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  • Where is Home?



    During the years that I served as a Religious Superior for a province of Oblate Priests and Brothers in Western Canada, I tried to keep my foot inside the academic world by doing some adjunct teaching at the University of Saskatchewan. It was always a once-a-week, night course, advertised as a primer on Christian theology, and drew a variety of students.

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  • Suppose we let the people decide



    This week, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt that states have sovereign immunity from suits brought by individuals in the courts of another state. There is a lot to be said for that conclusion. But the court had held otherwise in Nevada v. Hall 40 years ago. Hyatt overruled Hall.

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  • What if every life were precious?



    When Alabama's governor, Kay Ivey, signed the nation's most restrictive abortion bill into law, she gave this simple explanation. "Every life is precious," she said. The law has been criticized by some abortion opponents like televangelist Pat Robertson who feel its restrictions are too extreme to win support from the Supreme Court, and it is engendering a strong reaction from abortion supporters.

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  • Confirmation for developmentally disabled



    Q. Our son, age 24, has severe cognitive delays. Would he be able to be confirmed? What level of understanding is required? (New Philadelphia, Ohio) A. Your son would certainly be able to be confirmed, and should be. Canon 889 of the Church's Code of Canon Law states that the reception of this sacrament requires that "a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed and able to renew the baptismal promises."

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  • Is this equality?



    Last month in Philadelphia a federal appeals court did its bit for efforts to make conscience knuckle under to the LGBTQ agenda. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit held the city was within its rights in barring Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and an agency called Bethany Christian Services from making foster care placements because they won't place children with same-sex couples.

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  • The Pell case: Developments down under



    In three weeks, a panel of senior judges will hear Cardinal George Pell's appeal of the unjust verdict rendered against him at his retrial in March, when he was convicted of "historical sexual abuse." That conviction did not come close to meeting the criterion of guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt," which is fundamental to criminal law in any rightly-ordered society. The prosecution offered no corroborating evidence sustaining the complainant's charge. The defense demolished the prosecution's case, as witness after witness testified that the alleged abuse simply could not have happened under the circumstances charged -- in a busy cathedral after Mass, in a secured space.

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  • Celebrating 100 years of Sunset Point Camp



    It must have been quite a sight on the day more than 100 years ago, when the barge carrying the building that had once served as a VA Hospital on Bumpkin Island sailed its way through Boston Harbor to Hull's Sunset Point, to be repurposed as a summer camp for children. Thanks to the generosity of James J. Phelan who purchased the acre of land the camp sits on, and the Massachusetts State Council of the Knights of Columbus, who donated and transported the building, generations of children have benefited from a summer-time stay at the beach.

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  • 'The Memoirs of St. Peter'



    In "The Memoirs of St. Peter" (Regnery), Michael Pakaluk takes on what someone unaware of the pitfalls of translation might consider a simple task: to render the gospel of St. Mark in English that resembles as nearly as possible the Greek of the original.

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  • Policies and persistence



    The Vatican's long-in-coming response to the Church's widespread sexual abuse scandal is certainly good news. The changes in policy announced by Pope Francis in "Vos estis lux mundi" are encouraging. We will now be more equipped to hold bishops and other Church officials accountable not only for acts of abuse, but for failing to report them. Clear channels for reporting allegations of abuse by not only priests, but bishops, religious, and lay leaders, will be established. Whistleblowers will be protected from repercussion. Allegations will be forwarded to Rome promptly, and investigations will be required to start within 30 days.

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  • New for all ages



    By God's goodness and compassion, the doors of His kingdom have been opened to all who have faith, Jew or Gentile. That's the good news Paul and Barnabas proclaim in today's First Reading. With the coming of the Church--the new Jerusalem John sees in today's Second Reading--God is "making all things new."

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  • In Catholic solidarity with Venezuela



    Venezuela is a de facto Catholic nation. About 70% of the 27 million Venezuelans self-identify as such. Today, Venezuelans struggle tremendously. The Church in this country suffers. Current levels of instability endanger the well-being of an entire society. This is aggravated by poorly crafted policies from a regime that practically failed to provide conditions for all people to live with dignity.

