New posts at Democracy in America. First, if the NRA's influence is waning, surely that is, to some extent, a result of the fact that Democrats have backed off the issue of gun control so much in recent years (partly because violent crime rates have actually been declining, partly because Democrats were keen to win seats in the mountain west and southwest).

Also, a post on the John Edwards trial. And one on the Vatican's public scolding of American nuns. Being against scolding and pro-nun, you can imagine how I felt about that one.

But on a related note, the (false, yes?) conflict between service and spirit reminds me of a from Bill Minutaglio's book City on Fire, about the 1947 explosion that devastated Texas City. In this passage he describes how Christopher Byrne, the bishop of Galveston, thought about Bill and Johnny Roach--two priests who had turned up in Texas looking for parishes some years earlier:

Byrne had decided to roll the dice, to take a chance, to see if the Roach boys were tapped in to some new way of doing things.

And then he had held his breath for several years as critics and enemies said the Roach boys were dangerously close to no longer being priests--they were becoming socialists, communists even, people who had forgotten that they were supposed to concentrate on spiritual matters instead of delivering medical services, food, water, and homes to poor black people.

Byrne never chastised them...He had let Bill Roach, especially, run free. And the twins seemed to be finally converging on something good. Bill Roach had convinced the mayor of Texas City to tackle the problems of the blacks and Mexican Americans--and in Galveston a hospital was being built where nothing like it had existed before.

Bill Roach died in that hospital, one of hundreds of victims of the explosion.


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