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Quick Hits: The case for rigor; the New Jansenists; Pope Benedict’s birthday strudel

On the theory that late is better than never, let me call attention to an excellent little essay by Father Gerald Murray, for The Catholic Thing, debunking the notion that some of God’s commands are “ideals” that we cannot be expected to meet. “God does not permit, let...

A resurgence of infidelity?

Today I took a close look at a serious problem in the Church which some of us are tempted to ignore. That's because the root of the problem is so unsettling. See Why is there a resurgence of infidelity among Catholic leaders? Please note that the importance of our Catholic mission is...

Why is there a resurgence of infidelity among Catholic leaders?

Earlier this week, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus stressed the need to “discern” the meaning of Christ’s teachings rather than simply accept the way Catholic doctrine states these truths. This triggered an email from an obviously same-sex attracted reader who...

Fear of Holiness

Fear is a useful emotion. Under the control of reason, it is good to recoil in fear from a rattlesnake posed to strike. Other fears are more subtle. It’s easy to think of holiness as inaccessible and even indicting, and therefore intimidating when we encounter a person perceived to be...

The Modesto Statement: playing politics, bishops are conned again

The statements adopted by the First US Regional Meeting of Popular Movements are, for the most part, fairly predictable leftist boilerplate: a condemnation of President Trump, a focus on the evils of racism and exploitation, a claim that the few are growing rich on the suffering of the many....

Quick Hits: Duruflé’s Requiem and more

Yesterday I was blessed to hear some of the most beautiful music ever composed in concert at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan (which happens to be the largest cathedral and the fourth largest church in the world, and a splendid place for music-making). The centerpiece of...

The Church, money and power

This Tuesday message is brought to you by the letter "W" (for Wednesday). My wife, a teacher, had Monday off, so I worked only a half-day. So yesterday, of course, I thought it was Monday. I am mostly focused on two things today. First, after writing about our relationship with Pope...

The circus comes to town

There was a circus performance at the Pope’s audience today. No, really. It’s true. There was a juggler so skillful that he could balance six different interpretations of Amoris Laetitia. And a contortionist who could reconcile the German bishops’ interpretation with...

Catholics today: Struggling when the wood is dry

I ran across a book on the Spanish Civil War the other day. I have never studied that war, but I know it was characterized by a wide variety of loyalties, often conflicting not only within families but within individual persons. By the 1930s people were hopelessly divided (and very frequently...

Pro-life crowdfunding and Catholic Netflix

I’d like to call our readers’ attention to two worthy new enterprises which look to fill significant gaps in the Catholic internet. First is a pro-life crowdfunding site called WonderWe. At first I wondered what the need for such a site would be, but as it turns out, mainstream...

Roman curiosities?

The Vatican Press has now published a booklet by the head of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts—not writing in his official capacity—which argues that Amoris Laetitia is perfectly clear and then proposes yet another interpretation. It is no wonder that Phil Lawler has had...

Warning: Our strengths are often our weaknesses. Same with the Pope.

How many times have you fallen into the traps set by the very strengths of your own personality? This is one of the great paradoxes of the spiritual life. As we come to grips with divergent personalities within the Church, it is worth thinking about. I’ll start with a personal example....

Theologians’ conflicts of interest

Gregory Baum, one of the influential theologians who led the charge against Humanae Vitae, has now revealed that he is, and has been since the 1960s, an active homosexual. Are you surprised? No; it’s a familiar story. A theologian writes that it’s unrealistic to expect people to live in sexual...

Liturgical Year Volume 3 Released: LENT

Lent (the only liturgical season with a name that is also a four-letter word!) begins on March 1st, and so the Lenten volume of our ebook series for the 2016-2017 liturgical year has been released in our ebooks download area. This third volume in the annual series covers the entire season of Lent,...

Judging God’s law by human standards

For the 2nd time this week, the day’s Gospel reading provides a clear and direct answer to a question that must be on the minds of many serious Catholics. What should one do when someone—even an esteemed Church leader—seems to be judging an important question by purely human...

Vatican follies, continued

First the Vatican calls a press conference to announce the publication of a book by Cardinal Coccopalmerio. With their ears to the rumor mill, journalists covering the Vatican report that this book will be a response to the dubia—thus the excitement. But then Cardinal Coccopalmerio does...

From Vatican vexation to Tolkien's talent

I was disturbed yesterday to see the news that Pope Francis' Council of Cardinals had felt the need to give him a vote of confidence. When that sort of thing happens, you know that trouble is brewing in a turbulent papacy. Today Phil Lawler explains: Unrest at the Vatican; reassurances...

Bad—I mean really bad—arguments for changing the Church

Cultural change, as we all know, has a profound impact on our convictions. Very large numbers of people cheerfully form their values according to the signals received from the dominant culture in which they live. Since human cultures undergo continuous change, so do human values. It seems not to...

Unrest at the Vatican; reassurances backfire

What in the world is going on in Rome this week? First the Vatican press office issues a statement from the Council of Cardinals, supporting the Pope. It would certainly be news if the Council of Cardinals did not support the Pope. But why was this statement newsworthy? Why did the Council...

Tolkien the modernist: a glimpse of a unique creative process

[My work is] fundamentally linguistic in inspiration…The invention of languages is the foundation. The ‘stories’ were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows. That Tolkien’s creative work...

Blame the messenger: in this case Cardinal Burke

A bizarre conspiracy theory has arisen, suggesting that the mounting tensions within the Church are the result of a right-wing conspiracy against an innocent Pope. The theory involves inaccurate characterizations of three people: in one case absurd, in another case delusional, and in the third...

Women priests: Really? Again?

