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36 Comments
  1. October 25, 2011 9:22 pm

    Excellent post Brett.

  2. October 25, 2011 9:22 pm

    Whoa. If you’re not having an existential crisis, you should be!

    • October 25, 2011 10:37 pm

      I’ve encountered this kind of attitude many a-time, and at times I’ve wondered if there’s a place for people who share my “moderate” viewpoints. Or, rather, if I can avoid being squeezed out from between the “more orthodox than thou” and the “liberal” factions.

      Thankfully, there are plenty of patient people who steadfastly occupy the same nebulous space. Proof that we do exist, and that there’s room enough.

      • October 26, 2011 3:06 pm

        Believe me, Jacob, I am right there with you in that nebulous space! And my greatest frustration in the past year of being in the Catholic Church has been that this space feels so often crowded out. But at the same time, in my exhausting efforts to navigate between the polemics and find a way to be a Catholic in the center, I have also concluded that if there is room in this big tent for people at those poles to be inside of it together, then of course there must be room for me.

  3. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    October 25, 2011 10:43 pm

    Brett,

    Let me give an answer you are not expecting, but to the point I think: If you were not a heterosexual male Thomas Peters might be much more aware of your existence.

    • brettsalkeld permalink*
      October 26, 2011 8:20 am

      You’re right. I didn’t expect that.

      • Kurt permalink
        October 26, 2011 4:33 pm

        yep.

  4. Thales permalink
    October 26, 2011 12:24 am

    I think that everyone is acting with too much knee-jerk. Slow down everyone! I wish people on the right wouldn’t be clamoring to throw this paper out into the trash bin. And on the left, why are people clamoring that this paper announces that “the Vatican sides with OWS!” and “the Vatican wants one world government!” It’s not doing that, right? Or I am reading this paper and Caritas in Veritate wrong?

    Brett, I’m not trying to defend Peters, because I think he’s reacting with too much knee-jerk like everyone else, but he’s not talking about you or people like you. He’s addressing those people who reject Church teaching on issues A, B, and C, and disparage Church authority far and wide — and are now proclaiming at the top of their lungs that the Church supports them on issue X, and everyone should listen to them because the Church also agrees with them and the Church’s authority deserves respect! Prof. Garnett made a similar point over on Mirror of Justice, about how it is irritating that Church documents get “played” for political purposes by people who do no in fact believe that the Church has the authority it claims
    http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2011/10/the-note-on-financial-reform.html

    • Kurt permalink
      October 27, 2011 8:08 am

      I think that everyone is acting with too much knee-jerk. Slow down everyone! I wish people on the right wouldn’t be clamoring to throw this paper out into the trash bin. And on the left, why are people clamoring that this paper announces that “the Vatican sides with OWS!” and “the Vatican wants one world government!” It’s not doing that, right? Or I am reading this paper and Caritas in Veritate wrong?

      Some people favorable to the document (mostly scholars) have given learned and substantive responses (that is what scholars do). Others have given their immediate reaction to the document (that what is often done among the populace). We have seen documented here a number of persons who appear and claim to be leading voices among conservative Catholics knocking the wisdom and authority of the document. We have seen no voices among the secular or Catholic left claiming they have a goal of one world government which this document is now endorsing, nor have we seen voices among the Catholic Left saying this is binding teaching on all Catholics under pain of sin. That the document is warmly received by the OWS community seems to me to just be an objective statement of fact, not a knee-jerk reaction that should be suppressed.

      I’m not trying to defend Peters, because I think he’s reacting with too much knee-jerk like everyone else, but he’s not talking about you or people like you. He’s addressing those people who reject Church teaching on issues A, B, and C, and disparage Church authority far and wide — and are now proclaiming at the top of their lungs that the Church supports them on issue X, and everyone should listen to them because the Church also agrees with them and the Church’s authority deserves respect!

      Peters’ writing seems to not accept that there is anyone in the middle who takes the document seriously and is not a dissenter on other issues. Can you cite something he has written which seems to acknowledge a body of opinion that embraces this document and Catholic teaching in its fullness?

      In addition to the people who exist but my reading of Peters suggests they don’t exist, is there any evidence of the existence of those people Peters says exists, namely those who reject Church teaching on multiple matters yet are now claiming this document is authoritative?

