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September 11th, 2003
Visiting the 9/11 Memorial at Shanksville, PA

Shanksville, PA, Sept. 7, 2003—About ten miles off the Pennsylvania Turnpike (about 80 miles before you get to Pittsburgh), Shanksville is small town America incarnate. It must be the mostly unlikely place imaginable for the U.S. to come face-to-face with Al Qaeda.
But that happened here on September 11, 2001, when United Flight 93, angling down at high speed, turned and hit a field outside town with such force that there was no piece left of it larger than the cab of a pickup truck. A plume of black smoke hung over the town. Pieces of the aircraft were thrown back into the air, some landing as far away as the other side of the mountain.
Tending to the memoryLocal people told me this when I came to visit the temporary memorial…

September 1st, 2003
A Journey to Italy, a Reminder of Catholic Roots

They say you can’t go home again. In my case, its usually because someone has changed the locks on the door—so that I, literally, can’t go home again.
And being the transient that I occasionally find myself being, I got a chance to go to Italy this summer and visit my ancestral home—a tiny city in the Abruzzo region called Villa San Angelo; population 500.
There’s a little house there, among a bunch of other little houses (villas, by definition, have lots of little houses). And it’s such a cool connection to the past.
Before moving to America, nearly everyone in my family had been born in this house. My aunts and uncles, my grandpa, my great-grandpa, you get the idea. Just standing outside…

August 29th, 2003
Nothing to Do During the Blackout, New Yorkers Did Well

The power actually browned out—gradually—in our section of midtown Manhattan on August 14 at 4:10 p.m. But before ten full minutes had elapsed, everything was completely gone.
Like for most of those affected, the information came in slowly. We assumed it was just our immediate neighborhood. Then we heard it was the whole City. Then: New Jersey and Connecticut too.
Soon we got our ‘D’ batteries from the local newstand and got the full report off the radio—fifty million people across the Eastern Seaboard up to Toronto and Ottawa in Canada.
New Yorkers, of course, remember the infamous Blackout of 1977, when looting caused panic and millions of dollars in damage. No one knew if a similar fate awaited…

August 22nd, 2003
Finding Marguerite's Dream in the Red Rock Desert

Ash Wednesday, 1932
An art student stands on the avenue in New York City in 1932, looking up at the Empire State Building, recently completed.
Most people from around the world have been impressed by the mammoth structure, awed by its ramrod straightness. Inevitably some visitors think of King Kong.
But on that day Marguerite Brunswig, en route home from Ash Wednesday mass, saw in the building’s art decco structure something unusual—the bulging form of a Cross. And it spun in her head the idea of a cruciform, almost-Gothic church built in the manner of these massive modern buildings (she passed Rockefeller Center on the way to her 85th St. apartment).
Seventy plus years later I—adopted New Yorker, priest,…

August 17th, 2003
Canada Brings Gay Marriage to the World - Is the World Ready?

By all accounts, Gay Pride Week in Toronto was different this year. Normally, the festivities draw thousands of tourists to the capital of Ontario and the annual parade?that took place on Sunday June 29?can attract hundreds of thousands. This year, however, tourism was down. SARS paranoia, it seems, still spooks Toronto’s image. Hotels normally filled with Gay Pride revelers remained half empty.
It’s not just SARS, though, that has changed Toronto’s Pride celebration: it’s marriage. On June 10, the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled that the province’s marriage laws were unconstitutional because they prevented same-sex partners from marrying. While the court’s…

August 1st, 2003
Resolving Dilemmas of Conscience at Work

My friend Smita (name changed) refuses to write brochures and marketing material for companies because she feels uncomfortable “bending the truth.”
It’s common knowledge that brochures sometimes misrepresent product features, but she won’t write brochures at all, even though it pays well. She’d rather struggle and earn much less writing freelance articles, than go against her value system. To me, she’s a great example of how you can find God in the choices you make at work. Ironically, she’s an atheist.
Integrity in the moment of choiceMost of us spend eight hours a day at work. We deal with people, we make decisions, and we do the tasks that are assigned to us.…

August 1st, 2003
From the Supreme Court to L.A.'s Inner-City Schools

This summer seeping through the quagmire of continuous news coverage of disappearing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the latest J.Lo and Ben antics was news on the ongoing skirmishes over affirmative action.
But lost in any discussion was one of the root causes of low minority educational achievement—the abysmal state of public education in the United States.
Split decision—splitting hairs?In late June the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action as applied to the University of Michigan law school admissions policy—but struck down its undergraduate policy.
Why the difference? Well the court reasoned that the undergraduate program used quotas in determining admission…

July 29th, 2003
A Perspective on the Cost of Denying Women Ordination

Nearly six years to the day that I received my first theology degree, I was back in Boston at an ordination (see box below).
I was at the Episcopal cathedral, not the Catholic one. Jen, a former roommate, asked me and two other women friends from divinity school—a Jew-nitarian (and Wicca-friendly) minister and an Episco-Lutheran postulant to participate in her “deaconing” (being ordained a deacon) as presenters.

