Bishops make World Series wager

Items at stake in World Series bet.

With the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers facing off in this year’s World Series two bishops are paying close attention.

The St. Louis Review is reporting that St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson made a friendly wager over the games with former Cardinals fan Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Fort Worth, Texas, home of the Texas Rangers.

Bishop Vann may want to root for both teams since he has strong ties to the St. Louis area. A native of Springfield, Ill., he grew up watching the Springfield Cardinals, which was then a farm team for the St. Louis Cardinals. He also spent his seminary years in St. Louis at the Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

But a bet’s a bet. And if the Cardinals win, Bishop Vann will send Archbishop Carlson a taste of authentic Texas BBQ along with a Stetson cowboy hat. If the Rangers take the title, Archbishop Carlson will send Bishop Vann a sampler of St. Louis favorites, including toasted ravioli, pretzels, locally-brewed beer and root beer, as well as a Cardinals baseball cap.

The winner will also receive a donation for the local Catholic Charities: $10 for every run scored throughout the series.


Actress Susan Sarandon, born a Catholic, has a love-hate relationship with the church. The “love” times surely include winning an Oscar for portraying Sister Helen Prejean in “Dead Man Walking”; narrating an Oscar-nominated documentary short, “School of Assassins,” about a priest who led the annual marches outside the Army’s School of the Americas; narrating a 1999 PBS documentary on church frescoes funded in part by the Catholic Communication Campaign; and even letting her picture be used for a billboard campaign in the St. Louis area to promote vocations to religious life.

But then there are the “hate” times. One of those surely included returning an award she had won from The Catholic University of America, which she had attended, in the late 1980s to protest the university’s firing of Father Charles Curran for his writings on sexual ethics.

And one must also surely include the Oct. 15 remarks she made about how she had given a copy of the book “Dead Man Walking” to the pope. Sarandon hastened to add that the pope to which she had given the book was Blessed John Paul II, “not this Nazi one we have now,” meaning Pope Benedict XVI.

It’s been well-documented that Pope Benedict was registered into the Hitler Youth while a teen in his native Germany, but he never went to meetings, and his lack of participation resulted in hardships for his family. But you can’t let context get in the way of a good quip.

But pushback against Sarandon has emerged from both Catholic and Jewish circles, condemning the remarks and demanding an apology.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. bishops, in a posting titled “Cheap Shots” on his blog “The Gospel in the Digital Age,” gave his thanks to the New York Daily News for publishing an anti-Sarandon editorial. He said the newspaper was “probably right that Sarandon will face no public fallout for her remarks, ‘because so very often the Catholic Church is considered fair game for anything.’”

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights said Oct. 17, “Sarandon’s comment is obscene. Sadly, it’s what we’ve come to expect from her.” He added that, upon Pope Benedict’s election in 2005, “Rabbi David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, said it was ‘rubbish’ to maintain that Ratzinger chose to belong to the Hitler Youth.”

Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, also called on Sarandon to apologize. “We hope that Susan Sarandon will have the good sense to apologize to the Catholic community and all those she may have offended with this disturbing, deeply offensive and completely uncalled-for attack on the good name of Pope Benedict XVI,” he said. “Sarandon may have her differences with the Catholic Church, but that is no excuse for throwing around Nazi analogies. Such words are hateful, vindictive and only serve to diminish the true history and meaning of the Holocaust.”

And Rabbi David Wolpe of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles, writing Oct. 19 in the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, said, “The Holocaust is not a stick with which to beat those who disagree with us.” He added, “There are many ways to be objectionable without being a Nazi. Calling other people ‘Nazi’ is one of them. Susan Sarandon knows better, or should, and however much she may dislike the pope or what he stands for, she owes the pope, as well Catholics all over the world, a genuine apology.”

Blessed John Paul’s relic placed in chapel of children’s hospital

VATICAN CITY — Anticipating the first feast of Blessed John Paul II Oct. 22, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, presided over a ceremony this afternoon for “the translation” (the formal moving) of a reliquary containing one of the vials of late pope’s blood.

