The Common Good

God's Politics

Not Just Theology: Catholic Seminarians Go to Summer School to Learn Management Skills

“How many of you have ever studied a parish budget?” the Rev. David Couturier asked the 11 Catholic priests-in-training seated before him. After a few beats, just one hand went up, tentatively.

“That’s not unusual,” Couturier told them. “Just unfortunate.”

It’s also why these seminarians were in a classroom at Villanova University in the leafy Philadelphia suburbs, part of a first-of-its-kind program that aims to provide some real-world grounding to the theological studies that dominate their course work.

It’s a bit of “operative theology” to complement the “abstract theology,” as Couturier put it.

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Weekly Wrap 7.4.14: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Five Takeaways From the Hobby Lobby Case
Five things to know about one of the biggest Supreme Court decisions of the year.

2. Who’s Afraid of Soccer in America?
The beautiful game captured the imagination of the United States as its national team advanced to the knockout rounds to fall valiantly at the hands — or feet, rather — of Belgium. And the numbers don't lie: soccer is taking off in America.

3. Tim Howard: 'Nuff Said
Speaking of the World Cup, goal keeper Tim Howard did the best he could to keep the U.S. in it. The shot-stopper has taken the Internet by storm, with #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave trending on Twitter, hilarious Tim Howard memes abounding, a petition to change the name of Washington National Airport (DCA) to "Tim Howard National Airport" going viral. The man even received a call from Obama himself.

4. Here's How Vancouver Responded to London's 'Anti-Homeless Spikes'
A Vancouver charity, RainCity Housing, is converting city benches into pop-up shelters for homeless people. And by giving homeless people in this rainy city some dry coverage and a place to rest, RainCity is putting London's anti-homeless spikes to shame. 

5. 10,000 Christians Have Fled Northern Iraq Since the ISIS Takeover
As many as 10,000 people have fled from predominantly Christian areas in northern Iraq, the U.N. warned late last week.

6. In open primary Southern states, black voters flex new muscle
An unexpected group of voters charged in to save veteran Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, a Republican, from losing a primary squeaker against a tea party challenger: African American Democrats.

7. Plastic garbage on ocean's surface is vanishing. Where is it going?
Large amounts of the plastic debris littering the ocean's surface seem to be disappearing. But scientists are at a loss to explain where it's going.

8. Bathrobes And Baby Carriers: The Stuff Of Manliness?
NPR's All Things Considered asks, "What Object Makes You Feel Manly?" One man gives an answer that steers away from masculine stereotypes.

9. 3 Lessons from Wild Goose: Holy Rest, Holy Mischief, and Holy Reconciliation
"This past week I was surrounded by an eclectic mix of barefoot wanderers, edgy thinkers, and hippie-hipsters at the Wild Goose festival. While none of these descriptors necessarily apply to me, I found myself quite at home at the Goose." 

10. Astronaut Reid Wiseman Has an Out of This World Twitter Feed
Reid Wiseman is up in space taking insane photos — definitely worth following on Twitter.

 
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The Moral Failure of Immigration Reform: Are We Really Afraid Of Children?

The horrible events in Murrieta, California on Tuesday reminds of the most important immigration talk I’ve given this year—the one I gave to my son’s fifth grade class. 

 

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A New Kind of Virginity

In her first televised interview in more than a decade, Monica Lewinsky (who needs no introduction) says she was “a virgin to humiliation” at the time she made highly explicit world news about her White House trysts with then-President Bill Clinton.

Lewinsky may have coined a new term here in this National Geographic documentary on the 1990s. (And if she’s trying to change the subject for which she is so unfortunately known, this was not a good choice of words.)

The word virgin, in addition to its usual meaning, uses sexual inexperience as a metaphor for a state of being unviolated, untainted, innocent, clean. That association is damaging. It suggests that sex is bad, that it’s always a violation. I think most can agree that this is not true.

The concept of virgin birth — which occurs in more than one religion — does not argue for sex being a bad idea, though it can easily be taken that way; such an event can instead simply show that the child’s father is divine. In addition, Catholic doctrine of Immaculate Conception does not mean that the birth came about by a “cleaner” method than the usual biological one; this is instead a belief in Mary as a person born without sin.

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Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer Gay? A New Biography Raises Questions

A new biography is raising questions about the life and relationships of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an anti-Nazi dissident whose theological writings remain widely influential among Christians.

Both left-leaning and right-leaning Christians herald the life and writings of Bonhoeffer, who was hanged for his involvement in the unsuccessful plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. Bonhoeffer was engaged to a woman at the time of his execution, observing that he had lived a full life even though he would die a virgin.

The new biography, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from University of Virginia religious studies professor Charles Marsh, implies that Bonhoeffer may have had a same-sex attraction to his student, friend and later biographer Eberhard Bethge.

“There will be blood among American evangelicals over Mr. Marsh’s claim,” Christian Wiman, who teaches at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, wrote in a review for The Wall Street Journal. But there’s been no bloodbath yet, at least considering a few initial reviews.

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Italian Archbishop Calls for 10-year Ban on Godparents to Stop Mafia Infiltration

After a pledge by Pope Francis to “excommunicate” mobsters from the Catholic Church, an archbishop in southern Italy has proposed a 10-year ban on naming godparents at baptisms and confirmations as a way to stop the Mafia from spreading its influence.

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Football Player Tackles Expanding Communion Business

Defensive lineman Israel Idonije was recently released from the Chicago Bears and, as a free agent, he isn’t sure what the future holds. But when he’s not on the gridiron, the Nigerian-born Idonije has another page in his playbook. Idonije has a side business, Blessed Communion, that sells pre-filled Communion cups to churches.

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Hobby Lobby, Rivalry, and Choosing Grace

It is an identical claim to moral superiority which matters and which is in fact the cause of the apparent conflict. The underlying issues, whatever you think they may be, whether religious freedom, women’s reproductive rights, creeping restrictions on abortion or loosening of civil rights protections—all these issues are things we can talk about and solve together through discussion and compromise. ...Unless we begin from a position that says, "We refuse to talk with you or compromise." 

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From the Dust of the Ground

The ground on our mountain is rocky ground and the land seems to have more stones on it than soil. I think it is a miracle that things grow here, that things grow so well here. But they do. We are planting, as all farmers do, in the hope that good rains will come and help the seeds grow into whole, full stalks of millet. I am enjoying learning the life of a Malinke farmer. Bala is my teacher. This is his field.

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Presbyterians Remove Controversial 'Zionism Unsettled' from Denomination's Website

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has removed from its website a booklet that many Jewish groups have criticized as hostile to Israel and denigrating to Judaism.

“Zionism Unsettled,” published in January by the church-chartered Israel/Palestine Mission Network, is a history and commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that paints Israel as the aggressor and describes Zionism as inherently racist and theologically flawed.

The booklet played a role last month in the denomination’s debate on divesting from three American companies that, divestment proponents say, profit from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

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