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  • Maintenance vs. mission



    Just when the Long Lent of 2002 was coming to a boil in March of that year, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, took things from "boil" to "nuclear meltdown" during a press conference presenting John Paul II's Holy Thursday letter to the priests of the world. Peppered with questions about the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the U.S., Castrillon peremptorily dismissed reporters' queries, saying that the Pope had other things to worry about, like Middle East peace.

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  • Praying with children



    Next month, Pope Francis will host a synod of bishops on the theme of "Young people, faith and vocational discernment." This may seem uncomfortable, even incongruous, given the crisis the church faces today. Some have asked the Holy Father to put off this synod and concentrate instead on the meeting he has convened for next February to discuss the crisis.

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  • Divorced and Communion



    Q. I am in my 50s and have now been divorced for three years. I was married in the Catholic Church and have always attended Sunday Mass regularly and received Communion. But I have begun to wonder whether I should still take Communion.

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  • Tintoretto and the Reform of the Church



    I am in Washington, DC this week for meetings of the USCCB. Since formal proceedings didn't begin until the evening, I found myself yesterday morning with a little free time. So I made my way to one of my favorite places in the city, the National Gallery of Art, which I frequented when I was a student at Catholic University many years ago.

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  • Spiritual Paternity, Anger, Lying and Vulnerable Adults



    In the last two weeks there have been ongoing developments in the clergy scandals that erupted with the revelation of the sexual abuse committed by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, widened with the publication of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury investigation of sexual abuse of minors, and mushroomed further with the publication of testimonies by Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganÚ, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

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  • 'We recommit our Church in Boston to work for healing'



    Following are the edited prepared remarks of Cardinal SeŠn P. O'Malley's address to 1,700 guests at the Celebration of the Priesthood Dinner in Boston, Sept. 18. Last Saturday I gathered with hundreds of Catholics who are residents or former residents of South Boston to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of Father Francis Matignon, the French priest, who, along with Bishop Cheverus, founded the Catholic Church in this part of the world. When Father Matignon died 200 years ago a cemetery was established in South Boston and the Chapel of St. Augustine was built there. There are about 1000 people buried there, mostly Irish immigrants, including the first Irish police officer of Boston. It's the same cemetery where Billy Bulger says he wants to be his final resting place, so as to remain politically active after death.

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  • 'The fire rages on'



    Below are the prepared opening remarks Barbara Thorp gave at the "Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults" panel that took place in Dublin Aug. 24 during the World Meeting of Families. This is my first time returning to Dublin after participating with Cardinal SeŠn as part of the Apostolic Visitation Team in 2010/2011. During that time I met Marie Collins and her husband Ray and over sixty survivors of clerical abuse, family members, faith-filled Catholics, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and many members of the clergy as well as the dedicated Child Safeguarding staff led by Andrew Fagan for the Archdiocese of Dublin.

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  • The sex abuse crisis and Church teaching



    Every one of us struggles and is weak; but what matters is how we deal with our weakness. Let's take something trivial and therefore inoffensive. Consider the principle, "Do not eat between meals." (It does not matter if it is true: it merely need be representative.) Suppose someone resolves to follow that principle.

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  • Is God calling you to serve him and his Church as a deacon?



    How does one discern a call from God to a vocation in the Church? God calls all people to holiness. Within this call God calls each of us to a particular state in life. For some this particular call is to marriage. Others are called to religious and consecrated life. Still others are called to ordained ministry as a deacon, priest, or bishop. As a young boy, I thought I was being called to the priesthood. In time, I discerned that God was calling me to the married state. This call was confirmed on the day of my wedding when I saw my beautiful bride and was reconfirmed when each of my three children were born.

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  • St. Gregory and God's decision



    St. Gregory the Great was born in Rome around the year 540 AD. He was the member of a privileged family and, as such, had many opportunities available to him. However, young Gregory eschewed all this and entered monastic life, accepting the spiritual way of poverty, chastity and obedience. Gregory might have intended to withdraw from the world, but Providence would have none of this. Gregory was named the Pope's legate to the imperial court of Constantinople. The Rome of Gregory's day was a mere vestige of its former glory, so the intrigues and wonders of the New Rome, Constantinople, must have made quite an impression on this papal ambassador.

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  • Following the Messiah



    In today's Gospel, we reach a pivotal moment in our walk with the Lord. After weeks of listening to His words and witnessing His deeds, along with the disciples we're asked to decide who Jesus truly is.

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  • Winners and losers



    Of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: "It might have been!" John Greenleaf Whitter The mood inside Worcester City Hall on Aug. 17, was euphoric; there were high fives and hearty back-slaps all around. The city's political and business establishments had joined forces to make the great day happen. Various factions had put aside their differences, and the fruit of their labors had ripened. Worcester would be the new home of the Boston Red Sox's Triple A affiliate. It would mean not only a new stadium, but also housing, hotels, restaurants, and shops. A tired old neighborhood would spring to life again, and it would be an economic engine for the entire region.

