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Russell Shaw
May 15, 2014
Our spontaneous Pope
By Russell Shaw

Spontaneity that reflects good-heartedness is a highly attractive trait, but the spontaneity of self-indulgence is reckless and often cruel. Spontaneity of either kind can cause confusion and dismay. Pope Francis’ spontaneity is clearly of the first sort—good-hearted, that is—but as with spontaneity of any kind, it can sometimes have confusing results.

Last month brought what may have been another instance of that when it was reported that the Pope had told an Argentine woman,...

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May 05, 2014
Studies
By Russell Shaw

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You know morality and common sense are both under siege when a plainly obnoxious practice is regarded with complacency and even respect. “Defining deviancy down,” the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an astute social observer, called it.

Draw your own conclusions therefore from the news that a journal called Porn Studies has arrived on the scene accompanied by the inevitable pseudo-scientific blather. Soon to come: The Bestiality Quarterly and The...

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April 04, 2014
Factions in the Church
By Russell Shaw

Those first century Christians of Corinth must certainly have been a boisterous, troublesome lot. But maybe we should be glad that they were. After all, their acting up and acting out were the occasion for two remarkable New Testament documents—St. Paul’s first and second letters to the Corinthians—that get the heart of a current problem in the Church.

The problem is factionalism. We find it described right at the start of Paul’s first letter: “Each one of you says, ‘I belong to...

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March 10, 2014
Lent and the Purple Monster
By Russell Shaw

I was a little shy of ten years old when I had what may have been my most spiritually profitable Lent ever. Looking back now, I can see clearly that I owed that to my mother. And “The Purple Monster.”

A short time before, my parents had taken the significant step of letting me to go to the movies by myself. That meant that every Friday after supper I trooped off to the local movie palace with a gang of neighborhood kids and plunked down my quarter to see a cowboy movie and the latest...

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February 24, 2014
Gay Marriage: Back to the Court
By Russell Shaw

When the Supreme Court last June overturned a section of the Defense of Marriage Act saying that in the eyes of the federal government only man-woman unions count as marriages, the court said it wasn’t questioning the authority of the states to bar same-sex marriage if they wish. Thirty-three states now do.
    
Predictably, nonetheless, dozens of lawsuits in many parts of the country are currently underway in an effort to hand gay marriage advocates what they’ve wanted all along—a...

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April 05, 2013
Marriage surprise
By Russell Shaw

Surprise! Approval of same-sex marriage has risen sharply among Americans in just a few years – according to one poll, from 41 percent in favor in 2004 to nearly 60 percent now.

Some surprise. The same media trumpeting this change lately worked hard to bring it about. Major sectors of the communication industry, both news and entertainment, have served as advocates for same-sex marriage, and the present situation reflects their handiwork. Don't be bashful, guys, stand up and take the...

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March 25, 2013
Pope Francis
By Russell Shaw

The surprising election of Pope Francis plainly was nosurprise to the people who really counted: the cardinals, that is, who swiftly chosehim on the first full day and fifth ballot of the conclave. While not a speedrecord, the timing showed the electors had no difficulty agreeing that theArchbishop of Buenos Aires was the man for the job.

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Here was a grievous blow to punditry. In retrospect, itshould have been...

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March 08, 2013
The Pope we need now
By Russell Shaw

“I hope we get a nice pope,” a good Catholic woman told me soon after Benedict XVI announced his resignation.

“I don't care whether he's nice or not,” I replied. “I just hope he's strong.”

Actually, I'd be glad if the next pope were nice, with a winning smile and a friendly manner. But vastly more important than being nice is that he be a tough-minded realist, with a backbone of steel. That's what the Church needs now.

The problems that will face him are immense: the twin...

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February 22, 2013
The personal vocation of Pope Benedict
By Russell Shaw

For the last several weeks I've been teaching an online course about the role of the Catholic laity. We'd just gotten to the subject of personal vocation when the startling news came through: Benedict XVI was stepping down as pope.

Posting a question that Monday morning to get my students' discussion rolling for the week, I began by remarking that Benedict's action was "the most striking example of personal vocation that I've seen in a long time."

My students, bless them, were quick to pick...

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February 08, 2013
Authentic Lent, Cardinal Newman style
By Russell Shaw

Why is it that Ash Wednesday and Lent remain relatively popular even in highly secularized times like these? It's a serious question that touches on matters deeper than might at first be supposed.

The popularity I speak of can be seen year after year on Ash Wednesday, when people – some of them perhaps not all that often in church – stream up the aisle to get their ashes. Not a few then return for Mass or Stations of the Cross on weekdays during Lent. How come?

The answer can found in...

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