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

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Analysis of news events and trends.

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Leading with news but plenty to think about

Perhaps the most interesting and important items on CatholicCulture.org this week are two Catholic World News stories: Italian police disrupt Islamic terror plot on VaticanPope ready to regularize SSPX? The first really happened of course, and is obviously extraordinarily important. As for...

Crazy Joe, spare me your praise of the Pope.

I suppose this is a bit of a rant, but I’m tired of all the posturing. The latest is U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s praise of Pope Francis earlier today, when he addressed a conference at the Vatican. Predictably, Biden praised Francis for his “compassion”. He claimed...

The painfully slow reform of the Vatican's communications operation

Almost exactly one year ago I wondered aloud whether a plan to streamline the Vatican's communications efforts might be sidetracked. Today I'm happy to notice that my concern may have been misplaced. The head of the new Communications Secretariat reports that the plans are moving...

Personal testimonies: Effective ways to deepen faith

I suppose everyone is interested in personal religious testimonies, whether conversion stories or anecdotes which provide glimpses of the presence of God. Such accounts have a personal element which is not typically present in apologetical arguments or academic theology. For most people they are...

In defense of the 'doctors of the law'

Back in 1983, when the new Code of Canon Law was promulgated, I picked up a copy. This was my first real encounter with Church law, and as I leafed through the book I was struck by how often the canons obviously reflected the fruit of painful experience.  That's how laws commonly come...

Quick Hits: Science and its enemies, choral music for the Novus Ordo, the Armenian genocide

Now and then a scientific discovery comes with a breath of poetry, as in the Daily Telegraph headline : Bright flash of light marks incredible moment life begins when sperm meets egg. It’s sad that in our age, impervious to the beauty of nascent life, the report continues with the...

Good (and interesting) news

One bit of good news (I like to think) is that I've finally had a chance to continue my examination of the viability of Western politics. See The Don and Hil Show: Overcoming our addiction to politics. This actually ties in nicely with Phil Lawler's recent post: Sex education? No, we're...

Rehabilitating a disgraced priest: a thought-experiment

After it emerged that a priest with a history of sexual abuse is serving as a pastor, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City is “assessing the situation.” With all respect to Archbishop Coakley—for whom I have generally had a high opinion—I think he should be assessing...

The Don and Hil Show: Overcoming our addiction to politics

When I recommended that we should avoid wasting our energies on the 2016 US presidential campaign, I didn’t say much about the common good. I didn’t mention it in my initial salvo, Politics is dead: This year, avoid the quadrennial silliness. And I mentioned it only once in...

Sex education? No, we're witnessing the pursuit of ignorance on matters of sexuality

If you can trace your family tree back far enough, you'll probably encounter people who had no formal education, owned no books, perhaps couldn't read and write. But your uneducated ancestors knew what "marriage" meant-- which is more than you can say for the typical Ivy League...

Vatican Reform

The seriousness of reform at the Vatican has been called into question by the sudden “suspension” of the first-ever audit of the offices of the Curia. See these two news stories: Vatican suspends external auditCardinal Pell 'a bit surprised' by suspension of audit Phil Lawler...

The one-way argument for human rights

Ryan Anderson admits that ESPN has the right to fire Curt Schilling because he thinks men should be barred from women’s restrooms. But that right applies to others, too, Anderson reasons: ESPN didn’t want to be associated with Curt Schilling’s message. The same is true for the bakers, florists,...

The drive for Vatican reform has stalled

The news that the Vatican has suspended an external audit might appear to be only a minor administrative matter, interesting only to accountants. But as an indicator of the trends in Rome today, it is as significant of Amoris Laetitia. It is, in my view (and I am by no means a financial...

By Vatican standards, there are human-rights violations in American schools

Reading the address by a Vatican envoy to an OSCE meeting on religious minorities, your first inclination is probably to think that Msgr. Janusz Urbanczyk is speaking primarily about Christians in Islamic countries. No doubt he is. Still, as I read his defense of the rights of parents in the...

Catholics Rising: Why Catholicism cannot be stopped

Perhaps it is time to state the obvious. The Catholic Faith, and the Church that announces and nourishes this Faith throughout history, cannot be stopped. This is a matter of Divine guarantee. Speaking of the Church built on Peter the rock, Our Lord promised: “The powers of death shall not...

The modern university: When truth becomes a personal attack

Molly Oshatz nails it in a little essay in the May 2016 issue of First Things called “College Without Truth”. Right now you can’t read the entire essay without subscribing or paying $1.95, but that would be cheap at twice the price. This is more than another spin on the...

The Spirit of the Liturgy and of Mercy

I still haven't had any time this week to write, I'm ashamed to say: Too busy communicating with donors since we lost our Spring Challenge Grant this year. (The theme of the 2016 Spring Campaign is Catholics Rising.) Instead, I'm developing a special donor category for those who make monthly...

Quick Hits: Benedict as the Great Reformer, Crux as an objective source

What were you doing on this date, April 19, eleven years ago? After a quiet morning, I spent the afternoon joyously celebrating the election of Pope Benedict XVI-- and also frantically wondering when the CWN site would recover, after our early headline, “White Smoke!” drew so much...

The Positive Side of Amoris Laetitia

Phil Lawler has spent a good part of this week reviewing the worldwide response to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhoration on love in the family (Amoris Laetitia). Here is our news story which covers a number of prominent assessments: Prelates' differing responses to Amoris Laetitia. Phil...

The best and worst columns on Amoris Laetitia

After a week of reading commentaries on Amoris Laetitia, I’m ready to name the columns that seem to me the best and the worst of this week’s offerings: From London and the Catholic Herald comes this somewhat lengthy but very insightful column by Father Mark Drew. He recognizes problems with the...