      I appreciate, Thales, your attempt to be balanced and even-handed in this and to promote concord. But I find you are being balanced between a myth on one hand and an actually existing body of opinion on the other. That is unfair for those of us who are neither mythical nor part of the body of opinion that Peters is a part of.

      • Thales permalink
        October 30, 2011 10:08 pm

        Kurt,
        http://life.nationalpost.com/2011/10/24/vatican-calles-for-global-economic-authority/
        Consider this news article, which reported the Vatican document as that 1) the Vatican is siding with Occupy Wall Street, and (2) the Vatican was calling for the establishment of a “global public authority“ in the form of a “supranational authority” with worldwide scope and “universal jurisdiction” to guide economic policies and decisions… such an authority would “become independent and be endowed with the power to see to it that developed countries were not allowed to wield “excessive power over the weaker countries.”

        To me, that sounds like an exaggerated and simplified description of what was in the document – not a serious attempt to engage the ideas put forward by the Vatican. There is no discussion of the notion of subsidiarity as discussed in Caritas in Veritate.

        Peters’ writing seems to not accept that there is anyone in the middle who takes the document seriously and is not a dissenter on other issues. Can you cite something he has written which seems to acknowledge a body of opinion that embraces this document and Catholic teaching in its fullness?

        I didn’t get the impression that Peters didn’t think that anyone in the middle could accept the document. When he wrote his post, I got the impression that Peters wasn’t saying that much about the substance since he had not yet read it Instead, he was reacting knee-jerk against those on the left who were reacting knee-jerk. (I don’t know what Peters has said since.)

        In addition to the people who exist but my reading of Peters suggests they don’t exist, is there any evidence of the existence of those people Peters says exists, namely those who reject Church teaching on multiple matters yet are now claiming this document is authoritative?

        Would EJ Dionne qualify?

      • Kurt permalink
        November 4, 2011 3:51 pm

        Thales,

        Working backwards —

        A. — I am going to need some documentation as to your assertion that E.J. Dionne is 1). a dissenter from Church teachings on multiple matters (and I know you are a better person than to say voting for Obama is dissenting on Church teaching), and 2) He has been asserting that the recent Note is authoritative and binding. Can you provide some back up to these claims? Particularly the first which is a very serious one.

        B.– I find it interesting a person who calls himself a “papist” is worried about some others making a knee-jerk acceptance of a document from the Holy See. We have bigger problems than people on the Left making a knee-jerk embrace of a Catholic Church document, if that is what is happening.

        C — I think you are correct The National Post made what sounds like an exaggerated and simplified description of what was in the document. I think that is basically what modern journalism does. But you stated that is response to my assertion that “We have seen no voices among the secular or Catholic left claiming they have a goal of one world government which this document is now endorsing, nor have we seen voices among the Catholic Left saying this is binding teaching on all Catholics under pain of sin.

        The National Post certainly does not speak for the Catholic Left. It doesn’t speak for the secular Left. And it hasn’t written an editorial in favor of one-world government. So I don’t understand what the linked article proves.

  5. October 26, 2011 2:37 am

    I am not certain I can accept your premise, viz. that Thomas Peters, et al. do not believe you exist. Minimally, there is nothing in Peters’ recent posting that suggests this. What I take his material point to be is an annoyance of being called to task for not following the Vatican by those who (on his reading) refuse on more foundational issues to think with the Church. I suspect we can all agree that the road from the clear principles and teaching of the Gospel to the putting of those same into practice in light of changing and changeable circumstances is not an easy one. Most of us, I imagine, do not imagine the Church should be committed to the reestablishment of a Christian emperor to rule over Christendom, however much Churchmen might at one time to have seen this as a good which flowed from our understanding of the Gospel and of human flourishing.

    Maybe I’m an unreformed optimist in this regard, but I suspect that Peters et al. would indeed be willing to have the conversation which you rather doubt he would like to have. Perhaps you know more than I do. I am willing, if not happy, to be disappointed on this score. Still, we might at least take him at his word and see that it was not that he ignored your existence, but rather that it was not against or about you that he was writing in the first place.