A reliquary with one vial of Blessed John Paul's blood was carried in procession during a thanksgiving Mass after his beatification. (CNS/Paul Haring)

The ceremony took place in the chapel of the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu Hospital on the Janiculum Hill above the Vatican. The vial, which had been in the custody of the Daughters of Charity who work at the hospital, was placed alongside the altar in the chapel of the pediatric hospital.

The transfer of the reliquary will permit its “veneration by the small patients, their families and the healthcare workers at the hospital,” said a statement from Bambino Gesu.

A reliquary with a vial of Pope John Paul’s blood was given to Pope Benedict XVI May 1 during the Mass for the beatification of the late pope. At the time, the Vatican explained that four vials of blood were drawn from Pope John Paul during the final stage of his illness. The vials were sent to Bambino Gesu Hospital in case the ailing pope needed a transfusion.

No transfusion was ever needed, and after the pope’s death April 2, 2005, two of the vials went to his personal secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, and the other two remained in the custody of the Daughters of Charity, the Vatican said.

After one year, Haiti’s cholera epidemic has become the world’s largest

(CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

It’s been a year since the cholera epidemic erupted in earthquake-shattered Haiti and aid agencies are turning to a new weapon in battling the water-borne disease.

Led by the Boston-based Partners in Health, the agencies are looking to begin a vaccination program that they expect will begin to reduce the incidence of cholera and thus make entire vulnerable communities less likely to be overrun by the disease.

The plan calls for vaccinating 100,000 people starting in January. Partners in Health is targeting poor communities in tent camps in quake-devastated Port-au-Prince with little access to safe water and in isolated rural villages near Saint Marc along the Artibonite River, about 60 miles north, where the first cholera cases were reported last Oct. 19.

“What we’re proposing is not a trial,” Paul Farmer, a Catholic who co-founded Partners in Health and is U.N. deputy special envoy for Haiti, told reporters this afternoon during an international teleconference. “The vaccine has been proven safe. It’s yet another effective measure against this epidemic.”

The problem, he said, is getting the campaign funded because the world has moved on to other concerns.

The cost is estimated at about $300,000, but Farmer said he and others with Partners in Health have been on the road trying to raise the necessary funds to carry out the vaccination campaign.

“This is the world’s largest (cholera) epidemic. It shouldn’t require that much effort. We’re trying to raise interest sufficiently,” he said.

“I hope some of the people on this call are shocked to see how little it costs to get this rolling,” he said.

Through Oct. 9, 469,967 cases of the disease have been reported leading to 6,595 deaths, according to the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population. The disease saw an upsurge last week after heavy rains hit parts of the country, Dr. Louise Ivers senior health and policy adviser to PIH, told reporters on the teleconference.

Ivers knows that vaccinating 100,000 people is barely sufficient when entire population of 10 million Haitians are at risk of getting the disease. Each patient must get two doses of the vaccine, which, she said, is 70 percent effective.

Farmer and Ivers also said they want to expand the campaign as more funding becomes available. Other agencies also are joining the effort to administer the vaccine.

What’s also needed is increased access to clean water and sanitation, the two physicians said.

Partners in Health estimates that about 54 percent of all Haitians have access to clean water. There is a push within the Haitian government to begin addressing the lack of clean water with some of the $5.9 billion pledge in March 2010 by the countries of the world meeting at the United Nations to discuss their response to the earthquake.

About 40 percent of the funds have been spent thus far. Farmer wants to see the countries making the pledges to return their focus to Haiti.

“We see ourselves as advocates to push for bigger, larger infrastructure projects that will help solve some of these problems” Farmer said.

Father Bernard R. Hubbard, S.J.: ‘Glacier Priest’

“Nothing quite like it had happened before,” writes Rita H. DeLorme, about the 1942 visit of  the “Glacier Priest” to what was then the Savannah-Atlanta Diocese. Jesuit Father Bernard R. Hubbard “delivered lectures, illustrated with motion pictures, from Feb. 9-12, 1942, in four cities of the diocese,” DeLorme said in an article in the Sept. 29 issue of the Southern Cross, newspaper of the Savannah Diocese. “A world-renowned explorer of the Arctic, a geologist and expert in related fields, Hubbard was every boy’s hero and possibly every dad’s too.”

