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Vatican to craft Catholic 'Sullivan Principles'

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ROME -- Few efforts to cajole corporations into a deeper sense of social responsibility have been more celebrated than the “Sullivan Principles,” elaborated in the late 1970s by African-American minister Leon Sullivan to apply economic pressure on South Africa to revise, and eventually abandon, its system of apartheid.

By consensus, the “Sullivan Principles” worked because they condensed volumes of lofty theoretical language about global solidarity and human rights into a short set of concrete, practical commitments, which had a visible impact in the real world.

Building on that model, the Vatican may now be preparing to develop a similar template for business ethics in the 21st century – a sort of Catholic version of the “Sullivan Principles” – based on Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate.

America: Time for laity at the top

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"You say your grandmother's a cardinal?"

"Your dad's meeting regularly with cardinals in Rome?"

Maybe not so unrealistic as it sounds.

A recent America magazine editorial advances daring proposals that the magazine itself had to admit might sound "pie in the sky." But they just may be ideas whose time is long overdue: change canon law and/or create structures within the church that place laity near the top decision makers.

The Jesuit publication, in its Feb. 21 issue, editorialized that the "fundamental criticism of the institutional church" in the various crises that have jolted the church in the United States, England and Europe, "is that its clerical, all-male establishment has not made room for other voices. There is no need to list the number of recent policy decisions, from Rome to home, which would have been more prudent if only a variety of laypersons had been consulted."

Read the full proposals here.

Diagnosing the 'implosion' of Benedict's Vatican

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ROME -- Perhaps the most telling index of the severity of the various PR and managerial catastrophes which have beset the papacy of Benedict XVI is that there’s now a budding literary genre attempting to explain them. It’s also a measure of the reduced global profile of the papacy these days that, to date, the Italians basically have a monopoly on it.

Last year brought Attaco a Ratzinger: Accuse e scandali, profezie e complotti contro Benedetto XVI (“Attack on Ratzinger: Accusations and Scandals, Prophecies and Plots against Benedict XVI”) by two of the best Italian Vatican writers going, Paolo Rodari and Andrea Tornielli. Though hardly blind to the Vatican’s own failures, Rodari and Tornielli also suggested there’s an effort afoot to damage the moral authority of the pope and the church, perhaps even of cosmic dimensions. (One chapter ponders whether Benedict’s woes were foretold by Fatima and other Marian apparitions.)

Driving with forgiveness

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For a little more than a year I’ve been trying to drive my car in a spirit of forgiveness and loving kindness.

It was a dark and stormy night last November at an intersection under construction when an SUV honked furiously and at length at me. I was in the right, and, oh my, did I feel some righteous anger -- once I got over the relief at not being hit when the other driver didn’t see that the lanes curved sharply.

I was mad. I had at some time or other, unbeknownst to myself, given myself permission to be mad and to enjoy being mad.

It was a satisfying righteousness that was still there the next morning. I was hoping the other driver would drive through the intersection in daylight, see the error of his ways and be ashamed. I caught myself. It was pleasurable to be angry. I didn’t want to be taking pleasure over someone else’s driving errors.

During the next several weeks I began to notice that same anger rising in me when other drivers passed on the right, didn’t use their turn signals, honked, whatever. Not only had I given myself permission to be angry and to enjoy being angry, I was feeding the anger, calling the driver stupid and, again, feeling righteous.

Labor protests and the importance of Catholic social teaching

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As I watch the protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, DC and elsewhere, I’m taken back to my days at DeSales Catholic High School in Lockport, NY. One of the extracurricular activities in which we could elect to participate was the “Labor School.” Essentially, it was a free after-school mini-course, taught by local union leaders, about the history of the Labor Movement in the United States. It lasted about 6-8 weeks.

Forgiveness as the Catholic yoga

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ROME -- In a post-modern, pragmatic, "gimme-something-that-works" sort of world, Eastern religions have had considerable success in exporting elements of their spirituality and tradition that meet perceived contemporary needs. Plenty of fitness-conscious people have been exposed to Hinduism through yoga, for example, just as many stressed-out Westerners have been intrigued by Buddhism though transcendental meditation (TM).

On this day: St. Oswald

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On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Oswald of Worcester. "He is renowned as one of the three leaders of the English 'Tenth-century Reformation' which not only revived monasticism in England within a single generation, but also transformed the whole structure and culture of the English church."

-- Oswald of Worcester: Life and Influence, edited by Nicholas Brooks and Catherine Cubitt, Leicester University Press, London, 1996.

Anonymous Atheists

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I teach a seminar on science and religion. The greatest challenges are 1)to budge the assumption that the two are forever at odds; and 2) to coax students to talk about their beliefs.

The second is the harder. The idea that religious ideas can be as worthy or respectable as scientific propositions is foreign, even among those who attended religious secondary schools.

Their reluctance to speak of personal beliefs reflect the culture's tendency to confine religion to private life, apart from public, intellectual discussion. It's also rooted in the common notion that talking about one's religion constitutes an attempt to "force" convictions on another.

It is cool, however, to be anti-religion. The zeitgeist seems to have made it respectable to declare atheism. To a large degree, this is typical questioning of indoctrinated religion, and a healthy one. But I think there has been a stronger presumption against religion based on no early training.

None of this is a criticism of students. They have imbibed the culture they did not make. And they're a wonderful group.

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April 22-May 5, 2016

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