    • brettsalkeld permalink*
      October 26, 2011 8:27 am

      Two things, neither of them particularly conclusive:

      1. I made sure to reread his post watching precisely for this before I posted. I came away just as convinced as ever that Peters writes with a total lack of awareness that there are those who don’t fit one of his two ideological boxes. When pressed he might acknowledge our existence, but I, for one, am convinced he does not consider us at all when penning his polemics. (I fully grant that this is a subjective judgement.) Furthermore, I think it is clear that his failure to consider us dovetails rather nicely with the false narrative he is promoting.

      2. I tried to post over at CatholicVote and was not let through. That’s his prerogative, but at this stage he does not seem very willing to talk.

      UPDATE: My second attempt to post over there got through, one without a link to this post. Maybe that’s company policy, I don’t know. In any case, many others like me seem to be commenting over there (and getting “likes”). I look forward to Peters’ response to us.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
        October 26, 2011 11:48 am

        Brett,

        I keep thinking there was something tongue-in-cheek about your title and gist for this post. But reading the comments I am coming to the conclusion that I am wrong. Of course this only makes it more interesting to me. First, I am in the unenviable position of having had my existence acknowledged by this very odd human being in a much more tawdry and off-putting way. Let’s put it this way, he is known in DC as nothing remotely like a serious thinker or even a journalist, but as someone aspiring to be James O’Keefe. Yuck! So trying to understand this character for whatever symbolic value he may have as emblematic of the waywardness of reactionaries, is sort of really being too kind. If you are someone who takes religion seriously it is hard to grasp the character of someone who uses it as a mere prop. Believe me, many of that type exist.

        But since a real Thomist, Dominic, has graced the discussion allow me this pedantic digression. Thomistic metaphysics treats any kind of evil as a void in being. Might this be an explanation for the American Papists odd mental habits?? And for the fact that he seems to think your type of Catholic does not exist. Privatio Lefti??

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          October 26, 2011 11:52 am

          Well, at least I can see where you were coming from with that first bit. Yeesh, I had no idea.

  6. October 26, 2011 5:03 am

    The real issue is far more complicated. The American “conservative” RepubliCatholic has created this vision of themselves as being perfectly obedient to the Church and never dissenting from what the Church teaches. They then say everyone else dissents. Dissent is evil, for it must mean heresy.

    So what do you do when the Church speaks strongly against a position your political allegiance tells you to hold? “Oh, that’s not authoritative.” So of course, they are still not dissenting!

    Of course, it is dissent. Honesty understands that authority has many levels in the Church. And that what is taught here was not new — but they are using this to hide and cover the fact that the Pope himself has said similarly. Here, look at this document (ignore the Pope). Here, this is just a note, a thought, nothing of value.. we can disagree.. and not dissent! But again, honesty says it is dissent. Honesty understands there are many kinds of dissent, not all of it wrong. Honesty understands to dissent, one must have good cause to do it – and when they keep pointing out “this has no authority,” their dissent is much greater because of it (for they have dismissed an actual authority in and of itself, and not just what they say based upon honest reflection).

    We can see this sham continues with Christopher Blosser, who also, it appears, doesn’t know who you are.

  7. October 26, 2011 6:15 am

    I actually am quite skeppical of a lot in a note in itself. Also I dont think I a playng right wing Catholic games understanding that yes this has is way down the food chain that as a Catholic I must spend days and days grasping with. As someone that has to deal with Evangelicals my main concern is someone might get the false idea they can’t be Catholic if they don’t believe in a World Bank. With social media it is amazing how quickly that falsehood can be spread.

    But besides that I think this post is good and challenging in many ways. I have honestly have not been thrilled with attitude by some on the “left” or the “right” as it’s calledreaction to some aspects of this. But I have hope Peters is made aware of this invitation. I think these can be productive conversations.

    However I think if there are going to be productive conversations both sides are going to have to drop the snarky tone to each other. I suspect that will be the hardest part as both “sides” assume the worst intentions of each other.

    Will this happen? Probally not. In fact Mr Salkeld if you are serious about this attempted you should consider just removing the last part of your post after the bold. Before I got tto that I thought what a great attempt for two “sides to discuss” but then the last few lines left me cold. Its full of snark and not productive at all. You seem to be assuming things about the Catholic faith of the person you wish to engage.