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  • Saving Synod-2018 from itself



    Anyone looking for a remedy for insomnia might try working through the Instrumentum Laboris, or "working document," for the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in Rome next month on the theme "Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment." The IL is a 30,000+ word brick: a bloated, tedious door stop full of sociologese but woefully lacking in spiritual or theological insight. Moreover, and more sadly, the IL has little to say about "the faith" except to hint on numerous occasions that its authors are somewhat embarrassed by Catholic teaching -- and not because that teaching has been betrayed by churchmen of various ranks, but because that teaching challenges the world's smug sureties about, and its and fanatical commitment to, the sexual revolution in all its expressions.

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  • 'Brother-sister' for civil marriage



    Q. My sister married in the Catholic Church while very young. After a couple of years, that marriage fell apart and eventually she received an annulment from the Catholic tribunal. After a few years, she met a divorced man who had been married previously in the Catholic Church and she married him in a civil ceremony.

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  • Chastity and Love



    Woe to chastity that is not practiced out of love, but woe to love that excludes chastity. These are the words of Benoit Standaert, a Benedictine monk, and I believe they can be profitably read in our culture today where, to the detriment of everyone, the sexually active and vowed celibates alike, sexuality and chastity are generally seen as opposed to each other, as enemies.

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  • Sweden's Catholic past and future



    Standing in a field north of Stockholm, I was looking at a Viking rune, an arrow-shaped stone as tall as a person. It was etched with words in Old Norse that wound like a ribbon over the face of the stone. On the top of the stone was a cross, and the words asked for blessings from God and God's mother, a reference to Mary. It was 1,000 years old.

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  • Scandal and truth



    The speaker was a highly sophisticated layman, possessor of a doctorate and professor of theology at a major Catholic university. We had been discussing the metastasizing scandals plaguing the Church--scandals concerning ex-Cardinal McCarrick, the Pennsylvania grand jury, what the Pope knew and when he knew it,

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  • Support our priests who are always there for us



    Ten years ago, I lost my mother who was my best friend in so many ways. The experience of losing a parent challenges us all in very different ways. For me, I wanted to find support in my parish. After Mass one day, I walked to the sacristy to introduce myself to the newly appointed pastor, Father Stephen Donohoe, and ask for help. Although he did not know of any bereavement groups, he wrote my name and contact information. To my complete surprise, before I arrived home, he sent me an email with resources. That encounter began a pivotal friendship for our family.

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  • Hurricane season



    When we began to let friends in New England know that we had decided to move to New Orleans, one of the first things they asked us about was hurricanes. The conversation was generally one-sided and usually went something like this: "But what about hurricanes? Did you think of hurricanes? Katrina destroyed everything, and it was a hurricane. What are you going to do if there's a hurricane? I don't think I could move to a place where there are hurricanes." Frankly, after hearing so many horror stories about the Blizzard of '78 (we both came to Boston in 1979), seeing a tree fall onto our neighbor's car in her driveway (twice in the same winter), and shoveling five feet of snow off our roof a few years ago following a string of Nor'easters, the fear of Gulf Coast hurricanes seemed a bit overblown. Besides, no matter where you live, there's going to be something, right?

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  • Say it ain't so



    There have been recent calls for Pope Francis (and Cardinal SeŠn, for that matter) to resign for supposedly knowing about ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's past sexual abuse of young males and not doing anything to keep him from power and influence in the Church. Earlier this summer the pope accepted McCarrick's resignation as a cardinal, but an archbishop who formerly held high-ranking positions in the Vatican says the pope knew about McCarrick's awful behavior years ago and yet treated him as a trusted adviser.

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  • Engaging young people in their faith



    As part of a summer project, I looked at different parish websites and talked to pastors about life in the collaboratives. What caught my attention is the number of parishes and collaboratives that ran vacation bible schools and sponsored mission trips for their youth. It was inspiring to hear about the number of young people growing as disciples and bringing the love of Christ to others. These mission trips and summer volunteer opportunities present a picture about young people that gives us reason to have hope!

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  • Anchors in the Storm



    I have tried in recent columns to respond to some of the many questions that people have been asking about the scandals that began with the revelations about the predations of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, were magnified by the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and have now expanded further with the publication of several testimonies by Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganÚ, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

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  • An Ode to the Church



    Carlo Carretto was an Italian monk who died in 1988. For many years he lived as a hermit in the Sahara Desert, translated the scriptures into the Tuareg language, and from the solitude of the desert wrote some extraordinary spiritual books. His writings and his faith were special in that they had a rare capacity to combine an almost childlike piety with (when needed) a blistering iconoclasm. He loved the church deeply, but he wasn't blind to its faults and failures, and he wasn't afraid to point out those shortcomings.

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  • Full-immersion Catholicism



    As this Catholic annus horibilis continues to unfold, perhaps some good news is in order; first, a little background. In late 1991, Italy's Rocco Buttiglione and America's Michael Novak had an idea: create a summer seminar in which young Catholic adults with leadership potential could immerse themselves in the social doctrine of the Church, and especially the social magisterium of Pope John Paul II. Rocco and Michael recruited Father Richard John Neuhaus, the Polish Dominican Maciej Zieba, and me to the faculty team, and in July 1992 we went to Liechtenstein (where Rocco then taught) for several intensive weeks of intellectual work with some 40 graduate students from Europe and North America.

