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Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Civility must guide debate on social challenges, USCCB president says

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Acknowledging wide divisions in the country over issues such as health care, immigration reform, taxes and abortion, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for civility to return to the public debate.
 
Contemporary challenges are great, but that they can be addressed without anger and with love Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in his first address as USCCB president during the bishops' fall general assembly.
 
"We are facing a time that seems more divided than ever," Cardinal DiNardo said. "Divisions over health care, conscience protections, immigration and refugees, abortion, physician-assisted suicide, gender ideologies, the meaning of marriage and all the other headlines continue to be hotly debated. But our role continues to be witnessing the Gospel."
 
He explained that the National Catholic War Council, created by the U.S. bishops in 1917 in the response to the world refugee crisis that emerged from World War I and the forerunner to the USCCB, was formed to address great national and international needs at a time not unlike today.
 
He said the history of the American Catholic Church is full of examples of the work of "holy men and women" responding to social challenges. He particularly mentioned Capuchin Franciscan Father Solanus Casey, who ministered alongside homeless and poor people in Detroit and who will be beatified Nov. 18.
 
"The history of Christianity is also the story of reconciliation. In 2017, we mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Begun as a moment of painful division, it stands as a journey toward healing, from conflict to communion," Cardinal DiNardo said.
 
He continued, "Civility begins in the womb. If we cannot come to love and protect innocent life from the moment God creates it, how can we properly care for each other as we come of age? Or when we come to old age?"
 
The cardinal lamented that abortion continues despite the existence of alternatives to save the life of unborn children.
 
Cardinal DiNardo also laid out several policy stances for the country to pursue.
He said hospitals and health care workers "deserve conscience protections so they never have to participate in the taking of a human life."
The cardinal called for "good and affordable health care" for poor people and action to address the country's opioid abuse epidemic.
 
To applause, Cardinal DiNardo urged lawmakers to enact comprehensive immigration reform and protections for the country's 800,000 young adults who have been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
 
President Donald Trump in September called for an end to the program, handing off the solution to the immigration status of young adults brought to this country illegally as children to Congress and giving the lawmakers a six-month window to act.
 
Acknowledging that a country has the right to defend its borders, Cardinal DiNardo reminded the country's leaders that it should be done in a humane way. "We join our Holy Father in declaring that a pro-life immigration policy is one that does not tear families apart, it protects families," he said.
 
Racism, too, has risen to become a major challenge for the country, the USCCB president said.
 
"In our towns and in our cities, as civility ebbs, we have seen bolder expressions of racism, with some taking pride in this grave sin. Sometimes it is shocking and violent, such as in Charlottesville (Virginia, in August). More often it is subtle and systematic. But racism always destroys lives and it has no place in the Christian heart," he said.
 
The cardinal called for a "bold national dialogue ... a frank and honest commitment to address the root causes of racism."
 
"Americans don't like to talk about it. Nonetheless, it is time to act. Our common humanity demands it of us. Jesus demands it of us," Cardinal DiNardo said.
 
He discussed the work of Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the bishops' new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. The committee will meet with people throughout the country to learn how the best can best respond "in ending this evil," he added.
 
Beyond such challenges, Cardinal DiNardo said, society has had to respond to a series of natural disasters including hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, wildfires in California and earthquakes in Mexico.
 
Such tragedies have brought the church in America together, he said, "and has reminded me of how wonderful the gifts of faith, hope and love truly are."
 
"We need to constantly put forward these virtues, especially in light of violence from what is a long and growing list of mass shootings in our schools, offices, churches and place of recreation," he explained.
 
"The time is long past due to end the madness of outrageous weapons, be they stockpiled on a continent or in a hotel room," the cardinal said.
 
Cardinal DiNardo said the love of Jesus is "stronger than all the challenges ahead."
 
"My brothers, let us follow our Holy Father ever more closely, going forth to be with our people in every circumstance of pastoral life. Drawing strength and wisdom from these past hundred years, let us sound our hands and voices joyfully. And let us always remind our people, and ourselves, that with God, all things are possible."
 
  • Published in Nation

Movie review: 'Murder on the Orient Express'

A formidable list of actors, including Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov and David Suchet, have taken on the role of Agatha Christie's famed Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.

Now Kenneth Branagh makes the possessor of the celebrated "little gray cells" his own in the sleek ensemble whodunit "Murder on the Orient Express" (Fox). He also helms the project as director.

Viewers not too mesmerized by the magnificent Guy Fawkes-style goatee with which Branagh has armed himself -- "Geraldo Rivera, eat your heart out," his elaborate mustaches seem to shout as they flaunt their baroque splendor -- will note that religious undertones are interwoven into the narrative, which also raises significant moral issues, at least in the abstract.

Like the crime at the heart of the story, and an earlier tragedy to which it seems to be tied, these ethical questions are unsuitable for kids. But Branagh's take on this classic tale, made into a 1974 film by Sidney Lumet, is sufficiently restrained in other respects as to be possibly acceptable for older adolescents.