    • brettsalkeld permalink*
      October 26, 2011 8:39 am

      Sorry that you didn’t find the last bit helpful jh. For what it’s worth, I just reread it and don’t see how I’m questioning his Catholic faith. I am, however, questioning his narrative. The point is that people of my view actually hold very high positions in the Church. If he’s not willing to take the document seriously because I, a faithful Catholic by his own standards, think it should be taken seriously, he should consider the fact that people like Cardinal Turkson and Benedict XVI are closer to my view than to his. I think that that is important to note and is completely ignored in his narrative. He’s much happier to attack Thomas Reese et. al. as if they are the only people who would endorse this note because they are an easy target for his “more-Catholic-than-thou” polemic. Me, Turkson and Benedict? Not so much.

  8. Kurt permalink
    October 26, 2011 7:38 am

    Henry and Brett are much more thoughtful and articulate than I could ever hope to be. I would just add that the (possibly rare) Catholic who fully affirms all the Church proclaims (authoritative, non-authoritative, advisory, and doctrinal) is treated very poorly by that crowd. I’ve even seen assertions that agreement with the Church on certain (non-authoritative, in their minds) matter is a sign of dissent and heresy.

  9. October 26, 2011 9:02 am

    All you need to understand about Peters is that he is a Republican first, an American second, and a Catholic third. Because of this inherent weakness, he is incredibly defensive and arrogant about his orthodoxy – much as some deeply closeted gay men tend to be some of the biggest homophobes in public.

    Peters will not have a debate about consistent Catholic teaching, a teaching on life and justice, a unified teaching, ever ancient ever new, that springs from the same source. No. For him, as at American Catholic, orthodoxy is less theological and more political. I have a friend who once rather naively emailed Peters to invite him to St. Matthew’s Cathedral. I forget the context. But when Peters responded,
    the first question he asked was: are you a Republican or a Democrat? When my friend said he was a Democrat, Peters started sending him nasty emails.

    That sums it up. Peters is fundamentally an economic liberal, an individualist who rejects the Church’s clear teaching on the institutional path to justice. It’s a sore point. He tries to put Cathlolic teahcing in the service of the tea party, and distorts the meaning of subsidiarity (much as Weigel distorted just war theory for similar reasons).

    • October 26, 2011 9:08 am

      MM

      I will slightly disagree with you here. I think Thomas really believes his Catholicism and strives to be Catholic first, even. However, I think his hermeneutic is Americanist and political which makes it appear it is secondary. In practice, I think this means he is blind to much which is said in the Church. And his connections with some ecclesial authorities helps keep those blinders on. But I do think we should not doubt his Catholicism or is desire to be Catholic first. As I know him, I do see he holds it first. But I think he has distortions with his vision (and he would say the same with me, I am sure).

    • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
      October 27, 2011 11:00 am

      Henry and Sir Minion,

      Have you considered that you are both saying the same thing?? Leave aside the more profound aspects of religious experience, which I am in no way arguing against. What religion means and has always meant for perhaps 85% of people is a way to socially cohere, and that means in a society like ours a way to strive in some way as well. Thus, to say that this fatuous blogger is involved ambitiously with politics is simply to say that he hearkens to the most basic meaning of religion for most people. It is a way to fit in. Now having lived in DC for a long time — and I think Minion lives here too if memory serves — I can add another detail. Namely, that in more liberal circles being a person with a lot of obvious contradictions is not seen as cool in any way. Socially unacceptable. So there is no room at that inn for this fellow. Reactionaries in this town, by contrast, are of two types. On the one hand you’ve got the hillbilly-made-good type who is quite personally unconflicted. Their reactionary politics comes from a sort of very dense personal inertia about all sorts of cultural matters in which they just won’t budge; because they have never known much anyways. Somehow they got to DC, but they will never live in the District, and spend their lives commuting, and going to Bible church. On the other hand you have a group of highly conflicted types, fairly educated, effete, and as distant from the real yeoman type as possible. Even though their politics involves incessant praise for the yeoman. This latter type is definitely where this Papist character belongs. It is a group, in my experience, of bizarre and quirky nuts who don’t really fit in anywhere, not even with their own little sub-group. The ultimate question of politics is always, where does he go?? The quixotic Papist has no place to go except into the maelstrom of reactionary conundrums. A very useful type, I am sure, because it is clear that they have no choice.