Ordination
In Christian churches ordination is the ritual by which the Holy Spirit is called down upon leaders of the community. In the Catholic, Orthodox, and certain other Christian traditions ordination is reserved for men only, while in most Protestant denominations it is open…

July 29th, 2003
Christian Faith Comes Alive on Pilgrimage in El Salvador

Summertime…and the living is on the go. This summer I headed south to El Salvador in Central America.
It’s a breathtakingly beautiful land country, but with a turbulent history that includes many modern-day Christian martyrs. The capital city, San Salvador, is a major Latin American pilgrimage stop.
San Salvador is not exactly Cancún—it’s not a fun vacation. But it is a deeply moving one—you get to know about some of the most courageous and extraordinary Catholics and people of faith of the last 30 years.
A few must see sites:Monseñor Oscar Romero’s house, next to Hospitalito Divina Providencia: Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador surprised the minority wealthy and the majority…

July 20th, 2003
Lament of a Student Loan Debtor

I’ll admit it-I’m a student loan debtor . Big time.
And like most of you I’m not expecting forgiveness anytime soon.
My loan woe
A few years ago I set out to improve myself as a writer. And what better way to do this but through a graduate program of well repute?
My troubles began when I was accepted into the graduate Dramatic Writing Program at NYU . Don’t get me wrong; this is and was a good thing. My taking out a huge student loan to finance it?that was a bad, bad thing.
And now I lie awake at night wishing I could scream. But I live in a multi-unit building with paper thin walls?all I can afford.
And to what end did I mortgage the rest of my life, you ask? To hone the hallowed and time-honored craft of screenwriting…

July 17th, 2003
Nickel and Dimed Chronicles the Hard Life of the Working Poor

Could you survive in a strange city on $7 an hour? This is the simple question that social critic and Ph.D. biologist Barbara Ehrenreich set out to answer. The 2001 bestseller Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America chronicles her lived research with biting insight, engaging detail, and a welcome dose of humor.
I will survive (but not on Wal-Mart wages)Leaving her home in Key West, Ehrenreich tries on life at the bottom of the wage scale. Working as a waitress, a nursing home aide, a maid, and a Wal-Mart “associate,” she very quickly discovers that full-time work does not keep her out of poverty. In fact, it doesn’t even keep her in an apartment.
Some of the information Ehrenreich shares…

June 16th, 2003
As Seen from a Distance

Though Americans living abroad might technically be defined as expatriates (from the Latin “banished ones”), they generally tend to think of themselves more as roaming ambassadors of national pride.
Aasalaamu aleikum, pilgrim We normally head out with the cowboy mentality of heading off into the wild blue yonder with our brains and brawn, ready to conquer the wilderness. We arrive in our new surroundings excited to share with the locals the superiority of our culture, ready to demonstrate the genius of our ways, and expecting people to learn from us.
In short, we often arrive at our new destination ready to establish our own little piece of Americana, convinced that we will succeed just as readily…

June 9th, 2003
The World of Socially Responsible Investment

“More analysts are riding the bull,” read the headline in the Chicago Tribune recently.
Despite bad news from other sectors of the economy, the stock market seems to be on the rebound. With tech stocks including EBay, Yahoo, and Amazon hitting 52-week highs last month, the first evidence is in that the burst bubbles of the century’s turn might be behind us. The Down Jones Industrial Average, New York Stock Exchange, and even the wayward NASDAQ are all up for the year.
But before you bolster your mutual fund, or fork over more money for your 401(k), you might want to ask yourself, “What’s my money doing anyway?”
In the beginning…In the late 1960′s, a group of very creative…

