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A Catholic novelist reads the Bible

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If early reviews (including one in NCR) and the questions at last night's public lecture by Catholic novelist Mary Gordon are any indication, Catholics still prefer to leave biblical interpretation to the experts.

Gordon read from her new nonfiction book, "Reading Jesus: A Writer's Encounter with the Gospels," at Loyola University's 34th Annual Edward Surtz Lecture. The book contains Gordon's reflections after reading all four gospels--from a literary perspective.

"Most people have their family Bible from the attic. They don't have [scripture scholar] Raymond Brown," Gordon said. "They base decisions not on context, but on text. People don't live their lives based on scholarship. They live their lives based on words. So I asked, 'What do these words say to a common reader?'"

Doyle responds to Tomasi

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Arcbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations, recently made a defense of the church's handling of the priest sex abuse crisis by citing suspect numbers and by pointing the finger at other denominations, largely on the basis of an article in The Christian Science Monitor.

Following is a response from Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, the canon lawyer who distinguished himself in the mid-1980s by defying the ecclesiastical strategies of the day and strongly coming to the defense of victims of abuse.

Changes afoot in Catholic Hollywood

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Catholics in Hollywood are usually a low-key bunch. The networking we do is focused on the people we work with, not the folks we may see at church. But that's beginning to change -- Catholics are making a new play for higher visibility in the entertainment business.

The changes come at two venerable Hollywood Catholic institutions that are taking a fresh look at what they are and what they can be.

El Salvador honors slain Jesuits

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"public act of atonement"

The Associated Press is reporting that El Salvador's president announced Tuesday that the country will award its highest honor to six Jesuit priests murdered by the army in 1989.

President Mauricio Funes says the National Order of Jose Matias Delgado awards are a "public act of atonement" for mistakes by past governments.

They will be presented on Nov. 16 to mark the date 20 years ago when soldiers killed Spanish-born university rector Ignacio Ellacuria, five other Jesuits, a housekeeper and her daughter.

The killings sparked international outrage and tarnished the image of U.S. anti-communism efforts after it was found that some of the soldiers involved received training at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Democrats ready to make further abortion concessions

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The pressure by abortion opponents appears to be paying off as House Democratic leaders signaled that they were prepared to make further changes to their health care bill.

Generally speaking, Democrats had argued that the health care legislation would make no change to existing federal laws regarding how tax dollars could be used to pay for abortions.

Return of the Perotistas

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The fastest growing part of the electorate are neither the Dems nor the Republicans. It is independent or unaffiliated voters. And, among all the soothsayers and talking heads tonight, the one thing to look for is how these independents vote tonight.

I base my analysis on my experience of working on a campaign in Connecticut’s second congressional district, where independents hold the balance of decision in the electorate. Whoever wins them will win the election as there are neither enough registered Democrats or Republicans to carry the district. It is a classic swing district.

Which is not to say that all independent voters are necessarily swing voters. A large chunk of them are more properly identified as Perot voters. This slice of the electorate is deeply suspicious of all elites and specifically of big government, big business, big unions. They are well represented at the Tea Party protests. They usually vote Republican except when the GOP has been in power for too long and then they respond easily, albeit somewhat uncritically, to the mantra “It’s time for a change.” I suspect some people voted for Perot in 1992 and Barack Obama last year, but not many.

Nature makes us kinder, more social

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In a set of recent experiments, researchers at the University of Rochester in New York monitored the effects of natural versus artificial environments, and found that nature makes us kinder and more caring.

"Previous studies have shown the health benefits of nature range from more rapid healing to stress reduction to improved mental performance and vitality," says Richard Ryan, professor of psychology, psychiatry and education at the University of Rochester, and co-author of the study, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

"Now we've found nature brings out more social feelings, more value for community and close relationships. People are more caring when they're around nature," he says.

The effect doesn't necessarily hinge on daily hikes through fields and woods as much as it does paying attention to the natural elements we encounter every day. "It's about stopping and smelling the roses as opposed to passing them by while thinking of your next meeting," says Ryan.

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September 12-25, 2014

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