The deeper meaning of Amoris Laetitia, and the challenge it presents

Suppose you lived in a place and time when the faithful had great confidence in the orthodoxy, charity, zeal and even counter-cultural courage of their bishops and priests. Now suppose the Pope issued a statement exhorting the faithful to closely examine the difficulties facing those in broken...

Political hijinks at the Vatican this week

Two conferences with disturbing political overtones have taken place at the Vatican this week. 1. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in cooperation with Pax Christi, has held a conference on non-violence. Or perhaps, in light of the report issued at the conclusion of the meeting it...

Caution for a priest-confessor: giving bad advice can be a canonical crime

My favorite canon-law expert, Ed Peters, has called attention to an article he published in the June/July 2011 issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review, entitled When bad advice in confession becomes a crime. This article is especially relevant today in light of… Well, I’ll let you...

Latest study confirms: the threat is Zika, not children

“There is no longer any doubt that Zika causes microcephaly,” Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, told reporters during a briefing on April 13. He was reporting on a new study confirming the suspected link between the virus and the birth defect. Frieden might have...

Gresham's Law and the flaw in the Pope's pastoral program

Does Gresham’s Law apply to pastoral practices in the Catholic Church? I think it does—with unhappy consequences that we can see all around us. Gresham’s Law (for those readers who have not studied economics) states that bad money drives out good money. Let me...

Preparing for Confusion

It is no surprise, but some Catholic leaders are already staking out the most latitudinarian position possible for the Pope's new apostolic exhortation. Thus La Civilta Cattolica insists the Pope has removed all barriers to Communion for the divorced and remarried: Jesuit editor says Pope has...

Preparing for confusion

It is no surprise, but some Catholic leaders are already staking out the most latitudinarian position possible for the Pope's new apostolic exhortation. Thus La Civilta Cattolica insists the Pope has removed all barriers to Communion for the divorced and remarried: Jesuit editor says Pope has...

The Controversy at the Heart of Amoris Laetitia

If Catholics who have divorced and remarried without obtaining an annulment can in some cases be given permission to receive communion, will this do more harm than good? That’s the question at the heart of the controversy over Pope Francis’ post synodal apostolic exhortation,...

Amoris Laetitia (On Love in the Family)

Pope Francis' post-synodal apostolic exhortation is now available: Amoris Laetitia. The Latin means “the joy of love”. The more descriptive subtitle is “On Love in the Family”. This is a long and rich document, first because so many related topics were covered at the...

The Pope's confused message undermines his own pastoral program

Amoris Laetitia is not a revolutionary document. It is a subversive one. Pope Francis has not overthrown the traditional teachings of the Church, as many Catholics had either hoped or feared that he would, in this post-Synod exhortation. Instead he has sought to carve out ample room for a...

Divorce and remarriage: Why has Pope Francis chosen to leave one door open?

I haven’t finished reading Pope Francis’ synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. It is a sweeping document, and I want to take my time with it. But I can suggest one very understandable reason for Pope Francis’ decision to emphasize a case-by-case approach to integrating...

In Georgia's religious-freedom debate, Catholic bishops sit on the sidelines

Last week, under heavy pressure from powerful corporations, Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal vetoed legislation that would have protected religious institutions from being required to approve same-sex marriages or to hire openly homosexual employees. In his veto statement the governor...

In Massachusetts, a difficult, dangerous religious-freedom test case

The political climate is not favorable to the Catholic Church these days, particularly in Massachusetts. So I cannot be confident that the Supreme Judicial Court will reach the right decision in the case mentioned in yesterday’s CWN headline story: the suit by a Catholic shrine to recover...

The Joy of Dread

There are many words now forbidden in polite society. “Adultery” comes to mind. It’s either an unmentionable or has been replaced with the phrase “divorced and remarried.” “Promiscuity” and “lewd and lascivious conduct” have been...

Jeremiah’s message: A tough sell

I am going through Jeremiah again, and I find it easy to see why the Jews of his day didn’t listen. You will doubtless recall that in the seventh and sixth centuries before Christ, Israel boasted whole companies of prophets. It was apparently nice work if you could get it, and the vast...

A culture by any other name...

Human culture has taken it on the chin lately. For example, one could argue that American culture has been steadily eroded by religious decline, commercialism, the replacement of personal relationships with technology, excessive mobility, and bureaucratic tinkering. Then there is the European...

Islamic terrorism: the topic only one world leader has addressed

"Islamic terrorism." President Obama can't make himself say those words. But Obama isn't alone. Pope Francis, too, has been extremely reluctant to mention any connection between Islam and terrorism.  In fact, what world leaders have spoken out frankly on the...

Quick Hits: Will Amoris Laetitia make a difference? Why Vatileaks trial is not a press-freedom case

As we await the publication of the apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, the question everyone is asking is whether or not Pope Francis will make some provision for divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive Communion. Vatican-watcher John Allen takes an unusual approach to that question,...

The scandal of the particular: The Christian essence of human culture.

Pierre Manent is regarded by many as the foremost socio-political theorist of our time. He retired from his directorship of L’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris in 2014. Since then he has been finishing up a book entitled Beyond Radical Secularism: How...

Praying with Mother Angelica

Mother Angelica died on Easter Sunday at the age of 92 and Pope Francis is convinced she is in heaven. If you were a fan, you may wish to continue to pray with her by using a well-crafted prayer book published by EWTN entitled “Praying with Mother Angelica.” This is a reworking of...

A Catholic sci-fi classic: Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun

Published in four volumes between 1980 and 1982, Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun is considered by many to be the greatest science fiction novel ever written, and by some to be one of the great works of twentieth-century literature. It is also well known to be a significantly Catholic work....

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