      Add to this that his father apparently has made a career off being a factotum for the
      church and you have the total picture.

      • digbydolben permalink
        October 30, 2011 9:10 pm

        Peter Paul, what I find extraordinary–truly extraordinary!–is the notion that a “faithful Catholic” can “fit in” ANYWHERE in American politics–of the left or the right or the libertarian side. America is a country founded on the values of the so-called “Enlightenment,” most of which are a direct consequence of the what the Renaissance and Counter-Reformation Church deemed to be (accuarately, in my opinion) a REVOLUTION against orthodox Christian theology, and what we’d call, today, Christian anthropology–that is, traditional Christianity’s notions of what man is and what his life is for.

        Let me take the crazy right-wing Catholics’ opposition to “gay marriage” in America as an example. They say that, for them, marriage is “between ONE man and ONE woman,” but they don’t seem to have the haziest notion that, for the typical Evangelical Protestant in the Bible Belt, marriage is “between one man and one woman AT A TIME.” This is Protestant theology’s very important distinction from the traditional orthodox Christian idea of “sacramental marriage,” and this revision of Christ’s condemnation of divorce in Scripture is EXTREMELY important for their theology of “salvation by faith alone.”

        Luther was asked, directly, if he didn’t know that Christ had forbidden divorce and he replied that he DID know it, but that he estimated that Christ had “given us that commandment to ‘convict us of our sins’”–which meant, to Luther’s extremely UN-CHRISTIAN mind, that Christ “had his tongue far in his cheek” (I’m quoting Table-Talk) “when he gave us that command,” BECAUSE HE KNEW WE COULDN’T KEEP IT–that we were too concupiscent to be able to resist the lures of the flesh which would lead us to divorce one woman and marry another. Luther was very serious about what he considered to be human anthropology’s evidence of the truthfulness of his doctrine, and, to prove it, he married a nun–a woman who was considered, by the medieval and Renaissance Church, to be “married to Christ”–in other words, he DIVORCED HER FROM CHRIST. To Luther’s contemporaries, the evidence was plainer that it seems to be to modern American Christian Yahoos: divorce is part of “God’s plan,” because it plainly illustrates the need to “throw oneself upon Christ’s blood” and “believe on (sic.) Him.”

        What I’m trying to say is that a Protestant culture’s notion of what marriage means, once the culture becomes more secularized, makes “gay marriage” inevitable, because it is a logical progression away from “sacramental marriage” facilitated entirely by HETEROSEXUALS’ indulgence in the phenomenon of “serial monogamy” which is actually SANCTIONED by “salvation by faith alone” theology. Catholic “social conservatives” and Protestant “social conservatives” are divided by their concepts of the “theology of marriage,” and don’t even mean the same thing when they attempt to define marriage.

        And that’s to mention only one thing that divides them: there are countless others, such as what a Christian form of capitalism ought to be, and what “faithful stewardship” of the world’s resources ought to be. I believe that, in all of these cases, you will find that the Lutheran hesesy of “salvation by faith alone” and the Calvinist heresy of “pre-destination by grace” has had enormous consequences for any political discussion in a country whose religious culture–even if moribund–has traditionally been Protestant. Their notions of a “Christian life” and of what man actually is, in terms of an anthropology affected by his spirituality, are not “ours,” and it would be best that Catholic “social conservatives” appreciate that numerous of their “causes” were lost a long time ago.

    • November 4, 2011 12:32 pm

      Someone alerted me to MM’s libelous attack on me here.

      Comparing me to a hypocritical closeted gay man is beneath my response.

      But concerning the “nasty” email you say I wrote, I searched my email records and couldn’t locate it. This does not surprise me, considering I’ve never had anyone tell me I wrote them something “nasty”. In fact, your comment is nastier than anything I’ve ever written someone privately, and you published your comments publicly.

      For all your exhortations to practice charity, I see little evidence of you practicing what you preach, at least when it comes to me and my reputation. When it comes to forthrightness, I at least use my real name and stake my reputation to it, you hide behind a pseudonym.

