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  • A welcome revision to the Catechism



    For some years now, I have expressed my concern that the death penalty is both cruel and unnecessary and I have called for its abolition. So, I welcome the changes to The Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty and I am grateful for Pope Francis' leadership in working for an end to judicial executions worldwide.

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  • One Catholic Church



    The headlines last week proclaimed that Pope Francis had changed the Church's teaching on the death penalty, causing consternation among some Catholics. Why? They were reacting not simply to the evident glee among makers of elite culture ("the Church has at last caught up in this matter at least") but also to the very idea that the Church could "change" its teaching on faith and morals.

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  • Summer is finishing, the need isn't



    As summer camps finish for the season, summer feeding programs end, and families prepare to send their children back to school we see a spike in demand at our food pantries across the region. In fact, August is the month when all of our Basic Needs programs experience the highest need, while our available resources stay flat.

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  • Never again



    ''Never again." These are words we say when we discover that something unimaginably horrid has occurred. They are what we said when we saw the photographs of concentration camp victims being liberated and the shadow of mushroom clouds over Japan. "Never again" is what we said as the body bags came back from Vietnam, when the pope was shot in St Peter's Square, when almost a million Rwandans were slaughtered by their neighbors. "Never again" is what we vowed on 9/11 when the second plane flew into the South Tower. And "never again" are the words we all uttered when the clergy sex abuse scandal broke. And we thought we all -- with no exceptions -- meant it. And yet, here we are, desperately trying to breathe as the waves of yet another sexual scandal -- this one at the Church's highest levels -- wash over us.

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  • A Church of sinners



    Catholics are rightly horrified by the reported sexual exploitation of boys and men by Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, now resigned from the College of Cardinals. Other Church leaders knew of his misdeeds but remained silent and kept advancing him to leadership posts. We even hear of churchmen involved in grave offenses who protect and advance each other in a conspiracy of shame.

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  • Take and Eat



    Sometimes we feel like Elijah in today's First Reading. We want to lie down and die, keenly aware of our failures--that we seem to be getting no better at doing what God wants of us. We can be tempted to despair, as the prophet was on his forty-day journey in the desert. We can be tempted to "murmur" against God, as the Israelites did during their forty years in the desert (see Exodus 16:2, 7, 8; 1 Corinthians 10:10).

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  • So far, so good



    So far, so good. There you have it, my unvarnished, tell-it-like-it-is opinion of the 2018 edition of the Boston Red Sox. After almost 80 percent of the regular season has been completed, the Red Sox are on track to win the American League East championship with the most victories in team history. Mookie Betts is having an MVP season, unless, that is, he is beaten out by J.D. Martinez, who is way better than anyone could have hoped. Chris Sale is Chris Sale, in other words, the best pitcher in the league. Everyone else is pulling his weight. Alex Cora has a firm hand on the tiller. What could go wrong?

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  • The McCarrick mess



    When I was going through school, the devil was presented to us as a myth, a literary device, a symbolic manner of signaling the presence of evil in the world. I will admit to internalizing this view and largely losing my sense of the devil as a real spiritual person. What shook my agnosticism in regard to the evil one was the clerical sex abuse scandal of the nineties and the early aughts. I say this because that awful crisis just seemed too thought-through, too well-coordinated, to be simply the result of chance or wicked human choice. The devil is characterized as "the enemy of the human race" and particularly the enemy of the Church. I challenge anyone to come up with a more devastatingly effective strategy for attacking the mystical body of Christ than the abuse of children and young people by priests. This sin had countless direct victims of course, but it also crippled the Church financially, undercut vocations, caused people to lose confidence in Christianity, dramatically compromised attempts at evangelization, etc., etc. It was a diabolical masterpiece.

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  • The Reform of the Clergy, Phase II



    The sad revelations about the sins of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, involving the sexual abuse of both male minors and seminarians, have brought the Church in the US and beyond to a second phase in the necessary purification of the clergy of the Church. The first phase happened in 2002 after the disclosure that over four thousand (out of 110,000) priests had been accused in the US of sexual abuse of minors in the previous half-century. The U.S. Bishops convened in Dallas and adopted what has overall been a heralded systemic response to root out those who have abused minors from the priesthood, protect children, and care for survivors.