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  • Parish finance reporting



    Q. I belong to a Catholic community in Florida that has been in existence for 32 years. For all that time, we have had only one pastor. The problem is that we have never seen a parish financial report, and I have been told that our parish's weekly income averages $30,000.

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  • A Christian gentleman in the nation's capital



    [On May 8, the Library of Congress and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars co-hosted a tribute to Dr. James H. Billington, who died last November 20. Billington was instrumental in bringing me to Washington during his service as director of the Wilson Center and we remained friends throughout his historic tenure as the 13th Librarian of Congress. As Librarian, Jim Billington vastly extended the reach of what is arguably the world's greatest repository of knowledge. It was an unremarked aspect of his character, however, that I underscored in my contribution to the May 8 tribute.]

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  • National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue



    The National Catholic/Muslim Dialogue (NCMD), sponsored on the Catholic side by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' and its Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and on the Muslim side by the Islamic Society of North America, is the successor to three Regional Dialogues (West Coast, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic) that began about 20 years ago and continue to meet annually.

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  • It's time for Catholics to wake up: the real danger posed by the California confession bill



    SB 360, a piece of proposed legislation currently making its way through the California state senate, should alarm not only every Catholic in the country, but indeed the adepts of any religion. In California, as in almost every other state, clergy members (along with a variety of other professionals, including physicians, social workers, teachers, and therapists) are mandated reporters -- which is to say, they are legally required to report any case of suspected child abuse or neglect to law enforcement. However, California clergy who come by this knowledge in the context of "penitential communication" are currently exempted from the requirement. SB 360 would remove the exemption. Sen. Jerry Hill, the bill's sponsor, characterized the scope and purpose of his legislation as follows: "The law should apply equally to all professionals who have been designated as mandated reporters of these crimes -- with no exceptions, period. The exemption for clergy only protects the abuser and places children at further risk."

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  • The Home for Destitute Catholic Children



    As the 19th century progressed, so, too, did ideas about how to care for orphaned children. In the first half of the century, it was believed that these children were best served by boarding them at institutions. Children could be admitted short-term, in between stays with family members, or long-term, leaving once they were old enough to find employment and support themselves. Examples amongst Catholic charities in Boston include St. Vincent Orphan Asylum for girls, and later the House of the Angel Guardian for boys.

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  • Shepherd and the Lamb



    Israel's mission -- to be God's instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth (see Isaiah 49:6) -- is fulfilled in the Church. By the "Word of God" that Paul and Barnabas preach in today's First Reading, a new covenant people is being born, a people who glorify the God of Israel as the Father of them all.

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  • John Havlicek, RIP



    The late John Havlicek and I played together on the same basketball team. Honest. Back in the mid-80s he organized a celebrity team to play in a charity game at Weston High School, the town where he lived. Team members included Doug Flutie, fresh off his Heisman Trophy season at Boston College, and Jerry Remy, then the recently retired Red Sox second baseman but not yet the TV icon he was to become. Bobby Orr was there, too, but as an honorary referee, since his oft-injured knees prevented him from running up and down a basketball court.

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  • Receiving the food that makes martyrs



    We are now at the time of year in which, in many parts of the country and globe, young people are receiving their first Holy Communion. As pastors and catechists are well aware, the spiritual significance of this event is sometimes obscured by an excessive focus on suits and dresses, parties and photos.

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  • Are deceased aware of those on earth?



    Q. As a longtime practicing Catholic, I would like to know whether the Church has a position on whether those who are now in heaven can observe, and are aware of, how we are living our lives here on earth. Also, can we pray to our deceased loved ones for help and guidance in the same way that we pray to the saints? (San Francisco)

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  • What has been done and what we still need to do



    Josh Shapiro, the attorney general for the state of Pennsylvania, has used the burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral as an opportunity to write a column upbraiding U.S. bishops. Noting how quickly Catholics rallied to pledge close to a billion euros to pay for the rebuilding, the attorney general asked: "Where is the sense of urgency and acceptance of responsibility to support the victims and survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy?"

