National Catholic Reporter

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Politics

Surgeon general nominee's view on abortion unclear

Washington

Plaudits for Dr. Regina Benjamin from an archbishop and colleagues and even her receipt of a pontifical medal may not be persuasive enough evidence of her credentials as a Catholic who supports church teaching for critics questioning whether she would become an advocate for legal abortion if she is confirmed as surgeon general.

President Barack Obama nominated Benjamin, 52, a physician from Alabama, to be surgeon general July 13.

Sotomayor, senators, delve into legal philosophy

WASHINGTON -- Judge Sonia Sotomayor energetically took on detailed questions about court cases both well-known and arcane as the Senate Judiciary Committee opened what was expected to be a quick process to confirm the 55-year-old appeals court judge to the Supreme Court.

After the first day of hearings July 13 was taken up mostly with opening statements by the 19 members of the Judiciary Committee, senators began a first round of questioning July 14, with each taking a half-hour for one-on-one discussion with Sotomayor about her judicial philosophy on a range of subjects.

Sotomayor mixed record on church-state disputes

WASHINGTON -- As a federal judge, Sonia Sotomayor sided with Santeria prisoners who wanted to wear religious beads and Muslim inmates who wanted to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

At the same time, she ruled against Muslims who wanted a Muslim crescent and star added to post office holiday displays that featured Christmas and Hanukkah symbols.

'Creative engagement' key to papal meeting with Obama

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WASHINGTON

Pope Benedict XVI's July 10 meeting with President Barack Obama was "a constructive model of respectful dialogue and creative engagement," said Catholic University of America international politics professor Maryann Cusimano Love.

Several other veteran Vatican and White House watchers interviewed by NCR had similar positive impressions of Obama's first meeting with the head of the Catholic church.

Will Benedict keep open new space for reason

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Analysis
The University of Notre Dame’s decision to award President Obama an honorary degree pried open much-needed space in the American public square for a more robust view of Catholic reason.

Looking to Obama’s July 10 meeting with Pope Benedict at the Vatican, the key question is: “Will the pope keep open this new space or will he shut it down, returning the church to its dominant closed ecclesial reason of the last decades?

By “reason” I refer to the processes by which we arrive at what is true. At issue are two processes by which we arrive through reason at truth. The dispute at Notre Dame witnessed a very public clash of these two differing Catholic conceptions of reason and for the first time in many years in the United States, the recently reigning view of reason within the Catholic hierarchy fared badly in a big public battle.

Pope, President: Human Kindness as the Change We Need

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Editor's note: President Obama nominated Douglas Kmiec July 2 to be ambassador to the Republic of Malta. Nominations for ambassador have to be confirmed by the Senate.

When one is nominated for a public post, it is customary to say very little. However, it would be ungrateful not to reflect how great an honor it is to be nominated by President Obama to the embassy in Malta on the eve of the President’s visit with the Holy Father.

As mentioned in an earlier essay, it is highly anticipated that the Holy Father’s encyclical letter -- due out shortly before the President’s arrival -- will give emphasis to how the economic and social times in which we live are, like all things in Christ, at once extraordinary and paradoxical.

Obama, eyes on Vatican meeting, cites areas of cooperation

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WASHINGTON
Pope Benedict XVI has “taken extraordinary leadership” on a host of issues that could form the basis for additional U.S.-Vatican cooperation, President Obama told religion writers at the White House earlier today. Obama and the pope are scheduled to meet for the first time at the Vatican July 10, following the president’s participation in the three-day meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized countries.

The areas of additional cooperation between the Holy See and the United States could include, said the president, Middle East peace, worldwide poverty and climate change.

On one level, said Obama, the papal-presidential meeting represents typical diplomatic exchanges that take place “with any other government.” But, he continued, “this is more than just that.” Said Obama: “The Catholic church has such a profound influence worldwide and in our country. The Holy Father is a thought leader and an opinion leader on so many wide-ranging issues and his religious influence is one that extends beyond the Catholic.”

A voice of reason in a maelstrom of condemnations

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Commentary

Well, we're in trouble now. U.S. bishops, not all of them but clearly a vocal few, have brought the church to the point of serious confusion. By denouncing Notre Dame for inviting President Obama to give the university's 2009 commencement address and, in the course of that ceremony, to receive the honorary degree awarded to eight U.S. presidents before him, the bishops are surely in an awkward position. To say the least.

The problem is that on July 10, Pope Benedict XVI will receive President Obama at the Vatican itself. That kind of reception is, of course, no small honor for anyone and surely a symbol of dialogue and listening at the highest level of Vatican diplomacy.

So will those same bishops denounce the Vatican, too, as they did Notre Dame? And if not, what is that saying?

'Digging in our heels' against Obama won't work

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Rome

Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who will formally be installed as the new shepherd of New Orleans on August 20, has long been considered a rising star within the U.S. bishops’ conference, and a leader of what might loosely be called its “moderate” wing. A native of New Orleans, Aymond taught and served as rector of the archdiocese’s Notre Dame Seminary, and was made an auxiliary bishop in 1996. He took over as bishop of Austin, Texas, in January 2001, after a six-month stint as coadjutor.

During Aymond’s tenure in Austin the diocese grew dramatically, including a bumper crop of 45 seminarians this year, triple the number when he arrived. Aymond also pioneered an innovative program in lay ministry and oversaw the creation of a Catholic high school targeting disadvantaged students. Aymond also played a key leadership role on the national stage during the sexual abuse crisis, serving as chair of the bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.

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