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Expert commentary on the spiritual, moral, political, social, cultural, and ecclesiastical issues facing Catholics today.

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Commentary and reflection on Catholic life and ideas.

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Analysis of news events and trends.

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Brief, off-the-cuff observations and announcements.

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Book and media reviews.

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Celebrates positive work by Catholic individuals and organizations.

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Bishops taking up the slack?

There are encouraging signs that the American bishops do not wish to encourage the dubious changes some think the Pope is authorizing. Phil Lawler’s recent observations are on point: Archbishop Naumann’s election: a relief, not a victory Another encouraging sign from...

Glimmerings from the First Book of Chronicles

First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, and First and Second Chronicles: These are the books which repeatedly survey the rise and fall of the monarchy in Israel, each with its different emphasis.* I have already discussed Samuel and Kings. The Chronicles were written after the Exile,...

Another encouraging sign from the US bishops’ conference

Take a look at the list of prelates selected by the US bishops to represent their conference at next year’s Synod meeting: DiNardo, Gomez, Chaput, Barron. It’s a very strong list. If you were watching the USCCB meeting carefully, looking for signs of how the American hierarchy...

Archbishop Naumann’s election: a relief, not a victory

Pro-life Catholics across America are celebrating today, over the selection of Archbishop Joseph Naumann to chair the pro-life committee of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). While I join in the celebration, I want to put things in perspective. Archbishop Naumann is an excellent...

From the nuclear option to joyful expectation

An old song that became a World War I anthem says it is “a long, long way to Tipperary”, and so it must have seemed to Irish boys far from home. Today we must navigate the even longer way between the destructive power of nuclear weapons and our joyful expectation of the coming of...

Death, where is thy sting?

Fall is a time of great beauty and many folks travel to the mountains and through the valleys to see the magnificent changing colors of the foliage. But let’s not overlook the obvious. Nature is going dormant, even dying, and this cycle of nature itself is foreshadowing our own deaths. The...

Key perceptions of—and at—the Second Vatican Council

Most of us have our own convictions about the nature and significance of the Second Vatican Council. Surprisingly, we often hold these convictions without having read the documents. At this point, over fifty years after the close of the Council, it is hard to insist that people go back and read...

On nuclear weapons, Pope Francis goes beyond all previous papal teaching

Once again Pope Francis has ventured into new territory in Church teaching, with his November 10 November 10 condemnation of nuclear weapons. The Church has frequently lamented the existence of nuclear armaments, and Vatican II clearly condemned the use of any weapons that would destroy civilian...

Highlight on the Eucharist

Sorry, but I am getting a little nervous. We must still raise $23,000 more in donations to win the Challenge Grant by December 2nd. Please pray and, if you have not yet done so, offer a gift that will be matched. Still, enough said. Here are today's Insights: Pope Francis has ended...

The bishops and tax policy: Missing not just the big picture but God’s picture?

Tax reform has been a big issue in the United States for the past few decades, and the particulars of the current administration’s tax package are currently being hotly debated across the land. Adding to the debate on October 25th, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, chair of the US bishops’...

Tonight’s the anniversary; celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall

On this date—November 9—in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. If you are too young to remember that event, I probably cannot convey to you the intense joy, mingled with incredulity, that I felt as I watched it happen. To this day it remains the most astonishing historical event that I...

Understanding Pope Francis: the focus is on process, not results

Two perceptive essays that appear on the First Things site, each offering a different sort of insight into the pastoral approach of Pope Francis, help the reader to understand this frequently puzzling papacy. In the “Public Square” section of the magazine’s December issue, editor R. R. Reno...

Happy news is NOT boring.

Happy news really does exist, and it is a good thing to call attention to now and then. First, however... The increasingly common assertion that Pope Francis is not really the pope can only do great harm. The reason is in my latest title: Theories that Francis is not the Pope...

Theories that Francis is not the Pope destroy the credibility of the Church’s Divine Constitution.

I am sorry to have to return to this topic (see On the lunatic fringe, Francis is not the Pope), but it is clear that some Catholics are missing a piece of the confusing puzzle that is the contemporary Church. There is a critical Catholic piece missing in current claims that, owing to heresy,...

Suffering in the Church

It is the nature of the Church militant (that’s us) to be engaged in many conflicts, and so to suffer more than we would like. A case in point is the suffering over the state of the Church which has led to Fr. Thomas Weinandy’s resignation as a theological advisor to the American...

Are the Russians controlling how you think? Does it matter?

Both government investigators and pundits around America are seriously exercised just now about the Russian influence on the most recent American presidential campaign. A good part of the agitation concerns social media promotional efforts funded by Russia, ostensibly to discredit Hillary Clinton...

