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

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On the Culture

Commentary and reflection on Catholic life and ideas by Dr. Jeff Mirus, President of CatholicCulture.org.

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Catholic commentary and analysis on contemporary events and trends by Phil Lawler, Director of Catholic World News.

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Extended commentary and thoughtful Catholic essays on complex topics.

The City Gates

Brief, off-the-cuff, and sometimes light-hearted Catholic commentary, observations and announcements.

Was Lewis “basically Catholic”? by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Thursday

I must admit, it’s a pet peeve of mine when Catholics refer to C.S. Lewis as a Catholic author. When challenged, they usually say something along the lines of, “Well, he might as well have been!” I’m tempted to respond, “Well, he wasn’t, and he chose not to be...

Urgent! We need extra financial support between now and May 24th. by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Thursday

I need your help to meet a $25,400 challenge grant over the next four days. As of May 21st, we have just over $6,000 left to match by Pentecost, May 24th. If we are successful, the total benefit to our mission will be over $50,000. Any gift you offer now will be matched. CatholicCulture.org...

Reading The Diary of a Country Priest: Scandal by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Wednesday

[This is part of a series of articles collecting insightful passages on various themes from Georges Bernanos's classic novel The Diary of a Country Priest.] The two quotes below are from non-Catholic characters who have been scandalized by the failure of Church leaders to...

Modeling King David’s awareness of God by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Wednesday

The fascinating Second Book of Samuel tells of the rise of the monarchy in Israel, transitioning from the period of the judges, including Samuel, to King Saul and King David, who establishes the line of Christ. Both spiritual and exegetical lessons abound here. Let me briefly combine just one of...

Has the sensus fidei disappeared? by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Wednesday

In the Office of Readings for today we encounter this passage from Lumen Gentium (12): The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters...

From Catholic University to Mother Teresa by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Tuesday

As we come down to the wire in our Spring Challenge Campaign, we have a variety of interesting items for you on the website. For example, I just finished Peter Mitchell's fine book on the revolution at the Catholic University of America in the late 1960s that wrested control of that institution...

Ireland on the brink: the referendum will be a test of tolerance by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Tuesday

On Friday, if the polls are right, Ireland—once a staunchly Catholic nation—will become the first country in the world to ratify same-sex marriage by a popular vote. To be sure, the polls show a late surge of opposition. But public support for the referendum had been overwhelming,...

The Coup at the (Catholic) U by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Tuesday

It was a remarkable thing even for the 1960s—the takeover of the Catholic University of America by its heterodox Department of Theology. I am referring, of course, to the wholesale defiance of episcopal oversight as soon as the bishops on the Board of Trustees tried to put a stop to the...

“Oppression is now a psychological category”: the decline of civil disagreement by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Monday

Read this excellent article in First Things by Carl R. Trueman, "In Praise of the Dying Art of Civil Disagreement." The increasing inability of people to disagree without demonizing the opponent, even and especially in the places where discourse and debate are supposed to...

Reading The Diary of a Country Priest: Stagnation by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Monday

[This is part of a series of articles collecting insightful passages on various themes from Georges Bernanos's classic novel The Diary of a Country Priest. Since the novel is in the form of a diary, any passages not in quotes are the protagonist's narration, while those in quotes are...

Mary Ann Glendon on religious freedom by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Saturday

Tonight I attended the 2015 Edward Cardinal Egan Lecture, presented by the Magnificat Foundation at NYU’s Catholic Center. Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and former US Ambassador to the Holy See, spoke on “Religious Freedom: Yesterday, Today and...

Rejuvenating Catholicism in America (and everywhere) by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - May 15

The latest Pew survey seems to reveal both a relative and an absolute decline of the Catholic population in the United States. Phil Lawler considers some of the implications in two commentaries: American Catholics are flunking the test of evangelizationThe marketing failure of 'new'...

Remarks intended to derail the wrongheaded by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - May 15

Larry Cahill of the University of California-Irvine on researching the side-effects of oral contraceptives: You might think after 50 years and hundreds of millions of women taking various incarnations of the pill, there would be a large and cohesive and impressive body of evidence on it, but...