      And yet you lecture me on being “defensive” and “closeted”? Shame on you, sir.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
        November 4, 2011 4:16 pm

        Wow! Such high dudgeon from a guy who works for a hate group, and has been connected with events run by anti-Jewish foreign entities. He is clearly beneath his own response.

        • brettsalkeld permalink*
          November 4, 2011 4:54 pm

          OK, everyone, let’s bring up the level of our discourse. (In other news, if I wasn’t having an existential crisis before, I am now!)

      • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
        November 4, 2011 6:18 pm

        Brett,

        The cautious and thoroughly scholarly determinations of the Southern Poverty Law Center are considered by all reasonable people to be the highest level of discourse on the question of hate groups. Their determinations are based on stringent criteria of hateful misuses of information, and not on personal or communal belief systems. (In other words, simply believing that homosexuality is not God’s highest desideratum would NOT be enough to earn that ascription,) It is to this fact that I was referring to about Mr. Peters. The Southern Poverty Law Center has determined that he works for a hate group, plain and simple. And the defenses of those caught in the pincers of such an identification — like Robert George — are of no moment or relevance whatsoever. I do not consider that anything that comes from someone choosing to spend his life working for such a hate group is reliable in any way. Further, on a simpler level, the half-photograph that is provided with his comment suggests that there is another half of the story that is intentionally missing.

  10. Don permalink
    October 26, 2011 11:04 am

    This post raises an important issue, that anytime your first reaction to a teaching (especially one you haven’t read yet) is the litany of excuses as to why it isn’t binding, you’re looking at the Church through the wrong lens. At the very least, we’re called to be open.

    • brettsalkeld permalink*
      October 26, 2011 11:49 am

      Amen. Maybe I should have just written that. ;)

  11. Mark Gordon permalink
    October 26, 2011 3:46 pm

    I, too, would like to define myself out of existence. Ahem … here we go, 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1:

    “I accept without qualification the Church’s authoritative teaching on life, marriage, and contraception.”

  12. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
    October 26, 2011 4:05 pm

    Actually, just to give this blog some variety, I am going to define myself into existence:

    “I am a liberal Catholic. I pick and choose Church teachings to match my prejudices and to conform myself to modern culture.”

    There, I feel much better. Let the fun begin.

    • brettsalkeld permalink*
      October 26, 2011 5:02 pm

      Oooh, and I know who else qualifies as liberal by this definition . . . .
      You’re a crafty one, Cruz-Uribe.

      • Mark Gordon permalink
        October 26, 2011 6:21 pm

        One wily Franciscan indeed!

  13. mradeknal permalink
    October 27, 2011 6:00 pm

    Yup: not all orthodox Catholics (on Faith and Morals) are political/economic/social conservatives! The conservatives need to get this through their heads.

    However, as a “non-conservative orthodox Catholic” I do think he has a point nevertheless, inasmuch as one is certainly not rendered a HERETIC by rejecting this prudential note from some curial department (though I personally like what it says) in the way you would be for, say, rejecting the divinity of Christ or supporting contraception, homosexual sex acts, women’s ordination, etc etc.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
      October 27, 2011 10:40 pm

      mradeknal.

      Well, your point has at least some resonance with a definable tradition in your Church. But on the other hand, I wish somehow that the long history of excommunications in the Church were factored into discussion like this. In other words, if one looks at the history of what the Roman Catholic church actually excommunicated people for, in the case of ignoring its dicta, that might be some indication of what it considers important. Besides sundry heresies what we find is the the RC church excommunicated lots of people for opposing its political and economic policies at various points in its history. Entire cities were excommunicated, Venice for instance, and all its citizens condemned to hell, and with it the free rein for anyone to kill them. Including young children. So the idea that the Church’s history supports a careful balance of “prudential” distinctions is, well, a bit pie in the sky. its pronouncements are a hold-over of a time when it could enforce them with law (an excommunicated person could have his life or goods seized without trial.) Now the point is more exhortative. But if you think that they are made for the ultimate goal of subtle parsing, then you are ignoring its entire cumulative history.

    • Kurt permalink
      October 28, 2011 9:18 am

      Yes, but that is a strawman. No one was suggesting anyone was a heretic. Many of us received the document positively and promoted the wisdom we found it in. Others did not seem to even given it a respectful reading.

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