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The pope, the president and the neoconservatives

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It is with no small amount of fascination that I watch the interplay going on between leading neoconservative Catholics and the papacy of Benedict XVI. In a sense, the leaders of that brand of conservative thought in U.S. Catholicism appear to have lost their partner in the civil religion rumba they enjoyed for so many years during the John Paul II papacy.

Opus Dei on film

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Roland Joffe, the director who brought you "The Killing Fields" and "Mission" is now working on a film that focuses on the early years of Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of the Opus Dei. It is to be titled: "There Be Dragons."

Here's the synopis from the Internet Movie Database:

A young journalist long ago rejected by his now aged and dying father finds himself investigating one of his father's former friends, a candidate for canonization. Uncovering the two men's complicated relationship from childhood through the horrors of the Spanish Civil War unveils a compelling drama filled with passion, betrayal, love and religion. An action packed story set during a murderous time in history that ultimately serves the present by revealing the importance and timeless power of forgiveness.

It's in pre-production, filming scheduled for Spain and Argentina. Expect a 2010 release date.

One take on Honduras

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OK, I've been to Honduras once in my life, on a church mission trip a few summers ago (church missions, by the way, are one of that country's biggest imports, usually American evangelicals but also including Catholics as well). I'd be reluctant to portray myself as an expert.

Not that I can make a great deal of sense about the current coup situation. But we did travel the country extensively at the time, and I do remember seeing all the posters promoting President Manuel Zelaya, and I asked for reaction about him. From the humble parishes and top-level church officials we talked to, an unflattering picture of Zelaya, "Presidente Mel," emerged.

His administration was seen, at best, as incompetent, at worst, as hopelessly corrupt. I never heard a good word about him. His appeal, it was said, was bought by his family's massive ranching wealth. Those with long memories noted how, in the 1970s, his family took the side of the local aristocracy against church labor activists, some of whom were killed well before North Americans ever heard much about nearby El Salvador.

Expect a cordial meeting

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The College of Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass., put out a press release yesterday, Juely 8, in which one of its faculty members, a papal expert anticipates the meeting on Friday between the pope and President Obama.

"Mathew Schmalz, associate professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross and an expert in the Papacy and religion and politics, says this:

"Obama's meeting with the Pope is interesting given the protests that accompanied Obama's recent appearance at Notre Dame," he says. "I would expect that the pope will congratulate Obama on his historic election, and then emphasize themes in his most recent encyclical on the interrelationship between charity and social justice. I expect the meeting, through which Obama will continue his outreach to moderate and liberal Catholics among whom he still has much support, to be very cordial."

Dying with discernment, setting an example

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The New York Times this morning has done a sensitive and informative article on dying, featuring the Sisters of St. Joseph, a congregation in Pittsford, N.Y., whose approach to aging and dying provides insights into many changes that experts say are needed in end-of-life care.

Jane Gross writes in today’s Times that among "the nuns’ advantages are 'a large social network, intellectual stimulation, continued engagement in life and spiritual beliefs, as well as health care guided by the less-is-more principles of palliative and hospice care — trends that are moving from the fringes to the mainstream.'”

Morning Briefing

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Wafer controversy: Did Canada's PM take communion?

Pope deeply interested in Australia's first would-be saint: Rudd That would be Mother Mary MacKillop -- her local bishop excommunicated her for insubordination and tried to surpress the order she founded.

Catholic author creates comic to foster abortion discussion A fetus named Alphonse survives an abortion attempt and “sets out on a mission of revenge.”

Group warns pope about Obama's "true" record on abortion The American Life League, the largest U.S. Catholic pro-life organization, launched a petition drive.

Bon Jovi lends star power to Philly housing plan. Project H.O.M.E. founded by Sr. Mary Scullion and the Bethesda Project of the Sisters of Mercy

Nuns speak out

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The NPR radio program "On Point," a call-in talk show from WBUR Boston, spent an hour today on What’s going on with America’s Catholic nuns.

The New York Times July 1 story "U.S. Nuns Facing Vatican Scrutiny" by Laurie Goodstein, apparently sparked this radio show. Goodstein was on the show. That of course is a story that we have been following since January -- Here, here, here and here, for four quick samples.

Obama to tour quake devestated town

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President Obama is visiting the town of L’Aquila for the G-8 summit. The town was hit by a devastating earthquake during Holy Week and the president is supposed to tour the ravaged town as part of the visit.

And, therein we shall find a clue as to how plugged in the White House team is to Vatican sensibilities. Both the Sant’Egidio community and Communione e Liberazione have tents for assisting those who are still suffering from the destructive quake.

Companies reducing adoption benefits

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"Support for adoptive parents — one of the most popular “feel-good” employee benefits of the boom years — is emerging as the first to fall under the ax in the recession. For would-be parents, the trend threatens to further complicate an increasingly difficult adoption process, calling for more planning, saving ahead and stockpiling of time off."

While googling, I came across the text of a 1997 speech given by Al Hunt titled, "Why Liberals and Conservatives Should Agree on Adoption." At the time, Hunt was still the longtime Wall Street Journal Washington reporter, now working for Bloomberg News. Hunt is married to Judy Woodruff of CNN and now PBS fame.

While the speech is a bit dated, the underlying views are still relevant.

The talk was sponsored by the Center of the American Experiment, which is a nonpartisan, tax-exempt, public policy and educational institution that brings conservative and free market ideas to bear on the hardest problems facing Minnesota and the nation.

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August 15-28, 2014

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