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The speaker of the House was thoroughly conservative in a Republican Party that had moved the goal posts on what constituted conservatism. But he could never be conservative enough for his critics on the right.

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"God bless America" sounds banal coming from politicians but profound when spoken by the shepherd of 1.2 billion souls. In his historic address to Congress, Pope Francis delivered a blessing of encouragement, not admonition -- and spoke powerfully about the hot-button issues that keep our political leaders mired in bitter gridlock.

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Understanding Greeley, the priest, sociologist and novelist who died last week at 85, is essential to understanding the last half-century of American Catholic history and the glorious contradictions of politics.

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