Ordinary Time resumes on May 25th: Next Liturgical Year volume released by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - May 15

The second of three ordinary time volumes in our ebook series for the 2014-2015 liturgical year has been released in our ebooks download area. The fifth volume overall in the annual series, Ordinary Time after Easter covers the first half of the long stretch of Ordinary Time which runs from the...

The marketing failure of 'new' Catholicism by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - May 15

Years ago, shortly after Coca-Cola made the ill-fated decision to alter its formula, the Wall Street Journal published a witty column, applying the lessons of that marketing debacle to the Catholic Church. (I can’t find that old WSJ piece now; I’ll be grateful if someone can furnish a...

Reuniting Exegesis and Theology: Toward an Incarnational study of Scripture by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - May 14

If you have been reading my highlights from Henri de Lubac’s Vatican Council notebooks, you may already have seen this trenchant observation from 1962 by the great twentieth century theologian: It must be confessed that our exegetes...withdraw into a philological and critical role; they...

Reading The Diary of a Country Priest by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - May 13

I've just finished reading the classic Catholic novel The Diary of a Country Priest, written by Georges Bernanos in 1936. Bernanos's moving tale of the spiritual battles of a sickly young priest tending to a small French parish is so densely packed with wisdom that rather than trying...

American Catholics are flunking the test of evangelization by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - May 13

Yesterday’s top CWN headline news story points to the most urgent problem facing the Catholic Church in the US: the decline in the American Catholic population. As our headline story reports there is some disagreement among experts about the extent of that decline. Pew Research finds...

Burundi, bishops, and Catholic influence by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - May 13

I was struck by the closing line of our story coming out of Burundi today: “The Church wields considerable influence in the African nation, since Catholics account for about two-thirds of Burundi’s 7 million people.” If this is true, the Church in Burundi must be far healthier...

Solidarity in the Modern World by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - May 12

Speaking of solidarity, I have the seriously unpleasant task of emphasizing how much help we need in meeting our Challenge Grant by May 24th. Things have slowed down, and we still have over $15,500 to match so that we can receive a total benefit of over $50,000. If you have not yet helped with...

Can solidarity actually work in the modern world? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - May 12

In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict defined “solidarity” as “first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone” (#38). In other words, a person who practices the virtue of solidarity (a) Always shapes self-interested actions so...

First Gore, and now Castro: Thanks but no thanks? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - May 12

On April 29th, Al Gore said of Pope Francis: “I was raised in the Southern Baptist tradition, I could become a Catholic because of this Pope. He is that inspiring to me. And I know the vast majority of my Catholic friends are just thrilled to the marrow of their bones that he is providing...

Repealing blasphemy laws is not always smart by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - May 11

My headline, occasioned by Norway’s repeal of its blasphemy law, may surprise some people. Especially with so many Christians being prosecuted under the blasphemy laws of Islamic states, we might think that blasphemy laws are a great evil. And they are, if “blasphemy” means...

J. Budziszewski on capital punishment by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - May 10

There’s no doubt that the majority of Church leaders today favor the abolition of the death penalty. Indeed, there is much to be said against the death penalty as it is used in our own country, and in favor of reforms in the criminal justice system in general. However, since the Catholic...

Marriage is STILL the issue. by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - May 8

As today's Insights will make clear, marriage is still the pivotal issue for both Church and State. It would seem that in our age, marriage has hope only in Christ. That is one reason why the theme of our Spring Campaign is to proclaim Christ as “the living and only Savior”. Let...

The unholy political battle to denounce—or exploit—the Pope's environmental message by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - May 8

The editorial board of Our Sunday Visitor has a strongly worded statement decrying the premature and vituperative criticism of the papal encyclical on the environment. “Well before the encyclical’s release,” the OSV board observes, “a veritable campaign against its...

De Lubac's Council Notes, Continued by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - May 8

I have added the second installment of Henri de Lubac’s fascinating notes from his work at the Second Vatican Council. You will find this in the In Depth Analysis piece established for the purpose. The following link will take you directly to the new section: Final Preparations:...

Swiss Catholics remind us of the iron law of Faith by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - May 7

The Swiss are now on record (see Swiss Catholics call for same-sex partnerships), though their record is arguably worse even than that of their German neighbors. But the Swiss report includes critical information which we outsiders learned about Germany only by juggling multiple news...

