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Exceptions to celibacy rule puzzle priests

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VATICAN CITY -- Exceptions to celibacy for priests in the Roman Catholic Church can be puzzling, including for young priests enthusiastic about their vocation.

The Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, run by Opus Dei in Rome, held a theological conference on priestly celibacy March 4-5 and while no one challenged mandatory celibacy, there were repeated questions about the exceptions made in some of the Eastern Catholic churches and for clergy coming from the Anglican Communion.

"If celibacy is so tied theologically and spiritually to priestly identity, why the exceptions?" the questioners asked.

Speakers at the conference, attended mostly by priests and seminarians, acknowledged the confusion caused by the exceptions and by the frequent statement that celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma, and so conceivably could change.

"In the eyes of many, the church hierarchy and especially the Apostolic See seem to hold contradictory positions on priestly celibacy," said Father Laurent Touze, a professor of spiritual theology and author of a book on the future of priestly celibacy.

'It's about helping people'

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For the past year an informal group of students at The Catholic University of America has been organizing to support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students and faculty. Named CUAllies, the group has been met with some opposition. While the students claim the group is only a support system for minorities on campus, the university has withheld official support in fear of endorsing an organization that might advocate for issues contrary to official Catholic teaching. Spokesman Victor Nakas stated the university’s opposition in a Dec. 11 article in The Washington Post. He explained that students already have access to support services through the university’s health center, counseling services, and office of campus ministry.

Catholic University student Lauren Crook, who cofounded the organization and is in her final year as a sociology student, spoke with NCR editorial intern Joshua McElwee about the group and its vision. What follows is an edited version of that interview.

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NCR: Why did you form CUAllies?

Divine Word society tackles internal friction

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INDORE, India (UCAN) — A Divine Word province in India has launched a live-in seminar to tackle disunity among its members and prepare them to address modern challenges.

“Togetherness and family spirit among our members have weakened and I felt a need for reviving and strengthening them,” said Fr. Nicholas Martis, who heads the congregation’s Central India province.

The 11-day seminar began Feb. 15 at the provincial headquarters in Indore, the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh state. The province’s 146 members are undergoing the program in three batches.

Martis said the program aims to strengthen the “one family” spirit among members so that they can carry on their mission work effectively.

He said over the years, different assignments and responsibilities have generated individualistic attitudes among members rather than team spirit.

The congregation has some 800 members in four provinces of India, but only the Central Province has undertaken the exercise.

Healing the world through words

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It has taken years for award-winning author John J. McLaughlin, 37, to grow into being a storyteller, a calling he practices “in the service of the poor.” Having the “gift of languages,” McLaughlin said in a phone interview from his Seattle home, means being a “cultural translator,” someone who is able to explain the depth and context of people’s lives.

In that sense, McLaughlin is a distinctly Catholic writer. His rich use of imaginative detail is incarnational, grounding his characters in specificity and reality. More broadly, he values the importance the Catholic tradition places “on symbol, ritual, and story, to learn to see the world in terms of both metaphor and narrative.”

Infertility: tough questions, hard answers for Catholics

ST. LOUIS -- "Be fruitful," God instructed Adam and Eve, "and multiply."

They were the first words God spoke to his creation, and his creation has heeded them ever since. But over the years, God's creation has become sophisticated enough to rewrite the original rules of being fruitful, and most of the new rules don't sit well with leaders of the Catholic church.

There is "great confusion among lay Catholics regarding the church's teaching on human reproductive technologies," Philadelphia's Cardinal Justin Rigali said at the U.S. bishops' meeting in Baltimore last November. "There is a need to help Catholics understand specific differences between the Catholic understanding and a secular understanding of human life."

When Rigali was archbishop of St. Louis, he celebrated a Mass for infertile couples, as did the current archbishop, Robert Carlson, on Tuesday (Feb. 16) night.

By celebrating a Mass for infertile Catholics, Carlson walked a pastoral high-wire act that has becoming increasingly familiar to church leaders.

'Hurt Locker,' 'Glee' top Catholics in Media awards

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LOS ANGELES -- The new Fox musical-comedy series "Glee" and the Oscar-nominated film "The Hurt Locker" have been named two of the top honorees of the 17th annual Catholics in Media Associates awards.
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Sr. Rose Pacatte, a Daughter of St. Paul who has written extensively about film, has been chosen to receive the group's Board of Directors Award.

DeBernardo: 'persistent, gracious, thoughtful, questioning'

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Commentary

I’ve known Francis DeBernardo for a number of years, have read a good deal of what he’s written. I’ve spoken to him at length and I have attended a conference or two conducted by New Ways Ministry. He’s persistent, gracious, thoughtful, and he raises questions that we all need to ponder.

Those involved with leading the ministry, I daresay, have a much deeper appreciation of Catholicism and its traditions than most who take up with one or another Catholic organizations.

I am convinced that DeBarnardo, New Ways ministry, and all the Catholic parents of gay and lesbian children and all of their relatives who love them and experience them as whole and wonderful human beings are not going to go away.

So I find it deeply saddening that the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago found it necessary for some reason to declare that the ministry was not authentically Catholic and that it “cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.”

Informed by the experience of being Catholic

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There are people in the world who derive no small pleasure from the game of “major” and “minor.” They think that no major work can be painted in watercolors. They think, too, that Hemingway writing about boys in the woods is major; Mansfield writing about girls in the kitchen is minor. These people join up with other bad specters, and I have to banish them.

-- Mary Gordon, “The Parable of the Cave; or, In Praise of Watercolors” in The Writer on Her Work

For most of her writing life, Mary Gordon has been trying to banish those bad specters who want to pigeonhole her either as a “woman writer” or a “Catholic writer.” Although she is proud to write out of her experiences as both, she knows that such labels have “minor” consequences.

Draft resister wants her country to be better

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On a Jerusalem street in mid-June 2002, Maya Wind, then a 12-year-old studying in a religious school, witnessed the killing of a busload of Israelis and others by a suicide bomber.

The horror was a moment of awakening, of seeing the futility of violence, whether caused by lone Palestinian street killers or uniformed death-dealers of the Israeli Defense Forces. Three years later, she joined Face to Face, a group of open-minded Palestinian and Israeli youth brought together to tell their stories and educate each other in the methods of nonviolent conflict resolution -- lessons they certainly weren’t getting from the Knesset or Palestinian Authority.

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November 21-December 5, 2014

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