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Essays in Theology

Sen. Kennedy's funeral

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There is a Latin phrase in the Easter Vigil liturgy, "O felix culpa" ("O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!" -- from the Easter Proclamation, also known as the Exultet, from its first word, "Rejoice").

In clerical circles at least, the expression "felix culpa" has frequently been used to describe an unfortunate event or circumstance that has a good, though unintended or unexpected, consequence.

Perpetual eucharistic adoration

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There was a front-page story in The Boston Globe last month signaling the return of perpetual eucharistic adoration to Boston.

In the 1940s a group of cloistered nuns began the practice of eucharistic adoration at St. Clement's Shrine, a former Universalist church that had been purchased by the archdiocese of Boston to accommodate the overflow crowds from St. Cecelia's parish in the Back Bay section of the city.

Church employees on Labor Day

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Just before every Labor Day weekend in the United States and Canada, this column devotes its full attention to the general issue of justice in the Catholic church and to the particular situation of ecclesial ministers and other church employees in parishes, dioceses, schools, hospitals, and similar Catholic institutions.

There are observations made in last year's column and in 2006 that I believe need to be repeated this year.

President Obama and the Vatican

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While most of the attention was focused on President Barack Obama's audience with Pope Benedict XVI on July 10, there was an important bit of news in a column published the day before in Commonweal's on-line edition.

The article, written by Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, a Catholic layman who often addresses issues related to religion and politics, was entitled, "Does Obama have a friend in the Vatican?"

The pope's social encyclical -- Part 2

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Pope Benedict XVI's new social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate ("Charity in Truth"), is in the tradition of previous social encyclicals, going back more than a century to Pope Leo XIII's landmark encyclical, Rerum Novarum ("Of New Things"), published in 1891.

What is remarkable about this latest social encyclical is that Benedict XVI suggests that the new starting-point for Catholic social teaching in this modern age is Pope Paul VI's Populorum Progressio ("The Progress of Peoples"), published in 1967 (see n. 8). Indeed, Caritas in Veritate is filled with praise for Paul VI and for the encyclical he authored.

The pope's social encyclical

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The first impression one has of Pope Benedict XVI's new social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate ("Charity in Truth"), is that it is long and dense -- too much so in both categories to expect the document to be read by a significant minority of Catholics, not to mention other Christians and non-Christians.

The encyclical is very much the work of someone with many years of careful research, writing, and teaching in his background. Few would question the opinion that Benedict XVI is the most gifted theologian ever to occupy the Chair of St. Peter.

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August 15-28, 2014

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