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  • Why we stay, and the Vigano Testimony



    The Sunday Mass scriptures during this summer of horrors have often been eerily appropriate, beginning with Jeremiah's polemic against malfeasant shepherds who mislead the Lord's flock (July 25) and continuing through the story of many disciples' defection after the "hard words" of the Bread of Life discourse (Aug. 26). And it's entirely understandable that more than a few Catholics have choked on the word "holy" these past few months, when asked to affirm it of the Church during the Creed and the Offertory. But while understandable, that still bespeaks a misunderstanding. The reason why is given immediately after the defection story in John 6: 60-66, when the Lord asks the Twelve if they, too, are going to bail on him and Peter answers, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

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  • We need the truth



    Statements by Pope Francis and American bishops reacting to the Church's sex abuse scandal suggest they are serious about getting to the roots of what happened and doing something meaningful about it. That includes the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick as well as 1,000 old but for the most part previously unreported abuse cases in six Pennsylvania dioceses.

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  • When hard conversations have to happen



    ''I wish we didn't have to talk about this." What parent hasn't thought or uttered these words, taking a deep breath before jumping into a hard conversation with their child? Whether a crisis at home, a conflict at school or an atrocity in the news, tough subjects are unavoidable in families.

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  • Sex abuse and clericalism



    The sex abuse crisis that began with allegations about Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick and dioceses in Pennsylvania has broadened with a testimonial by the former papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

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  • Can we pay others to donate a kidney?



    Often we envision donating our organs after we are dead, but we can also choose to become an organ donor while we are alive if we share part of our liver or donate one of our kidneys. The proposal to give one of our two kidneys away, though, does raise some ethical and safety concerns. There can be long-term risks for the donor. Donating a kidney, moreover, would not be therapeutic for us -- only for someone else -- and in fact might slightly increase our own risk for experiencing renal failure in the future.

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  • Pure religion



    Today's Gospel casts Jesus in a prophetic light, as one having authority to interpret God's law. Jesus' quotation from Isaiah today is ironic (see Isaiah 29:13). In observing the law, the Pharisees honor God by ensuring that nothing unclean passes their lips. In this, however, they've turned the law inside out, making it a matter of simply performing certain external actions.

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  • Confessions of a jaded Red Sox fan



    All right, boys and girls, everybody gather around the campfire. We're going to have an old fashioned sing-along. Do you remember "Those Were the Good Old Days," from Damn Yankees? No? Well, you better look it up, because we're singing to that tune.

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  • How to Respond



    Sometimes all you can do is to put your mouth to the dust and wait. That's a counsel from the Book of Lamentations and while perhaps not the best response to the recent revelations of clerical sexual abuse and cover-up in the Roman Catholic Church, it seems the only helpful response available to me as Roman Catholic priest today. Beyond prayer, I've been hesitant to respond otherwise to this current situation for three reasons.

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  • Tradition of lighting candles



    Q. I have asked several people this, but no one seems to know: Why do Catholics light candles in church? When did this tradition start, and what was the reason? (Troy, New York) A. The custom of lighting candles as a mark of respect and prayer actually predates Christianity. In Judaism, the Talmud prescribed that there be a perpetual lighted candle at the Ark of the Covenant where the writings of the sacred Scriptures were kept -- as a sign of respect for the word of God.

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  • The revolt of the sheep



    Yet another dark moment in our Church history. The findings of a Pennsylvania Grand Jury of a 70-year-old pattern of clerical sexual abuse and cover-ups has rocked faithful Catholics. It will surely loosen the connection to the Church of many of our friends and family. It has justified in their minds the departure of millions of Catholics, who have used these scandals to renounce their faith and slip away into a totally secular life.

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  • A beast with many heads



    In the rush to "fix it," or at the very least "contain it," many have tried to identify the roots of the current crisis we are suffering in the Church. Since the release of the absolutely horrifying Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, all kinds of explanations and theories have surfaced. Everyone seems to have an answer to the most central question: What is the source of this widespread abuse and corruption?

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  • St. Bernard's path of love



    Today (August 20) the Church celebrates the life and work of St. Bernard, an abbot of the Cistercian order and a Doctor of the Church. St. Bernard was part of the great flowering of Christian civilization that occurred in the period known to historians as the "middle ages." This was the time when the great cathedrals of Europe were built and Christianity exercised tremendous influence over the cultures of Europe.

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  • A choice to make



    This Sunday's Mass readings conclude a four-week meditation on the Eucharist. The Twelve Apostles in today's Gospel are asked to make a choice--either to believe and accept the New Covenant He offers in His Body and Blood, or return to their former ways of life.

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  • Happy Birthday, Ted Williams



    There is never a time when the name of Ted Williams is very far from the thoughts of any baseball fan, but the attention has become even more intense than usual with the approach of the one hundredth anniversary of his birth on August 30th. It brings to mind a story that Dom DiMaggio shared with me about him.

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