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  • On the composting of thee and me



    In Herman Wouk's novel, "War and Remembrance," Warren Henry shocks his Bible-reading father, the novel's hero, by claiming that human beings are "microbes on a grain of dust...and when it's over we're just dead meat." The Washington state legislature has now topped the cynical young Warren Henry by declaring that we're useful meat, as in potential compost, such that one can legally choose to be composted after death, and then used for fertilizer.

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  • A time for every season



    Recently, as I left my dad after a visit, he asked me when I was coming home again. He has never asked that question before, and it left me a bit surprised. My dad is now 96, and his life is a reminder that there is a time for every season, as stated in Ecclesiastes. He has experienced the births of nine children and the death of one child. He has sown and reaped grain for 85 seasons. He has also laughed with joy and wept over many things during his 96 years. And now, it is a season of rest for him -- and for his daughter, it is time to go home and help to care for him.

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  • Seminarians meet centenarians



    During their second year of studies, seminarians at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary are sent out every Tuesday on pastoral assignments. These assignments focus on caring for the sick, the elderly, and the infirm. Echoing the Lord's call in the Gospels for "mercy, not sacrifice" (Mt. 9:13), Father Stephen Linehan, director of Pastoral Formation at PSJS, underscores the importance of the fundamental mission of all the baptized to reach out to the afflicted. This hands-on learning period helps seminarians prepare for their future role as parish priests and the pastoral care of the sick and dying. "All of the baptized have received the mission to be merciful." Father Linehan said, "The corporal and spiritual works of mercy call us to visit the sick and comfort the afflicted." When caring for seniors and the infirmed, Father Linehan reminds seminarians that as true followers of Christ, we must "bring encouragement, hope, and reassurance" wherever we go.

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  • Made for Easter



    Cathedrals are made for Easter. That's when they can be seen in all their glory. That's when the mysteries to which they bear witness are made more visible. That's when the stones and beams and glass all seem to shout "Christ is risen! Alleluia!" And when the floors and walls and ceilings come to life.

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  • A beautiful ministry



    What impacted me most in terms of my formation at the Theological Institute was the fellowship that I shared with my fellow students as well as the staff and faculty. I already came to the program with a deep desire to follow God's will for me and to serve him in his Church; what I did not expect, but clearly relished, was that my desire turned out to often be a shared desire. I was not alone!

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  • Fire of love



    There are two places in Scripture where the curious detail of a "charcoal fire" is mentioned. One is in today's Gospel, where the Apostles return from fishing to find bread and fish warming on the fire.

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  • Michael Chavis's debut to remember



    It was the ninth inning of a tense game between the Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays on a recent night; the score was tied, five to five, after the Sox had squandered a five to nothing lead; Jackie Bradley Jr. was on first base; the public address announcer at the dump otherwise known as Tropicana Field announced a pinch hitter for the Red Sox; "Now batting for Boston, and making his major league debut, number 23, Michael Chavis."

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  • Truth-telling and Big Abortion



    For over a half-century, what styles itself the "pro-choice" movement has thrived because of its extraordinary ability to mask what it's really about -- the willful taking of innocent human lives in abortion -- through various rhetorical deceptions.

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  • Practicing mysticism



    "I'm a practicing mystic!" A woman said that in one of my classes some years ago and it raised lots of eyebrows. I was teaching a class in mysticism and asked the students why the topic of mysticism interested them. Their responses varied: some were simply intrigued with the concept; others were spiritual directors who wanted more insight into what constitutes mystical experience; and a number of others were taking the course because their faculty advisor asked them to. But one woman answered: "Because I'm a practicing mystic!"

