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  • Kresta in the Afternoon – May 21, 2015 – Hour 2

    Kresta in the Afternoon – May 21, 2015 – Hour 2

    + Segment #1 of 3

    Kresta Comments: Pope Francis to Parents: Come out of “Exile” and Educate your Children

    + Segment #2 of 3

    Kresta Comments: What the New Documents tell us about Osama Bin Laden

    + Segment #3 of 3

    Dorothy Day and the Story of the Catholic Worker Movement

  • Draft of revised San Francisco faculty handbook statement takes a broader approach

    A note from Al:

    The time will come when some Catholic or Evangelical Protestant leader will stand up in good faith and without rancor and simply say: “We can try and soften our language but the truth is no matter how we phrase it, you will not accept it. Our faith rejects certain acts as fundamentally immoral regardless of the best intentions of those who commit such acts. We cannot comply with your expectations. Christianity is a real thing. It has real content and clear boundaries. You wish it didn’t have certain rough edges or sharp corners. But it does. Stop thinking that reality is according to your definition. You can reject us but you won’t be able to change us because we are anchored in the Creator of reality.” – Al Kresta


    by Dan Morris-Young and Mandy Erikson via NCROnline.org

    An alleged draft of a revised faculty handbook statement for San Francisco archdiocesan high schools and a cover letter by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone show a less strident approach to church teaching and practice than the much-debated original version and a conciliatory tone from the archbishop.

    Yet even before the archdiocese released the recast language, some people privy to leaked drafts of the purported texts expressed concern over what they describe as a change in tone but not substance as well as phrasing that would diminish labor law protections for teachers and staff.

    “The language is softer, but the message is still hurtful and wrong,” said graduating senior Jessica Hyman of Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, one of the schools affected by the handbook, at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

    Concerned Parents and Students: Teach Acceptance, a group that formed in opposition to the proposed handbook changes, held the press conference on the steps of the chancery to “reject Archbishop Cordileone’s revised Faculty Handbook” and “keep the current contract and handbook that have served the schools well,” according to its press release.

    About 100 people attended the press conference at which parents, students and a union representative spoke. Many lamented the archbishop’s attempt to classify teachers as ministers, a move that would eliminate labor protections. Paul Hance, a history teacher at Junipero Serra High School and a member of the executive board of the teachers union, said lawyers for the group have reviewed the document and said it makes a stronger case than the previous draft for the minister classification.

    “What would happen if the archbishop gets his way? We would have termination without legal recourse,” he said. “Our rights are not negotiable; our profession is teaching, not ministry.”

    Speakers added that the revised draft would cast a pall on teaching. Teachers who fear they’ll lose their jobs if they suggest a viewpoint that differs from the archbishop’s cannot help their students understand different points of view or ask thoughtful questions, they said.

    The archbishop “threatens what has been the cornerstone of my education, which is inquiry,” said Gino Gresh, a senior set to graduate from Sacred Heart.

    Request for comment sent to archdiocesan officials early Wednesday were not acknowledged.

    In a copy of what is said to be a working draft of a cover letter by Cordileone to accompany the rewritten handbook statement, the archbishop apologized for “lack of foresight on my part” for the “several unintended consequences” generated by his original document that “created tensions we have been experiencing.”

    Titled “Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church,” the free-standing, nearly 2,000-word instruction made public Feb. 3has generated international headlines and deep divisions within the Bay Area Catholic community.

    The statement underscored teaching on Mass attendance, confession, teaching authority of the church, sex outside marriage, traditional marriage, homosexual acts, hell, purgatory, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, birth control, “artificial reproductive technology,” and human cloning.

    It also put “administrators, faculty and staff of any faith or of no faith” on notice to “arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny” church teaching and to “refrain from participation in organizations that call themselves ‘Catholic’ but support or advocate issues or causes contrary to the teachings of the Church.”

