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How good is the deal the United States and its partners have struck with Iran to dismantle that nation’s capacity to build a nuclear weapon? On the face of it, the agreement looks like a remarkable achievement for President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the five major powers that have been in negotiations with Iran. Of course, everything depends on whether Iran’s compliance can be verified with confidence.
Featuring the best of our interviews—including Woody Allen, Jorge Luis Borges, Mary Gordon, (Sister) Elizabeth McAlister, Christian Wiman, and Mario Cuomo—this reading list spans seventy-six years, five popes, and thirteen U.S. presidents. These conversations cover a wide range of topics and sketch the contours of a complicated American Catholic history in dialogue with secular politics, culture, and views of religion.
Now up on our homepage is an article by Richard Cohen about the curious phenomenon of the one-novel novelist. Until today, Harper Lee was one of the most famous examples of this phenomenon. Other notable examples: John Berryman, Berthold Brecht, Woody Guthrie, Noel Coward, and Napoleon. Some one-off novels are classics (Wuthering Heights, Invisible Man); others are remembered only because their authors were famous for other things (leading Britain through World War II, crushing democracy in Spain).
At over 37,000 words, Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ is one of the longest encyclicals in the church’s history. It covers a lot of ground. Among the topics addressed: banking regulation, gender theory, urban planning, Sabbath observances, Trinitarian theology, and the saying of grace before meals (the pope recommends it).
Not how but why
Peter Steinfels’s June 1 article “Contraception & Honesty” is an excellent presentation of the dilemma facing the church and the Synod on the Family on the issue of contraception. There is, however, one vital point that has not been made.
“The time is past when humans could ignore the impact of their behavior on the ecological systems that support life on earth. In the context of Christian faith, ecological practices bespeak a profound turning to the God of life.” So writes Elizabeth Johnson in her essay, "At Our Mercy." The matter of these ecological practices has become pressing.
Joseph A. Komonchak has received the John Courtney Murray Award from the Catholic Theological Society of America, the organization’s highest honor. Regular readers of Commonweal are no doubt familiar with Joe’s work: He is not only a longtime friend and contributor, but also (of course) a leading scholar on Vatican II, the editor of a five-volume history of the council, and the author of more than one hundred and fifty articles.
On May 13, one day after the train derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight people and injured more than two hundred, the House Appropriations Committee voted to cut $251 million from next year’s Amtrak budget. The following day a reporter made the mistake of asking House Speaker John Boehner whether insufficient funding for Amtrak might be partly to blame for the accident.
Now on the homepage we're featuring “Contraception & Honesty: A Proposal for the Next Synod,” by Peter Steinfels. In this video interview, Peter explains what prompted him to write “Contraception & Honesty” and talks more about the issues he raises in it. There was a “glaring gap” in the work of last year’s synod, Peter says: "[T]he lack of attention to the question of contraception.