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New politics of religion pivots on Islam, Obama

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

Two insightful observers of the intersection of religion and politics in America, E.J. Dionne and Bill Galston, believe a “new politics of religion” emerged in the 2010 elections, the hallmarks of which are two forms of deep public ambivalence – about Islam, and about the religious beliefs of President Barack Obama.

According to a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute,which forms the basis of the Dionne/Galston analysis, 45 percent of Americans agree that Islamic teachings and values are at odds with the American way of life.

Meanwhile, 51 percent regard Obama’s religious outlook as different from their own, while only 40 percent say the president's beliefs are similar to theirs. (Dionne and Galston said they deliberately wanted to go deeper than the stale question of how many Americans still believe, inaccurately, that Obama is a Muslim.)

Those findings were presented in a new Brookings Institution report authored by Dionne and Galston, which was released today. I was part of a group of journalists that got a sneak peek on Monday in Miami Beach, and there’s also much of interest in the report from a Catholic point of view.

Green your holidays

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You'll be celebrating during the holiday season, on Thanksgiving and around Christmas. While this is a time of joy and family reunion, so many of us get wrapped up in buying gifts, planning and attending parties and events, or competing with our neighbors for the best holiday decorations. All the hustle and bustle can mean that we forget to consider our impact on the environment as we go about our holiday activities.

You can travel green, eat green, give green, and party green. For tips on how to do this see Green Your Holidays, an offering of the EarthShare Web site.

Three keys to reading the Dolan win at the USCCB

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ANALYSIS

Clearly the big Catholic news in America this week is the election of Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, upending the custom that the outgoing vice-president, in this case Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, more or less automatically ascends to the top job.

I wasn’t in Baltimore covering the bishops’ meeting, so I don’t have any insider scoop on the politics of that result. The consensus explanation seems to be that Dolan’s victory signals a broad conservative shift within the conference, perhaps coupled with concern that debate over Kicanas’ role in the Daniel McCormack case in Chicago might mean he would be hobbled by controversy over the sexual abuse crisis.

Without questioning that analysis, I’ll offer three observations about the significance of Dolan’s election.

Seminaries producing 'half-baked priests'

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These aren't my words and I didn't chose the headline. Here's a story that comes to us from UCA News:

Some seminaries are producing “half-baked priests” because professors lack the skills to form all sides of their students, the secretary of the Association of Rectors of Major Seminaries (ARMS) said on the sidelines of a conference this week.

Professors have degrees that equip them for academic training but not to deal with “the complex nature of priestly formation,” Father John Kulandai said.

Read the full story: ‘Seminaries producing half-baked priests’

The 2010 midterm elections: An exercise in narcissism?

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It was a stunning shock to many: only two years after garnering a strong mandate from voters, Democrats and their president found themselves on the business end of an electoral shellacking. The midterm election result was a surprise to some for sure -- but not to many critical observers, including Catholics, of America's consumer society.

Fr. John Rausch is one of ten environmental saints for our time

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Mallory McDuff, a regular blogger on the Huffington Post, recently named Glenmary Fr. John Rausch one of the top ten religious environmental saints of our day. Fr. Rausch is an activist in the Appalachian region, working against mountaintop removal mining. He was interviewed in our special issue on ecology this year.
To see who the other saints were, read the full article.

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August 28-September 10, 2015

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