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A map to the future church

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Part of the "In Search of the Emerging Church" series

She is listed on one Web site as belonging to a "set of people" who "are unfortunately acting like JUDAS -- Just Undermine Doctrine And Spirituality," the designation complete with garish red upper case letters.

OK, so it's not difficult to find off-the-wall extremes in the Catholic ether, and Sr. Christine Schenk, executive director of FutureChurch, is somewhat accustomed to being depicted, in her words, as heir to "the bad girl of the Bible."

All of that, however, may say more about how deeply invested we are these days in caricature rather than truth about such matters. In most cases the reality -- conservative to liberal -- is usually less jagged around the edges and more complex than the opposing side would like to think.

In the case of Schenk, the sound bite composite of what she's about -- ordain married men, ordain women, solve the priest shortage -- is as unfair as it is easy to construct.

Living with Down's

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BETHESDA, MD. -- Haydee De Paula remembers the day her son, Ramon, then in elementary school, made up a song about the good things in his life. Moved by his words, she stopped cooking and grabbed a pen and paper to write it all down.

“He thanked God he was alive, playing on his guitar,” Haydee, 59, remembers. She thought, “My God -- how beautiful.”

Deacon healed, clears way for Newman beatification

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI signed the decree recognizing as miraculous the healing of a U.S. deacon, which clears the way for the beatification of British Cardinal John Henry Newman.

While the Vatican announced July 3 that the decree had been signed, it did not provide information about when Cardinal Newman would be beatified or where the ceremony would be held.

Common Ground Initiative honors Sr. Carol Keehan

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The Catholic Common Ground Initiative presented its annual Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Award June 26 to Sr. Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association.

Keehan was selected because of "her extraordinary contributions to creating common ground between church leaders and government officials, organized labor and Catholic health care providers, the rich and the poor," according to the citation presented to her.

Iranian-born actress to highlight stoning death

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PHILADELPHIA

When Iranian-born actress Shohreh Aghdashloo was asked by co-director Cyrus Nowrasteh to consider the lead role in the movie "The Stoning of Soraya M.," her immediate reaction was, "I've been waiting for this for 20 years."

The film, which is being released June 26, is based on the barbaric 1986 execution of an Iranian mother on false charges of adultery orchestrated by a cruel husband intent on marrying a young girl and assisted by a corrupt mullah. The two whip the men of the village into a frenzy resulting in the graphically depicted execution.

The stoning scene is certainly graphic, but Aghdashloo noted, "It only lasts six minutes. I have seen a tape of a real stoning and it took an hour and a half."

Aghdashloo plays Zahra, the victim's courageous aunt who, in a relentless pursuit of justice, gives an account of the case to a French-Iranian journalist, Freidoune Sahebjam (Jim Caviezel, who portrayed Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ"). The journalist wrote a best-selling book of the same title as the movie.

Hell-raiser in a collar wins fight for parish

CLEVELAND

He is this city's rebel priest, a hell-raiser in a collar who broke laws to protest the immoralities of war, racism and poverty. He took on the government, the military, the weapons industry and the Catholic Church. He destroyed property, was jailed, suspended from the priesthood and targeted by the FBI.

That was 40 years ago, when Fr. Bob Begin first took his vision of Christianity to the streets.

Today, at age 71, he appears calm and contemplative -- a far cry from the angry young man who splattered blood inside Dow Chemical's corporate offices and hijacked St. John's Cathedral to protest the Vietnam War.

The white-haired, bearded Begin, now pastor of a socially conscious urban church, has the bearing of a distinguished sage, not a bullhorn militant. But the fire that drove him in his younger days burns with the same intensity.

And Begin still fights the good fight. "It's who I am," he said in an interview. "It doesn't go away."

Neuhaus' first and last things

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AMERICAN BABYLON: NOTES OF A CHRISTIAN IN EXILE
By Richard John Neuhaus
Published by Basic Books, $16.95

Soon after Fr. Richard John Neuhaus died in January, encomiums for his life and work appeared in this country’s top conservative newspapers and periodicals. Obituaries and assessments appeared also in journals that bore the brunt of his sardonic, scathing, at times unfair attacks, including the National Catholic Reporter.

This was not surprising, for even those who disagreed with him had to admit that Neuhaus made his mark, whether as a youthful civil rights advocate and opponent of the Vietnam War or, in more recent years, as founder of the Institute for Religion in Public Life and its signature journal, First Things.

Many commentators describe his career as a journey from left to right; as an abandonment of, or recovery from (depending on the viewpoint), his 1960s-style liberalism to an embrace of 1980s-style neoconservativism. Such plot lines obscure the extent to which Neuhaus propounded the same basic themes throughout his career. These themes are on full display in his last book.

Congressman steeped in Catholic activism

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With a life story steeped in Catholic activism and a political outlook hewn from church social teachings, Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., is clearly the darling of the religious left. Meanwhile, this first term, 34-year-old politician is bringing faith-based sensibilities to Washington unlike others seen here in recent years.

“What Tom has been able to do is bring a spirit of grass-roots social change to Washington,” said John Gehring, senior writer for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. “His brand of conviction politics has real appeal at a time when people are hungry for leadership that transcends the narrow ideologies of left or right.”

Haitian activist priest Jean-Juste dies at 62

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Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, prominent leader for Haitian immigrants, advocate for the poor and a rumored candidate for the Haitian presidency, passed away Wednesday, May 27, in his adopted hometown of Miami.

For over three decades, Jean-Juste put his liberation theology beliefs into action, working for various causes both in the United States and his home country of Haiti.

Jean-Juste had been suffering from cancer over the last few years, although the 62 year old died from unrelated respiratory complications, friends said.

Speaking in a July 2008 interview, Jean-Juste talked about being born in Kavayon, Haiti, and having to attend a Canadian seminary in the late 1960s because the Duvalier regime had shut down seminaries in Haiti. He was ordained in New York City in 1971 but, by the end of the 1970s, had made his way to Miami to work with the exploding Haitian immigrant population.

Miami priest joins Episcopal church

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A Catholic priest photographed frolicking with a woman on a Florida beach announced Thursday he had joined the Episcopal Church to pursue the priesthood in a faith that allows married clergy.

The charismatic 40-year-old is a well-known religious leader in Miami who dispensed relationship advice on Spanish-language television shows, church radio programs and newspaper columns.

He was relieved of his duties at St. Francis de Sales parish in Miami Beach earlier this month after an entertainment magazine published photos of him in swim trunks, snuggling and kissing a woman on the sands of a beach in Florida.

Cutie later said he had fallen in love with the woman and broken his vow of celibacy. He apologized for his behavior, but told a television network, "I didn't stop being a man just because I put on a cassock. There are trousers under this cassock."

The woman in the photographs, identified in media reports as Ruhama Canellis, stood at Cutie's side as he held a news conference at Trinity Cathedral, where the couple underwent a ceremony to join the Episcopalians.

The Episcopal church ordains men and women as priests, married or single.

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September 12-25, 2014

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