    Supporters of the statement praised Cordileone for laying out clear expectations for Catholic school employees and endorsed his stated motivation for developing the narrative: that the hot-button issues addressed are among the most sidelined by modern culture and that young people are under constant pressure “to conform to a certain agenda at variance with, and often aggressively so, our Christian understanding of the human person and God’s purpose in creation,” in the archbishop’s words.

    Critics said the document ignores the role of conscience, invades individuals’ private lives, focuses too heavily on sexual issues, and employs divisive, hurtful language.

    The harshest criticism focused on the Feb. 3 text’s usage of language such as “gravely evil,” “intrinsically evil,” “gravely immoral” and “grave moral disorder” in regard to primarily sexual and reproductive teachings. The phrasing can effectively marginalize and diminish gay people and others, it was argued.

    Well more than 4,000 words, the revised draft seen by NCR does not employ those descriptions and underscores: “The Gospel cannot be reduced to a list of truths no matter how comprehensive because the Gospel is a person, the anointed one, Jesus of Nazareth, who is Lord.”

    After reading the draft, Jesuit Fr. John Coleman, who wrote a blog in February critical of the rationale and approach of the initial text, said in an email that the tone of the new draft “is worlds apart from the earlier handbook.”

    “I could easily sign off on this one without any problem. Even the sexual stuff is more nuanced and less terrifying,” wrote Coleman, a Bay Area sociologist who was a professor of religion and society at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley (1974-97) and held the Charles Casassa Chair in Social Values at Loyola Marymount University (1997-2009).

    Written by a group of five high school theology teachers recruited by the archdiocese, the new document says in its preamble that the contents follow “the general structure of the Catechism” and “offer a short compendium of some important teachings.”

    Superintendent of Schools Maureen Huntington lauded the committee’s work.

    “From my perspective,” she wrote in an email to NCR, “the Context Committee … did an excellent job of articulating the Church’s teachings in a variety of areas within the Four Pillars of the CCC. They were able to bring the Church’s teachings into our daily life and assist us in understanding not only what the Church teaches but why.”

    Huntington confirmed indications in the archbishop’s leaked cover letter that the new document will be open for review and refinement and is not scheduled for immediate inclusion in the 2015-16 faculty handbooks. The four high schools affected by the faculty handbook are Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory and Archbishop Riordan in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield, and Junipero Serra in San Mateo. There are also 10 other independent Catholic high schools in the archdiocese.

    Jim Jordan, a Sacred Heart teacher, called development of the new faculty handbook proposal “a small victory for us in that there will be no handbook change this year, which means we’ve stemmed the tide for the moment.”

    “We’re well aware that other dioceses across the country are following closely, so we feel our resistance has given pause to bishops thinking of imposing similar employment policies,” said Jordan, who was among teachers who organized a petition effort among the four schools’ faculty and staff in March asking Cordileone to forego the handbook statement and retain the existing document. Eighty percent of the schools’ faculty and staff signed.

    The archbishop, added Jordan, “is not backing down at all, merely slowing down. As for the revised handbook language, the committee who drafted it was never authorized to act on behalf of the schools.”

    In its press statement Wednesday, Concerned Parents and Students: Teach Acceptance wrote:

    “The Archbishop is attempting to reclassify all employees of four schools within the Archdiocese as part of the ‘ministry’ and ‘mission’ of the church in order to eliminate anti-discrimination and other workplace protections for those staff members. He has also proposed that teachers and staff at the schools accept handbook language that, among other things, condemns homosexuality, same-sex marriage, contraception, and use of assisted reproductive technology. These proposals, originally made public in February, were met with an overwhelming outcry from teachers, parents, students and allies of the four schools.”

    Kathleen Purcell, a constitutional attorney and former Catholic high school teacher, was quoted by the group, saying, “Under the revised handbook language, teachers would not be able to dissent or discuss ideas that conflict with the Archbishop’s understanding of Catholicism without risking their jobs. This fundamentally alters the character of our schools. Teachers whose jobs are under threat if they step outside the line cannot provide a safe environment for students to learn.”

