Dorothy Day, Patroness of Crabs

November 29, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Today is the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Dorothy Day. As some of you know, I had a few things to say on Religion Dispatches about New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s take on her as he celebrated the anniversary of Dorothy’s birthday at a Pax Christi vespers in Greenwich Village a while back.

Judy Coode, it seems to me, is much more realistic about Dorothy, in the reflections she shares with readers in this year’s Pax Christi Advent reflection booklet. Coode invites us to rejoice  in Dorothy’s charity and focus and strict simplicity. but she also mentions that Dorothy was “by some accounts a difficult person with whom to live.” Indeed, the only time I met Dorothy Day, when she had come to Grailville, where I lived in the 70s, to speak at a Catholic Art Association meeting, her comments about a film we had just watched, “Three Men and a Wardrobe,” seemed to me downright crotchety. And when a friend, long before the invention of the computer, submitted a manuscript to The Catholic Worker,  Dorothy wrote all over it before rejecting it, forcing my friend to retype the thing from scratch before submitting it elsewhere. 

But, as Coode suggests, human flaws like these are less a source scandal than of comfort to those of us who struggle to “match (Dorothy’s) life of integrity.” Dorothy Day, Servant of God and patroness of the crotchety, pray for us.

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Why the Brits Are Protesting

November 25, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Sometimes, it seems, even the best tv news coverage is worthless. Repeatedly in the past few days we have heard on PBS about the student protests in Britain over increases in university tuition. But did the newspeople tell us what the increases are? Nah. We heard a while back that the Greeks were protesting because the minimum retirement age was going from 60 to 62–what the current minimum age for Social Security is here. Tuition figures, however, are apparently too complicated to be repeated on the tube. 

Today, however, the local paper of record has filled in the details. University tuition in Britain is scheduled to go from a cap of $5,624 to a cap of $14,400. This because the deficit-wary government is giving less money in direct grants to universities. And, the Times mentions, up till the late 1990s, university tuition in Britain was free. (I’m still not up to speed on embedded link technology, but you can find the article at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/25/world/europe/25britain.html?ref=world )

So one way you could look at this, if you figured university tuition in Britain as $1 in 1995, is to say that there has been a 14,000% increase in allowed tuition charges, more or less, since then, and a 100% increase since the most recent cap. I can imagine why students might take to the streets over that.

To gain a little perspective, though, bear in mind that these figures include the maximum allowed tuition to Oxford and Cambridge, two of the greatest universities in the world. The undergraduate tuition at Harvard is $32, 557. In-state tuition at the University of California is  a good deal lower–$6,230 (at Berkeley at least)– but California is on the verge of bankruptcy, and the outgoing governor, Arnold-baby, has proposed an 8% increase in tuition, on top of a 32% increase in 2009. Students were protesting there, too, last week (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/18/us/18calif.html?pagewanted=2&sq=student%20protests%20University%20of%20California&st=cse&scp=4) . Maybe if they hear what the tuition cap at Oxford and Cambridge is, they’ll quiet down a bit. On the other hand, in Britain the government throws in health care for everyone on the side.

All of this makes me grateful my student days are behind me. I have a feeling this won’t be the last we hear about these matters. Stay tuned.

US Catholic Bishops in the Culture Wars

November 19, 2010 at 10:25 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Well, this week the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) elected the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, to be their president, passing over the previous vice-president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson. It’s virtually unheard of for the sitting vice-president not to move up to the presidency. I reflect on Archbishop Dolan and the meaning of this development in an article on Religion Dispatches, “US Catholic Bishops Elect a Culture Warrior.”

I am somewhat emabarrassed to add that WordPress, which hosts my blogpage, has recently changed the mechanism whereby one inserts a link to another webpage into a post. Until I locate someone under thirty to teach me how to work the new mechanism, I’m afraid I just have to paste the link to the Religion Dispatches  article below. Hoping things on my end will improve soon!

Learning about Muslims

November 13, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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What with the upsurge of hostility toward Muslims in recent months, it becomes increasingly clear that a lot of us here in the US need to learn more about Islam, and about our brothers and sisters who practice Islam. A post on the blog of Bill Tammeus, a former religion writer for the Kansas City Star, introduces several books that make such learning possible, including Lesley Hazelton’s After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split , and What’s Right With Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West by Feisal Abdul Rauf (of the “Ground Zero Mosque,” really Park51, fame). 

But the book about Islam that I’m really interested in is one Tammeus doesn’t highlight. It’s Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet, by Ibrahim Abdul-Matin (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010). Here’s what Imam Zaid Shakir of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California has to say about this book: “Ibrahim Abdul-Matin not only shows the myriad ways American Muslims are contributing to the resolution of the environmental crisis that threatens us all but also goes a long way toward humanizing the Muslim community by sharing with the reader the lives of so many extraordinary, talented, and visionary people.” As a person increasingly convinced that environmental degradation is the challenge facing people of faith around the world, this is a book I really want to read.

Why don’t you take a look at one of these three and let me know what you think?

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