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The names of Catholic theologian Hans Küng and Pope Francis are both in the news because Küng was sighted saying friendly things about the pope, and the pope was apparently saying friendly things about God and atheists. Such stories demand or evoke in this “sighter’s” mind some historical recall that helps set the news in […] Read More

It was 50 years ago this month, on Oct. 11, 1962, that the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) opened in St. Peter’s Basilica. Convoked by Pope John XXIII, it closed in December 1965 under Pope Paul VI. Vatican II was the 21st Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church, and only the second to be […] Read More

The two “big kids on the block” of American denominationalism are making front-page and prime-time news this early summer in ways that crowd out other stories of events and trends in most other groups. Only the Mormons are in competition for the spotlight right now. The two churches that are hefty enough to throw their […] Read More

Surveys, statistics, data, graphs and trend studies have their place when we look at and analyze the “church life” (and “synagogue life,” and all the rest) that makes up a major part of “public religion,” (our weekly topic) in American life. They tell us how things are, collectively and from a distance. Now and then […] Read More

“TheBishopsandReligiousLiberty,” the cover topic in Commonweal this past week, brings together opinion by six Catholics who know their way around and through issues of “church and state.” What prompts the issue is the action by Roman Catholic bishops in the United States to declare war against government proposals and policies, which the bishops declare to be a […] Read More

My column does not conventionally review books, but one book has been on my desk for months as a prompt for something on which I wanted to comment. This week, fortuitously, friend Kevin Christiano of Notre Dame, knowing of my interest in the subject, sent a copy of a review from Contemporary Sociology. To the point: […] Read More

Citing national debates over the religious and judicial implications having to do with fluoridation of water would draw little notice. Such was not always the case. At last mid-century, when the pile of letters to the editor of The Christian Century might thin out for a few weeks, we editors would play games. From our […] Read More

Forty years ago, in his World Day for Peace message on Jan. 1, 1972, Pope Paul VI declared, “If you want peace, work for justice.” Those were very significant words that, for good reason, have often been quoted throughout the last four decades. Pope Paul’s peaceproclamation was based partly on Isaiah 32:17 (“justice will produce […] Read More

Atheism now gets more attention than usual when people measure religious trends in North America. More people put the name “atheism” on their a-religiousness than did so decades ago. For the record, my Ph.D. thesis in 1956 was on “unbelief,” and a series of lectures in 1963 became the book, “Varieties of Unbelief.”  It was written […] Read More

Baptists and Mormons are running ahead of Catholics in media coverage on the current “public religion” front. Many of the members of all three faith groups chafe when they hear their movements denominated “denominations.” Catholics chide scholars and reporters: “We are not a denomination. We are a church,” or as comic Lenny Bruce claimed to […] Read More