(Map image/courtesy of US Gen Web Project)

I had never heard of Father Hubbard before I ran across DeLorme’s article, but his life as priest, explorer, photographer and popular lecturer was fascinating. He spent some years as a faculty member at Santa Clara University in California, so check out its collection of his photographs.  Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., has a collection of archival materials on the priest and his expeditions, including correspondence, scrapbooks and news clippings about his adventures. The Online Archive of California also has a respository of Hubbard papers, as does the National Park Service. The list goes on.

According to DeLorme, Father Hubbard was given his nickname by guides when he was in Austria to study theology “and led expeditions to the Tyrolean Alps.” In 1927 he was sent to Alaska. “He became fascinated by what he found there, eventually leading 31 scientific expeditions into the country’s desolate regions. Soon, his face, voice and persona were familiar to movie audiences who saw films of his Alaskan adventures. Now he was in Georgia,” writes DeLorme, a volunteer in the Diocese of Savannah’s archives.

‘Catholicism’ series airing on PBS is ‘visually splendid’

A visually splendid and intellectually satisfying introduction to Catholic Christianity is provided by the 10-part video series “Catholicism.” Written and hosted by Father Robert E. Barron, the complete documentary is available for purchase on DVD at Word on Fire, while four, hourlong episodes are airing on PBS affiliates throughout the month of October. (Check local listings or consult this online schedule for the program.)

"Catholicism" host Father Robert Barron. (CNS photo/Word on Fire)

A priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Father Barron is certainly not lacking in academic credentials. He holds a doctorate in sacred theology from France’s Institut Catholique de Paris and serves as the Francis Cardinal George professor of faith and culture at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary. He’s also been a visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame and Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, colloquially known as the Angelicum.

Like his august – and equally well educated — forerunner Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, however, Father Barron displays a knack for conveying complex ideas in easily grasped, television-friendly terms. His enthusiasm as a narrator also serves to keep the pace pleasingly rapid.

As he explores the identity of Jesus, the main topic of “Amazed and Afraid: The Revelation of God Become Man,” the first episode screened, the globetrotting Father Barron visits lushly photographed holy sites in Bethlehem, Galilee and Jerusalem before traveling on to various sacred locales around Rome. Classical religious artwork – smoothly panned and zoomed in the style justly known among broadcasters as the Ken Burns effect — provides further engaging imagery.

The substantive discussion carried on behind these visuals introduces viewers to the messianic expectations laid down in the prophecies of the Old Testament and to the surprising, sometimes paradoxical, manner in which Jesus — by his life, death and resurrection — fulfilled them.

A first-rate DVD resource for teen and adult religious education, whether in a parish setting or at home – and must-watch public television programming for all old enough to profit from it – “Catholicism” enlists sophisticated production values and an elegantly crafted script in the service of explaining — and celebrating — the faith.

‘Catholic Charities USA Day’ at the White House

Tomorrow is being billed as “Catholic Charities USA Day” at the White House.

At least that’s how Roger Conner, the agency’s senior director for communications, described the day to Catholic News Service.

“It’s a very special day at the White House with the administration for Catholic Charities,” he said.

About 160 leaders from Catholic Charities agencies throughout the country are planning to meet with administration officials. They will be part of a policy briefing to exchange ideas on the economy, human services, housing and immigration, all key concerns for local Catholic Charities agencies.

A press release from Conner’s office quoted Jon Carson, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, as describing the organization “an incredible network of social service organizations that support our neighbors in need.”

He also said the administration was looking forward to meeting with Catholic Charities leaders from around the U.S. for “a day of discussion and collaboration as we work towards our shared goals.”

In the backdrop of the meeting is last month’s release of statistics by the U.S. Census Bureau showing significant increases in poverty in 2010. Overall, 15.1 percent of the population, or 46.2 million people, live in poverty, the bureau reported. That’s an all-time high in terms of numbers.

The Washington gathering also follows Catholic Charities USA’s first annual National Poverty Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, and the reintroduction of the National Opportunity and Community Renewal Act, legislation developed by Catholic Charities USA to identify long-term solutions to poverty.