    The protest organization also wrote: “The Archbishop has many platforms from which to educate faculty, students, parents and other members of the school community regarding his interpretations of Church theology, other than an employee handbook.”

    Jim McGarry, a lead organizer of Concerned Parents and Students, sent an open letter to administrators of the four schools and others based on the circulating revised handbook text. He warned against communications “particularly aimed at parents” that “implied that all things will work out in time and nothing that you love about your school will change.”

    “The suggestion is that we will weather this storm by being who we are. Could this be a false hope? Instead, what is needed is an ‘apocalyptic’ tone,” he added. “If our teachers’ integrity is compromised in labor agreements and if this faculty handbook language is instituted, it will lethally damage our students, our teachers, our schools and our mission. Even muted, the Archbishop’s rhetoric of judgment and selectivity about and atomization of the moral life of our students and their families is not simply a storm to be weathered. It is the precipice of a disaster.”

  • Don’t Just Discern Your Vocation

    A note from Al:

    When I returned to the Catholic church I was struck by a social phenomenon I didn’t see so clearly as an evangelical Protestant: the perpetual agonizing over discernment to priesthood or marriage. In a few personal cases, I thought it was pathological and masked an insecurity and fear of failure that would, in the long run, lead to life-long unhappiness. This Dominican writer gets at some of the same observations I made but never articulated so well. –  Al Kresta


    by Br. Gabriel T. Mosher, O.P.

    There’s a cause for today’s vocation shortage that’s rarely addressed. Too many people are discerning; not enough people are deciding. I know they mean well, but instead of courageously pursuing the priesthood or religious life they form safe communities where they can muse on ideals instead of act on principles.

    I call them the Order of Perpetual Discerners. I’m not questioning their piety. I wouldn’t dream of impugning their intentions. However, they fundamentally misunderstand how to discern God’s will. They agonize over the call. They seek spiritual directors and confidants to emote about the vexing feelings they’re experiencing. The sad result is that they never actually discern; they only dream.

    The narcissism pervading our culture is a major cause of this trend. We act as if it’s a virtue. Popular culture promotes it. Popular Christian culture is ensnared by it. It’s not surprising that the modern obsession with self-care was bound to cause some problems. The philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard provides intellectual soil for it. Personality cults popularize it. Televangelists and magazine rack mystics sell it. Our contemporary culture has been perfectly constructed to cultivate narcissistic Christianity. Combine the popular psychologism preached in our parishes with a society steeped in postmodern despair and you get exactly what we’ve got — a simulacrum of the Corinthian Christianity that St. Paul fought against.

    Common trends of vocational discernment typify the Catholic appropriation of this narcissism. The problem isn’t whether people are or are not discerning. The problem is people are stuck in their heads. It’s like they’re waiting for an infallible neon sign from God. “Constantine got his in hoc signo, so should I!” The truth is, however, God doesn’t usually operate that way. He’s the author of the ordinary, the mundane. God reveals the extraordinary only after we’ve embraced the ordinary.

    The scenario I’m describing is ubiquitous. I frequently see it among candidates inquiring into my own Order. This narcissism is why so many will “come and see,” but so few will “stay to pray.” They’ve gotten stuck in the discernment trap and they lack the tools to get out. They try to get out by doing exactly what our culture has taught them to do. They look inward. Yet, by doing this they’ll never find what they’re seeking. Why? Because the answer is found on the outside not on the inside. Thankfully, this sickness isn’t unto death.

    Technically the word discernment is a good one. It describes the ability to wisely chose one thing over another. It’s not simply the ability to separate good from bad. More specifically it’s the ability to place all the good things we encounter in a hierarchical order from what’s good to what’s best. Discernment is essentially an intellectual process of ordering perceived goods. However, we can get stuck in the process if we lack critical information. When this happens we become paralyzed because all our possible choices seem to be equally good. In this scenario we become incapable of discerning which vocation to choose. This is the discernment trap. The lacuna in our knowledge is often the result of asking the wrong question. We usually ask ourselves which vocation is better for me. Instead we need to simply ask which vocation is better.

