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Anonymous Atheists


I teach a seminar on science and religion. The greatest challenges are 1)to budge the assumption that the two are forever at odds; and 2) to coax students to talk about their beliefs.

The second is the harder. The idea that religious ideas can be as worthy or respectable as scientific propositions is foreign, even among those who attended religious secondary schools.

Their reluctance to speak of personal beliefs reflect the culture's tendency to confine religion to private life, apart from public, intellectual discussion. It's also rooted in the common notion that talking about one's religion constitutes an attempt to "force" convictions on another.

It is cool, however, to be anti-religion. The zeitgeist seems to have made it respectable to declare atheism. To a large degree, this is typical questioning of indoctrinated religion, and a healthy one. But I think there has been a stronger presumption against religion based on no early training.

None of this is a criticism of students. They have imbibed the culture they did not make. And they're a wonderful group.

On this day: Bd. Sebasti·n de Aparicio


On this day we celebrate the feast of Blessed Sebastián de Aparicio Prado. He was born in Galicia in 1502 to Julian de Aparicio and Teresa del Prado.

As a boy, Sebastián took care of his parents' few cattle, worked in the fields, and "learned to unite prayer to labour". After a few years, he set out to seek his fortune. He worked in Salamanca, in Estremadura, and in Sanlucar de Barrameda. In all those cities, "he avoided idleness, bad company, the tavern, and other dangerous places".

Caritas members push back after Vatican rejects candidate


A week ago, The Tablet of London broke the news that the Vatican had blocked the re-election of the Caritas Internationalis' chief when the Vatican Secretariat of State refused to grant Lesley-Anne Knight the necessary nihil obstat required for all candidates for the key position.

As that news spreads around the world, reactions are rolling in.

From Thailand two days ago: Local Caritias priest questions Vatican's blocking re-election of Caritas Internationalis secretary-general.

From Australia today: Vatican targets Caritas. This essay was penned by Duncan MacLaren, the secretary general of Cariitas Internationalis from 1999 to 2007, immediately before Lesley-Anne Knight.

Big Issue in 2012: The Crusades


Rick Santorum, the conservative Catholic former Pennsylvania senator seeking to distinguish himself from the rest of the Republican presidential field, defends the Crusades. The Crusades get a bad rap, said Santorum, because of the “American left who hates Christendom.” (Hat tip, Andrew Sullivan’s Dish.)

James Tobin of Commentary didn’t like what he read.

Santorum is nothing if not provocative. In 2005, while on a book tour, he told me that the political left doesn’t believe in the “common good.”

Instead, “they believe there is no absolute truth, whatever suits your needs is good. So the idea of the common good to the real left is anathema.”

If you can read this, thank a teacher -- and keep your hands off their benefits


There are few things in my life about which I am honestly proud.

It isn’t that I’ve lived a terrible life full of mayhem and horror, although I’ve had my share of selfishness and sin. It is simply that I’m pretty ordinary. I’ve not saved lives or jumped buildings in a single bound or given up my very comfortable bed to go live among the poor. I am not, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, a saint.

George Weigel weighs in on the Phoenix hospital


George Weigel has weighed in on the controversy in Phoenix over at First Things.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted withdrew the Catholic designation in December from St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center there because of a dispute over whether a 2009 procedure performed at the hospital was a direct abortion.

Weigel's analysis? By performing the procedure, the hospital violated the "do no harm" rule.

Vatican advisor on Islam hails 'springtime' in Arab world


Probably wisely, the Vatican has not officially had much to say about the popular uprisings sweeping across the Arab world. If those movements were perceived as being engineered or supported in the West -- perhaps especially by the leadership of the Catholic church -- it would doubtless be counter-productive.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that the Vatican and its advisors on Islam aren’t paying close attention.


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In This Issue

November 20-December 3, 2015


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