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  • Why is Michael a saint?



    Q. I am not a Christian, but I enjoy reading your column and learn a lot from it. I am hoping that you can explain why St. Michael the Archangel is regarded as a saint. I have always been under the impression that a saint is a deceased believer who is recognized by the Catholic Church after the process of canonization. But Archangel Michael has never been human, right? (Jefferson City, Missouri)

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  • Why I Believe in God



    Some of my favorite authors are agnostics, men and women who face life honestly and courageously without faith in a personal God. They're stoics mostly, persons who have made peace with the fact that God may not exist and that perhaps death ends everything for us. I see this, for example, in the late James Hillman, a man whom I greatly admire and who has much to teach believers about what it means to listen to and honor the human soul.

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  • WYD-1993: The Turning Point



    On this 25th anniversary of World Youth Day in Denver, I can't help sharing one of my favorite personal memories of John Paul II. It was December 15, 2004, and as had become our custom during the years when I was preparing Witness to Hope, I was having a pre-Christmas dinner with John Paul, who loved the Christmas season -- and believed in opening his Christmas presents when he got them. That year, I had brought him a very large photo album, National Parks of the United States, which the Pope proceeded to unwrap as soon as I gave it to him, with some help from then-Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko. The 263rd successor of St. Peter then looked at the table of contents -- and immediately turned to Rocky Mountain National Park.

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  • Promethean medical temptations



    Superheroes attract us. From Greek gods to Superman and Spiderman, our fascination with the awesome deeds of superheroes beckons us to become masters of our own destiny. Yet even as we enjoy the fantasy of acquiring Promethean powers to combat our enemies and conquer evil, we have legitimate misgivings about mere mortals taking on god-like powers in real life. We are concerned about those who play with fire just like Prometheus did, at the risk of harm and great destruction. Today, as modern medicine tries to rebuff death and control our humanity in ever more sophisticated ways, new temptations arise that challenge us to choose between life and death, between living in reality and living in a fantasy world where we elevate ourselves as "masters of our own destiny."

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  • Aging well may start in the mind



    How old do you feel? The answer likely varies depending on your level of energy, optimism and engagement at a given moment. In the midst of a strenuous uphill hike in the sun, you might "feel your age" more so than when spending an enjoyable afternoon with family or lounging by the pool.

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  • What happens in the Church can't stay in the Church



    They say, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." Although I have never been to "The Entertainment Capital of the World," I just returned from "The Big Easy." I was in New Orleans for a National Congress to celebrate the 50th Jubilee of the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent order within the life of the Church. There, nearly 3,000 deacons and their wives prayed the Liturgy of Hours and the Eucharist, listened to keynote addresses from cardinals, bishops, and other deacons, and shared fellowship. As I participated in this historic gathering, it became very clear to me that what was happening in the community gathered in New Orleans could not stay inside the walls of their meeting space. As inspiring as all the conferences and workshops were, what moved my heart the most was the silent cries of the homeless that I encountered for five days up and down the streets of the French Quarter.

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  • Lefty O'Doul



    My pal George Mitrovich called the other day to talk about Lefty O'Doul. If you've ever wondered what two old guys talk about during the baseball season, now you know. We talk about guys even older than us, some of whom have been dead for a half century or more. O'Doul has been dead for only 49 years, but we talked about him, nonetheless.

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  • What if Kavanaugh is confirmed?



    Soon Washington will again be offering the world the spectacle of one of the things it does best (or worst): a contested Senate confirmation hearing. This time it will be Judge Brett Kavanaugh's turn to spend time on the rack in preparation for serving on the Supreme Court.

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  • Patron saint for purgatory?



    Q. Is there a patron saint for the souls in purgatory? (Columbus, Ohio) A. Two saints in particular are often invoked on behalf of the souls in purgatory. One is St. Nicholas of Tolentino, a 13th-century Augustinian priest, and the other is St. Gertrude the Great, a 13th-century Benedictine nun.

