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Essays in Theology

Darwin at 200

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There have been several events in North America and around the world marking this year's 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth. I write this week about his significance -- and that of Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx -- for our understanding of who we humans are and where we fit into the broader contexts of nature, the inner psychological universe, and society at large.

The leadership crisis

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Political commentators have been reflecting for several weeks on television and in the press about the crisis of leadership facing the Republican Party in the United States.

Larry Sabato, an oft-quoted professor at the University of Virginia, suggested recently that we may now have a one-and-a-half party system in this country, rather than the traditional two-party system.

President Obama at Notre Dame

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After it was announced jointly by the White House and the University of Notre Dame that President Barack Obama would be this year’s commencement speaker and the recipient of an honorary degree, the predictable flak started coming in from the Catholic right, for whom abortion is the only moral issue that counts. Other members of that constituency include additional life-related issues on their agenda, such as embryonic stem-cell research.

Easter 2009: What does any of this mean?

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Easter is at the heart and center of the Christian faith, and yet every year it seems more and more difficult to say or write anything about it that doesn’t strike many listeners or readers as repetitive or riddled with clichés.

If we were to pay attention to what Pope Benedict XVI says about Easter in his blessing this Sunday to the city (of Rome) and to the world, his words would have a completely familiar ring to them, as will the words uttered by the homilist at Mass.

Saintly figures: Bowman, Rahner and Climacus

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On March 30 the church observes the day of death and entrance into eternal glory of three saintly figures. One is recognized as such by the universal church; the other two have not been formally raised to sainthood.

John Climacus (ca. 570-ca. 649) had been married early in life but became a monk after his wife's death. After living in community for a while, he took up life as a hermit. His only contact with others would occur at Mass with other hermits on weekends.

The transfer of bishops

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Almost nine years ago I did a column titled "The Pope's New Man in New York" (June 5, 2000). The title was taken from the front-page headline in the New York Post, the day after the Vatican announced the appointment of Edward Egan as the next archbishop of New York.

Egan was bishop of the diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., at the time, and succeeded Cardinal John O'Connor, who, like every other bishop and archbishop of New York before him over a period of some 200 years, had died in office.

Cardinal Egan had submitted his resignation upon turning 75 over a year ago, but it had not been accepted until last month, when Pope Benedict XVI named Timothy Dolan, archbishop of Milwaukee, to become the new archbishop of New York.

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