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Hospitals, Alice's Wonderland, and the bishops on health care

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The Web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops devotes lots of attention to health care. As it should.

But my own recent personal experience with our health care system makes me think the bishops -- and all American religious leaders -- might do well first to insist that the system be built on rigorous honesty instead of relying on the incomprehensible money games that now seem to characterize it -- games a friend who serves as CEO of a major health care non-profit agency tells me are “absurd.”

Thinking of food with 'astonished gratitude about abundance'

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Last June in this space I wrote about a Creighton University student’s intriguing project in which he tried to apply Catholic social teaching to the production, distribution and consumption of food.

I recall thinking then that in some ways Catholics seem more sensitive to this matter than do most of the Protestants I hang around with. For Protestants to get more interested in this, I thought, they need a way to root concern for food issues in the Bible.

Forget about sainthood, let's worry about ministry

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What opinion should a Protestant like me have about the small controversy over whether the late Pope John Paul II is being rushed to sainthood?

None -- that would be the proper and courteous thing to say. But, in fact, Protestants, like Catholics, have lots of opinions about things that may not directly concern them. So I’d like to share some of that with you Catholics so that you might have a better sense of how non-Catholics may be thinking about you and your church.

Catholics, Orthodox must resolve gay marriage opposition

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Because of my long interest in ecumenical relations and Christian unity (not uniformity), I’ve been intrigued over the last few months by what seems to be progress in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

Fr. Thomas Ryan offered a detailed look at some of this last month in an NCR commentary -- Catholic and Orthodox Unity: Close Enough to Imagine -- which produced lots of reader comments.

When religions stop using hate words, politics will too

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In the sad, volatile weeks since the Tucson massacre, nearly every accusation possible has been made about the presence of vitriol in our political discourse and about the sources of its many constituent toxins.

I say “nearly” because so far I’ve heard almost no one from a religious background acknowledge that religion itself -- both in its sacred writ and in the inability of its adherents to restrain their know-it-all pronouncements -- may well be the most egregious sinner when it comes to language that promotes violent dissent.

To understand, study Catholic and Protestant thinkers

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When I described here recently how Jacques Ellul, the 20th Century French Reformed Church leader, thought about hope, several Catholic readers expressed gratitude for my having introduced them to a brilliant Protestant thinker.

It got me thinking about great minds in our different traditions that we don’t know much about because they are outside our theological walls.

Baptism agreement shows all Christians part of same family

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A few weeks ago, the American Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) -- my spiritual home -- joined to become one church.

Did you miss it?

What happened was this: The Presbyterians -- not to mention three other Reformed churches -- reached agreement with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on mutual recognition of each other’s baptisms.

Hope: Demanding the divine words

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A bedraggled cliché says that people tend to enter a new year with hope. But hope itself, at least in a Christian context, is often badly misunderstood, hung with the cheap, glittering tinsel of vague sentimentality.

So as we move into 2011, I want to draw on a great thinker who came from largely Catholic France but whose commitment was to the Reformed Church of France. Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) can help us think more realistically about hope.

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October 24-November 6, 2014

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