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Why the vitriol when discussing religious liberty today?

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The difference between our public discussion of religious liberty in 1988 and what passes for that discourse today is remarkable and terribly sad.

In June 1988, as part of the ongoing celebration of the U.S. Constitution's 200th anniversary, a broad group of religious, political, business and civic leaders produced the Williamsburg Charter.

What waiting for death has taught me

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NORTH SPRINGFIELD, Vt. -- I've been here in soft, green New England learning patience and waiting for death.

Not my death, but that of my wife's sister, who early this year entered her fourth year of living with the dark and vicious stranger called ovarian cancer. It is cellular evil, a parasitic wanderer that will invade more than 22,000 women this year, while killing more than 15,000 previously diagnosed women, including Leslie. Worse, the American Cancer Society reports that the mortality rate for ovarian cancer has not improved in 40 years.

Will the Catholic church still be standing in a few generations?

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Like the oblivious frog sitting in the pot of water that's slowly coming to a boil, we often find it almost impossible to discern even historic changes while they're happening.

And sometimes when we guess at seismic shifts that may be occurring, we're embarrassingly wrong: Thomas Watson, IBM chairman in 1943, is (maybe falsely) reported to have said then: "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

Marriage 'justice' should involve separation of church and state

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I'm always surprised when I find religious leaders using terms in ways that seem to mean the opposite of what I think their common meaning is.

For instance, Pope Benedict XVI said this in one of the recent ad limina visits bishops periodically make to him:

"Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike." [Source]

LCWR move is puzzling even to those outside Catholicism

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As a Protestant, I have, as usual, been looking in from outside Catholicism at a running news story -- and finding myself profoundly puzzled.

News of the Vatican's condemnation of the largest organization representing Catholic nuns in the United States -- the Leadership Conference of Women Religious -- is not of the same magnitude as the long-running story of sexual abuse and cover-up in the church. But in its own way, it is needlessly damaging the church -- and not just the Catholic church, but the church universal.

It says to non-Christians that women cannot be trusted to think for themselves, to order their lives in ways that make sense, to take reasonable positions on issues, to be autonomous human beings outside the control of males.

I understand that some of these interpretations of what the Catholic church is saying to its women religious may be unfair, but as we all know, perception often trumps reality.

Archaeology expedition creates hope of God's plan for all of us

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TEL MARESHA, Israel -- The underground cave in which we are digging for archeological treasures here is domed with rock, cool and a bit damp.

Our Jewish-Christian study tour group has stopped at Bet Guvrin-Maresha National Park in the Judean lowlands to get a sense of the astonishing layers of history in the Holy Land. And the experts who oversee this ongoing archeological dig are letting us do some real digging.

Using small claw-like tools, we churn up soil that has remained untouched by human hands for at least 2,000 years. As we do so, we watch for pieces of pottery, jewelry or anything else that seems not to be chalky rock or simply soil. The burden of not losing history seems palpable.

I soon find a shard of pottery a couple of inches across, and I put it into one of the "save" buckets. Soon, one of the women in our group begins to unearth what turns out to be a large pot that could hold several gallons of liquid. It's quite an amazing find for an amateur, and the professionals helping us are thrilled.

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In This Issue

August 15-28, 2014

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