References to God and faith in screenwriter Michael Green's script will come as less of a surprise to those who recall that Christie repeatedly has Poirot identify himself as "bon Catholique" (a good Catholic). While his behavior in this chapter of his annals falls short of strict conformity with the moral principles upheld by the church, it's hard not to sympathize with his viewpoint in a set of unique circumstances.

Hard cases, so the legal maxim has it, make bad law. Moviegoers of any persuasion, moreover, are hardly likely to have either the opportunity or the inclination to imitate the unacceptable actions that are excused on screen. This is simply not the kind of film from which real-life conclusions are drawn.

Turning the conventions of her genre upside down, in a sense, Christie's narrative, pegged here to the year of her book's publication, 1934, presents Poirot with, if anything, too many clues and an array of plausible suspects in the grisly murder of gangster Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp).

With the luxurious train of the title temporarily derailed by an avalanche that occurs almost simultaneously with the crime, Poirot has the opportunity to question everyone under suspicion. The possible killers include Ratchett's morose secretary, Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad), and very proper British butler, Edward Henry Masterman (Derek Jacobi), as well as the full complement of the deceased's fellow passengers.

Prominent among the latter are chatterbox and floozy Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), joylessly religious missionary Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz) and professor Gerhard Hardman (Willem Dafoe), a Nazi ideologue straight from central casting. To go along with the art-deco paneling and Lalique light fixtures, a fussy Russian princess in exile, Natalia Dragomiroff (Judi Dench), also gets thrown into the mix.

Hardman's racist theories as well as similar attitudes that would prematurely point the finger of blame at African-American physician Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom Jr.) or at a prosperous Latino car dealer named Marquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) are duly squashed as the proceedings chug along to their familiar-to-many conclusion.

Even for those who know where the tracks are headed, Branagh's retracing of the journey makes an enjoyable, if rather dark, trip. As for the choices required to reach the picture's ultimate destination, they might form the basis for a valuable family discussion about the proper balance between divine and human justice.

The film contains a vengeance theme, scenes of violence, some gory images, a couple of uses of profanity, a few milder oaths and occasional sexual references. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
  • Published in Reviews

Movie review: The Snowman

Director Tomas Alfredson's adaptation of Jo Nesbo's best-selling crime novel occasionally dabbles in penny-dreadful sensationalism, then returns to plodding wearily across the frozen landscape of its unconvincing mystery story.
 
Set primarily in Oslo, Norway, the film tracks the efforts of a gifted but alcoholism-plagued police detective (Michael Fassbender) to catch a serial killer who builds a snowman at each murder site. The officer's search is complicated by the fact that his new partner (Rebecca Ferguson) seems to have a hidden agenda of her own and by his tangled relationships with his ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg), her son (Michael Yates) and her new live-in love interest (Jonas Karlsson).
 
Needlessly shocking visuals punctuate the stilted proceedings while the killer's motivation springs from the sordid personal lives of his victims as well as his traumatic childhood.
 
There is excessive gory violence and gruesome images, a suicide, strong sexual content, including aberrant behavior, an adulterous bedroom scene and brief upper female nudity, abortion, domestic abuse and cohabitation themes, a few uses of profanity and rough language, several crude terms.
 
The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
 
  • Published in Reviews

Example of the saints

Like stained glass windows, the saints allow the light of God to permeate the darkness of sin in the world, Pope Francis said on the feast of All Saints.
 
Just as light enters a church through multi-colored windows, the lives of saints shine forth "according to their own shade," the pope said Nov. 1.
 
All the saints "have been transparent, they fought to remove the stains and darkness of sin so that the gentle light of God can pass through," the pope said. "This is the purpose of life, even for us."
 
Before reciting the Angelus prayer with people gathered in St. Peter's Square, the pope said the day was a "feast for us not because we are good but because God's holiness has touched our lives."
 
The day's Gospel reading from St. Matthew, in which Jesus proclaims the beatitudes, contains the road map for "a blessed and happy life," which the saints followed through in their own lives and deeds, he said.
 
"Happiness is not in having something or in becoming someone," the pope said. "No. True happiness is being with the Lord and living for love."
 
The beatitudes, he continued, do not require "extravagant gestures" or superhuman strength, but are for those "who live through the trials and hardships of daily life."
"That is how the saints are," Pope Francis said. "Like everyone, they breathe the polluted air of evil that is in the world, yet they never lose sight of Jesus' footsteps along the way."
 
Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope said the feast of All Saints also is "a family feast" that celebrates the lives of people who deserve recognition for helping further God's work in the world.
 
"Today, there are so many," the pope said. "Thanks to these unknown brothers and sisters who help God bring the world forward, who live among us. Let us greet them all with applause."
 
Recalling the first beatitude from St. Matthew's Gospel, Pope Francis said Christians should emulate the lives saints who while "poor in spirit," believed their true treasure was in God and not "in power or money."
 
"At times, we are unhappy because we lack something or we are not recognized as we would like to be," the pope said. "Let us remember: Our beatitude does not lie here but in the Lord and in love. Only with him, only loving others can we live a blessed life."
 
  • Published in World
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