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Two weeks' worth of hope

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When I'm on the lecture circuit, one of the most common questions I get is this: "Where do you see hope in the church?" Implicit, of course, is the assumption that hope is hard to find. (Usually, also implicit is that by "church" the questioner actually means "hierarchy," but that's another conversation.)

The premise is understandable, because the case for despair is often depressingly easy to make. Yet I also can't help feeling that one has to be almost deliberately blind not to see signs of hope everywhere, if you but look around.

Pope's visit, week's stories show divisions, rays of hope

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Three important stories washed across the Catholic radar screen this week, each with something to say about where things stand vis-à-vis the church in the early 21st century. They were:


  • The conclusion of Pope Benedict XVI’s improbably successful Sept. 16-19 trip to the United Kingdom, which, according to British Prime Minister David Cameron, made the secular Brits “sit up and listen”;

  • A new Vatican Bank scandal, with $30 million in bank funds frozen by Italian authorities and its top two officials placed under investigation for alleged violations of anti-money laundering protocols;

  • A strong statement from the Committee on Doctrine of the U.S. bishops’ conference accusing two Creighton theologians of distorting the Catholic moral tradition on issues such as homosexuality, contraception, and artificial reproduction.

Benedict in Britain: We get it, we've got it, let's share it

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Pope Benedict XVI is midway through his trip to the United Kingdom, and so far reaction has been all over the map, from wild enthusiasm among devotees, to overt hostility among determined protestors, to benign indifference in a broad swath of secular society. Of course, the pope always evokes a range of opinions, but they’re rarely on full public view as they are here.

'Attack on Ratzinger': Italian book assesses Benedict's papacy

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Friends and foes alike of Pope Benedict XVI concur that he's got an image problem. Where they place the blame for it may differ, but the fact itself seems clear: From a PR point of view, this is a pontificate defined by its train wrecks.

Cataloguing those train wrecks is the burden of a valuable new book by two of the best Italian vaticanisti going: Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale and Paolo Rodari of Il Foglio, both of whom also operate widely read blogs -- "Palazzo apostolico" for Rodari and "Sacri palazzi" for Tornielli. Their work is titled Attacco a Ratzinger: Accuse e scandali, profezie e complotti ("Attack on Ratzinger: Accusations and Scandals, Prophecies and Plots"), published in Italian by Piemme.

Why Rome scorns resignations, and a great week for wonks

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It may be a measure of how somnambulant Rome becomes during the ferragosto vacation period that the big Vatican story this week was actually something that didn't happen. It turns out that two Irish bishops implicated in that country's sexual abuse crisis, Dublin auxiliaries Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field, won't be resigning after all, because Pope Benedict XVI wants them to stay on.

Q&A with Fr. Joseph Tobin

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Elevating another American to a senior Vatican position, Pope Benedict XVI on Monday named Redemptorist Fr. Joseph Tobin as the new secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, colloquially known as the "Congregation for Religious." It’s the office with lead responsibility for some 190,000 religious priests and brothers, and roughly 750,000 sisters, worldwide.

The Superior General of the Redemptorists from 1997 to 2009, Tobin, 58, becomes an archbishop by virtue of the appointment.

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August 1-14, 2014

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