As we reported earlier this week, the Vatican-controlled journal La Civilta Cattolica has published an article which attempts to raise once again the question of the ordination of women to the priesthood. I respond in Reopening the question of women priests: A theological travesty and a...

Reopening the question of women priests: A theological travesty and a spiritual tragedy

La Civilta Cattolica has published an essay by its deputy editor, Father Giancarlo Pani, which seeks to reopen the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood. This journal, published by the Jesuits but vetted by the Vatican Secretariat of State, has long been a means of communicating lines...

Guardians of Common Sense

The teachings of Christ provide benchmarks to measure “normal” human behavior. It helps if we don’t kill each other, remain faithful in marriage, don’t lie and cheat, and so on. Common sense stuff. Christians of course do not have a monopoly on common sense. But the rapid...

Pope Francis welcomes criticism—he says

“It’s good to be criticized,” said Pope Francis to religious superiors. “I have always liked this.” That’s good to know. What a relief to think that all those stories we’ve been hearing—about the Vatican officials called in for tongue-lashing...

Catholics Confronting Hitler

Back in October of 2016, I praised and recommended Mark Riebling’s brilliant and exciting book, Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War against Hitler. Riebling focused almost exclusively on the relationship between the Vatican and the network of those within Germany who were seeking to...

Quick Hits: Vatileaks defendants targeting Cardinal Pell, adapting the Extraordinary Form

Francesca Chaouqui, the flamboyant publicist who was convicted in last year’s “Vatileaks II” trial, has published a book about her experiences inside the Vatican bureaucracy. John Allen has reviewed the book, reporting that it is self-serving and, despite a great deal of...

Posters in Rome show discontent with Pope Francis

Perhaps the most interesting news story so far this week concerns the posters critical of Pope Francis that were posted on the streets of Rome on Saturday. These posters clearly represent the views of faithful (and frustrated) Catholics, even if their charity and prudence might well be...

Is there a “morality gap” in the way Pope Francis presents his favorite themes?

I find myself wondering whether Pope Francis does not sometimes undermine his own favorite themes, such as Divine mercy and Christian unity, by his obvious reluctance to articulate their significant moral character. I consider this an important question because the Pope’s key themes are...

A Burke-Bannon conspiracy against Pope Francis? Nonsense!

An influential American political activist, the adviser to a controversial new President, conspires with a Catholic cardinal against the Pope. That sounds like the makings of a great story, doesn’t it? No wonder the New York Times gave it such prominence! No wonder so many other media outlets are...

Should social conservatives avoid criticizing Trump?

Less than two weeks into the presidency of Donald Trump, I began seeing arguments that social conservatives should mute their criticism of the new President. Hillary Clinton would have been a disaster—so the argument goes—and we should be grateful for the friendly initiatives that...

Churchmen: Avoid hasty judgments!

By far the most important Catholic news story this week broke on Wednesday: Cardinal Müller, German bishops clash on interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. Cardinal Müller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has now stated that Pope St. John Paul II's...

Is a rational, civil debate about immigration still possible?

Donald Trump is in the White House today in large part because he was the only presidential candidate willing to tackle the immigration issue. For years, politicians on both sides of the aisle had avoided serious discussion of the topic, knowing that if they took a clear stand, they would inflame...

Marcus Aurelius on living in denial

Through one of those apparent quirks of Divine Providence, my son Peter gave me a copy of the Meditations of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius for Christmas. This struck me as “quirky” for two reasons: First, Peter found the book on my Amazon wish list yet I have no idea how it got...

Catholic drama: Matteo Ricci, China, and the problem of inculturation

Throughout history there has been an interplay between human culture and Divine Revelation. Different patterns emerge in the proclamation and reception of the truths of our faith in Jesus Christ. In each culture Christianity generates a different set of tensions, as the gospel builds on, purifies...

‘How am I doin’?’

Years ago the popular mayor of New York, Ed Koch, was known to greet his constituents on the street with a question: “How am I doin’?” As political shticks go, it was a good one; the voters received the question with amusement, but Koch accepted their responses with an edge of...

Francis and Trump: Controversial!

The furor is continuing to grow over the way Pope Francis treats those who do not share his pastoral emphasis. Phil Lawler brought us up to date with his latest Quick Hits: New perspectives on the abortion debate and on Amoris Laetitia. Phil is forced to conclude, sadly, that Pope Francis has...

More on Trump’s wall: The danger of overreach

I suggested on Friday that President Trump’s 2,000-mile wall could well turn out to be the kind of ill-considered commitment which sends voters back across the aisle in 2020. The risk does not arise from any intrinsic immorality connected with building a wall, but from the likelihood that...

On the affairs of popes and presidents

I do not write on politics very often, but at the beginning of Donald Trump's presidency, I considered whether we would see him rise—or fall: In Potentia: Donald Trump’s Upside, and Donald Trump’s Downfall. Meanwhile, anticipating the March for Life in Washington, DC...

Quick Hits: new perspectives on the abortion debate and on Amoris Laetitia

Among many excellent analyses published in time for the March for Life, “When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense,” by Frederica Mathewes-Green, deserves special mention. The arguments are familiar—how could they not be, after 44 years?—but she offers some new...

Pope Francis has become a source of division

Every day I pray for Pope Francis. And every day (I am exaggerating, but only slightly), the Pope issues another reminder that he does not approve of Catholics like me. If the Holy Father were rebuking me for my sins, I would have no reason to complain. But day after weary day the Pope upbraids...

In Potentia: Donald Trump’s Upside, and Donald Trump’s Downfall

It is hard to imagine (but easy to hope) that Donald Trump’s presidency will dramatically alter how politics works in America. Like many other Catholics who voted for Trump, I had to hold my nose as I entered the voting booth. Trump’s crassness, including all the negative publicity...

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