N.Y. Mom Told ‘Nutcracker’ Too Religious

THE NEW YORK TIMES, Dec. 16 — The mother of students in Westchester County, N.Y., was told that their school could not sponsor a trip to see “The Nutcracker” because it is religious.

The mother, Kristina Lindbergh, is president of the board of the Westchester Ballet Company, based in Ossining, N.Y., and her two daughters are members. She did not identify their school, but in an account she wrote in the New York daily, she said the head of the school told her, “We can't send student because 'The Nutcracker’ is about Christmas, and we can't patronize anything even slightly religious.”

Lindbergh said her appeals, including the argument that the only “Christmassy” element in the holiday favorite is a Christmas tree, went unanswered. Describing a performance of the ballet for another school group, she asked, “Were they watching something religious? Perhaps, in its reverence for beauty and excellence, and with its goals of honoring the enormous gifts we've been given, and of inspiring and lifting the spirits of its audience.”

Nebraska State Senator Makes Anti-Catholic Comments

THE OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, Dec. 23 — Comments by a Nebraska state senator have raised hackles, and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights wonders why more Catholics in that state do not speak up about them.

“You all know that the Catholic hierarchy and Church walk through here like a monster in seven-league boots, tromping on the senators, calling them to task, letting them know that their soul may be at stake if they don't do exactly what they're told to do, exactly as they're told to do it,” said Sen. Ernie Chambers Nov. 5, as quoted by the Omaha daily.

Chambers made the remarks on the floor of the state senate. Despite the urging of the Catholic League, Nebraska lawmakers say they have no plans to seek their colleague's censure.

Chambers said he treats the Church like any other opponent, aiming at its political involvement rather than individual believers.

Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns, a Catholic, said he just doesn't pay much attention to Chambers. “This time it happens to be Catholics, next time it will be real estate agents,” he said.

Chambers, who once had portraits of Washington and Lincoln removed from the legislative chamber on the grounds that they were “racists,” also condemned President George W. Bush's war on terrorism.

Boston Archdiocese Offers Low-Cost Funeral Packages

THE BOSTON GLOBE, Dec. 17 — In an effort to counter a trend toward cremations, the Archdiocese of Boston is offering low-cost traditional burial packages.

The discounted packages are designed to compete with cremation's lower costs, the Boston daily said.

Church leaders, including Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, have voiced concern that Catholics are choosing cremation as a simpler, less expensive option than a funeral with the body present at Mass and buried in a grave or put in a vault.

The Globe said that about 10% of Catholic deceased in metropolitan Boston were cremated last year.

The archdiocese is making about 200 burial packages available, starting at about $1,400. Most traditional funerals average more than $4,000, and cremation is usually no more than half that.

The Church now accepts cremation as an option, but prefers burial as a better expression of Christian faith in the resurrection and as a sign of respect for the human body.