The regal papacy remembered by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - May 6

I will confine most of my ongoing excerpts from Henri de Lubac’s notes on the Second Vatican Council to the linked article, but there is real humor in the theologian’s record of the two Latin inscriptions which identified, at that time, a newly installed elevator in the...

An archbishop's unconvincing defense of marriage by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - May 6

A contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times reports that he had a friendly exchange with Archbishop Blaise Cupich on the topic of same-sex marriage, and reproduces large chunks of that exchange for his readers. Naturally the archbishop says that he does not support legal recognition of same-sex...

Sacramental Issues, among Others by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - May 5

Today we will begin and end with the Sacraments. We tend to think about them more than usual during the Easter Season. For example, those who are brought into the Church at Easter receive the sacraments in the traditional order: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. But through a combination of...

Beyond Our Ken: Henri de Lubac's Paradoxes of Faith by Thomas Van in "On the Culture" - May 4

From the truest truth to the falsest falsehood, there is often only one step. It has often been noted, quite rightly. But from the noting of that fact to the condemning of certain truths, as being dangerously near falsehood, there is also one step, and that step as well is often taken, this time...

The French campaign for freedom of thought by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - May 4

Now that a French court has ordered the removal of a statue of Pope John Paul II from the town square in Ploermel, I guess the cat is out of the bag. I don't know how to stretch this into a long, learned or delightfully obfuscatory essay. The suit to remove John Paul II from the collective...

Climate Change and Vatican II: Insights! by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - May 1

Let me take advantage of this pulpit to call attention to a little historical project. It might go unnoticed, since it is tucked away in our below-the-fold In Depth Analysis spot. The Second Vatican Council is one of the hardest events in Catholic history for people to understand. I believe...

Are Catholic schools Catholic? A strange case in San Francisco. by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - May 1

A week later I’m still shaking my head about this news story. I can’t help wondering whether sometime in the future, some historian will stumble across the piece in our archives and assume that there’s some mistake. You can easily imagine that dissidents might walk out of...

We've already redefined marriage, by accepting contraception by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - May 1

In a must-read column for the Wall Street Journal, Rev. Donald Sensing, a Methodist minister from Tennessee, argues that acceptance of same-sex marriage “will not cause the degeneration of the institution of marriage; it is the result of it.” Understand that Rev. Sensing is not happy with the...

Henri de Lubac's fascinating notes on Vatican II by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - May 1

Here I explore the notes made by the French theologian Henri de Lubac as he prepared for and participated in the Second Vatican Council. I will gradually add revealing excerpts and comments from successive stages of de Lubac’s involvement. Each stage will be linked below. They will be...

The Church of England’s satirical take on climate change by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - May 1

Anglican Bishop Nicholas Holtam has praised Tuesday’s statement on climate change by two pontifical academies. But this praise has all the earmarks of satire. “Climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our day,” he begins. Really? It sounds suspiciously like a material...

Has the long-overdue reform of Vatican media operations been sidetracked? by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Apr 30

Pope Francis has formed a new commission to implement proposals for a reform of the Vatican’s media operations . That’s good news, I suppose. Or is it? The April 30 announcement from the Vatican press office about this new commission did not provide details. What will this new...

Children are deemed precious, but surrogate mothers expendable by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Apr 30

”They only care about the babies. They don’t care about the mothers.” You’ve heard that slander applied to pro-life activists, haven’t you? But here’s a case in which it seems to be true. A rescue team from Israel rushed to Nepal after the earthquake that...

What was the climate change conference really about? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Apr 30

First, the conference in question was actually one of several “workshops” periodically sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Sciences and others. The official title of the April 28th workshop was “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and...

UN leader wants Holy See to lean on scientists. Galileo revisited? by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Apr 30

Ban Ki-moon told a Vatican conference on climate change: “Together, we must clearly communicate that the science of climate change is deep, sound, and not in doubt.” So the secretary-general of the UN wants the Holy See to announce that the scientific debate on climate change has been...

