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Essays in Theology

Impasses in today's church

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Terrence Tilley is chair of the Department of Theology at Fordham University and immediate past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

In his presidential address at the recent Catholic Theological Society of America convention in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Tilley spoke of the negative effects of the "stalemate" or "impasses" that currently afflict the Catholic church (for the full text, "Three Impasses in Christology," see Origins 6/25/09).

U.S. women religious and loyalty oaths

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Religious communities of women have been responsible for many of the good things that the Catholic church in the United States has achieved, both before and after the Second Vatican Council.

It is all the more distressing, therefore, that two Vatican agencies -- the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- have targeted these communities and their principal leadership organization for a "visitation" and "doctrinal assessment" respectively.

The Vatican and U.S. women religious

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I did not intend to comment on the Vatican's decision late last year to conduct a visitation of religious communities of women in the United States because I expected such a study, to be done under the auspices of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, to come up more or less empty-handed as did the Vatican's earlier study of U.S. seminaries and theologates.

I may, of course, hear from some seminary quarters itemizing a few of the negative results of that previous study. I would welcome such input and would want to assure the sources in advance of complete confidentiality.

Independence or interdependence?

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This Saturday, July 4th, is Independence Day in the United States. It is a day for celebration, to be sure, but all too rarely do those Americans who observe the holiday reflect on its original inspiration. The same, of course, holds true for Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and even Christmas.

Many countries have their own distinctive celebrations to mark the anniversary of their liberation from foreign rule or autocratic government. There is nothing unique about what occurs in the United States on the Fourth of July. Canada Day, celebrated on July 1, offers a close, but not exact, parallel.

The papacy 1,000 years ago

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History is the great debunker of pre-conceived ideas that are rooted in ideology and false piety rather than in reality.

Without a grasp of history, and of the history of the papacy in particular, many Catholics are led to believe that the papacy must always have been as they have known it, and most popes have been just like the popes of the 20th and 21st centuries: Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.

Two saints, two institutions

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The Catholic church will commemorate the feasts of Sts. Aloysius Gonzaga and John Fisher on June 21 and June 22 respectively.

Although both saints lived all or part of their lives in the 16th century, there are striking contrasts between them, primarily in their personalities and achievements in life, but also in the institutions which have taken their names.

One is in the Jesuit tradition, Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington; the other, St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, was established by Basilians.

The silence of the presidents

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Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., former editor-in-chief of America magazine, wrote an exceedingly important article for the National Catholic Reporter, May 29, on the silence of the presidents of Catholic colleges and universities.

Almost none of them came to the defense of the University of Notre Dame or their fellow president, Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, when the institution and Jenkins were under heavy fire from bishops and conservative laity alike for having invited President Barack Obama to be Notre Dame’s Commencement speaker and to receive an honorary degree.

More on the leadership crisis

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There's an old saying, "It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good." It appears in many places, but its classic source seems to be Shakespeare's Henry IV.

For our purposes, the "ill wind" is the negative reaction of over 60 U.S. Catholic bishops to the University of Notre Dame's invitation to the President of the United States to deliver this year's Commencement address and to receive an honorary doctorate of laws.

The crisis in Anglicanism

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The Anglican Communion and the Catholic church (of which the Roman Catholic church is by far the largest portion) historically have had much to learn from one another.

Anglicans have shown Catholics that it is possible to maintain international unity while respecting local autonomy, and Catholics have shown Anglicans the benefits of a strong central authority.

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October 24-November 6, 2014

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