    I can already hear objections and outrage at what I just wrote. That’s because savvy readers know what I’m about to say. The best vocation is the one immediately ordered to contemplation. The best vocation is religious life. Moderns think this statement  is an insult to married couples. They think it’s antiquated hogwash. After all, didn’t the Second Vatican Council do away with thinking of religious life as objectively superior to married life?

    Well, not exactly. The Council desired that we avoid minimizing the dignity of Holy Matrimony. Lord knows there’s been enough of that! What, then, does it mean for religious life to be objectively superior to married life? It’s simply the consequence of religious life being a more perfect reflection of beatitude. Married life is good but religious life is better. The Second Vatican Council affirms this position when it calls religious life an eschatological sign. It literally allows us to begin living on earth what the saints experience in heaven.

    Probably most people reading this article have never heard this before now. That’s because it’s never, or rarely, preached. But it’s also because we rarely consider how God’s love affects our daily lives. What does this mean? It means God desires our highest good. This isn’t limited to His desire that we get to heaven. His love extends to all the particular aspects of our life. God wants the best for us at every moment of our lives in every possible way. When His love intersects with vocational discernment the ramifications are clear. He desires that we participate in the highest of form of Christian life. God desires that each of use enter religious life.

    Once discernment is seen this way everything changes. The question is no longer about whether God desires me to live one way or another. No. I already know that God desires me to choose and possess the greatest good. Knowing this the process of discernment is no longer about guessing what’s in God’s mind. Discernment becomes a question of whether I’m capable of living religious life or not.

    St. Thomas Aquinas was no stranger to the difficulties of discernment. He also excelled at placing things in their proper order. Wisely, he left a practical guide to help us get out of the discernment trap. Much of what I’m saying is found in Question 189 in the “Secunda secundae” of the Summa Theologiae. Each article asks very practical questions about religious discernment. Each are real questions from his day. Many of them were surely his own questions. Most of them are the same questions we continue to ask today. His conclusions are as helpful today as when the ink was still fresh. Tolle lege!

    The reality is, however, that you can read about discernment until your eyes fall out. There is a simpler solution that Aquinas would appreciate. Enter the novitiate! Enter the seminary! Among good things there is no replacement for experiential knowledge. The Church knows this and has designed these structures to help your discernment. A pair of pants may look nice on the rack, but you’ll never know if they fit until you try them on. And, if you already know your size, what are you waiting for. Buy the pants! Entering the seminary or the novitiate doesn’t involve signing a contract in your own blood. They are trial periods for both you and the community. They are designed for you to “try on” the community. If a community doesn’t fit, you can always put it back on the rack.

    Remember, you’ll never discover your vocation in your own head. Stop over-thinking it! Follow the example of our Blessed Mother.  When God calls, answer. After you answer, ponder. While you ponder it follow Him wherever He leads you. Be at peace. Abandon yourself to God’s will and you will undoubtedly save your own soul and win the salvation of many more. Make a choice and live it.

  • Why parents should stop hoping their kids will get married

    A note from Al:

    One way to reduce divorce rates is to avoid marriage. By 2016, the marriage rate is expected to fall to 6.7 per 1,000 people, a historic law and that includes second or third marriages. In 1867 it was 9.6 per 1,000. After WWII it reached a high of 16.4 per 1,000 and from the 60s to the mid 80s bounced around between 8.6 to 10.8. This piece poses some reasons for the remarkable decline of marriage. Hint: it wasn’t the push for homosexual so-called marriage. – Al Kresta


    by Brigid Schulte via WashingtonPost.com

    Millennials are poised to become the nation’s largest living generation this year. As they grow as a percentage of the population, more of them will reach the age at which Americans historically have gotten married. And many baby-boomer parents are probably eagerly anticipating the big day when their son or daughter walks down the aisle (and the grandkids that will follow.)

