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Competing interpretations of 'death with dignity'

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Competing interpretations of 'death with dignity'

Given intense bioethical debates these days over end-of-life care, Catholics naturally look to role models for guidance as to how the church's traditional principles, especially the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary means of preserving life, ought to be "cashed out" in concrete situations. Perhaps, therefore, it was inevitable that the protracted illness of Pope John Paul II two years ago would become a battlefield for competing interpretations of what "death with dignity" actually means.

Churches 'are not bound by the First Amendment and cannot violate it'; Racism in the church

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Ronald Reagan once famously insisted that Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev “tear down that wall,” referring to the division of Berlin into East and West. In a somewhat less dramatic fashion, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry of Los Angeles demanded Thursday that another wall be torn down -- in this case, the metaphor of a “wall of separation” between church and state in the United States, which Curry called “bad law and bad history.”

Why is Fr. Peter Phan under investigation?

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Over a decade ago, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger laid out with crystal clarity what he saw as the greatest doctrinal threat of the day: a confluence of what he described as "the a-religious and practical relativism of Europe and America" with "Asia's negative theology," producing a profound mutation in core Christian teachings -- with Christ seen as simply another spiritual sage comparable to Buddha or Muhammad, and Christianity as one valid religious path among many others.

Looking for signs of a 'great awakening' in Austria

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EDITOR'S NOTE: John Allen will be accompanying Pope Benedict XVI during his Sept. 7-9 trip to Austria. Watch for his daily news stories from the trip at http://ncrcafe.org/blog/2682


Pope Benedict XVI grew up in Bavaria, just across the Salzach River from Austria. In his 1997 memoirs Milestones, Joseph Ratzinger wistfully describes joining his family for Sunday walks across a local bridge into Salzburg, falling under the spell of Austrian culture and music. Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the pope's brother, recently confessed that "both of us are Austria-lovers."

The deathbed friendship between a bishop and an atheist

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Conventional wisdom has it, "There are no atheists in foxholes." In truth, atheists can be found even in foxholes, but often they're atheists whose deepest yearning is to be wrong.


In just that spirit, among people who believe that Western civilization today is locked in mortal combat with radical Islam, there's a growing contingent of what we might call "Christian atheists," meaning non-believers nonetheless committed to a strong defense of Christian culture. In this quirky galaxy, no star burned brighter than that of the provocative Italian writer Oriana Fallaci until her death in September 2006.

The Catholic-Shi'a connection; Another Latin Mass note

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While pundits fill the airwaves debating whether the American military surge in Iraq is working, another surge continues to unfold in Iraq and across the Islamic world, one potentially of far greater import for the 21st century: the emergence of Shi'a Islam as an emboldened force, from Lebanon on the Mediterranean coast all the way to Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Sex scandal in Italy; Appreciating Cardinal Lustiger; Latin Mass update; and a Polish radio priest

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Controversy continued to mount this week surrounding sex abuse charges against one of the highest-profile figures in Italian Catholicism, Fr. Pierino Gelmini, the 82-year-old founder of a movement called Comunità Incontro (Encounter Community), which works with young alcohol and drug addicts. Founded in 1963, the community has 164 centers in Italy and 74 abroad, including Thailand, Bolivia and Brazil, which have served more than 300,000 youth.

The uphill journey of Catholicism in China

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If there were any lingering question about whether there's a spiritual boom in China today, it now has a two word answer: Yu Dan.


A 42-year-old female talk show host and pop culture icon, Yu Dan is the author of Notes on Reading the Analects -- a sort of Confucian Chicken Soup for the Soul -- which has sold somewhere between 3 and 4 million copies, making it one of the biggest best-sellers in China since Mao's "Little Red Book." Dan's success illustrates that China has become, according to writer Zha Jianying, the "largest soul market" in the world. With a population of 1.3 billion, China is trying to fill an ideological void left by the collapse of Communism as anything more than a system of political control, and the dislocations of astonishing but uneven levels of economic growth.

For Benedict, environmental movement promises recovery of natural law tradition

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One could say that summer 2007 is when the Vatican decided to go green. First came an announcement in June that more than 1,000 photovoltaic panels will be installed atop the Paul VI Audience Hall, allowing the building to utilize solar energy for light, heating and cooling. A month later, the Vatican became the first state in Europe to go completely carbon-neutral, signing an agreement with a Hungarian firm to reforest a sufficiently large swath of Hungary's Bükk National Park to offset its annual CO2 emissions.

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August 15-28, 2014

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