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  • WHY ACCOMPANIMENT INVOLVES APOLOGETICS



    I recently granted an interview to the National Catholic Reporter concerning the upcoming Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, to which I was elected a delegate. We discussed a number of topics, including the rise of the "nones," the purpose of the Synod, and creative ways of listening to the concerns of young people. In the course of the conversation, I also stated that I would bring the issue of apologetics before the Synod, since so many young people have questions about, and objections to, the faith. But when the interview appeared, the author expressed her puzzlement that I would mention apologetics, though it is clear that the working document calls for "accompaniment" of young people. It seems many think doing apologetics and accompaniment are mutually exclusive. To my mind, they're mutually implicative. Of course, especially in our context today, a brow-beating, "I've got all the answers" approach is counter-indicated. But apologetics as such is needed more than ever--and more to the point, is perfectly congruent with Pope Francis' insistence on walking with those who struggle with the faith.

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  • Standing on New Borders



    A particularly powerful Gospel story recounts Jesus meeting with a Syro-Phoenician woman. Central to that story is where their encounter takes place. It takes place on the borders of Samaria. For Jesus, Samaria was a foreign territory, both in terms of ethnicity and religion. In his encounter with this woman, he is standing at the edges, the borders, of how he then understood himself religiously.

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  • Fridays without Charles



    Take my word for it: You don't want to be around me at breakfast. I am not a chipper morning person, and it's best to leave me to the coffee and the newspaper -- and I mean newspaper, not online edition -- until I become fit for human company. There was, however, an exception to my congenital early morning grumpiness, and it involved 32 years of Fridays. Because on Friday mornings, for more than three decades, my first semi-conscious thought was, "I wonder what Charles is writing about today?" The answer was rarely disappointing.

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  • The legacy of 'Humanae Vitae' at 50 years



    Perhaps the most surprising thing about the encyclical "Humanae Vitae" 50 years on, is how reports of its imminent death were continually exaggerated. Very few brave souls would have predicted in 1968 that the document would ever enjoy enthusiastic support from more than a few female Catholic intellectuals and the Catholic "woman in the pew," even while it remains contested both in the Church and in the world.

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  • Affirming and celebrating Humanae Vitae



    July 25 is the fiftieth anniversary of ''Humanae Vitae'', Blessed Paul VI's encyclical on the integrity of love and the appropriate means of family planning. Issued during the cultural meltdown of the 1960s, and in a year when irrationality stalked the entire Western world, ''Humanae Vitae'' instantly became the most vilified act of the papal magisterium in history. And to what should have been their shame, entire national episcopates distanced themselves from Pope Paul's teaching by a variety of stratagems, many of which exhibited some degree of theological confusion and some of which were downright cowardly.

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  • The smokescreen of emanations from penumbras



    This Sunday, July 29, is the 50th anniversary of the actual publication of Blessed Pope Paul VI's encyclical ''Humanae Vitae'' on the regulation of birth, and more specifically on the immorality of artificial birth control, though it was formally dated July 25, 1968, the feast, then as now, of St. James the Apostle. Pope Paul is himself scheduled to be canonized a saint in Rome this October 14. His controversial encyclical insisted on the intrinsic connection between what it called the unitive and the procreative meanings of human sexuality -- that sexual activity has a meaning and purpose intimately related to the transmission of human life, and thus that recreational sex, sex for pleasure apart from openness to children, was in some way inhuman and objectively sinful.

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  • Belongings and belonging



    We wake up most mornings not quite believing that we're here, but it only takes a step outdoors with the dogs to know that we aren't in Boston anymore. New Orleans mornings are warm, and as we walk along the fence the geckos run for cover. I don't know what kinds of trees or plants are growing in our yard. Many of the groceries at our local markets are unfamiliar, and some of the things we're accustomed to don't seem to be widely available. Still, we know that we didn't get here by driving 1,500 miles. God brought us here on his power and grace, not ours.

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  • Moe Berg, man of mystery



    The release of the film, "The Catcher Was a Spy," has caused an uptick of interest in the career of Morris "Moe" Berg, the brilliant intellectual who also played baseball -- or was it the other way around?