Is Pope Francis purging conservative prelates? by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Apr 29

Many traditionalist Catholics have complained that the bishops who have been forced to resign during this pontificate (Finn, Livieres Plano, Tebartz-van Elst) and the cardinals who have been removed from influential Vatican posts (Burke, Piacenza) all are identified as conservative. In a...

The Vatican's dangerous embrace of climate-change theory by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Apr 29

Imagine—just imagine, for the sake of the argument—that scientists in a future generation discover that the global-warming trend of recent years was not caused by human activity. If that happens, what will be the consequences for the Catholic Church, in light of the Vatican’s apparent embrace of...

A failure of American faith: the Museum of Biblical Art is closing by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Apr 28

The Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) in Manhattan, which opened in 2005, is closing, according to a story in the New York Times. This is despite critical acclaim and, recently, a very popular collection of Donatello sculptures from the Duomo museum in Florence, which MOBIA brought to the US for the...

Keeping Things on Point by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Apr 28

Speaking of staying on point, please remember that we need your solidarity to receive a challenge grant for our Spring Campaign. We have about $23,000 left to match. Many hands will make light work! Your gift now counts twice. Also on point is a brilliant new book which explains how people...

The hypocrisy of condemning the Baltimore riots by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Apr 28

As the situation in Baltimore develops, we hear the usual chorus of white voices condemning the riots. Now more than ever, this strikes me as utterly disingenuous, not because rioting is a good thing, but because the people complaining about it tend to downplay or even ignore the situation which...

Why God has His doubts about the State by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Apr 28

Remember when the Israelites asked the judge Samuel to appoint a king over them? (You’ll find it in 1 Samuel 9 - 12.) They needed protection against the Philistines, Samuel had grown old, and his sons, whom Samuel had also appointed as judges, “did not walk in his ways”...

To-do list for faithful Catholics by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Apr 27

Ask your pastor to sign  this statement, urging the Synod of Bishops to uphold traditional Church teaching. Write all the American priests on your contact list, asking them to sign. Write to a half-dozen of your friends, and encourage them to do the same...

Not Fully Human: Anthony Esolen’s compelling verdict on personal formation today by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Apr 27

The modern notion of freedom is a kind of slavery. Over the years, I’ve tried to make this point by explaining that we are free only when we have the power to direct ourselves toward the good. Insofar as we fall into evil or sin, it is because we are enslaved by vice. To take but one...

A silent scandal: Catholic schools promoting morally unacceptable vaccines by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Apr 24

In at least two American dioceses, the parents of children attending Catholic schools are being told that they must have their children vaccinated, regardless of their moral qualms about vaccines derived from the cells of aborted children. This is an injustice to parents who are determined to bear...

A More Militant Church? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Apr 24

Let me first share some very good news. We have been offered a $25,400 challenge grant to fuel our Spring Campaign. Of course, we will receive the grant only if it is matched by other donors. This is a wonderful opportunity, and I hope you will help make it a reality. The deadline is Pentecost,...

How we'll know if the Vatican and the US hierarchy are serious about deposing negligent bishops by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Apr 24

Twelve years ago, in an email exchange with an old friend, I predicted that the American hierarchy would finally take responsibility for the sex-abuse scandal when a bishop went to jail for negligence in responding to abuse. Bishop Robert Finn has not actually spent time behind bars, but his...

Final take on the LCWR: A time to plant, a time to uproot by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Apr 24

Though I have little doubt that Phil Lawler is correct in the rationale he outlines in “With the LCWR, has the Vatican taken Gamaliel's advice?”, I cannot help recalling Ecclesiastes 3:2. Even if we can understand the Pope’s decision against disenfranchising the Leadership...

With the LCWR, has the Vatican taken Gamaliel's advice? by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Apr 24

My colleague Jeff Mirus is puzzled by the Vatican’s decision to end a doctrinal investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), since there is very little evidence that the LCWR has embraced the reforms that a Vatican study found necessary. I think that I can...

What happened to the Vatican reform of the LCWR? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Apr 23

The recent positive conclusion to the Vatican’s investigation into the Leadership Conference of Women Religious raises more questions than it answers. The kind words that LCWR leaders are now heaping on the Pope and curial officials do nothing to reassure. Questions arise because these...

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