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Two new stories on the Commonweal homepage today.

With “The First Encyclical of Francis?” William L. Portier wraps up our look at Lumen fidei (previous takes from Robin Darling Young here and Dennis O’Brien here). From Portier’s piece:

Much here is as familiarly engaging as Benedict’s talks at Wednesday audiences. Clearly Chapters 2 and 3 represent a big chunk of the first draft of the encyclical on faith that Benedict was working on when he resigned.  And yet there are traces of that inclusively compassionate voice we have come to know over the past months as that of Pope Francis. It appears in the last paragraphs of the introduction which speak of Pope Benedict in the third person. Along with a quote from Dominus Iesus, resonances of it can also be heard in the second chapter’s last two paragraphs. Here is an example: “The more Christians immerse themselves in the circle of Christ’s light, the more capable they become of understanding and accompanying the path of every man and woman.” And another: “Anyone who sets off on the path of doing good to others is already drawing near to God, is already sustained by his help, for it is characteristic of the divine light to brighten our eyes whenever we walk toward the fullness of love.”  If these are not the ipsissima verba of Francis, they surely represent his ipsissima intentio. 

Read the whole thing here

In “The Painful Paradoxes of Race,” E. J. Dionne Jr. writes of his interview with Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and candidate for the state’s open Senate seat.

My interview with Booker didn’t start with the Zimmerman trial. Instead, the practically-minded mayor spoke enthusiastically about a program he had established in cooperation with the libertarian-conservative Manhattan Institute to help men released from prison become better fathers. “The right intervention,” he said, “can create radically different outcomes.”

Booker knows about crime. He described his experience of holding a young man who had just been shot, trying and failing to keep him from dying in his arms. He returned home disconsolate and washed off the young man’s blood.

His account, and Obama’s later words, put the lie to outrageous claims by right-wing talk jocks and provocateurs that those upset by the outcome in the Zimmerman trial are willfully ignoring the affliction of crime committed by African Americans against each other. On the contrary: African American leaders, particularly mayors such as Booker, were struggling to stem violence in their own communities long before it became a convenient topic for those trying to sweep aside the profound problems raised by the Martin case.

Read the whole thing here.

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I note also your piece on gay marriage. It is appalling that bishops see here only a "threat" -- the provision means a chance of happiness for millions of people. I am sure that many gay priests are feeling very cheated by church and society -- by the canon law that imposed celibacy (under pain of excommunication if they atttempt marriage) and by the state that failed to provide the possibility of marriage for two men. Our values have become pharisaical and we have lost touch with elementary human realities, realities of the heart.