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The 'straight arrow' theologian and the pope

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TÜBINGEN, GERMANY -- Hans Küng has always held to his progressive theological views. He believes that the present crisis in the church shows that he was right. The whole Roman system is in question, he maintains, though neither the Vatican nor the majority of the bishops yet realize it.

We are sitting in the arbor at the end of the veranda of his house above Tübingen, looking out at the gorgeous view across the Swabian hills. He muses, “My critics said, ‘He always repeats the same thing.’ But we have the greatest crisis since the Reformation. What alternative was there? We need to go on again in the line of the [Second Vatican Council].”

Sparky Anderson, Catholic Hall of Fame manager

WASHINGTON -- George Lee "Sparky" Anderson, the Hall of Fame manager who managed three World Series-winning teams, died Nov. 4. He was 76.

Just two days before, his family issued a statement that Anderson, a Catholic, was in hospice care as he was suffering from the complications of dementia.

When he retired from managing following the 1995 season, he was third all-time in the number of wins he had managed, at 2,194.

Book asks: What's a parish? What's a priest?

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Any Chicago journalist will tell you Fr. Michael Pfleger is good copy. There's always a provocation or a threat looming somewhere around the inner-city blocks of his parish, St. Sabina, on 79th St. on Chicago's South Side. And Pastor Pfleger responds to such matters.

He's painted over billboards in a years-long campaign to rid the neighborhood of cigarette ads. He and his parishioners have confronted store owners who sold drug paraphernalia. He's taken on gun shops. He's used underage kids from the parish in a meticulously documented sting that demonstrated to police and Chicago's mayor that most of the liquor stores were selling to minors without even asking for ID.

He adopted a son, took in two foster sons, one of whom died violently.

Lost works return to stage

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She had six plays produced at Dublin, Ireland’s Abbey Theater in six years in the 1930s. When her seventh met with rejection, she began writing for radio, despite having been deaf since 19, the result of Ménière’s disease. In 1954 she was elected to the prestigious Irish Academy of Letters. The Irish Times called her one of the most significant Irish playwrights of the 20th century. Yet few people in Ireland today and even fewer in America know the name of Teresa Deevy.

The Mint Theater Company, an award-winning off-Broadway theater in New York City, plans to tackle that obscurity over the next two years with its Teresa Deevy Project, which will produce two of her plays as well as offer readings, recordings and publications.

“I found her because I asked the question, ‘Who were the woman writing plays in the first 50 years of the Abbey?’ ” said Jonathan Bank, the Mint’s artistic director. “I began with the perception that the history of theater in Ireland was a lot of men and then, oh, yeah, there was Lady Gregory.”

He found that other women’s plays had been produced, but only Deevy’s had been published, and then only a few.

From berry fields to a microbiology lab

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After five grueling years of study at the University of Texas in San Antonio, Holy Cross Br. Jesus Alonso will earn his doctorate in microbiology next summer. He plans to use that degree to investigate viruses and help develop vaccines for some of the world’s most lethal and persistent viruses, like those that cause AIDS, hepatitis, dengue fever and other diseases that ravage large areas of the planet. “Microbiology is a difficult area of study,” said Alonso, an articulate, soft-spoken man of 31, “because there’s so much to learn and new developments are happening all the time.”

Despite steep decline, brothers see hope for their vocationís future

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There are three things you need to know about today’s religious brothers.

First, their numbers are continuing to decline at an alarming rate. In 1978, I attended a meeting of the National Association of Religious Brothers in Dayton, Ohio, and wrote an article for NCR on the state of the brotherhood. Although the population of brothers by then had dropped by 33 percent since 1965, there was a sense of optimism at the meeting -- a feeling that the overall decline of religious vocations had just about bottomed out and the downward trend was about to be reversed. Said one enthusiastic attendee, “I believe we are entering the age of brotherhood.”

The euphoria was due in part to the prevailing spirit of Vatican II. In this new era of the layperson, the brothers were laymen. At a time when clericalism was under siege, the brothers were involved exclusively in nonclerical ministries. And as many vowed religious sisters and priests were trying to balance the signs of the times against the outmoded regulations of their orders, the brothers were relatively unconstrained by canonical rules.

Eyes open in the Amazon

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IQUITOS, PERU -- On a steamy Sunday afternoon, Br. Paul McAuley huddled in a thatched-roof shelter with a group of college students from remote indigenous communities. The promised government meal subsidy had not arrived, and the students were out of food. There had been no breakfast or lunch that day, and there was no money for dinner.

Young theologians hope to reduce polarization

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A group of young theologians teaching at Catholic colleges and universities gathered at Fordham University in New York City in August to discuss their work on behalf of the church. About 17 attended; all were under age 40 and none of them have tenure, the two requirements for membership in what was billed as the “Fordham Conversation Project.”

Windows into a complex community

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BERKELEY, CALIF. -- Oscar would use only his first name. He’s undocumented, from Mexico, and even though he’s lived in the United States for 17 years, his life is a state of constant insecurity. No papers. He’s got to be careful.

He has command of English and a lot of ambition but his prospects remain limited. Without papers he can’t continue his education, and he can’t get a good job.

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October 10-23, 2014

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