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  • Divorced and extraordinary minister



    Q. Can a divorced person serve as a Eucharistic minister, or do you need to get your marriage annulled first? I have no intention of remarrying, nor am I living with a partner or having a sexual relationship with anyone. What is the Catholic Church's rule on this? (Trinidad and Tobago)

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  • Catholic Voters in 2020



    A little more than a year and a half before the presidential election of 2020, the post-Mueller features of that contest are coming into focus along with some clues to its possible outcome. One conclusion to which the data point is that a relatively small body of voters, with Catholics very much among them, may be crucial to the outcome.

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  • Violence against Christians and the waning of reason



    There were more Christian martyrs in the twentieth century than in all of the previous nineteen centuries combined. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and many of their lesser-known totalitarian colleagues put millions of Christians to death for their faith in that terrible hundred- year period. One of the saddest features of the still-young twenty-first century is that this awful trend is undoubtedly continuing. By far the most persecuted religious group in the world today are Christians, and they are dying by the thousands, especially in the Middle East and in Africa. Though Hindus and Buddhists have indeed been targeting Christians, their most egregious aggressors, by leaps and bounds, have been radicalized Muslims, the recent mass-killings in Sri Lanka being but the most recent example of this kind of violence. I have stated this fact simply and bluntly, because I am convinced that no solution can be found unless and until, at the very least, we speak truthfully.

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  • Easter is not over



    When I was growing up and attending Catholic school, Easter Monday was a vacation day. It was great -- not as memorable as getting off All Saints Day, which was the high holiday of splitting up the Halloween booty, acquired the night before, but it was still an appreciated day off from school. This is probably not what the Sisters of St. Francis intended in giving us the day off. Easter Monday is a great reminder that Easter is not over. The Easter Season continues all the way until Pentecost Sunday, and is a time to build on the joy of Easter Sunday.

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  • The 75th anniversary of Cardinal O'Connell's death



    The Monday after Easter, April 22, marked the 75th anniversary of the death of Cardinal William Henry O'Connell, the fifth bishop of Boston, whose tenure spanned 1907 to 1944. This column has previously discussed Cardinal O'Connell so, in brief, he was born in Lowell, on Dec. 8, 1859. He studied at Boston College and the North American College in Rome, and was ordained there on June 8, 1884. He then returned to the Archdiocese Boston, serving at St. Joseph in Medford and St. Joseph in Boston, before returning to serve as rector of his alma mater in 1895. In 1901, he was installed as the bishop of Portland and would serve as the papal legate to Japan before being installed as the archbishop of Boston on Aug. 30, 1907. He was elevated to a cardinal four years later.

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  • The Ratzinger Diagnosis



    Published a week short of his 92nd birthday, Joseph Ratzinger's essay on the epidemiology of the clergy sex-abuse crisis vividly illustrated his still-unparalleled capacity to incinerate the brain-circuits of various Catholic progressives. The origins of the text written by the pope emeritus remain unclear: Did he initially write it to assist the bishops who met in Rome this past February to address the abuse crisis?

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  • Notre Dame raises our eyes above



    On April 15, I joined countless numbers of people whose eyes were glued to the live video of Notre Dame Cathedral in flames. As with other events of mass destruction -- like 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing -- I had trouble registering that the images I was seeing were real.

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  • Breath of new life



    The prophet Daniel in a vision saw "One like the Son of Man" receive everlasting kingship (see Daniel 7:9--14). John is taken to heaven in today's Second Reading, where he sees Daniel's prophecy fulfilled in Jesus, who appears as "One like a Son of Man."

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  • The return of Sean McDonough



    I don't know about you, but the only time I listen to radio broadcasts of baseball is when I'm in the car. When I'm home, I watch on TV, never with the sound turned down. I'm a big fan of Dave O'Brien, Jerry Remy, and Dennis Eckersley. That said, there are usually a couple of times a week when I'm either going to or coming from someplace when a game is on, and I'm always tuned in to it. Sometimes, if I'm close to home, it's for as little as half an inning; at others, such as the summer season when I often make day trips to Cape Cod, I'll have baseball to keep me company for four or five innings as I'm on my way home.

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