Funerals and divine worship

It is common nowadays to identify a leader as good and kind and humble simply because he is merely following the crowds. It is the same with priests and bishops. Clergy can be very adroit at keeping the customers satisfied, absorbing a good deal of praise and affection without being truly faithful...

Why denying death is not illogical

For several years now, I have been wrestling with the notion of “brain death,” which I believe to be a false category. My research into the subject has led to questions about what death actually means—which turns out to be a more complicated matter that it might seem. Today,...

Luther left the Church. Today, dissenters stay.

Whatever else you might think or say about Martin Luther, give him credit for this much: having broken with Catholic teaching, he broke away from the Catholic Church. Today’s dissenting Catholics rarely show the same consistency. Even after rejecting the fundamentals of Catholic doctrine, they...

For all the saints

Jennifer Gregory Miller sets the tone today with a a new major entry in the Liturgical Year Blog, For All the Saints. Tomorrow, after all, is The Solemnity of All Saints, a Holy Day of Obligation. And Thursday is The Commemoration of all the...

The unhealthy distraction of Msgr. Byrne

A dozen years ago, a prominent priest of the New York archdiocese wrote in Commonweal that “my early questioning of celibacy has been confirmed.” Celibacy, announced Msgr. Harry Byrne, was a “distraction.” Today Msgr. Byrne, now retired from ministry, was indicted on 37...

Want to nudge someone toward holiness?

It is rare that I find a new and simple book aimed at spiritual development which I really believe will be of much use to anybody at all. The pitfalls are legion, but the two most common today are the twin temptations to break things down into baby concepts and baby steps, as if God’s...

Going bump in the night?

With Halloween in the offing, Jennifer Gregory Miller has dusted off her deservedly famous column from 2015, Halloween is for Catholics. It's not about evil spirits and other horrors. But I think the condition of the Church can also lead us to ponder things that go bump in the night....

On the lunatic fringe, Francis is not the Pope

It has finally happened. I’ve received an email from a sincere reader explaining that Pope Francis is not the Pope, because Pope Benedict really never resigned. Hence, Pope Francis is an anti-pope. In this case, the argument is that Pope Benedict resigned only from being “a bishop...

The crisis of pastoral leadership

Some weeks ago, a friend told me about his reactions to an ETWN movie about the life of St. John Paul II. In particular, my friend responded to a scene in which the young Father Karol Wojtyla confers with his bishop. The conversation was remarkably pious, he said; the young priest and his bishop...

What makes a good book? The case of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

This is a brief and very paradoxical review, because Silas S. Henderson’s new biography of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga is in several important senses a very good book. Yet one wonders if academicians who write books think much about what makes a book really good. Or whether their publishers...

Quick hits: AP’s hidden assumptions, a canonical mismatch, Spinoza’s excommunication

Terry Mattingly, who writes perceptively on media coverage of religion, often notices that reporters are tone-deaf regarding matters of faith. Then, at other times, Mattingly notices how reporters slip their own prejudices into their coverage. So, for instances, he asks his readers to notice this...

Operating between the lines

The recent news most likely to affect our spiritual lives in the coming decade is Pope Francis' public rebuke of Robert Cardinal Sarah for attempting to clarify the current requirements for liturgical translations I believe this is important enough to merit the attention our editors...

Quick Hits: Composer-Doctors of the Church and more

Most Catholics know St. Alphonsus Liguori primarily for his pious meditations such as those in his Way of the Cross. His contributions to moral theology also gained him the title of Doctor of the Church. Far fewer people know that he was also a composer and harpsichordist (among several other arts...

Caveat emptor? Sandro Magister, Robert Sarah, Charles Chaput on Pope Francis

Magister on The Last Things That inveterate Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister wrote an excellent column on Friday entitled “World’s End Update. The ‘Last Things’ According to Francis”. He began by noting that Pope Francis’ atheist interviewer, Eugenio Scalfari,...

In rebuke to Cardinal Sarah, Pope contradicts himself

Once again Pope Francis has announced a change in canon law—without making a change in canon law. In his letter to Cardinal Sarah, made public on October 22, the Pope says that some provisions of Liturgiam Authenticam “have been abrogated,” and the entire 2001 document...

A new prophetic voice

Phil Lawler waxes prophetic today in his latest On the News commentary about the Faith in the “Old World”. See The Church in Europe: ‘kept in the sacristy’? This is highly relevant to another very tiny comment he wrote called Connect the dots. Late Tuesday, just...

The folly of Kings, 2: Divine justice, Divine mercy, and true hope

After the First Book of Kings, the reader steels himself against the Second Book. It summarizes the reigns of the remaining kings of Israel and Judah up to the Babylonian captivity, the vast majority of whom are summarily dismissed because they “did what was evil in the sight of the...

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