    But, according to new research, millennials are not showing many signs of interest in getting hitched as they get older, and, as a result, the marriage rate is expected to fall by next year to its lowest level to date.

    That is a finding by Demographic Intelligence, a forecasting firm with a strong track record. “Millennials are such a big generation, we’re going to have more people of prime marriage age in the next five years than we’ve had at any time in U.S. history. For that alone, we’d expect an uptick in marriage rates,” said Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence. “That’s not happening.”

    In the firm’s new U.S. Wedding Forecast, compiled from demographic data, Google searches and a host of other variables, Sturgeon projects that by 2016, the marriage rate will fall to 6.7 per 1,000 people, a historic low. That includes people getting married for the second or third time.

    In 1867, the first year for which national marriage statistics were recorded, the marriage rate was 9.6 per 1,000 Americans. It peaked in 1946 at 16.4 per 1,000 as men were returning from World War II, and it bounced around from 8.5 in 1960 to a high of 10.8 in the mid-1980s. Starting in the 1990s, it began a long and, in the 1990s, precipitous drop.

    In fact, in 1984, when baby boomers were at prime marrying age, a total of 2.48 million marriages were recorded, the highest number the country had seen. In 2013, the most recent year for which there is data, the number of marriages had dropped to 2.13 million.

    “We won’t get anywhere close to that high number of marriages again,” Sturgeon said.

    Demographers cite several reasons reason for the massive generational shift in marriage trends.

    1) Millennials continue to delay marriage because of economics, education and preference. In 1960, fewer than 8 percent of women and 13 percent of men married for the first time at age 30 or older, University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen has calculated. Now, nearly one-third of women and more than 40 percent of men who marry for the first time are 30 or older.

    Cohen, who has tracked falling marriage rates around the world, has projected that, if the current pattern continues, the marriage rate will hit zero in 2042.

    2) The United States continues to become more secular and less religious. The Pew Research Center reported recently that the share of Americans who describe themselves as Christians dropped from 78 percent to 71 percent between 2007 and 2014, while the number of atheists, agnostics or those of no faith grew from 16 percent to 23 percent.

    3) Millennials have alternatives. In the past, living together or having children “out of wedlock” was met with severe social stigma, but no longer. Cohabitation rates are on the rise — 48 percent of women interviewed between 2006 and 2010 for the National Survey of Family Growth cohabitated with a partner as a first union, compared with 34 percent in 1995.

    Births to unmarried women also are on the rise. Forty-one percent of all births are now to unmarried women, 2.5 times as high as was reported in 1980 and 19 times as high as in 1940.

    “Marriage is, in some ways, in the worst place it’s ever been,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, director of the National Marriage Project and founder of Demographic Intelligence. “I don’t think we’re ever going to see a major upswing. But we may have reached a plateau. The numbers suggest we may be touching bottom.”

    Hopeful signs, Wilcox said, are rising rates of marriage among the educated. The U.S. Wedding Report notes that weddings for college-educated women rose from 30 percent in 2008 to 36 percent in 2015. And middle-class desires for two parents to be involved in the lives of children bode well for stable marriages, he said.

    In addition, the growth of the Hispanic population should propel the percentage of Hispanic brides from 15 percent in 2008 to 18 percent this year, according to Demographic Intelligence.

    Monitoring the Future, an ongoing survey of youths, further reports that 80 percent of female high school seniors and 72 percent of males in 2006 to 2010 said marriage and family are “extremely important” to them — numbers that have remained consistent since the mid-1970s.

    That shows a strong marriage norm in the United States, Sturgeon said. But whether millennials will follow it is anyone’s guess. “We kind of hope we’ve reached a floor,” he said, “but we really aren’t sure.”

