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Evangelical Challenges for Vatican Diplomacy

The bilateral diplomacy of the Holy See is unique in world affairs, in that it has little or nothing to do with the things with which diplomats typically occupy their time: trade issues, security matters, visas. Rather, the reason why the Vatican engages in bilateral diplomacy is to secure the freedom of the Catholic Church to be itself in the countries with which the Holy See has, or wishes to have, diplomatic relations. To be sure, in crisis situations, the Holy See’s representative in a crumbling or violence-ridden state can also serve as an honest broker amidst contending local parties, or a voice for persecuted Catholic communities, or a channel for humanitarian assistance. But whatever the situation, the first task of the pope’s representative to another sovereignty is to help maintain free space for the Church’s evangelical, sacramental, educational and charitable missions, all of which are essential to what it means to be “the Catholic Church” in any human situation. Continue Reading »

Cuomo at Notre Dame, Thirty Years On

In his Washington Post column today, E.J. Dionne pays tribute to the late Mario Cuomo. It is right and fitting that he should do so, since what Cuomo was to politics, Dionne is to journalism: a man constantly reminding us he is Catholic while he counsels and supports the violation of central tenets of the faith, at least where one of those central tenets—the sanctity of life—is concerned. Continue Reading »

“La Popessa” Speaks

She was called “La Popessa,” depicted as the iron lady of the Vatican, and said to have wielded more power in Rome than any woman in centuries. She is the subject of numerous books, movies, and even a musical—often more fiction than fact. But the real story of Mother Pascalina Lehnert—the life-long assistant to Pope Pius XII—is still not widely known. Now, thanks to the English translation of her memoirs, His Humble Servant, she speaks for herself, to a far larger audience. Continue Reading »

Wanted: A Synod of Affirmation

Pope Francis has called a special session of the Synod of Bishops, which will meet from October 5–19 and prepare the agenda for the ordinary session of the Synod that is scheduled for the fall of 2015; both sessions will focus on the family. In my view, the Synod should focus on two related themes: Marriage culture is in crisis throughout the world; the answer to that crisis is the Christian view of marriage as a covenant between man and woman in a communion of love, fidelity and fruitfulness. Continue Reading »

Memoirs of a Catholic Boyhood

The muddy Illinois River ranks among the least distinguished of the Mississippi’s tributaries, a brown expanse of water sliding past slippery banks strewn with refuse. From time to time, after heavy rains, the river jumps its traces. But such floods disrupt only momentarily the rhythm of life . . . . Continue Reading »

The Betrayal of the French Left

Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals 1944–56 by tony judt university of california press, 348 pages, $30 The political attitudes of French intellectuals with respect to war, repression, and especially Russian Communism in the decade immediately following the war is an amazing story. In Tony Judt, . . . . Continue Reading »

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