it so hard to do religion in prime time?

 | 

Many TV network executives, advertisers and producers would sell their souls to get the kind of audience God has. But giving religion a starring role in prime time? Not so much.

Religion, God and spirituality have made cameos across the dial from "The Sopranos" to "The Simpsons" -- though usually as a prop or walk-on role. But shows where religion is a central part of the premise are rare, and the ratings are generally far from heavenly.

Doctor who championed 'death with dignity' dies at 83

 | 

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Peter Goodwin, the first doctor in Oregon to campaign publicly for the terminally ill to obtain medical help in ending their lives, died shortly after exercising the right he fought to secure. He was 83.

Goodwin's four adult children and their spouses surrounded him in his apartment when he took a planned overdose of a prescribed drug Sunday.

He died less than 30 minutes later, said Steve Hopcraft, a spokesman for Compassion & Choices of Oregon.

Goodwin, a retired professor of family medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, was diagnosed six years ago with a rare neurological disorder called corticobasal ganglionic degeneration, which is similar to Parkinson's disease but has no treatment or cure.

He spent his last weeks talking on the phone with friends and accepting brief visits from longtime comrades. He said the Death with Dignity Act was his most significant public legacy because passage prodded medicine to improve palliative and hospice care of the dying.

Friends praised Goodwin as a brave public figure who took up a cause that in the early 1980s drew fierce criticism from Oregon's doctors, clergy and politicians.

Priest who denied lesbian woman Communion suspended for other reasons

 | 

GAITHERSBURG, Md. -- Two weeks after Fr. Marcel Guarnizo reportedly denied Communion to a lesbian woman at her mother's funeral, the Washington Archdiocese suspended him from priestly ministry -- but for other reasons, said Fr. Thomas LaHood, pastor of St. John Neumann Church in Gaithersburg, where Guarnizo had been parochial vicar for the past year.

Privacy concerns grow as more websites monitor Americans' online lives

WASHINGTON -- In the space of one month, the conversation about life online swiveled from "stop online piracy" to "stop online privacy."

In January, many of the top online websites banded together to fight a bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act. Some even intentionally went dark for a day, strongly hinting to Web users that the online future could be similarly bleak. Key members of the House, including some of the bill's sponsors, got the message loud and clear and shelved the bill without bringing it to a vote.

County coroner: Cardinal Bevilacqua died of natural causes

PHILADELPHIA -- Suspicion surrounding the death of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, former archbishop of Philadelphia, has been laid to rest with a Thursday coroner's report that he died of natural causes Jan. 31 at St. Charles Seminary in Wynnewood.

"Elderly people with pre-existent natural disease often die quite suddenly," Montgomery County Coroner Walter I. Hofman said Thursday at news conference at his office in Norristown.

Bevilacqua, 88, had been living at the seminary since his retirement in 2003.

Hofman said the cardinal had received excellent care for prostate cancer and dementia, and toxicology tests revealed normal levels of medications to treat the conditions.

He added that cancer had contributed to heart failure, which was the official cause of death.

"The coroner confirmed that Cardinal Bevilacqua was ailing, taking multiple prescription medications, and he died of natural causes," said Donna Farrell, archdiocesan communications director, who spoke Thursday at a press briefing at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Philadelphia. "It is what we believed and knew in our hearts all along, and this speculation can finally be laid to rest."

Maryknoll votes on Bourgeois' dismissal from order

 | 

The leadership of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers has voted on whether they will dismiss from the order Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a longtime peace activist who has come under scrutiny for his support of women's ordination.

While the outcome and timing of the vote is unclear, the order's communications manager confirmed with NCR on Wednesday it had taken place.

After losing school job, gay teacher loses church job

FLORISSANT, Mo. -- A Catholic school music teacher who was fired after church officials learned he planned to marry his male partner has been fired from his other job as a music director at a suburban Catholic church.

Al Fischer, 46, was told by a priest at St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Catholic Church in Florissant that he could no longer work as one of the parish's part-time music directors, a paid position he's held for several years, according to Fischer's partner, Charlie Robin.

The reason given by the priest, according to Robin, was that Fischer's firing and pending marriage had become "too public of an issue." The pastor at St. Rose could not be reached for comment.

Fischer declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of St. Louis said in an email that Fischer "was relieved of his duties [at St. Rose] when he publicly demonstrated a life inconsistent with Catholic teaching."

Priest who inspired Cesar Chavez dies at age 88

 | 

Fr. Donald McDonnell, who introduced the young Cesar Chavez to social justice and the principles of nonviolence, died Feb. 20 in California at the age of 88. Representatives of the United Farm Workers, which Chavez founded more than a decade after meeting McDonnell, were among the mourners at the priest's Feb. 25 funeral at Saint Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco.

The two men became close friends in the early 1950s, when Father McDonnell came to the impoverished east San Jose barrio of Sal Si Puedes ("Get Out If You Can") to establish a ministry among the Hispanic population. Chavez and his wife were among the priest's first parishioners of what would later become Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in San Jose. Chavez drove the priest to farm worker camps to say Mass and accompanied him to local prisons.

"Cesar Chavez tried to live the gospels and the social teachings of his Catholic faith every day, but his career dedicated to service to others all began with the lessons he learned early in life from Father McDonnell," said Arturo Rodriguez, Chavez's successor as president of the United Farm Workers.

Longtime peace activist says her health is on the decline

 | 

In an email to friends, longtime peace activist Sacred Heart Sr. Anne Montgomery said her physical health is deteriorating and that she would no longer be able to tolerate the chemotherapy treatments she has been receiving.

The chemo "seemed to be helping," Montgomery wrote in her email Friday, "but last weekend I had breathing problems and tests showed a lung full of fluid and that continuing any chemo, etc. would not help."

Montgomery, who has spent years in jail and prison for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, mostly against nuclear weapons, joined Josephite Fr. Philip Berrigan, his brother, Jesuit Fr. Daniel Berrigan, and five others for the first Plowshares action Sept. 9, 1980, when the eight activists (the Plowshares 8) entered a General Electric weapons plant in King of Prussia, Pa., and used carpenter's hammers to disarm two nose cones on a Mark 12A nuclear warhead.

In 2011, Montgomery received a two-month federal prison sentence for her role with members of Disarm Now Plowshares, who entered a weapons facility in Washington state Nov. 2, 2009.

Communion denied, grieving deprived for woman spurned at funeral Mass

 | 

COLUMN

"I'm her partner."

Those are the only words Fr. Marcel Guarnizo of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md., needed to hear. Those are the only words he used to inform his conscience, to base his decision to deny Communion to a grieving woman at her mother's funeral.

By now, the story has been widely reported. Barbara Johnson, a Washington, D.C.-area Catholic, had come to St. John Neumann's on Saturday for the funeral Mass. After learning that morning that Johnson lived with her female partner of 20 years, Guarnizo put his hands over the communion platter and did not let Johnson partake.

But, in a compelling phone interview Wednesday, Johnson said the denial was just the climax of a series of unfortunate and uncompassionate events surrounding her mother's funeral.

In the weeks and months leading up to her mother's death, Johnson, who was raised Catholic and has attended and taught at Catholic schools, said she was virtually unaware of the fight for same-sex marriage in her home state of Maryland, which is set to legalize the practice this week following the state senate's Feb. 23 approval.

Pages

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

August 15-28, 2014

08-15-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.