May 2nd, 2003
Christie Todd Whitman Finds Bush EPA No Place for Moderates

Wind Dummy?
The writing was on the wall for all environmentalists the day Secretary of State Colin Powell called EPA director Christine Todd Whitman President Bush’s “wind dummy .” The term refers to the military practice of tossing a dummy out of an airplane to test which way the wind is blowing over a landing zone.
Powell used the reference in a derogatory way to describe Whitman’s position navigating between environmentalists and conservatives in an administration clearly anti-environmentalist in deed.
Can it be any surprise that after 28 months Whitman has decided to call it quits?
A tale of two Bushes
It was early in Whitman’s tenure that her fate was sealed, and so was that…

May 1st, 2003
A Student Activist's Take on Incarceration from the Inside

As my second week in prison comes to a close, it becomes increasingly clear that the prison system serves little purpose than that of a multi-billion dollar industry.
The economics of incarcerationEach federal prison receives $20,000 and up per year per inmate for room and board. This money is supposedly used for the upkeep of an eight feet by nine feet cubicle housing two people, and to purchase our food (despite most of the food being expired, unsellable goods donated by supermarkets for tax write-offs).
In comparison, it costs less than $15,000 per year to live and eat at most private colleges, institutions hardly known for skimping.
The prisons also receive funds for inmates enrolled in GED classes, drug programs,…

April 29th, 2003
The Moral Obligation to Rebuild Iraq

I don’t like President Bush.
There, I said it. I don’t think he makes many wise decisions. I didn’t support his decision to go to war, and I suspect that he has ulterior motives with regard to the oil-rich Middle East.
However, I also think that President Bush means well despite my disagreements with his policies.
I believe President Bush thinks that he’s doing a good thing, that the Iraqi people will be better in the long run than they were under Saddam. He feels that he is triumphing over evil in a way that will bring peace to a region that hasn’t known peace. The citizens who cheered coalition forces and thanked President Bush for overthrowing Saddam show that, in some ways, President…

April 19th, 2003
The April 8 Attacks Demand a Reckoning

No doubt a sad page has been turned as a result of U.S. troop actions that led to the death of three journalists last Wednesday . It’s hard not to think that an unspoken and ominous message was delivered to the profession of journalism by way of the U.S. Army.
If I were writing that message as a news headline it would read: “U.S. to Independent Journalists in Iraq: Is That a Target on Your Head?”
What happened April 8?
Are we to believe the tank round fired at the Palestine Hotel?which killed two journalists?and the two missile attacks on the Al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi news networks came about as a tragic coincidence?
Three incidents on the same day sounds like two too many.
Or could it be that the U.S. was…

April 12th, 2003
Being a Christian When People Are Better Off in Prison

Federal Prison Camp, Maxwell Air Force Base—I was speaking to one of my friends today as we sat by the river inside the Camp. We were talking about life in prison as opposed to life on the outside.
He said “I like it here. My life is better here. On the outside, I was living in substandard housing, had almost no food to eat, and no friends. Here, I have three meals a day, friends. And my housing is decent. I’m better off here.”
When he said this I nearly fell out of my seat. How could a person be better off in prison?
What does freedom matter?
I pondered this. I realized that here in prison we may lose our freedom, but does freedom really matter you are not free from hunger, homelessness, and disease? If you…

April 10th, 2003
Philip Morris Companies Became Altria Group - So What?

When a corporation like the Philip Morris Companies changes its name, is it a change in deed or just in word?
As the umbrella company that owns such diverse products as Kool-Aid, Altoids, Oscar Meyer, and Miller Beer, Philip Morris Companies changed its name to Altria in January of this year.
It’s a significant milestone for the company that owns the subsidiary Philip Morris, which, in turn, sells the world’s most profitable brand of cigarette?Marlboro.
Since it is widely established that cigarettes cause cancer, the name change begs some obvious questions:
Does the name change reflect a willingness to rely less on tobacco profits and settle tobacco litigation in good faith?
Will the name change…

April 8th, 2003
The Ethical Quandary of Embedded Journalists

Do “embedded journalists,” that is, those assigned to cover and travel with a particular military unit, make for balanced war coverage?
As a journalist I believe embedding journalists with our troops is higly problematic.
Say the word
To begin with one needs only to look at the military term: “embedding.” The military’s selection of that word says it all; by definition it sets up a troubling precedent. When you ‘embed’ something you “introduce it as an integral part,” according to the Websters Third International Dictionary.
Should war journalists ever be an integral part of any military unit? Once they are, wouldn’t they lose their impartiality?…

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