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  • Policy needed to address bishops' violations of the vows of celibacy



    For the past several days, articles in the national media have reported accusations of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's sexual improprieties with several adults and his criminal violations of the sexual abuse of minors. These alleged actions, when committed by any person, are morally unacceptable and incompatible with the role of a priest, bishop or cardinal.

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  • Shortchanging Catholic school students on special education services



    As if it's not bad enough that the Massachusetts Constitution still includes amendments rooted in the anti-Catholic bigotry of the 19th century, we now learn that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is using the amendments to deny hundreds of millions of federal dollars' worth of special education services to students who attend private and religious schools.

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  • Family separation at the borders



    We have all seen the heart-wrenching videos of children crying for their parents, or worse yet, being held in cages in detention centers at the U.S. border. Today, we are paying particular attention to the efforts being made to re-unify children with their parents in this humanitarian crisis at the border.

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  • The glue that binds families together



    Summertime in Boston is a time for families to rest, reconnect, and recreate. From Memorial Day to Labor Day families reconnect with one another basking in the promises of a warm summer day and the good food cooked over a hot grill -- there is nothing more American than a hot dog cooked on a charcoal grill on the 4th of July. Vacation homes on area lakes and beaches are filled with families resting in each other's presence amidst the crashing of waves and the smell of BBQ or maybe even fried clams.

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  • What are judges for?



    With the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court, interest groups and politicians are insisting that any replacement must pledge to uphold the court's Roe v. Wade decision on abortion.

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  • Diamond vs. gridiron



    We are all wired differently. No two of us are exactly the same. We might have many things in common but there are other things that separate us, that give us our own identity. My brother, Jim, and I, for example, are what were in the old days known as "Irish twins." We were born two days short of a year apart. Jim and I grew up in the same bedroom; shared the same loving parents; ate the same things for breakfast; had the same friends; and went to the same schools. We even looked like brothers (and still do), but we are different, and always have been, in at least one important way.

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  • A Slur that Cuts Deep



    He's a loser! You're a loser! Among all the hurtful slurs we mindlessly utter this particular one is perhaps the most hurtful and damaging. It needs to be forbidden in our public discourse and stricken from our vocabulary.

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  • Celebrating our technicolor glory



    My wife and I moved from the Midwest to the East Coast a few years ago. There was a predictable amount of culture shock for both of us in leaving the manifest blessings of the Midwest: Housing prices (you can buy a palace for what a garage might cost elsewhere). Traffic (four drivers politely waving each other through at a four-way stop). Endless expanses of corn and soybeans (OK, those do get boring after a while, but they make current talk of tariffs affecting crop prices much more real).

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  • Cohabitation and Catholic seniors



    Q. I was born in 1926 and attended Catholic schools before being called into military service during World War II. My wife of 57 years, a convert to Catholicism, died in 2005. Two years later, I began seeing a widow who had been raised Catholic and sometime later asked her to marry me.

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  • Getting out of the Sacristy: A Look at Our Pastoral Priorities



    For the past several days, I've been with my Word on Fire team, filming for the Flannery O'Connor and Fulton Sheen episodes of our "Pivotal Players" series. Our journey has taken us from Chicago to New York to Washington, DC, and finally to Savannah and Millidgeville, GA. At every step of the way, we have met numerous people who have been affected by Word on Fire materials: sermons, podcasts, YouTube videos, and the CATHOLICISM series. Many have told me that their exposure to Word on Fire started a process that led them back to the Church. Now I'm telling you this not as an advertisement for my media ministry, but rather as an occasion to muse about what I consider to be a needful change in the way the Church thinks about its essential work.

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  • Reception of 'Humanae Vitae'



    In the half-century since Pope Paul VI published his encyclical Humanae Vitae reaffirming that contraception is always wrong, opponents of the teaching have frequently focused on "reception" and "sensus fidelium"--the sense of the faithful. The argument from "sensus fidelium" takes public opinion as an indicator of whether a teaching is true. "Reception" is shorthand for saying a teaching must be validated by having a majority "receive"--that is, accept--it.

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