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June 21, 2015

The 2015 Portsmouth Institute conference, on “Understanding the Francis Papacy,” was the sixth that Justin has covered, with multimedia recordings and written commentary. Browse through the tabs at right for video to access Justin’s commentary.

Thoughts on Anna Bonta Moreland’s Portsmouth Institute Lecture on Pope Francis

Starting off this year’s conference at the Portsmouth Institute, on “Understanding the Francis Papacy,” Anna Bonta Moreland spoke on Friday morning.  As an Argentinian, herself, and a professor at Villanova University, Moreland’s purpose was to give some biographical background and cultural context for Pope Francis.

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Thoughts on Portsmouth Institute Panel on Interreligious Perspectives on Pope Francis

The second session at this year’s Portsmouth Institute conference, with the weekend-long subject of Pope Francis, took up the topic of interreligious dialogue and Pope Francis’s role therein.  A bit of irony snuck in around the edges of the conversation (which more resembled a series of individual speeches): An initial impression of Francis’s popularity — in the United States, anyway — would seem to have much to do with the political application of his theological views.  Yet the speakers on the panel held him up as a lesson to religious groups that have sometimes gotten caught up in their blending of politics and religion.

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Thoughts on Ross Douthat’s Portsmouth Institute Speech and Pope Francis’s Role in a Divided Church

Ross Douthat divided his talk at the 2015 Portsmouth Institute conference into two segments.  With the topic of “More Catholic than the Pope?: The New Catholic Civil War,” Douthat looked first at three areas of skepticism about the pope in the United States and then broadened his view globally.  Given his particular insights, the current of larger concern may actually have flowed below the surface his rhetorical structure.

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Thoughts on Cardinal Sean O’Malley and the Evangelization of Whom

On day one of the 2015 Portsmouth Institute conference, on “Understanding the Francis Papacy,” the critical question that began to assert itself between the lines, so to speak, was whether the pope has correctly assessed the world as it is currently poised and, therefore, his role in it.

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Thoughts on John Carr and the Balance of Individualism

Picking up the second day of the 2015 Portsmouth Institute summer conference, on Pope Francis, John Carr began the Saturday session with an hour of humor and insight (full video below).  If Friday’s speakers — knowingly or incidentally — wove a certain trepidation that American Catholics might have about the new pope through the subtext of their talks, Carr unhesitatingly called on us to carry the message that the pope will bring to our country.

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Thoughts on Fr. Dwight Longenecker and Non-Victimizing Evangelization

Father Dwight Longenecker brought with him, to the 2015 Portsmouth Institute conference, the novelty of being a married Roman Catholic priest.  He was among the Anglicans who converted to Catholicism and received a special dispensation from Pope John Paul II to remain priests while married.  For an audience of Catholics, that biographical point was probably the most catchy of his talk.  His most resonant point, however, was that a conversion won by tricks, gimmicks, or pressure is “a false conversion.”

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Thoughts on R.R. Reno and Diplomacy of the Individual

During his homily at Mass, this morning, the priest — an affable senior who technically retired from service but still helps out around the parish — mentioned the pope’s recent dip in favorability according to a public opinion poll.  He attributed that outcome to the fact that Pope Francis is insisting that we tend to the poor. There are ways to interpret the priest’s explanation in a way that would be plausible, if not outright true, but it seems at the least to be incomplete. Kicking off the afternoon of the second day of this year’s Portsmouth Institute conference, First Things editor R.R. Reno put Francis in a historical context, specifically the context of Vatican diplomacy.  He titled the talk, “The Diplomacy of Bold Words and Striking Gestures.”

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Thoughts on Fr. Roger Landry and Bringing Joy and Meaning to Everything

Father Roger Landry’s session was not so much a talk or a presentation as an instance of preaching.  Watching the video, his intellectual points certainly come through, but the experience of watching him the first time was more personal.  The first person to obtain a microphone during the question and answer period captured some of the sense, with his effusive praise.

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Thoughts on Kenneth Colston and Pleasurable (and Voluntary) Asceticism

A teacher of literature by profession, Kenneth Colston spent most of his Portsmouth Institute lecture tracing the significance of Franciscans (and the saint from whom they took their name) in literature.  He mainly left conclusions, therefore, to the listener.  In a sense, he describes an undercurrent of contradiction.  Franciscans in literature are “non-conformist, yet traditional.”  They are “cunning, mild, and orthodox.”

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Thoughts on Property, Economics, and Catholicism

An exchange of economic ideas closing out the second night of the 2015 Portsmouth Institute conference, on Pope Francis, gave a real contrast of thinking.  Taking up the side of economic progressivism was essayist and Brown PhD student Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig; taking up the more-free-market side was Cliff Hobbins, a teacher of history and economics at the Portsmouth Abbey school.

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Thoughts on Millennials and Pope Francis and Finding Our Chapter in History

In the libretto for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Jesus Christ Superstar — which hit the global scene, controversially, as the ’60s stumbled into the ’70s — a song titled “Superstar” comes right before the crucifixion.  With the insinuation of a modern perspective, the voice of Judas criticizes Jesus.

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