    Brit Bertino, a wedding planner in Las Vegas and vice president of the Wedding Industry Professionals Association, is seeing the trends firsthand. Despite record tourism in the past year, and Las Vegas’s reputation as the “Wedding Capital of the World,” the number of marriage licenses issued there has dropped nearly 40 percent in the past decade.

    “My business is definitely down. I’m seeing a 50 percent drop just from last year,” Bertino said. “Las Vegas is definitely hurting.”

    But Bertino also understands why. At 31, she, is a millennial, too. And though she’s in the wedding business and said she would like to marry someday, she is in no rush.

    “I’m not very traditional, so I wouldn’t mind having a child before marriage,” she said. “Like a lot of people, I’m holding off on marriage until I’m sure I’ve found the right person.”


  • Kresta in the Afternoon – May 20, 2015 – Hour 1

    Kresta in the Afternoon – May 20, 2015 – Hour 1

    + Segment #1 of 3

    Direct to My Desk

    + Segment #2 of 3

    Direct to My Desk

    + Segment #3 of 3

    Direct to My Desk

  • Kresta in the Afternoon – May 20, 2015, Hour 2

    Kresta in the Afternoon – May 20, 2015, Hour 2

    + Segment #1 of 3

    Direct to My Desk

    + Segment #2 of 3

    Direct to My Desk

    + Segment #3 of 3

    Direct to My Desk

  • Kresta in the Afternoon – May 19, 2015 – Hour 1

    Kresta in the Afternoon – May 19, 2015 – Hour 1

    + Segment #1 of 3

    Direct to My Desk

    + Segment #2 of 3

    Direct to My Desk

    + Segment #3 of 3

    Direct to My Desk

  • Kresta in the Afternoon – May 19, 2015 – Hour 2

    Kresta in the Afternoon – May 19, 2015 – Hour 2

    + Segment #1 of 3

    Direct to My Desk

    + Segment #2 of 3

    Direct to My Desk

    + Segment #3 of 3

    Direct to My Desk

  • Kresta in the Afternoon – May 18, 2015 – Hour 1

    Kresta in the Afternoon – May 18, 2015 – Hour 1

    + Segment #1 of 3

    Kresta Comments: Tsarnaev Sentenced to Death + Pole Dancers, Voyeurism and Pornography

    + Segment #2 of 3

    Health Insurance the Catholic Way

    • Description: Mike O”Dea and Louis Brown have created a Catholic alternative to Obamacare that does not force participants to violate their religious beliefs. Their initiative, CMF Curo, was launched last fall. They’re back today to talk about how the initiative is doing.
    • Segment Guests:
      • Louis Brown
        Louis Brown is a Catholic attorney who works with the law firm of Fraser, Trebilcock, Davis & Dunlap, P.C. Mr. Brown is a graduate from the Howard University School of Law and has previously worked for the Maryland Catholic Conference and the U.S. House of Representatives. Mr. Brown has been featured in the National Catholic Register and currently resides in Detroit, Michigan.

    + Segment #3 of 3

    Health Insurance the Catholic Way (continued)

  • Kresta in the Afternoon – May 18, 2015 – Hour 2

    Kresta in the Afternoon – May 18, 2015 – Hour 2

    + Segment #1 of 3

    The List of Things that Non-Muslims can do to Provoke Islamic Violence Grows Every Day

    • Description: Every time an act of Islamic violence is committed against the West, we are told it is a retaliation for injustice or insults against Muslims. Dzhokhar Tsarvnaev used this excuse for the Boston Bombing, it was used to rationalize the Charlie Hedbo Attacks, and we saw it again in Texas after a failed attack on a Muhammad cartoon contest. We discuss this issue with Raymond Ibrahim.
    • Segment Guests:

    + Segment #2 of 3

    Kresta Comments: Pope Francis Appoints Pro-Gay Marriage Dominican to Pontifical Academy...What Are We to Think?

    + Segment #3 of 3

    Kresta Comments: Pope Francis Appointment (continued)

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